In 1980s, Ronald Reagan asked in one of the US Presidential Debates: ‘Are you better off than you were four years ago’? In that one question he summed up for the American public the decision they had to make when they went to the polls and for voters the decision was clear: Reagan replaced Carter as President with a landslide majority.
Poverty is on the rise in the UK and with homelessness far higher than it was eight years ago. While once these things were largely reserved for those suffering unemployment the growth in UK poverty has been sustained largely by increases in ‘working poverty’, where families are in work but where the money they are able to bring in does not cover the most basic bills. Child poverty, surely one of the benchmarks of a civilised country, is now set to hit a record high.
If you are wondering how people’s living standards have been allowed to slip so much without riots, just bear in mind that you probably were not aware that tax, benefit and pensions changes came in last week which are set to make the problem even worse. Unfortunately, the things the country has chosen to focus all its attention on over recent years has resulted in the things which have a much greater direct impact upon all our quality of life getting ignored.
Not all of this is by accident. For years the Government has spoken about belt tightening to close the budget deficit, but if you look at the detail of Conservative budgets, time and time again the money which has been taken from public services has not been used to pay down debt but has rather been given away in the form of tax breaks. The end result is that while your public services are crumbling and those in work are increasingly facing poverty, wealthy elites have never had it so good.
So the question facing everyone in the UK right now is this: high-earners may well be doing well under the Conservatives, but are you better off than you were?