Debunking right-wing myths

I’m actually not much of a Guardian person, but happened upon an article by Simon Rogers in which he sought to debunk many urban legends, including a few of the old chestnuts that the Daily Mail and other right wing tabloids have long propagated. Let’s examine a few:

“much of the government budget is spend on benefits”
As I recall pointing out myself, while indeed the UK’s DWP’s spends a good 23% of the budget (some £159 Billion last year) the bulk of this money is spent paying for pensions and working tax credits. Indeed jobseekers allowance only accounts for £4.9 billion (about 3% of whole benefits bill, about 0.69% or 1/144th of the total UK budget). The tabloids aren’t only wrong in their assessment, they are off by a considerable margin!

While housing benefits total some £16.9 Billion, I would blame a good deal of that on Thatcher’s foolish decision to get rid of much of the country’s council housing, with the result that the government is now forced to pay private landlords to house the less well off.

“A third of the UK population are immigrants”
Actually as Simon Rogers points out the true figure is closer to about 11%. I could go further and point out that the biggest group of immigrants to the UK are from Ireland and other EU countries (notably the usual suspects….that’s France, Germany, Spain, etc. not Poland or Romania!) and of course many British citizens also live and work abroad.

And as I’ve pointed out before only a tiny fraction of immigrants to the UK have ever claimed benefits. The bulk of them it seems merely came here to work (or study), earn a bit of cash, pay their taxes and in many cases then move on.

“The Tories are protecting NHS spending”
While technically there has been a slight increase in NHS spending under the Tories, however this increase is below the rate of inflation. Furthermore with the UK’s population aging and the population increasing the numbers attending hospitals are growing (and thus the costs of just keeping everything ticking over). So in truth the Tories are actually cutting the NHS budget in real terms.

“Benefit fraud costs us billions”
Factually correct, in that it costs the UK just over a billion, £1.2 – 1.3 Billion to be exact, but this is but 0.7% of the welfare budget. As I’ve often pointed out, the government would achieve far better value for money going after the tax dodging of the super rich than harassing the odd benefit claimant who maybe claims ten quid a week more than they should.

“the rich will leave if we put up taxes”
Of course the Tories will claim, no we can’t force the rich to pay any more in taxes (even those they are legally supposed to pay) as they will go into such a huff over the fact that some of the vast wealth they cannot hope to spend in a single lifetime might go to paying for better hospitals and schools that they’ll stop working sit a corner and sulk or flee the country. As I’ve long pointed out this is a ridiculous suggestion.

There are a host of reasons why people move to the UK, for work, family reasons, etc. they often put down roots, buying a house for example and thus there is little possibility of them leaving as the tiny amount they’d save would be outweighed by the huge upheaval and inconvenience, plus the costs involved.

Furthermore many of those specifically in the UK, Middle East sheik’s and Russian oligarchs have ties to England as they want a bolt hole in the West if things go tits up for them back home. Most other country’s charge much higher rates of tax and are harder to get into/out of than the UK, so its unlikely they would leave.

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6 thoughts on “Debunking right-wing myths

  1. You make some excellent points.

    One thing on taxes though: higher taxes here have certainly driven some businesses elsewhere. It is not so far fetched to suppose that rich people could follow suit as many of them did in the 1960s and 1970s. It would be interesting if some smart person with access to the figures could do some accurate cost-benefit projections for different tax scenarios and different numbers of ultra-rich leaving. I would like to see higher taxes on high earners and the rich, but only if it really does increase revenue. Neither Conservative nor labour are likely to do this anyway, of course.

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    • Actually, I’d settle for getting “the rich” to pay the taxes they are supposed to pay. Councils are wasting a ton of money chasing down people for benefit fraud (people shouldn’t do that yes, but is it returning value for money?), yet we spend very little going after tax dodging corporations and the super-rich, which would almost certainly yield a higher return to the IR.

      As for you’re proposal of a cost benefit analysis, I suspect the devil would be in the detail. The Tories would try to show that the country would empty, labour would claim the opposite.

      Its worth remembering that plenty of other EU countries have much higher rates of taxation (to the point that Britain is considered a defacto tax haven). Even a few US states, while having lower federal taxes than the UK (i.e. income tax, VAT, etc.) do have fairly high local taxes (property, land, sales tax, etc). A modest increase in taxes here would therefore be unlikely to trigger a mass capital flight, as the question has to be asked, where would they go?

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