THE government’s financial watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), issued its latest report on Thursday, warning that British public finances are in a worse state to withstand a crisis than they were on the eve of the world banking collapse in 2007.
According to the OBR this crash is ‘inevitable’. It places the blame on the failure of Theresa May to win a massive Tory majority. In fact, a Tory government that is dying on its feet has created uncertainty and panic in the capitalist class at a time when it has to come to grips with a working class that has had enough of years of Tory austerity cuts and is rising up against it.
The report states that leaving the EU is not the only threat to the British economy but also a weak ‘hung parliament and austerity fatigue’. It slaps down May and all her talk of easing up on austerity, insisting that ‘Ongoing challenges must be faced while negotiating Brexit and in an environment of “austerity fatigue”.’
It lambasts those Tory MPs who are scared of being booted out of their cushy jobs and are making calls on May to increase public spending to head off the wrath of workers. In other words, the OBR is urging the Tories to face down the working class, cut out all this nonsense of easing austerity and set about driving through the cuts necessary to keep the banks and speculators rolling in money.
The OBR report was seized upon by the Tory chancellor and leading rival to May, Philip Hammond, who described it as a ‘sober analysis’, a ‘stark reminder of why we must deliver on our commitment to deal with our country’s debts’. When Hammond talks about ‘our country’s debt’, what he is really talking about is the massive national debt of nearly £2 trillion, a debt that has nothing to do with the working class but was run up bailing out the banks to the tune of over £1.5 trillion to stop them going bust in 2008.
This is the debt that the OBR and the Tories are insisting must be paid through pay cuts and the destruction of the welfare state and the NHS. One section of British capitalist society, however, is exempted by the OBR and the Tories from shouldering the burden of keeping the bankers in luxury – the rich.
According to the OBR, the 1% of the population who own almost all the wealth of the country are a cruelly treated minority who must be protected from the ravages of the crisis saying that the ‘reliance’ on taxing the rich made the economy ‘vulnerable to the shocks that affect high earners like a potential negative impact of Brexit on the financial sector or a crisis that hits asset markets’.
Proclaiming that squeezing the rich by making them pay taxes ‘harms the economy’, the report laments that the amount of income tax paid by the top 1% has risen from 24.4% to an unbearable 27.7%, while at the same time hitting out at the fact that low earners have benefited from increases in personal allowance that have taken some of the poorest paid out of the tax bracket altogether.
This then is the strategy of the capitalist class laid bare – drive up taxes for the ordinary worker and cut taxes to the 1% of the bankers and bosses so they don’t have to live permanently in the Bahamas or other tax havens. Millions of workers and young people have reached the conclusion that they will not accept mass poverty, homelessness and the destruction of the NHS as the price to pay for keeping this bankrupt system going a minute longer.
The demand must be for the trade unions to take immediate action by calling a general strike to kick out this dying dog of a Tory government and going forward to a workers government. This will have to do much more than increase taxes on the rich by a few per cent. It will have to seize their banks and assets without any compensation and place them at the disposal of and for the benefit of the working class as part of a planned socialist economy.
This is the only way forward today. Workers and youth must join the WRP and the Young Socialists to build the revolutionary leadership that will lead the working class to put an end to the crisis of capitalism by overthrowing it and placing the working class in power.