Sunday 10 February 2013

Inequality perpetuated

There is much grumbling amongst the well heeled that the government has decided to cap the maximum amount the elderly need pay for their own social care at £75 000 rather than the £35 0000 recommended by the Dilnot Commission.

I don't know how many houses in London, the South East and other affluent parts of Britain are now worth over £1million, but there are certainly enough to scare the Liberal Democrats into raising the "qualification" for our proposed Mansion Tax to £2 million rather than the £1 million originally proposed by Vince Cable.

Suppose a couple owning one of these mini-mansions both have to pay the full £75 000 for their social care in old age.  That's a total of £150 000.  So if their house sells for exactly £1 million, that still leaves £850 000 to be distributed amongst their offspring, or other favoured causes.  Suppose they have the average of 2.4 children.  That's slightly over £350 000 apiece.  Not a bad little windfall.  And, of course, many of these "mansions" are worth much more than £1 million, mostly accrued through house-price inflation rather than any effort on the part of the owners, if they've lived in them for any length of time. And there will probably be be other assets as well.

I am aware of the difficulty of distinguishing medical care,  which under our NHS is and, I agree, ought to be, free  for everyone, regardless of means, and social care, but I see no reason why the latter should be paid for out of the public purse just so that rich people's children, probably already very well-heeled, can enjoy yet another bonus.

Research to be published by the Resolution Foundation in the UK will show that, as in the US (see the reports of the the film Inequality for All, based on the work of, and staring, President Clinton's former Labour Secretary Robert Reich), whilst both economies have grown, and worker productivity has increased since the 1990s, the incomes of ordinary households  have flat-lined.  The rising tide has not lifted all boats:  the already rich have taken the cream and the rest of us remain pretty much where we were.

That's the result of neocon economics, and this social care "cap," albeit higher than Dilnot suggested, merely perpetuates the system.  Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, talks of the "scandal" of people having to sell their houses to pay for their social care.  This is yet another example of Orwell's "Newspeak." The real scandal is that the government, whilst cutting vital help to the poor who desperately need it, is introducing yet another scheme to protect the wealth of the already wealthy.

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