The Case of IDS

When the Conservatives / Lib Dem coalition first came to power I thought at least that Ian Duncan Smith would know what he was talking about as he had given every impression of researching the benefits traps during the years in opposition. How wrong can one be???

The problem he is supposed to be solving is not the size of the benefits bill but the underlying reasons. Why do so many people, young people especially, find it impossible to earn a living wage? It is not only those out of work but also many in work who need state assistance. In the latter case the taxpayer is effectively subsidising private companies so that they need not pay their workers sufficient to live on, i.e. the taxpayer is actually subsidising the profits of these firms. Why are others unable to get jobs even though there are plenty available? Partly it is cultural. Political parties have raised expectations of the good life so high that some do not want to take on many of the menial jobs available which are now done by immigrants. It is also the climate of education. Tony Blair talked about 50% of school leavers going to university. Not once did he mention the other 50% and what they would be doing. And so schools have concentrated on the academic rather than the life skills.

There is a benefits gap. Earn above a threshold and you are no better off than if you did not work at all. That transition requires a granular tax and benefit regime which very gradually removes benefits and increases the tax take up to perhaps something near the average wage. It effectively means that however little you earn you always see something more for your efforts.

How can Ian Duncan Smith not see that by simply cutting the size of the benefits bill he is making miserable lives more miserable still and doing nothing to make Britain a better place?

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