Martin O'Donnell analyses Conservative social policy and the way in which it cloaks its exploitation of the most vulnerable citizens.

Not long ago a letter was sent to the Financial Times signed by 20 individuals from big business.

An innocuous event, one may conclude, and yet the BBC decided that it should be news headlines for the day.
Not the ongoing attack on Britain's public services, not the historic events in the Middle East, rather the complaint made in this letter was that the country's highest earners should not be expected to pay the 50p tax on earnings over £150,000.
The group behind this PR coup was Volterra Consulting - a sinister organisation which seeks to defend and promote their model of capitalism which is that "there are two classes of agent in the model, workers and capitalists. The neat twist, which reverses Marxism, is that the workers are the predators on the profits of the capitalists."
This is perhaps a response to the theory of the "tendency of the rate of profit to fall" - recognised by both Adam Smith and Marx.
It must be those demanding proles eating into their profits.
Volterra's language and that of many others is that the capitalists are the victims and that the 50p tax is a disincentive to entrepreneurs.
Indeed former CBI boss Richard Lambert asserted on the BBC that this tax is, for many of the rich, a disincentive to even get up in the morning.
However such arguments are never used when dealing with the issue of low-paid workers.
There is currently a crisis among the young in terms of employment. Some 25 per cent of 16-24 year olds - almost a million - are not in employment, education or training.
But when the minimum wage for an 18 to 20-year-old is currently £4.92, where are the CBI complaints that this is hardly an incentive to get out of bed?
A 20-year-old on the minimum wage working a 40-hour week will still have to pay 20 per cent income tax and national insurance, leaving them with a take-home pay of approximately £150 per week.
But this is never pointed to as an explanation for youngsters giving up on what is often labour intensive, monotonous, low-paid, low-status work and instead claiming benefits.
John Redwood has recently led the Tory right's attacks on progressive taxation. His core argument is that the more the rich are taxed the less revenue the government actually receives.
His point is that if taxes are too high the richest will simply find ways of avoiding paying them.
This astonishing assertion is based on the assumption that governments seem to be meekly asking for taxes and are then at the mercy of the rich as they decide whether or not they feel like paying them.
Redwood refers to an economic concept called the Laffer curve. This model claims that as tax rates move up from somewhere between 30 per cent and 50 per cent and begin to reach 60, 70 or 80 per cent these increases will result in precisely mirrored decreases in revenue received.
The reason for this? The rich are simply unwilling to pay.
Could not this Laffer curve idea be applied to low pay? The lower the wages the more unwilling an individual is going to be to do the job.
The difference in attitudes to the so-called "dole scroungers" and this "creative accountancy" is simply breathtaking.
While the TUC estimates the total lost to the Treasury in tax avoidance every year is £25 billion, according to the National Fraud Office, benefit fraud amounts to a total of about £1bn.
While this benefit fraud almost pales into insignificance next to the tax avoidance figures, what is often omitted from reports is the fact that an estimated £16bn goes unclaimed in benefits every year.
For example, according to the Department of Work and Pensions, for every £82 claimed in income support in 2007-8, £47 went unclaimed.
Likewise, for every £59 claimed in jobseekers' allowance, £51 went unclaimed.
So why the attention given to benefit fraud with campaigns by the DWP such as the current one using the catchy slogan "Benefit thieves: It's not if we catch you, it's when."
They've used posters and adverts as well as a National Benefit Fraud Hotline to phone. The cost of such campaigns runs into millions, however the tax avoidance hotline is hidden away on government websites with no such high-profile publicity.
So what is the raison d'etre behind this anomaly in attitudes to incentivising the rich but not the poor?
The argument is that the investment banker needs to be so handsomely rewarded because of the importance of his job, but the cleaner who cleans his office deserves no more than the minimum wage because she clearly didn't make the effort in school. (And yes the "he" and "she" conforms to the usual gender scripts).
However this argument is utterly pernicious.
The social consequences of this are that the children of the investment banker will, no doubt, be given every opportunity, including an elite private education - in London approximately 20 per cent of children are privately educated.
Whereas the children of the cleaner will probably grow up in the worst housing, will receive the least best education - as a consequence of being in a poor catchment area - and as a result will be restricted in terms of life chances and opportunities.
Statistics released this year by the Department of Education show children on free school meals - means-tested as the poorest - are twice as likely by the age of 11 to fail to attain basic literacy and numeracy levels.
The double standards displayed by the media and politicians in relation to pay, taxes and incentives are part of a wider problem which is our failure to understand the enormous social damage being done by creating and rationalising gross inequality.
The reality is that over the last three years, the standard of living for the poorest has got steadily worse as a result of pay freezes, job losses and inflation.
Child poverty and fuel poverty, especially among the oldest, has worsened.
In many cities food banks are being set up to support struggling families.
Yet in spite of the media image of dole scroungers and work-shy wasters, many suffer with mental health issues, feelings of failure and inferiority as a result of the weekly struggle provide food and to pay bills.
 
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