Politicians do of course constantly use spin and deception to promote their self-interested slant on reality, but even in this tawdry atmosphere of lies and manipulation it still takes one’s breath away to hear Cameron and Osborne (the latter again today on the Today programme) trying to make out that their cuts programme is all about a fairer and more progressive society. It’s actually the biggest and most sustained onslaught on social and economic justice since the 1930s, certainly magnitudes worse than the Thatcher era. Just look at what we’ve already been told, bearing in mind too that there’s a great deal more yet to come (and the sleepy month of August when people’s attention is distracted by holidays has already been used to put out some of the nastiest surprises). The evidence covers every aspect of policy as this shows.* The cuts announced in the Budget amount to £110bn, about a fifth of total Government expenditure, and Departments have now been told to prepare cuts of between 25-40%. A 40% cut across the board would entail a reduction in public expenditure of £225bn which would be without precedent anywhere in the world.
* The format for cutting the deficit is heavily skewed towards cutting expenditure rather than increasing tax, in the ratio 77-23%, which will hurt the poorest most and largely let the bankers and the super-rich, who caused the crisis in the first placed, off the hook. No allowance at all is being made for a (modest) 2% economic growth rate over the next 5 years which would automatically (if the government proceeds were devoted exclusively to deficit reduction, which would be reasonable) cut the public accounts deficit by almost half, by about £60bn.
* Cameron and Osborne pretend that the health service and international aid programmes will be protected. In neither case is that true. The NHS Trusts are already making cuts to deal with a coming £20bn black hole in their accounts, while overseas aid programmes are being cut in order to increase spending on Afghanistan.
* Housing is rapidly turning into a catastrophe area. Almost a million of the poorest people in Britain will lose £600 a year in housing benefit cuts. Lifetime council tenancies are being ended, producing massive insecurity for 3 million council tenants, and replaced by short-term contracts based on need. That will provide a strong disincentive for people not to increase their income at work through getting a higher-paid job because then they are likely to lose their home. Though 4.5 million households remain on Council and Housing Association waiting lists, the building of affordable housing has been all but abandoned.
* The austerity prospect of unprecedented cuts is now tipping the balance towards a double-dip recession, driven by the fading of consumer confidence and the collapse of bank lending to businesses both of which are themselves aggravated by the magnitude of the cuts programme. Child poverty is already at 3 million and unemployment at nearly 2.5 million: both these symbols of widespread poverty are set to intensify dramatically. Income ratios between top and bottom in the workforce, already at nearly 100:1, will grow as wages are squeezed at the bottom and welfare benefits drastically curtailed, while the wealth of Britain’s 1,000 richest which according to the Sunday Times Rich List grew by a staggering £77bn in the last year alone will continue to escalate.
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