I’ve been paying close attention to the radio, television, papers and Twitter since George Osborne’s budget came out on Wednesday to see what the reaction has been like. As you would expect there has been plenty written and said about it so far and there seems to be a bit of a competiton going on as to who feels most hard done by. The so called ‘Granny Tax’ has taken the share of the headlines ahead of the cut in the 50p income tax rate. Other changes such as the cut in Child Benefit and August petrol price increase are following behind.
Pretty much everyone has got some reason to complain if they choose to do so, even if it’s just about the fact that others aren’t getting hit at the same level as them. Given the state of our nation’s finances and the Government’s desire to reduce its spending and increase its income, is it really any surprise? Can any of us expect to get away without a bit more pain in this economic climate?
It’s always hard to see the level of your income drop. No matter what your living standard is, it’s never enjoyable to have to give up things that have previously taken for granted. Most of us, rather than being content to accept the situation we find ourselves in, are always desiring more. As humans we are very good at wanting to live beyond our means. The average household debt in the UK (excluding mortgages) stood at £7,975 in January and our national outstanding unsecured (consumer credit) lending stood at £207 billion. I wonder how much of this £207 billion was spent on non-essential items that weren’t actually needed. Why do we have this love affair with riches and gaining ‘stuff’ and why do we get so offended when the Government takes more tax from us?
Sometimes the quote is brought out that ‘money is the root of all evil’. It’s actually a misquote of Paul writing in his first letter to Timothy where he says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” If you believe that wealth will be a source of happiness to you then paradoxically you will never be truly happy. Money makes the world go round and it can have a tight grip that strangles us.
‘Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them?’ (Ecclesiastes 5:10,11)
‘Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.’ (Hebrews 13:5a)
Thanks to banks, governments and our own inablility to control our finances, we are now in a position where we are having to wean ourselves off an unsustainable lifestyle. If we accept that this is inevitable and we are all going to feel some pain as a consequence then we’re going to cope much better than fighting against it and wishing things could go back to how they were in more buoyant times that were funded by a credit bubble.
So should we be angry if the government takes more from us? No, not automatically. Should anyone be exempt from this? No, we all have the responsibility of doing our bit for each other and our society. Should we expect the Government to rebalance the books in a way that spreads the burden in a fair and appropriate way? Yes. Do we need to acknowledge that this is difficult and the Government is likely to get some things wrong? Yes, but we shouldn’t be afraid to speak up when we believe they have got the balance wrong. Should we expect the most well off to contribute the most? Yes, but currently the top 1% of earners pay 27% of all income tax collected. There is a limit to how much we can expect high earners to bail the rest of us out. Do we need to think carefully about how much we should give to those who are out of work and rely on benefits? Yes, we all have a responsibility to care for those who are unable to pay their own way in life, but for those in that situation there needs to be a recognition that there is a limit to how much support they should expect to recieve.
As a society we need to realise that despite the tough times we are going through we are all vastly richer than the majority of the world’s population. Those of us who are Christians need to repent on behalf of our nation and seek God’s forgiveness for our selfishness and greed. We need to take the lead in showing others how to live lives where we are satisfied with what we have, whether it be a lot or a little and we need to pray that our leaders will make wise and fair decisions that follow God’s principles.
If we all begin to learn to be thankful for what we have then we won’t feel the need to complain so bitterly when the Government takes a bit more from us when the intention is to provide a more stable future that will be of benefit to everyone.