Grabbing the headlines yesterday afternoon was the news from the Lib Dem Conference that all 5-to-7-year-olds would receive free school meals. Corporal Clegg told his motley platoon and their supporters that this was his party’s idea, and the price for letting the Tories have their much-delayed tax break for married couples. And much reaction to this news was positive.
More guff from Tufton Street
After all, studies have shown the benefits of getting all pupils to sit down together at lunchtime and enjoy a nutritionally balanced meal (see HERE for detail of a pilot scheme from last year). But not everyone was in favour: right-leaning lobby groups and “think tanks” presented a united front of forthright hostility, and none was more vocal than the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA).
“Beware politicians bearing free lunches”, warned non-job holder Robert Oxley, predictably reiterating the overused and overrated words of the late Milton Friedman by telling “there is no such thing as a free lunch”. This was held to be part of those “unsustainable levels of Government spending”. The Common Agricultural Policy was cited as another terrible expense.
There was an urging to abandon renewable energy programmes. Taxes, readers were told, must be cut. But Oxley’s stand-out assertion was to do with whose taxes would, ultimately, be used to pay for all those school meals, and on this he was unequivocal: “The problem with schemes like this is that you tax those on low and middle incomes to pay for hand-outs to affluent families”.
From that can come only one conclusion: the TPA suggests the burden of paying for universal free school meal provision will fall disproportionally on the less well-off. And here a problem enters, in the shape of, er, the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance, actually. That’s because Oxley’s boss, the humourless Matthew Sinclair, has been arguing the exact opposite, and moreover, has been using actual HMRC data.
Graphic (c) Taxpayers' Alliance 2012
Sinclair works only with income tax, but the thrust of his argument is clear: the well-off pay by far the largest share. The approach is not surprising, as the well-off bankroll the TPA, and would rather like to pay less tax, if it’s all the same to the rest of us. On this comparison, the top 10% pay 57.6% of all income tax, while the bottom 10% contribute just 0.5%.
From those figures, it can only be concluded that, far from hitting the less well-off the most, the burden for provision of free school meals will fall mostly on those with the highest incomes. As such, the idea is highly redistributive. As a result, all those right-leaning lobby groups can be seen for what they are: selfish, uncaring, and utterly hypocritical, putting ideology before all else.
And the TPA, one of their own, has shown exactly why. What a bunch of clowns.