THE CUTS ARE NESSECERY
Whenever a politician begins to say the same thing over and over again, it is wise to be suspicious. Recent rhetoric regarding the upcoming proposed £81 billion cuts in public spending from Westminster has been laden with the words “fair”, “necessary” and “inevitable”. The phrase of choice regarding these cuts is that we are all “in it together”.
This rhetoric has now been exposed: the budget was regressive, it cut £11 billion from welfare and gave £24 billion in corporate tax breaks. The belief that unprecedented cuts are necessary – a consensus that spread across the political parties before the last election and is echoed daily in the media – is entirely untrue, but this barrage of cuts propaganda has disabled any critical thought. Cuts, large-scale public sector cuts, have become the accepted wisdom of our age. But this is not wisdom, it is dogma.
We are told there is a deficit crisis in the UK. We are told that we are spending beyond our means. We are told that the solution to this deficit crisis is to cut public spending. None of this is true.
The truth is that since 1750, our national debt has always been higher than it is now, except for two 40-year gaps. If we are “bust” now, we have almost always been bust. From 1918 to 1961 the UK national debt was over 100% of GDP. During that period the government introduced the welfare state, the NHS, state pensions, comprehensive education, built millions of council houses, and nationalised a range of industries. The public sector grew and there was economic growth. The debt of the UK is currently at 54% of our GDP.
We are not spending beyond our means. We are just spending, and, indeed now cutting in the wrong areas. A private paper prepared for Nick Clegg estimated the total costs of Trident renewal amounting to between £94.7 billion and £104.2 billion over the lifetime of the system, estimated at 30 years. This equates to £3.3 billion per year. Abandoning ID card proposals would save at least £6 billion. Bringing our troops home from the pointless war in Afghanistan would save £2.6 billion per year. The UK government’s bailout to the financial sector was £1.3 trillion. The government still owns an estimated £850 billion in bank assets; the current debt of the UK is currently estimated at that same amount, £850 billion.
We could also raise a huge amount of the deficit by making tax evasion and avoidance harder for the rich. Figures produced for the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) by the Tax Justice Network show that £25 billion is lost annually in tax avoidance and a further £70 billion in tax evasion by large companies and wealthy individuals. An additional £26 billion is going uncollected. Therefore PCS estimates the total annual tax gap at over £120 billion (more than three-quarters of the annual deficit!). It is not just PCS calculating this; leaked Treasury documents in 2006 estimated the tax gap at between £97 billion and £150 billion. Much of this could be recovered if more tax inspectors were hired and the legal loopholes were closed.
The fact that the public sector will be so hard hit by these cuts is a disgrace. Public spending is an investment, not a debt. Public servants – the vast majority of whom are low paid – deliver essential services to our communities. The campaign of vilification against public services is motivated by a desire to cut and privatise these vital services. The reality is that there does not need to be a single penny taken away from any public service, or a single job lost. The deficit is due to the recession, which has reduced revenues as less people are in work and are therefore spending less. At the same time, government expenditure has increased as more people are without work and are entitled to benefits. If the government cuts more jobs this will only exacerbate the deficit crisis – more people will be unemployed and there will be less revenue. The less revenue they have, the less they spend meaning less money in the private sector which in turn means losing jobs in the private sector too.
Government data leaked to The Guardian shows that “the government is expecting between 500,000 and 600,000 jobs to go in the public sector and between 600,000 and 700,000 to disappear in the private sector by 2015”. Everyone will feel the effect of 1.3 million more unemployed people in the UK (there are currently 2.5 million people in the UK chasing 500,000 jobs), no amount of pressuring people on benefits to get employed will solve this crisis.
Despite the fact that everyone will in some way be affected by these cuts the idea that “we are in this together” is laughable. The cuts hit hardest at the poor, disabled people, women, ethnic minorities, the elderly and anyone who relies on public services to live.
This article is a mixture of original writing by me as well as some copy-and-pasting/sourcing from
I would like in advance to thank all of the journalists I have “stolen” from in order to produce this piece of writing. No money was made by the production of this article, I hold no rights to it. The copying/distribution of any and all of the above contents is encouraged.