I have kind of steered away from addressing the Austerity subject.
It is a popular subject across Europe at present. The Greeks are being urged by a German lead EC to adopt more austerity policies. They feel that the only way that Greece is to repay its mounting debts is by making the people suffer. Suffer through increased VAT, through reduced pensions, through cuts to government spending. They gloss over the fact that the loans were taken by Greek banks rather than the government. The Europe wide crash of 2008 severely hit Greece’s economy badly. Greece in modern times has been a poor country, ravaged by invasion and having an archaic infrastructure.
This was the country that gave modern western civilisation its roots of language, mathematics, philosophy, science and law.
The country is a playground for Europe’s holiday makers, A country that would struggle severely if those holidaymakers stay away. Spain, Italy, Ireland and Portugal all struggle with less robust economies although it could be argued they are stronger than Greece. The answer for countries such as France, The Netherlands and Germany is to bully the weaker countries into doing as they say but not as they do. Germany’s debt is huge yet they don’t mention that.
And then there is the United Kingdom.
They sit there watching the scrap, waiting for the bullies to win and then claim they always supported them. At present however George Osborne stays remarkably quiet. This is partly down to the impending dose of austerity he is about to force down the throats of already choking poor and disadvantaged of his own country.
His government was elected in May promising to reduce the deficit again (although it went up in their last term). They tell the people that tough decisions must be made. Only tough for those who are least able to resist the consequences of those decisions. The moral judgments they make are appalling. They imply that the poor are so because they are lazy, the disabled hide behind their disability to scrounge benefits. Those with more than two children and on benefits or receiving tax credits are irresponsible and should be punished for this error of judgement. Only hard work will make you free. Translate that into German and it suddenly becomes a very chilling message once hung over the entrance to Auschwitz concentration camp. So we punish the poor because they don’t contribute anything in taxation to the economy that supports them. And when we have exhausted all our venom on the disadvantaged, we turn on migrants. That however is a whole other discussion.
Maybe there is another way?
What if we stopped worrying about our deficit like Germany or France seems to? What if we decided to create growth through investment? Investment in public services and our infrastructure.This would create jobs for the unemployed to fill. You could train these people to increase their skills and become higher qualified workers. Pay them a living wage and something amazing would happen. The tax revenue would suddenly increase and those on benefits would decrease. This would enable the government to pay off some of the deficit whilst continuing to invest long term in the nation.
The consequences for the money markets would be uncertain. They profit from having a stranglehold on economic policy. Free market economics introduced by the Thatcher government gave private organisations enormous power and put power in the hands of those chiefly interested in self improvement. You cannot allow a whole country to be held to ransom by the City of London. They are not elected, they do not act in the interests of the majority of people and are not accountable for their mistakes to anyone other than their investors/shareholders.
The resemblance between the Greek situation and our own is there to be seen. Greedy private banks speculating and crashing through their own incompetence only to turn round and expect their governments to bail them out financially. These same organisations now stand behind the playground bullies (Germany ET-AL) and lecture the Greeks about repaying the debts. It is almost farcical. This does not however help the poor families struggling to survive in Athens or Manchester. The pensioner having to make life or death choices about where their limited funds should go in Lisbon, Limerick or Leeds.
Austerity is only austerity for those least able to resist its cruel tidal wave of gloom. If you see someone lying injured in a ditch what do you do? Do you throw them a shovel and tell them to dig it deeper; do you jump down there and say how terrible it must be; or do you lean down and offer a hand to get them out of the ditch? This is the choice between austerity, charity and an investment/anti austerity answer. There are hundreds of thousands of families in Greece, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom holding their breath as to what their government will do. We in the United Kingdom find out tomorrow our fate. It terrifies me. There will be those pushed over the edge by his decisions. There will be many casualties. Those who say it is necessary will only say this until they become unemployed or suffer a disability. They will then discover that not everyone suffers from austerity. Only those that cannot defend themselves from the attack of state bullying.
A decent society should be judged according to how well they care for the least able to look after themselves. If a society fails to care for its most vulnerable and treat them with dignity, it is not a society. It is a collection of greedy individuals. Is that what we really want for our future?