Meanwhile working class people can look forward to a national insurance increase, an increase in VAT (that frugal-living Tory gentleman Nigel Lawson said earlier on BBC News the poor wouldn't suffer unduly because they'd "still be able to afford food and clothing"), an increase in pension age, a freezing of public sector salaries, a cutting of housing benefit to unemployed people on the dole for more than a year, cuts to housing benefit claimants who live in homes larger than their family warrants (what a bureaucratic nightmare that will be!), cuts in grants to pregnant women, and linking benefits to the consumer price index. Government departments are expected to shoulder cuts of up to 25%, which can't mean anything other than massive job cuts, and come the Autumn Labour turncoat John Hutton will be delivering a review into public sector pensions. No prizes for guessing his recommendations will be regressive.
There is some robbing Peter to pay Paul going on. To try and dress the budget up as an example of "progressive austerity", there have been sops to capital spending projects outside London, a guaranteed link of the basic state pension to earnings, a flat rate wage increase for lowest waged public sector workers, more child tax credit for the poorest and an increase in basic income tax allowance.
So while the pain falls unevenly on the working class, it represents the kind of wealth redistribution the Tories have no problem with. Put simply, it's a case of making the poor pay while the rich make hay.
If we take the perspective of capital in general, this is a dumb budget. Depressing the disposable incomes of the working class and throwing hundreds of thousands on the dole is no recipe for an economic recovery. As any Marxist will tell you, underconsumption is a core component of capitalist crisis.
But this assumes the agents of capital are rational. The state maybe the general committee for managing the common affairs of the bourgeoisie, but like New Labour and the Tories under Thatcher and Major, today's ConDems are closely aligned to finance capital. The hard monetarist policies it favours at best extricate it from social responsibilities, and at worse requires it to pay lip service to the Tories' rhetoric of "being all in it together". This is a government that cares little for manufacturing outside of the geopolitically vital "defence" industries, so it's not going to give a fig about those who will bear the brunt of the crisis. Rhetoric about "rebalancing" the economy is so much hot air.
There is only one force with the potential to stop these cuts in their tracks, and that's the labour movement. Unfortunately, despite talk of a summer of strikes and predictions of Greek-like conflagrations we remain historically weak. Of necessity the movement will fight and hundreds of thousands more will be drawn into the labour movement, but there's no use pretending the situation can be resolved by peddling the line that all the working class needs is the "right leadership".
A problem related to the weakness of the labour movement is the legitimacy the ConDems have. The Tories alone polled almost 11 million votes in May compared with Labour's comparatively paltry 8.6 million. All the mainstream parties were offering were variations on the cuts theme. It's an unfortunate but unavoidable fact that many millions of working class people accept cuts have to take place: this most recent YouGov poll is one among many polls that backs this up. Media churn blaming Labour's "profligacy" and fat cat public sector workers reflect as well as inculcate actually existing mass sentiment. If the labour movement is to win we not only have to mobilise our core constituency of workers and service users facing the chop: we have to mercilessly criticise the ConDem's policy and rhetoric, form a coherent alternative narrative of our own and win over the many millions of working class people who've been hostile or indifferent to the labour movement in the past.
The Tories and LibDems have their coalition. We have to build our own.