Last month I suggested that John Howard was a conservative social democrat, redistributing income as a conventional social democrat would, but giving it a conservative twist by targeting families.
For a single and childless person earning between $1,000 and $1,250 a week, changes in the tax and welfare systems since 1996-97 leave them 4% better off in real terms. But a couple with one earner and two children on the same income is 15% better off from tax and welfare changes, and a couple of two earners and two children is 19% better off.
These figures ignore changes in private income – they are the effects of changes in government policy alone. If increases in private earnings are included, a single adult is 15% better off and and a couple with children is 29% better off. This suggests that the market alone has not changed household relativities much, but government policy has had a big effect.
Harding also finds that when we look at equivalised household income (ie, allowing for the number of people in the household) over the last decade households in the top 20% of the income distribution have had % increases in their income that are slightly below the average, though still a good improvement – 24%. The biggest winners have been those in the middle two income deciles on 32% and 29%. Decile 2 did the worst, on 14%. Harding says this group contains a lot of old-age pensioners without private resources, so they have not directly benefited from the rise in market income or the added concessions for ‘self-funded’ retirees.
Overall, though, it supports my argument that while Howard only occasionally talks like a social democrat, he has consistently behaved like one.