Like a lot of people I’ve been getting worried about the budget coming this Wednesday. Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne have had a lot to say about helping hard-working families. I’ve been chewing at my fingernails, worrying about just how hard the family has to work not to fall foul of these champions of the industrious. They could, at a whim, introduce a ‘Tweeting from work’ tax, obliging me to pay an extra 10% of my income to HMRC because I dare to lift my nose from the grindstone. On top of that they could pile a ‘Never miss a lunch-break’ tax…although my wife (a midwife) has probably missed enough statutory breaks to earn us a rebate on that one. How about comfort tax to punish me for earning a crust by basically sitting still in an air-conditioned room with a computer, a limitless supply of coffee and carte blanche to listen to music, check the news and do as much mucking about in spreadsheets as I can take? That lot has to be worth me paying 65% income tax, surely.
Those things though are difficult to tax, so what’s to stop them simply asking my employer how hard I work? How often do I put in a 12 hour day? Do I turn up 7 days a week? Have I ever done anything that could be classed as physically taxing? Do I hold down 2 or more jobs to keep my hard-working family in food? Do I have a callous on my hand, a blister on my finger or even a bead of sweat on my brow to prove that I’m hard-working?
You can see why I’m worried.
More worrying still a lot of things happen round my office that do seem like hard work, but I’m not the one doing them! Our offices are cleaned, somebody scrubs the toilets, the foliage outside is pruned and tended. Those things sound like hard work. It doesn’t stop at my office either, all around me people are doing hard work – bins are collected, shelves are stocked, roads are repaired, the heavy wheels of society are turned. With all of these hard-working people to reward how are Cameron and Osborne going to be able to do any other than punish me for my soft, luxurious life-style?
I can find out live – I’m working from home on Wednesday (so hard!), so I can have the telly on showing the budget as Mr Osborne reads it out. I can look into his piggy little eyes as he tells me a bare-faced lie and says that I’m hard-working!
Not just that I’m hard-working, but because I’m hard-working I deserve more. It’s not enough that I’ve never had to use a food bank, or take a 2nd job, or claim housing benefit. Simply being free of those things isn’t sufficient reward for how hard-working I am. No, I need to be spending more of my hard-earned income on myself and giving less to the state, especially if it’s just being given to those who aren’t hard-working (and evidence of their lack of hard work is that they need money from the state…except all pensioners, who have a “lifetime of hard work” behind them).
Those people who do have to deal with food banks, 2nd jobs and housing benefit can take comfort in being ‘aspirational’…if they just worked just a little harder then they could also be truly hard-working, like me. To be ‘aspirational’ is to be the living embodiment of Boxer from Orwell’s Animal Farm with, one suspects, much the same reward.
Ultimately the three problems that we’ll need to face on Thursday morning are:
- People are naturally inclined to believe praise about themselves. If the Tories tell them often enough that they’re hard-working and deserve more then they’ll start to believe it and want more of; fuck the ‘aspirational’ and the underclass beneath them who can’t even aspire to aspiration.
- If I stopped doing what I do it would take society quite a while to notice, but without the aspirational people who empty the bins, clean the toilets and stock the shelves our society wouldn’t survive a month.
- That I’ve made a joke of being worried by this budget, but those who are already at the food bank, already working a 2nd job, already barely scraping by on state benefits have genuine reason to fear what Osborne’s going to say on Wednesday and, thinking about it, that’s not really that funny any more.