New evidence that Osborne’s Budget hits the poorest hardest

IFS study proves conclusively that June emergency Budget was regressive, not progressive.

"Overall, everyone will pay something, but the people at the bottom of the income scale will pay proportionally less than the people at the top.

"It is a progressive Budget."

George Osborne, 22 June 2010

"[T]he tax and benefit changes announced in the emergency Budget are clearly regressive as, on average, they hit the poorest households more than those in the upper-middle of the income distribution."

Institute for Fiscal Studies, 25 August 2010

There's yet more evidence that George Osborne's emergency Budget was regressive, not progressive, courtesy of that oracle of economics, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, this morning.

The IFS first concluded that Osborne's Budget was "generally regressive" the day after his speech to the House, but that analysis excluded some benefit changes due to be in place by 2014-2015.

The new research, which looks at the effect of all tax and benefit reforms due to be introduced between now and April 2014, should end all attempts by the coalition to celebrate the Budget as "progressive".

As the graph below shows, the poorest families lose the most from the Budget, while the richest families lose least.


So, what is the political fallout from all of this? It's going to be an uncomfortable day for Nick Clegg (who claimed that fairness had been "hard-wired" into the Budget), with one Lib Dem MP, Mike Hancock, already on the warpath. He said: "We didn't sign up for a coalition that was going to hurt the poorest people in society, and I certainly didn't get elected to do that ever."

It'll also be worth watching to see how the increasingly combative Simon Hughes responds, having been assured by Clegg that the Budget was progressive.

As I've argued before, Osborne and the rest of the coalition now have a clear choice. They can either abandon the most punitive aspects of their deficit reduction programme, or they can, in true Thatcherite style, mount a defence of regressive economics.

But, after today's findings, it's clearer than ever that dressing up regressive cuts as "progressive" is intellectually and morally unsustainable.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Anxiety is not cool, funny or fashionable

A charitable initative to encourage sufferers to knit a Christmas jumper signalling their condition is well-intentioned but way off the mark.

The other night, I had one of those teeth-falling-out dreams. I dreamt I was on a bus, and every time it stopped one of my teeth plunked effortlessly out of my skull. “Shit,” I said to myself, in the dream, “this is like one of those teeth-falling out dreams”. Because – without getting too Inception – even in its midst, I realised this style of anxiety dream is a huge cliché.

Were my subconscious a little more creative, maybe it would’ve concocted a situation where I was on a bus (sure, bus, why not?), feeling anxious (because I nearly always feel anxious) and I’m wearing a jumper with the word “ANXIOUS” scrawled across my tits, so I can no longer hyperventilate – in private — about having made a bad impression with the woman who just served me in Tesco. What if, in this jumper, those same men who tell women to “smile, love” start telling me to relax. What if I have to start explaining panic attacks, mid-panic attack? Thanks to mental health charity Anxiety UK, this more original take on the classic teeth-falling-out dream could become a reality. Last week, they introduced an awareness-raising Christmas “anxiety” jumper.

It’s difficult to slate anyone for doing something as objectively important as tackling the stigma around mental health problems. Then again, right now, I’m struggling to think of anything more anxiety-inducing than wearing any item of clothing that advertises my anxiety. Although I’m fully prepared to accept that I’m just not badass enough to wear such a thing. As someone whose personal style is “background lesbian”, the only words I want anywhere near my chest are “north” and “face”.  

It should probably be acknowledged that the anxiety jumper isn’t actually being sold ready to wear, but as a knitting pattern. The idea being that you make your own anxiety jumper, in whichever colours you find least/most stressful. I’m not going to go on about feeling “excluded” – as a non-knitter – from this campaign. At the same time, the “anxiety jumper” demographic is almost definitely twee middle class millennials who can/will knit.

Photo: Anxiety UK

Unintentionally, I’m sure, a jumper embellished with the word “anxious” touts an utterly debilitating condition as a trend. Much like, actually, the “anxiety club” jumper that was unanimously deemed awful earlier this year. Granted, the original anxiety jumper — we now live in a world with at least two anxiety jumpers — wasn’t charitable or ostensibly well intentioned. It had a rainbow on it. Which was either an astute, ironic comment on how un-rainbow-like  anxiety is or, more likely, a poorly judged non sequitur farted into existence by a bored designer. Maybe the same one who thought up the Urban Outfitters “depression” t-shirt of 2014.

From Zayn Malik to Oprah Winfrey, a growing number of celebrities are opening up about what may seem, to someone who has never struggled with anxiety, like the trendiest disorder of the decade. Anxiety, of course, isn’t trendy; it’s just incredibly common. As someone constantly reassured by the fact that, yes, millions of other people have (real life) panic meltdowns on public transport, I could hardly argue that we shouldn’t be discussing our personal experiences of anxiety. But you have to ask whether anyone would be comfortable wearing a jumper that said “schizophrenic” or “bulimic”. Anxiety, it has to be said, has a tendency – as one of the more “socially acceptable” mental illnesses — to steal the limelight.

But I hope we carry on talking anxiety. I’m not sure Movember actually gets us talking about prostates, but it puts them out there at least. If Christmas jumpers can do the same for the range of mental health issues under the “anxiety” umbrella, then move over, Rudolph.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.