With each passing week it becomes more apparent that in 2013 the nation is being governed by a gang of rich, privileged, and completely out of touch sociopaths, whose conception of society sits somewhere between Edwardian and Victorian times.
George Osborne’s Tory Party conference speech, outlining the government’s determination to not only continue its attacks on the unemployed but increase them – through making them work for their benefits or visit the Jobcentre daily – was an insult to human decency and the collective intelligence of a nation plunged into the worst economic recession since the 1930s by the greed of the rich.
The primary objective of the Tories since they entered Downing Street in 2010, maintained their by their Lib Dem coalition partners, has been to beguile the nation into believing that rather than an out of control and under-regulated private sector, the root cause of the economy’s ills is a bloated public sector. Their success in pulling off this confidence trick is measured in the ability of the chancellor and his Tory cohorts to couch a transparently vicious, callous, and carefully calibrated attack on the most vulnerable people in the country as official government policy.
Adding another layer of indignity onto the indignity already suffered by the most demonised, dehumanised and near-criminalised demographic in the country – the unemployed – can only be described as an obscenity. That the policy is targeted specifically at ‘helping’ the long term unemployed back to work or back to the ‘habit of work’ rings hollow. The clear inference is that everyone claiming out of work benefits is stealing from the taxpayer in order to support a life of leisure while everyone else has to get up early and go to work.
The inarguable fact is that the policy of austerity being slavishly adhered to has achieved nothing but a steady worsening of the recession – choking off investment, demand, and with it consumption – measured in a crisis in youth unemployment and the fact that not only unemployment but underemployment is now the new normal in Britain.
Furthermore, punishing the unemployed by coercing them into forced labour sounds the death knell of the entire concept of social justice which underpinned the creation of the the welfare state. It was based on the understanding that the unemployed are victims of an economic system prone to cycles of boom and bust and therefore not responsible. This understanding no longer obtains under this government, replaced by something akin to a mass experiment in human despair, which the Tories and their supporters have the temerity to describe as progressive reform.
It is difficult, even when trying to step into his expensive handmade shoes, to understand what George Osborne thinks will be achieved with this policy. Does he they believe that it will scare the 2.47 million people who are currently unemployed into rising from their slumber to scurry around and secure employment, thus saving the taxpayer the millions they are accused of stealing? Does he believe that this hate campaign will help the untold thousands of the children of those ‘unemployed criminals’ by increasing the pressure and stress on already stressed out families? Or is he fully aware that the stress and sense of worthlessness already felt by the unemployed will now be increased, leading to a spike in incidents of suicide, domestic violence, mental illness, and the various other maladies connected to poverty?
If the former, it means he is too ignorant to be in government, while if the latter it means he is too wicked. Most likely it’s a combination of both.
The economic logic behind austerity remains as flawed now as it was when first announced by the coalition. Rather than understand the deficit as a consequence of a global recession decimating demand in the economy, with a sharp fall in tax revenues due to a sharp rise in unemployment, the government is intent on deepening the same cycle by introducing drastic cuts in spending in the forlorn hope that the private sector will invest and create new jobs to replace those lost. But with a lack of demand for goods and services, the private sector is still refusing to invest, despite sitting on a huge cash surplus. The most obvious example of this is the banking sector’s continuing refusal to lend, despite repeated pleas by the government, and despite being bailed out by the UK taxpayer to the tune of tens of billions of pounds over the past four years.
It is here, when it comes to the vacuum left by the lack of private sector investment, that the government’s role as the investor of last resort is desperately required. The reintroduction of demand into an economy suffering a crisis of under-consumption is needed as a matter of urgency, yet instead this Tory-led coalition remains determined to continue down the path of austerity even in the face of the evidence. The recent boast of a return to growth is based on an increase in London property values, inflated by rich investors from overseas and likely to be further inflated by the government’s ill advised Help to Buy scheme.
Rather than admit this and change tact, this government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich has decided to turn its guns on the poor and unemployed, further marginalising people already struggling to hold onto a semblance of self worth and self esteem.
It is class war and when the rich wage war it is the poor who suffer.
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