Further to their claim that ‘we are all in it together’, Cameron and Clegg claim that the cuts are ‘fair’. Everyone, the argument goes, will be affected by them, everyone will be making sacrifices, everyone will be tightening their belts. This is a lie.

Bailout cartoonAccording to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, Britain’s leading tax experts, Osborne’s budget will hit the poor harder than the middle class and the rich even in cash, let alone percentage, terms. The budget, says the IFS, is ‘clearly regressive’.

Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg, in particular, has stressed ‘progressive austerity’. Clegg and his colleagues, in their opportunist rush to get their legs under the cabinet table, have dumped every principle and policy on which their party stood in the general election.

The £11 billion of welfare cuts, the rise in VAT to 20%, and the 25% reductions in departmental spending will target the most vulnerable – the disabled, single parents, those on housing benefit, students, pensioners, migrant workers, and ethnic minority communities.

Women are expected to carry three-quarters of the burden. The poorest will be hit six times harder than the richest. Internal Treasury documents estimate 1.3 million job losses.

At the same time, corporation tax is being cut, the bank levy is a pittance, and top salaries and bonuses have been restored to pre-crash levels. Oxfam has proposed that Osborne’s £2 billion bank levy should be £20 billion. Even the IMF thinks it should be £6 billion.

These modest figures must be set against the £90 billion in profits and bonuses that British bankers are expected to rake in next year. Or the (estimated) £25 billion lost to the Exchequer in tax evasion by the rich and big business every year.

In other words, even without tax increases, the government could pay off its entire deficit in the next five years by simply collecting all the tax owed by the rich. If it also increased taxes on the rich, it could create a huge fund for investment in jobs, services, growth, and a green economy – without increasing the deficit at all.

Even if the cuts were evenly distributed – which they are not – the social injustice would be extreme. The rich are cushioned. When they reduce household spending, they cut luxuries like exotic foreign holidays, sports cars, and designer clothes. When the poor do so, they have to cut essentials.

And the grotesque wealth of the rich – derived from executive salaries, corporate bonuses, and property portfolios – is unaffected by public-spending cuts. It is millions of ordinary people who earn public-sector wages, draw state benefits, send their children to state schools, and use NHS hospitals.

Britain has already become a far more unequal society in the last 35 years. The 10% mortality gap between deprived areas and the rest of the UK, for example, has widened by 2% for men and 11% for women. The average difference in ‘disability-free life expectancy’ is now 17 years between those at the top and those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Health inequality is now so extreme that a man in Kensington and Chelsea can expect to live 88 years, but a man in Tottenham Green a few miles away only 71 years – a life-expectancy lower than that in Belize, Ecuador, and China, countries which are much poorer and have no national health systems.

The government-ordered report Fair Society, Healthy Lives concluded that poorer people suffered diseases related to inadequate diets, lack of exercise, smoking, poor pay, and job insecurity, and that the stark and widening class differences were ‘unacceptable and unfair’.

Yet in truth, such class inequality is not only widely ‘accepted’, it is set to worsen, as the Con-Dem spending cuts and tax hikes hit the poor and the working class with cuts in living-standards and services on a scale not seen since the 1930s.

Here, then, is another reason to fight the cuts. They will hit the poor, not the rich. They will redistribute wealth from the ordinary majority to the rich minority. They are an exercise in open class warfare by the millionaires against the rest of us.

Neil Faulkner

Neil Faulkner is a freelance archaeologist and historian. He works as a writer, lecturer, excavator, and occasional broadcaster. His books include ‘A Visitor’s Guide to the Ancient Olympics‘ and ‘A Marxist History of the World: from Neanderthals to Neoliberals‘.