FIRST we need to get rid of any idea that these swingeing welfare cuts are actually about savings for the British state. Widespread immiseration and social destruction have all sorts of expensive consequences for other budgets.

And the best way to boost state finances is not to strangle the economy, but to invest and create well-rewarded tax-paying jobs.

Apart from pensions, two of the biggest contributors to the welfare budget are tax credits and housing benefit.

The first largely subsidises low wages, to the benefit of employers, and the second largely subsidises private landlords.

The most effective way to cut welfare expenditure would be to increase wages and cap private rents – and, better still, put money into more social housing.

The so-called National Living Wage will make headlines but is actually no more than a slightly less low minimum wage for those over 25. Calling it a Living Wage doesn’t make it one – particularly when it is paired with cuts to tax credits.

As anyone who has tried to survive on benefits knows only too well, British benefit levels are already, as the Council of Europe said, “manifestly inadequate”.

The principle of social security demands that payment should reflect living costs. A four-year freeze in benefit levels, which affects everyone who is poor, runs against this basic principle.

And, as the total benefit received by a household is the sum of the various (already inadequate) benefits deemed to meet their particular needs, capping it at an arbitrary level makes no sense.

Benefits should allow everyone to lead a decent standard of life, which means that having more than two children should not be a privilege of the rich.

If people are on low wages or are unemployed and looking for work, that is not a choice they have made. Nor do people choose to be a third child. Using benefits to restrict family size is uncomfortably close to eugenics. Forcing all single parents on benefits into work when their children are three also suggests Conservative family values don’t apply to the poor.

The raid on Employment and Support Allowance demonstrates another wilful distortion of the purported purpose of benefits.

People receiving ESA have been found, through a very unsympathetic process, to be unfit for work. To suggest that they are not working because their benefit is a measly £30 higher than the totally inadequate Jobseeker’s Allowance is both wrong and insulting.

We also need to remember that Kafkaesque rules are purposely excluding many from any help at all; and that, as well as financial hardship, those who can’t find work or are unable to work are being made subject to a punishment regime and Government-orchestrated stigmatisation.

Not having a job is portrayed as a personal and culpable failure.

Watching Tory triumphalism, it is tempting to think these cuts are purely vindictive; but, although they are damaging for the British economy, they are very profitable for the small ruling elite.

The one per cent is happy to benefit from a low-waged insecure workforce, and a sure way to make workers reluctant to protest about this is to make the prospect of unemployment very much worse.

IN blaming individuals for their misfortune, the Government not only deflects blame from its own economic failures, but also legitimises the idea that wealth more generally is a reflection of personal merit.

And in attempting to incite jealousies between employed and unemployed they seek to divide potential resistance to policies that damage both.

At the same time as the demolition of the welfare state removes the barriers to an increasingly exploitative capitalism, contracted out bureaucracies such as the Work Programme provide a mechanism for channelling public money into private profit: part of the Government’s huge scheme of corporate welfare.

What we are witnessing is a very effective transfer of wealth from the poor to the super-rich. Destroyed lives, broken dreams, even premature deaths, are merely collateral damage.

Already, a generation of children is getting socialised into a world where collecting for the foodbank is seen as a normal part of life.

But the harshness and extent of this new attack will galvanise the movement against austerity.

More and more people will be badly affected and will know someone who has been reduced to penury or driven to depression through stress and uncertainty.

There will – there must – be resistance; the only question is how much misery will be suffered before that resistance is strong enough.


George Kerevan: A merciless attacks on the poor ... to the sound of cheers

John Swinney: The National Living Wage hides an attack on people in low-wage jobs

Equality: This Budget continues the project which impoverishes women

Foodbanks: ‘Economic security’ is an alien concept to many of those who use our services

Inheritance tax: Making a system more complicated when it needs simplicity

Disability: Why we are sceptical about Osborne's promise

Unemployment: The National Living Wage is a slightly less low minimum wage

Child poverty: Child poverty ... Measures will do precious little for the poorest families in Scotland

Housing: Pushing those already suffering further into poverty