Of course these days as a Druid you do not get to talk sense to those in charge in any kind of structured way, so I’m just going to vent theories on the blog.
Austerity. It doesn’t work. The UK is still borrowing a lot of money and not paying off its debts, and at the same time the poorest are suffering. Apparently millionaires are poised to get tax breaks, because we all know how much those folks are hurting… (gah). Now, the poorest people in the UK are not just unemployed or too ill to work, but also include a lot of people in part time and low paid employment. Rising rents and council tax, rising fuel costs and amenities (while companies make profits) put the squeeze on incomes that are not rising. People pay for the essentials, and they buy cheap because they have to, in order to survive. The more pressure you put on the poorest in society, the less economically active they become. Oddly enough, high streets are increasingly dominated by pound stores and charity shops, while big chains close an average of 20 stores a day across the country. Every store closed represents more job losses, more people needing a hand, and having less money. And so the squeeze extends.
The way things are set up, economies depend on movement of money. GDP is simply a measure of movement. The faster the money moves the more everybody appears to have. It’s a funny old world. However, reduce the incomes of the poorest, and they stop buying those luxuries like books and music. They stop going down the pub, for a night out. When enough people stop doing that, pubs close, and ooh look, HMV has just folded. (Music, for anyone unfamiliar with them.) In this climate, only bargain basement stores selling dodgy horse burgers are going to thrive.
There’s no political will to cap rents. We hear a lot about how people on benefits are scrounging off the state, and nothing at all about how much public money ultimately finds its way into the pockets of private landlords. So run that past me again about who is scrounging here? People in work get tax benefits because in the current climate, the minimum wage is not enough to live on. We’re not talking heady luxuries, we’re talking bare essentials. No one is talking about how private employers ought to be paying workers a living wage rather than the state picking up the tab. Remind me about who the scroungers are, please. In the last decade or so the private sector has not invested in growth or jobs. It’s just paid fat dividends to shareholders and ever more obscene bonuses to management while the people who do the work struggle on a not-living wage. Then, thanks to that lack of investment, business in the UK does not thrive, jobs move overseas, businesses fail to pay their fair share of taxes. The rich underpay the poor, decline to pay their own taxes, pay themselves huge bonuses… Meanwhile those with no hope, no prospects, no opportunities and no money sink into despair, and when the government notices the total apathy out there, they ascribe it not to depression or futility but to laziness.
If we had a level playing field and all you needed to do was work hard and you’d succeed, then berating the poor for not making an effort would be fair enough. That’s not the score. But it’s not at all clever, because the more money you take out of the pockets of the poor, the less money you have moving around. Those people sat on huge wads of cash are not spending it to drive the economy. Squeezing the poor does not make for a healthy economy. How about paying a living wage, providing work opportunities, having business invest in business rather than creaming off the profits all the time… we could have something that works passably well.
Perhaps David Cameron wants to bring back feudalism, picturing himself as mighty ruler of Great Britain. The trouble is Mr Cameron, go on this way and you will have total power over all your serfs, but all you’ll get is to be King of a pile of dirt, dressed in a ragged and filthy robe of state, with a crown made out of rusty spoons. We got rid of feudalism for a reason – we were tired of the Dark Ages. Go back there if you want to, get into re-enactment or something, but for pity’s sake, stop trying to take the rest of us with you.