In Britain, the House of Lords recently impeded an attempt by Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative government to cut tax credits for working families as part of its austerity program. The average beneficiary family stood to lose £1,300 (about $2,000) a year, often on incomes of £20,000 or less. It effectively would have amounted to a 5% to 10% income cut for 3.3 million of Britain’s poorest families. This would have inflicted terrible and unnecessary suffering on these families and it would have damaged consumer spending and harmed Britain’s economy. It is a wonderful thing that the House of Lords blocked these cuts. It illustrates just how important it is to have another legislative house with the power to curb the excesses of the House of Commons. Yet because the members of the House of Lords are chosen on an anachronistic and often arbitrary basis, it cannot be trusted with the power it would need to mount a broader, more serious opposition to austerity. So how do we fix that?
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