A graph published in the Guardian yesterday provides a shocking visual insight into the extent the government is aiming to shrink public spending in the UK. As Aditya Chakrabortty commented, the figures, taken from IMF projections, show that UK spending per capita would actually fall below that of the US, which has minimal welfare and healthcare protections.
This comes at the same time as a flurry of reports showing both the personal misery and economic pain caused by the cuts currently being implemented. Not only is the government cutting vital public services needed by the unemployed or people on low incomes, they are increasing the numbers of those groups by crippling the economy – at the very least in the short term – by sticking dogmatically to their single-minded deficit reduction plan.
The BBC reports today that a record number of people are receiving help from food banks, quoting one woman as saying: “It is really difficult. I choose between whether to pay my electricity company… or feed my kids.”
The shattering of the ambition of young people who are being taught to accept that the future is not all they hoped it would be by being sent to work in Gregg’s or Tesco in order to receive their JSA whilst living at home with their parents.
The Guardian had an account yesterday of families with children housed in B&B accomodation, the number of which has risen 60% in the last year. At least one of the families interviewed had been forced there as a direct result of cuts to housing benefit and were now living in a windowless room, sharing a bathroom with 10 other families.
Other articles in this magazine have detailed the shattering of the ambition of young people who are being taught to accept that the future is not all they hoped it would be by being sent to work in Gregg’s or Tesco in order to receive their job seekers allowance whilst living at home with their parents.
Meanwhile, Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, is making ever louder noises warning of the economic dangers of austerity. The IMF calculated that rather than each £1 cut costing the economy an assumed 50p, the reality was more likely between 90p and £1.70. The deeper the cuts, the more the economy will shrink, and much worse than thought.
When the economy shrinks, there are less jobs. Where is the resurgence in business that this was supposed to bring? Where are the jobs that will prevent people relying on housing benefit or food parcels?
The government is blind in the face of the suffering of ordinary people. These cuts are cruel and hard and affecting real people right now, damaging their lives. They have the duel effect of bumping people of the edge and simultaneously whipping away the safety net.
Is this what we want in this country? That’s the question we have to ask ourselves. The graph Chakrabortty shows should be the only thing the Prime Minister and Chancellor or any member of the government are asked about until a satisfactory answer is given. Is this the extent to which you want to shrink the state? If not, how much do you? What does that mean we’ll lose?
If the answers to those questions are given truthfully, I truly believe that the plan will be rejected by a British public that values public healthcare, has ambitions for its young people and doesn’t want to see the unemployed or low-paid segregated and destitute.