A lesson for David Cameron

I used to be a teacher, once. And one of the things I used to teach was philosophy. Now philosophy is really nothing more than the art of thinking clearly – logically – about a problem.

Admittedly, the problems of philosophy are usually rather tricky: why are we here? what is reality? where does right and wrong come from? But I thought, this morning, I’d invite David Cameron into my classroom to do a little basic logic. Because one of the following statements about today’s child benefit cuts – repeated by government spokesmen and women across the media this morning – is a non sequitur (that’s philosophy for -‘bollocks’, by the way). Now, Mr Cameron. Can you identify which one?

Statement A: child benefit must be cut to help reduce the nation’s deficit;

Statement B: those with broadest shoulders should bear the biggest burden;

Statement C: the majority of parents will still receive child benefit.

No, Mr Cameron? Oh do come on! Anyone else, then? Anyone?

Let’s go through them one by one shall we? Statement A is undoubtedly true, if – as this government has – you decide to cut public spending as your route to deficit reduction. (Yes, Balls, we know: other routes may be available. Now, put down that ocarina!)

Now, B. Again, true. We’d expect those who can afford to to pay more, wouldn’t we everybody? Yes, sir.

And statement C. That seems pretty watertight, too, doesn’t it? It’s undoubtedly true that a mere 15% of those claiming child benefit at midnight last night will no longer be doing so today.

So, where’s the problem?

Well, let’s look at that last statement again, shall we? Of that 15% there will undoubtedly by a tiny proportion of very wealthy individuals who will barely notice a missing trifle from their income stream and will merrily toss to their accountant the necessary self-assessment form. They’ve got broad shoulders, as you say. They should pay.

But so should more than a few of the 85% remaining recipients of child benefit, shouldn’t they? Because their household income combined is in some cases considerably more than that of the ‘broad shoulder’ brigade, isn’t it Mr Cameron? Oh do keep up!

Which means, in essence, that there will be those among the losers this morning whose shoulders are a good deal narrower than some, perhaps many, of the majority – sitting pretty with a joint income potentially of up to £90,000, who are still receiving child benefit. Child benefit that you, Mr C – yes you too, Osborne (oh do put your hand down!) – said you needed to help reduce the deficit.

Yes, not very bright of you, is it Cameron? What school did you say you’d been to before coming here? Eton, was it? And how much did your father spend on that, I wonder? Lets see shall we, six years between the ages of thirteen and eighteen at, what, thirty grand a year? That’s a pair of very broad shoulders, isn’t it David?


Class dismissed.

If only…


20 thoughts on “A lesson for David Cameron

  1. Absolutely ridiculous! I totally agree. I have been raging since filling the online forms yesterday. I have friends who are totalling 92k between them who are keeping it yet we are losing it for being *just* above the cap. A cap is necessary and I agree that above 60k to shouldnt *need* child benefit however make it fair Mr Cameron, *fair*!!

  2. I'm with Perfectly Happy Mum. Again, I earn diddly-squat (technical accounting term) and my husband is over the £60k barrier. We lose out. And we lose out partly because I have chosen to sacrifice a high-flying career in order to bring up my children. Yes – those same children for whom the government used to give me child benefit. Fair? Hmmm.

  3. Jax Blunt says:

    It's a ludicrous way of doing it.

  4. As someone who is in favour of universal child benefit for lots of reasons, can I just say that now this cap has been introduced, the qualifying income can be reduced, so even those families who still get it this year, may find that they will lose it in coming years…

  5. The Fool says:

    It's hard to think of a way of implementing it that could be worse, I also wonder what happened to my letter telling me about it? Of course lets not forget that a good chunk of those who do keep it will now have the pleasure of a self assessment tax form

  6. Expat mum says:

    I have to say, I never understood why any family not already on benefits, received child benefit (or family allowance, as it was then) in the first place.

  7. Liz Weston says:

    I don't mind if the limit is 60K but that needs to be for household income, not an individual. Drives me nuts that 2 x parents can earn 49K and still get full benefit but where 1 x parent earns over that, it will start to be lost. It's nuts !

  8. All good points, but I must be as thick as the PM – after all I haven't studied or taught Philosophy, nor even attended University – as it seems to me that statement C is still true. Like other commenters here I've never understood why anyone not already in need of state assistance receives benefits. Obviously the way it's being done leaves a lot to be desired, but given that the UK has an enormous deficit & is STILL spending more than it earns isn't stopping benefits for those who don't need them is an obvious way to cut back? That's the sort of thing I do when I look at my household budget anyway 🙂 And as a Dad of twins I've lost 2 child benefits; I'm not complaining about it – even though the money came in useful – as I believe it's right.

  9. Troy says:

    They say a Tory is someone who sees a man in a Bentley and thinks "one day I'd like to be in a car like that" whereas a Socialist thinks "one day I'll get you out of that car". and someone who writes about broad shoulders in the context of a father spending his hard-earned money of giving his child the best education he can buy is someone with a very big chip on their own shoulder.

  10. Troy says:

    They say a Tory is someone who sees a man in a Bentley and thinks "one day I'd like to be in a car like that" whereas a Socialist thinks "one day I'll get you out of that car". and someone who writes about broad shoulders in the context of a father spending his hard-earned money of giving his child the best education he can buy is someone with a very big chip on their own shoulder.

  11. Tim Atkinson says:

    … wonder what they call someone who double-posts their comment, Troy?

  12. Tim Atkinson says:

    Ah, whatever happened to freedom of speech and political debate, eh?! That's democracy for you!

  13. Tim Atkinson says:

    No, you're not thick at all WFA… I am! Of course all three statements are correct in isolation. It's just that, taken together, they become contradictory. I stand corrected!

  14. Tim Atkinson says:

    Me too Liz. It really doesn't make any sense at all, whatever they rationale for changing the current arrangements.

  15. Tim Atkinson says:

    It wouldn't – doesn't – happen in a lot of countries Toni, that's for sure.

  16. Tim Atkinson says:

    Oh joy… that fact alone would be enough to put me off continuing to claim it Ben.

  17. Tim Atkinson says:

    Absolutely LBS. Those of us still qualifying at the mo could be a lot worse off.

  18. Tim Atkinson says:

    Almost as if someone had said, 'what's the worst possible way we can implement this?' and then come up with this hare-brained scheme Jax. Whatever you think of the reform itself, the way they're doing it defies all logic.

  19. Tim Atkinson says:

    Hardly fair, is it? But then, was that – is that – ever the intention? I wonder…

  20. Tim Atkinson says:

    I hope there's a 'diddly-squat' category on the self-assessment forms we're all now going to have to fill in Catharine! If not, there certainly should be.

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