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After the NHS, it seems the Tories want us all paying for our social security out of our own pockets. Why pay taxes, then?

In an article headlined “Workers ‘could be forced to pay £5 a week’ to get benefits“, The Independent tells us: “Workers could be forced to pay at least £5 a week into a personal “welfare account” to get higher benefits if they lose their job, under a plan being considered by George Osborne.

“The Policy Exchange think-tank proposes a shake-up of the welfare system to strengthen its original “contributory principle”, under which the amount people receive in benefits is linked to how much people have paid in.”

This comes shortly after former NHS chief David Nicholson claimed we need a new tax to fund the health service.

Writing in The Guardian, he told us: “As taxpayers we have a right to know how much of our taxes go towards healthcare as we enter a particularly intense debate about NHS funding.”

Can you see where this is going?

Firstly, the idea of taxing us separately for the NHS gives us the idea of paying a charge separate from Income Tax, to fund a specific public service. It is still payable by every UK citizen (although as we know, due to the increased involvement of the private sector, some UK citizens will receive the full amount of their tax payment back in shareholder dividends, and non-UK citizens will receive our tax money without having paid anything towards the service at all; this is one of the reasons it is wrong to allow the private sector into the NHS).

Then the idea of people contributing to a personalised account, on which their personal social security payments will depend (should they need to rely on them), provides the notion that the contributory principle isn’t about everybody paying into a national account that is to be accessible to all of us in need. Instead, Policy Exchange wants us to accept that some people should not have to pay into the “welfare account” for the national benefit – people who would not need to draw from it.

Rich people, in other words.

Look further, and you see that the proposed scheme would be run by private sector insurance companies. It is a plan to end public-sector social security altogether and bring in a for-profit insurance scheme to make money for more fat businessmen. This scheme would prey on poor people who are likely to need social security payments at some point in their professional careers, while rich people who could rely on their own fortunes, or Mummy and Daddy, would be relieved of the (very slight, to them) burden of contributing to the nation’s well-being.

The Policy Exchange report’s author, a former Bank of England wonk called Steve Hughes, said: “The current system does not reflect the contributions that people make through their working lives [and] has created a culture of something for nothing, with people becoming reliant on the state.”

He’s right, up to a point – but this is because successive right-wing governments have destroyed the full-employment economy we had before 1979, that made it possible for the system to reflect the contributions made by working-class people. That was the plan. Its aim was to force working-class people into exactly the kind of mass-market, for-profit insurance scheme Mr Hughes is proposing – dishonestly, in this commenter’s opinion.

Who would the government choose to run such a scheme – Unum Provident?

Ultimately, this all relates back to the damn-fool notion that universal benefits “should only be for people who need it“, which allows ‘Old Tories’ (as Alex Little describes them) to say that only the people who need them should be paying for them: “Old Tories are often popping up to say they don’t need their £250 winter fuel allowance. It may be true that they don’t need it, but their motives for mentioning it are so these things will be means tested, the budget will be slashed and then they think they can ask for lower taxes, or more ‘contributory benefits‘ (code for benefits not available to the ‘undeserving’ who’ll need to rely on charity).”

Means testing would take place if social security was handed over to private insurance firms. It’s just as complex and costly as it was in the alittleecon article that Vox Political paraphrased (above), and the system proposed – especially if Unum does get its hands on it – would mean people who need the benefit won’t claim it because the process will be (intentionally) too difficult for them to manage.

At risk of repeating ourselves – because this message is too important not to get through: We must question the motives of rich people who say they don’t need a particular benefit and don’t want to pay for it.

Provision for some depends on provision for all and nobody – no matter how wealthy – should be allowed to pick and choose how they contribute to British society.

You’re either in or out – and if you choose to be left out then you must go all the way out.

Which is it to be?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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