The British people just rejected George Osborne’s March budget

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A BMG research poll has shown that the vast majority of UK adults want austerity cuts to be eased or stopped. This is completely at odds with George Osborne’s plans for the March budget.

The poll found that most people (30%) felt austerity policies should stay in place, but then be removed once things look better. A similar number (27%) felt austerity should “stop now”. But 1 in 10 people went even further, expressing that austerity should never have begun in the first place. And only 2 in 100 people felt that austerity policies should go further.

On the looming March budget, over a third of the 1,500 participants polled said the top priority should be increasing public spending. And a fifth said it should focus on ending welfare cuts.

These policies are incredibly unlikely to come from Osborne. No matter the problem, Osborne’s answer is always more austerity. But specifically for this budget, there are three reasons Osborne won’t be delivering what the British people want.

1) He backed down on cutting tax relief for the well-off

Osborne recently backed down on cutting pension tax relief. While pension cuts do constitute austerity, they would have disproportionately affected the well-off more than the poor. This is why it prompted a campaign of resistance from The Daily Mail.

Osborne capitulated on these cuts remarkably easily when considering how he fought to the death to carry out tax credit cuts in the face of vehement opposition. And how he then proceeded with cutting child tax credits for families with more than two children anyway.

The main difference between the two policies is that the former disproportionately impacts the rich, and the latter the poor. Take this into account, and Osborne’s ideological elitism is laid bare.

He isn’t raiding middle-class pension pots, so he’ll probably be raiding the poor yet again.

2) He wrote austerity into British law

Osborne literally wrote austerity into our law when he legislated the ‘Fiscal Charter’, which requires the government to run a budget surplus by 2019-20. This is an arbitrary, artificial stranglehold on British finances. In the coming budget, Osborne will likely use this deadline he created in order to justify more cuts.

As HSBC’s chief UK economist, Simon Wells, said:

Mr Osborne could be even more constrained in what he can do to meet his own ambitious targets over the forecast period: he is now required by law to target a budget surplus by 2019/20.

And as the UK Business Insider concludes:

To meet the target more comfortably, he will have to follow through on warnings of further tightening.

This is despite austerity only piling on more public debt. Osborne has created more debt as Chancellor than every post-war Labour government combined. Hence, we can conclude that the Fiscal Charter is merely a gambit to justify more ideological cuts to public spending.

Arbitrary deficit deadlines like the Fiscal Charter function to give the illusion of progress while necessitating more austerity.

3) He has made a pig’s ear of the economy already

HSBC’s chief UK economist also said of the looming budget:

The backdrop has worsened, even since the Autumn Statement. The economy is slowing, nominal GDP is lower than expected, and the deficit has – probably – overshot. We think that borrowing and the cash requirement could be around £5bn higher in 2015/16 than was expected three months ago. So there is scant room for giveaways.

Osborne misses his own deficit targets spectacularly. He missed his last deficit target by £72bn. If it were baseball, he would have totally missed the ball while whacking the collective poor across the face in the process.

In this looming budget, all the signs point to more crippling austerity from the Chancellor. This is totally at odds with not only our economic security, but also the opinions of the British people. To reiterate, the poll showed that only 2% of people support Osborne’s plans for this budget. Yet he will plow on with cuts regardless.

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Featured image via Flickr.

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