we’re entering a family-unfriendly economic system

There’s been a lot of hue and cry about the changes to child benefit and stuff, and Stephanie Flanders of the BBC has spelled it out over a couple of posts.

She gets away with it where it’s probably incendiary for me to tackle this, because

a) she’s an established writer and understands the subject better
b) she’s a woman
c) she has kids

But I’m going to tackle it anyway, because the reason why we are entering a family-unfriendly economic future surprised me, even though I had a gut feel of it. The thrust of her argument is that

Labour tilted the tax and benefit system in the direction of children and families, particularly low income single parent families. For better or worse, that is what their target of eradicating child poverty encouraged them to do. It is going to be hard to raise serious money from the benefit system without tilting it back.

Now I had been aware that I wasn’t personally getting any of the gravy over the last 10 years. That’s a good thing in many ways, having managed to screw down my outgoings there are limited ways the government can manage to shaft me. They can’t take away my benefits because I don’t get any. They can raise taxes and obviously the VAT increase next year will hit me.

But what I hadn’t realised is just how much gravy people with children did get out of Labour. The government can reduce the deficit by either taxing more or spending less, and because the ConDems emphasis is on the latter, it means that people with children will be taking most of the pain, just as they took most of the gain in previous years. Single parents are apparently about 16% better off as a result of Labour’s changes, whereas I am about 4% down. That great sucking force you hear out there in the distance is the sound of much of that about to be rolled back.

Relative to people with children I expect to be 20% better off when Cleggeron have finished. Unfortunately this will be achieved along the lines of the second part of Gore Vidal’s aphorism

it is not enough to succeed, others must fail

I don’t expect to be any better off at all, it is just that families with kids will lose a lot of the extra bungs and sweeteners society has given them to make having children easier/less expensive.

Before people start screaming that it isn’t fair, perhaps you might want to ask yourself whether getting free gravy was fair in the good times. It wasn’t fair to me, for instance. Twice in my life I asked myself the children question, and each time I didn’t really feel I could manage to support a family for 18 years.

Before the aggrieved hordes of the Daily Mail and the Torygraph seize on that as proof positive that as a higher-rate taxpayer it shows I know you can’t raise kids on 44k of course I could have kept the wolf from the door, but to me life is about more than that. Many people get an awful lot out of having children, and if I had that sort of desire I would prioritise this up the stack and manage somehow.

I didn’t do it because I didn’t want to hard enough. It’s called making choices in life, knowing your values and acting accordingly. It’s not the Government’s job to get involved in my lifestyle when if comes to such individual and personal decisions, unlike with services we all need, like healthcare and policing. And yeah, I know it’s different for guys.

It’s going to be a rough ride, people.

8 thoughts on “we’re entering a family-unfriendly economic system”

  1. Yes, it makes me want to scream at the TV when I hear people saying “these benefit cuts will hit the least well-off hardest”.

    Of course they should! There was a limit to how much even Labour could give benefits to the better-off.

    It might have been right or wrong to redistribute money to the poor, but we surely shouldn’t be surprised.

    This is aside from giving money to anyone who happens to have a kid, including the wealthy – something Labour themselves should have done away with in their effort to target spending on those who needed it. Alas, no votes in it for them.


  2. Probably the biggest middle class clawback announced so far will be via student funding. This will help to reduce excess capital held by baby-boomers as they seek to prevent their children from accumulating too much debt.

    As for lower income families, reduction in support will mostly go towards paying interest on national debt. Not much, I suspect, will find its way towards the childless.


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  4. @Monevator – Indeed, that is the logical conclusion, though from reading the papers you’d think it was the HRT taxpayer/SAHM folks who were taking the bullets here!

    @SG reduction in support will mostly go towards paying interest on national debt. That’s what it should do, I hope I didn’t give the impression I was after the lolly myself. Obviously, like the HRT CB people, I wouldn’t say no if cash were dropped from helicopters, but I would try not to build it into my running costs.


  5. 18 years? Realistically 30-40.

    Both me and my sister were only properly able to move out of the family home (without “boomeranging”) in our 30s. (both of us made previous attempts which failed due to various reasons).

    Neither of us have children. My sister got married a few months ago, I am single and at present choose to remain so as most eligible women my age seem to already have kids by another partner – one part of me wholly refuses to do the “stepdad” thing, but at the same time I would not be able to *not* look after a kid that turned up at my house in the same fashion I would (temporarily) look after a stray dog or cat I found.

    I also (perhaps being even more incendiary than yourself) have noticed a phenomenon amongst people of all social classes (and even those who profess to be otherwise) to select their partners as a short/medium term source of extra finance and resources in return for a measured amount of affection including carnal favours, rather than a long term commitment, whether or not kids are produced. When a relationship gets “boring” they go on to the next one, despite the fact kids do fare better when parents stay together.

    I am no sexist nor right winger and strongly believe in fairness for both genders but feel this needs to be stated.

    Some (most?) blokes are relatively happy with this arrangement – they put up, pay up and then go on to the next “bird” – I am not. Other blokes claim to be OK about this until the relationship goes tits up and then they react violently, and then very ugly things happen as we both must regularly see in the Evening Star.

    OTOH I’m not a high earner but I’ve noticed in comparison with many others my age (especially those in relationships with kids) the amount of money *not* having kids(s) has saved me. Thats just cash, I’m not even thinking about the stress factor of raising kids in an increasingly turbulent world!

    I wouldn’t have been able to buy a new camera this year if I had kids to look after, and I’d probably *have* to drive a car rather than consider it as a medium/long term “nice to have” option (I don’t own one!). Even if I were getting all sorts of benefits I’d find having kids hard to afford. That said my own parents (obviously) managed this in the 1980s…


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