Tag Archives: austerity

In the austerity household

Part of the austerity narrative is the idea that the country is like a household and if you’d maxed out your credit cards you’d have to cut back on spending. Leaving aside the fact that country level economics do not have any resemblance to a household because the rules are different, let’s see how the austerity house might look.

Grandparent 1 owns the austerity house and grandparent 2 makes all the decisions about what happens in it. Parent one goes out to work and earns all the money to run the household. Parent 2 does all the cooking, cleaning, childcare, teaching, nursing, puts out fires… you get the idea. There are an unspecified number of children, and also a hamster. Now they’ve run up a big debt. How does austerity play out?

Well, that foster child they took on is 16 now, so they throw him out and give him no further financial support. That’s going to save some money. Rather than take all of parent 2’s work for free, parent 2 is told to go out and get a ‘proper’ job, while the grandparents pay privately for some of the services they want – nurses and a gardener  although they expect parent 2 to keep teaching and putting out fires and suggest parent 2 could cut back on sleep.

Because other households are doing the same things, parent 1 is spending ever longer hours working for the same money, while the grandparents demand that parent 1 uses more of the income to pay off the debt. Parent 1 takes a second job, but that isn’t enough. Parent 1’s car is sold off for less than it costs to pay off the finance on it. The grandparents claim they are raising funds by selling off other household items for less than they are worth, but rather than spend this on the food budget for the household, they buy themselves takeaways, leaving the parents struggling with the expense and inconvenience caused by having key assets stripped away.

The youngest child fails to get good grades, and is denied food for 2 weeks as a consequence. The hamster disappears, presumed eaten. Parent 2 takes up prostitution in a desperate attempt to pay for the finance on the car that is no longer there and the rising cost of now necessary bus fares.

Annoyed by the neighbour’s cat crapping in the garden, the grandparents get on ebay and buy some small scale nuclear weapons from China, wiping out the household’s food budget for the next ten years. One of the children develops rickets, and the grandparents borrow money to buy themselves an enormous train set.

Sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? And yet our government is seriously considering putting vast amounts of public money into a nuclear submarine even the army doesn’t want, and a high speed rail project that merely shaves a bit of time off the London to Birmingham journey, while at the same time cutting funding for the poor and vulnerable. If a parent is hit by benefit sanctions for 2 weeks and can’t afford food, of course there are children not eating properly as well. And now they’re planning to sell off a nationally owned bank at an incredible loss.

There is no justice, no economic sense and no humanity in the current political program. What it delivers is misery. If the household analogy were true, we’d be handling this differently. A household that has maxed out its credit cards doesn’t save money by starving its children, it cuts luxuries first. Holidays, takeaways, new clothes, train sets. You pay your core bills and feed everyone, and if you have to sell assets, you aim to make a profit on them, not put yourself further in debt.  If this country is like living in a household, then we have the economics that go with one family member being a secret crack addict.

Human Sacrifices

Dear George Osborn,

I heard you talking yesterday, in your Autumn Statement as Chancellor of the Exchequer. You mentioned the ‘sacrifices’ of the British people. I’d like to take a small, semantic issue with this, but it has considerable implications, so bear with me.

When people ‘make sacrifices’ as a voluntary act of love or devotion, that’s one thing. However, what’s been happening in the UK over the last few years has not been people voluntarily putting themselves through hell for the good of the economy. You did this to us. People have not made sacrifices. People have been sacrificed. I was surprised you were brave enough to even use this word, it was remarkably honest of you, because your government’s policies are killing people, and at this rate are going to kill more people before we’re done.

This report from the 3rd December, in the British Medical Journal, suggests Britain is on the edge of a health crisis caused by malnutrition. http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f7157. There’s every reason to think that malnutrition is in turn caused by poverty (given the rise in foodbanks) but your government has yet to publish its look into the subject. We’ve also got a lot of fuel poverty in the UK, Mr Osborn. Add together a cold winter, and poor diet, and there will be people who die as a direct consequence. Many of them will be elderly.

The Daily Mail has reported that poor people are killing themselves as a direct consequence of government actions and ‘austerity’. There have been a few explicit suicide notes on that topic, from people pushed over the edge. How do you sleep at night, Mr Osborn, knowing that your choices have led people to kill themselves? And then there are the sick, vulnerable and disabled people bullied by ATOS, too many of whom have already died in abject poverty because their benefits were cut. As more than 60% of appeals against ATOS are won, it’s clear we have an unfair, unjust system here. No terminally ill person should die in abject poverty, abandoned by the state.

People are dying, Mr Osborn. Vulnerable, elderly, ill, disabled people with no options are being made more sick with anxiety by your cuts. Do take a moment to read up on the impact of severe stress on the human body, and the impact of malnutrition, and unheated homes. Hospitals are seeing more people with hunger related illness (that’s doubled since 2009, are you proud?) and those freezing through the winter are going to get ill, too. But then, someone in your party (Owen Lister, Tory councillor) recommended guillotining disabled children. Some of us wonder if your aim really is to kill off the vulnerable. Is this malice, or incompetence at work?

There are frequently no jobs available for people who want to work, and yet your government blames the jobless and penalises them with draconian systems. Are you aware, Mr Osborn, that it is entirely possible to cause mental illness in people by putting them continually in impossible situations? I doubt we will ever know how many people have become sick with anxiety and depression as a direct consequence of your policies.

Human sacrifices, Mr Osborn. Human lives brought to an end in the name of the Gods of GDP. We frown on ancient peoples who sacrificed people, and animals to their Gods. I ask, how are you any different? The bodies of badgers, and the rising number of the dead stand as witnesses against the government you contribute to. Stop sacrificing people for the sake of the economy. An economy exists to serve and facilitate the people it belongs to, not the other way round!


Sincerely etc.