Wednesday, August 19, 2015

"If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken ..."

It never ceases to amaze me how far some people can twist whatever a Conservative proposes, or anyone else to the right of Jeremy Corbyn for that matter, into a vicious attack on women and children.

An egregious article in the New Statesman by Laurie Penny, The Tory rape exception for tax credits is worse than you thought is an extreme example.

Not quite sure whether this lady has ever heard of birth control, but she argues that  those people who are in favour of some restriction on abortion but make an exception for rape, and the government's changes to child support and tax credits in the budget, are motivated mainly by a wish to punish women for having sex.

The remarkable thing about this article is that exceptions to the rules which have the specific effect of preventing families from losing money appear to Ms Penny as "nasty" because she finds ways of putting a cruel and vicious interpretation on them.

There is a significant error in the way the budget changes are described in her article which may be an attempt to simplify the description, may indicate that the author has misunderstood what is proposed, or may be an attempt to wilfully miss the point.

The article says that

"Families with more than two children will lose up to £2,780 per subsequent child from 2017, with an important exception: the government, in its beneficence, has decided not to withdraw support if these extra children, these gurgling drains on the coffers of state, were conceived as a result of rape."

Not quite right. Families with more than two children will lose that money for subsequent children born after 6 April 2017 with a number of exceptions including multiple births and where the extra children were conceived as a result of rape.

E.g. when this starts to take effect in 2017 families do NOT lose support for children born before April that year.

Someone not aware of the facts and read Ms Penny's poison prose about

"the conference rooms where politicians sat down to discuss which children they are going to impoverish this year."

would never guess that not a single family will lose money this year, or that not a single family will receive less support specifically for a child who has already been conceived or who is conceived in the next ten months, when the policy begins to impact in 2017.

Whether you agree with the decision or not isn't actually the point. The aim is to encourage people to think responsibly before bringing children into the world and to use birth control rather than have more than two children if you cannot afford to look after them and are going to have to ask other people to take responsibility for providing for them.

The government bent over backwards to avoid moving the goalposts on people by excluding all children who had already been born at the time of the budget and those who are born over a period of nearly two years afterwards from the impact of the policy. To the extent that there is a small risk of an "Osborne baby boom" between nine months after the budget and March 2017.

And the exceptions to the policy - multiple births, rape, etc - are not about punishing people for having sex, they are about ensuring that the policy does not impoverish people, and even more importantly does not make it difficult to feed their children, if they have three or more children for reasons outside their control.

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