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What the Tory marriage tax break really means

April 27, 2010

We’ve talked a lot about the proposed Tory tax break for married couples recently, but there are a few more things I would like to consider before we finally get to see if it will be put into practice. I mentioned the myth of single parent families causing problem kids in a comment recently, and would like to talk a bit more about it, but first I’m going to look at the numbers in some more detail.

So, £550 million to help propagate an old-fashioned stereotype. To us that’s a lot of money, but to a government spending £700 billion every year, it seems to pale. One of the recent arguments in UK politics is about how large or small £6 billion really is to the economy, and if it is going to have any effect either way. I have to fall on the side of it having a large effect, though, after I worked out how many jobs that £550m could save – just under 23,000 nurses or teachers at £24k annual salary. That’s right, the Tories favour promoting their stupid ideal household more than keeping 23,000 public sector jobs. £150 a year for 3.5 million families, most of whom don’t need it, it’s ridiculous.

Now, you may say I’m being unfair, accusing them of firing 23,000 public sector workers to fund this when they haven’t, but where do you think their ‘harsh’ cuts will lie? Take a look at the spending pie chart on that Treasury link up there. The Tories have already committed to protecting healthcare, public order, industry (well, I’m assuming that one, but they do like their businesses), and after the last debate, defence. They also seem keen to win green votes so probably won’t touch transport and the environment much either. I’m not sure what ‘Other’ is, and interest payments can’t be ignored, so what do they have left to cut? Education and Social Services! So when the Education and Social Security departments are being squeezed, they’ll start trying to cut down on their budgets, and the easiest way to do that is to start sacking people – probably the people at the bottom, since the people at the top get to make that decision. Et voila – thousands of public sector staff laid off, in this case mostly teachers and care workers. Yeah, that’s totally the way to improve care standards and lower class sizes, right? Add to that this ludicrous idea of starting up private schools on public money, and the country’s future education system looks pretty worthless under a Tory government, unless you’re rich enough to go to private schools – how convenient for them!

Anyway, on to my second point, the whole reason the Tories want this tax system in the first place – because they believe married (and therefore heterosexual) couples are better for raising kids than any other environment. Especially if one parent stays at home. What is it exactly about marriage that benefits children? Stability in relationships doesn’t depend on a bit of paper, and whilst marriage might well indicate stability, it isn’t necessarily the case – hence the high number of divorces in recent times. They also seem to believe that, because of this, the opposite must be true – that not being married means you aren’t in a stable relationship suitable for raising kids in. I’m sure I don’t need to point out to anyone how stupid that is. And the worst misguided piece of crap in this whole situation – “Broken Britain”, and all its problem kids, caused by divorces and single-parent families.

I’ll admit, I haven’t seen much about how single-parents are ruining society for a few years now, although I don’t actually read tabloids so it may still be happening. But the whole Broken Britain concept seems to be built on everyone already knowing this, so Cameron doesn’t have to actually state it outright. In case you haven’t guessed, my parents separated and divorced when I was a kid, barely into my teens, so I think I know a lot more about these circumstances than David “Broken Britain” Cameron. It was a difficult time for all of us, and I’ve got a few mental scars to show for it, but all considered I’m still a very well-adjusted and law-abiding person, contrary to the popular belief that living without my father for 6 years makes me some kind of sociopathic criminal drain on society.

Living in a single-parent household might indicate kids to be more likely to have problems, but assuming it is the cause is a mistake people make when viewing it from the outside – I am almost certain, judging from my own experiences, that most if not all problems of this nature are caused by the unstable relationship before the divorce happens. It was tough when it was just 3 of us instead of 4, we didn’t have a lot of money, but we just about scraped by, and at the end of it all I was better at coping than I had been before. I actually think it improved me, that despite it being difficult and unhappy I am better off now because of it. It taught me the importance of money, or rather, the importance of things that didn’t require it. Before the divorce, however, it was only unpleasant. I spent an extraordinary amount of time reading books or at my Amiga, playing long and complicated games, because if I was absorbed enough in the story or the game, I didn’t have to listen to the shouting and the crying down the hall…

Cameron’s £150 a year wouldn’t have benefited my parents, because they both worked full-time, but imagine if it did. What would have happened if they had stayed together instead of separating? “Staying together for the kids,” instead of the opposite (they actually did say they separated for our sake, hard as that was to understand at the time). Would we have all grown up in a nice happy nuclear family, perfectly well-adjusted and beneficial to society? No, we would not. We struggled enough as it was, I’m not sure how much more of it we could have coped with, and I think I coped better than my younger brother did. Put simply, this tax break will do nothing but harm. Happy stable couples will cope just fine without it, and unstable couples will only stay together for longer and cause more misery for everyone involved. You might be able to throw money at some problems to fix them, Tories, but all the money in the world would only dilute this problem rather than solving it completely.

In summary, this marriage tax break plan is just so flawed, it’s almost beyond words. It’s a waste of money built on a stereotype built on a lack of understanding built on a good old-fashioned bigoted opinion. It would be like a government-sanctioned cash incentive to convert to a specific religion – it would immediately benefit those of the favoured religion, and would force the needy of other religions to choose between supporting themselves and upholding their cherished beliefs, and it would also turn what should probably be an important and well-thought-through decision into a cheap greed-driven venture. Their hypocrisy on how important marriage is whilst at the same time trying to bribe as many people into doing it as possible makes me suspect that they already know all of this, and that they are happily being bigoted. I hope not, I hope they do just not understand the situation, at least then we will only be led by the incompetent, rather than the malicious.

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