Brendan Barber: The TUC's five-point plan for recovery
The Chancellor's plan for our economy isn't working. We can't go on like this. We need an alternative. And we need it now.
The TUC has today published a five-point plan to get our economy on track and help get Britain back to work.
First, we need a more sensible timetable for deficit reduction. Not a kamikaze four-year plan, but a more realistic and achievable 10-year plan.
Second, we need fair taxation - a fairer balance between spending cuts and tax rises - so that those with the broadest shoulders, the people who did best from the long boom, pay a fair share.
When City traders or hedge fund managers threaten to leave Britain if taxes rise, I say: call their bluff. Let's have a permanent tax on bankers' bonuses, a stronger banking levy, a clamp down on the tax havens and avoidance scams that cost us £25 billion a year. And let's end the scandal of £10 billion of pensions tax relief for the richest one per cent of the population who earn over £150,000 a year. Above all, let's have a Robin Hood Tax on financial transactions. It's great that the European Commission has proposed such a tax at EU level.
Third, we need a proper strategy for growth. Give demand a spurt through a temporary cut in VAT, a reduction in National Insurance contributions and an increase in tax credits and give a helping hand to people on the lowest incomes who are most likely to spend. Fast track infrastructure projects like house-building, road improvements and better public transport. Create a new state investment bank to provide capital for small and medium-sized businesses for projects to green our economy. And let's reform the existing banks so they serve us rather than enrich themselves. We can begin by making sure they start lending to people and businesses who need help.
Fourth, we need policies to get Britain back to work. That means rethinking the public sector job cuts now coming thick and fast. We need measures to tackle youth unemployment, with a proper replacement for the Future Jobs Fund. Give employers a two-year NI holiday when they employ anyone under-25. Reinstate the Educational Maintenance Allowance which allowed young people to spend time in college rather than on the dole.
And fifth - perhaps most fundamentally - we need a more even distribution of wealth. The free-market financial capitalism of the past three decades has enriched too few and failed far too many. The share of our national wealth going to workers wages has fallen from 65 to 53 per cent since the 60's, with those in the middle and at the bottom hit hardest. A tiny elite have creamed off the spoils of growth. The richest half per cent now own more than a third of the world's wealth.
Unless workers see their pay packets growing, we can't build sustainable consumer demand. We need action to address these destabilising inequalities - a living wage, worker representatives on company boards, new models of corporate governance, greater shareholder activism, new systems of ownership, a bigger role for unions and collective bargaining.
One thing's for sure: we cannot continue as we are. The current model of capitalism - deregulated, unequal, unstable - is facing a crisis of legitimacy. Our economic predicament is dire - people are rightly getting angry.
We must get to grips with the root causes of the current turmoil - debt-fuelled growth; stagnant wages for the majority; financial speculation.
But our most urgent task is to avoid austerity. Government ministers must find the courage to admit they've got it wrong and change course before it's too late. In place of austerity, we urgently need policies to deliver a real recovery.
Brendan Barber is the general secretary of the TUC, and tonight will deliver a lecture at the University of Liverpool as part of its 'Burning Issues' public lecture programme.
Brendan Barber's full lecture is available HERE.