We started the year with yet another row about scroungers or strivers. Apparently there are a whole load of people who sit around watching Jeremy Kyle collecting benefits while we pay for them.
So they are the scroungers, while the strivers work their socks off, and to recognise their hard-working efforts the government got rid of child benefit.
Of course, if you have ever watched the rubbish on Jeremy Kyle then that, in itself, would make you get off the sofa and get a job. Dishing out child benefit to the Beckhams, the Royal Family and other people on annual incomes over £60,000 always looked like an anomaly, but the issue becomes where you place the cut-off point for getting rid of benefits.
However, none of this matters as the three main political parties kick around descriptions for all of us – scrounger or striver, rich or poor, aspirer or lay about.
And amid all this jockeying and tried appeals to various parts of the electorate there is a far more significant part of the population which is ignored.
Savers. When was the last time you heard anything that talked about savers? If there was I missed it.
Raising the annual ISA limit, which was announced in the Autumn Statement, was clearly good news, but frankly for all those people between the average annual wage – about £22,500 – and the child benefit threshold, it is not going to make a difference.
Equally, Ed Balls’ proposed Labour tax raid on pensions brings to mind one of Gordon Brown’s early actions as Chancellor. The latest proposal will restrict tax relief to 20% on pension contributions of up to £40,000 per annum paid by individuals with taxable income of more than £150,000. Mr Balls, himself the future beneficiary of a tax-payer funded indexed pension, seems to think people should be penalised for being savers in this situation.
When will the politicians begin to develop a culture of rewarding savers, and not just seeing them as a source of future taxation?
Sadly, we are a long way from that as each of these miserly initiatives raises a billion or two in the short term as we try and pay off the deficit of a trillion.
If ever we needed a bit of long-term thinking and a lot less short termism it is now. Spending a few more quid each quarter might keep growth above zero, but it does nothing for the long-term costs of retirement.
I am not a scrounger or a striver, but I am a saver, so let us think about those millions for a change. Is that too much to ask?
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