Do Not Cast Me Off

The current British Government is proposing a significant hike to National Insurance Contributions (NIC) to pay for 'social care'- looking after the elderly, the disabled and the unhospitalised sick. All political parties recognise that the current funding is inadequate. The Tories have always boasted about being the party of low taxation, and ahead of the 2019 election the Prime Minister promised no tax rises, including National Insurance. Is this exposing Johnson as yet another dishonest politician, or someone prepared to grapple with tough issues in a different, post-Covid world? Public opinion bides its time.

One of the issues with raising NICs is that only people who are working pay it. It is essentially a tax on having a job and tax on employing people. Although from April 2023, it will be a "Health and Social Care Levy", payable by working pensioners also and receivers of share dividends, it will still be a blow to many poorer workers. Essentially, the young and fit are paying for the old and unfit. One might detect a biblical principle here, in which the strong support the weak. On the other hand, many people of working age are going through a tougher financial time than older people in paid-for homes receiving pensions. Is the Government asking the weak to support the strong? A young family might have a higher combined income than a pair of pensioners, but their costs of living are likely to be much higher, so their ‘net profit’ or disposable income is smaller- yet they will be shouldering the new tax burden.

Whenever a nation raises a tax there are winners and losers. Opposition parties will decry the tax rise as being too high or not high enough; the people likely to pay it will feel badly done to and the people likely to benefit from it may not feel especially grateful to the politicians who devised it. Yet one wonders why we are in this position: why have we so large an annual bill for caring for the sick, the disabled and the elderly?

For a century, we have worked hard to keep people alive for as long as possible. We have improved housing, diets, health & safety and medical care. I have been a beneficiary of this and I do not despise it. Yet it has created whole swathes of people who are living far longer than they might have expected to centuries or even decades ago. Furthermore, old folk in particular would have been cared for by their immediate families. An elderly aunt or ancient granny would have been rocking by the fire as the children played and parents went about their business. Now, because families are busy and unable to care for infirm relatives who might have another thirty years of care needed, we make use of specialist care homes, where round-the-lock medical attention can be efficiently, if expensively, delivered. As Westerners increasingly look to the state to provide for them (education, healthcare, transport) we expect the state to pay this bill too. And that is why taxes are rising.   

Do not cast me off in the time of old age;

Do not forsake me when my strength fails. (Ps 71:9)

The psalmist, of course, addresses his pleas to God rather than the government, who is a far more reliable provider of care and comfort to the weak and the sick.

Image by eberhard grossgasteiger from Pixabay