By Kate Hudson in Britain:
The only cuts worth making
Thursday 27th February 2014
Every so often the government tries to make out the economy is in recovery. But if we look at the figures we can see this is just another Tory fantasy.
The actual figure for growth in the last quarter of 2013 was 0.7 per cent growth. By any measure that’s a pretty minuscule level of growth.
So is it the green shoots they like to claim?
No. It’s not based on economic regeneration or sustainable development. It’s based on consumption – in other words, spending.
And it’s not us spending more because our wages are increasing or we have new jobs. It’s because people are using up their savings for everyday necessities or, worse, getting into debt to buy the basics for their families. That is the challenge facing millions of women today.
It’s clear that austerity isn’t working for us. And the deficit isn’t being paid off.
So why doesn’t the government change track? The clearest answer I’ve seen comes from Cambridge economist Ha Joon Chang.
He says: “Spending cuts are not about deficits but about rolling back the welfare state.”
The government’s purpose is to drive up profits, drive down the cost of labour – the cost of our work – and drive down the social wage, the amenities and public services that improve the quality of our lives.
So there is no economic plan B from the government, because plan A is working for them.
The cuts are devastating our welfare state and making life hell on earth for large numbers of people.
But those who have designed and introduced these policies are benefitting and enriching themselves at our expense.
But there are alternatives and we all know what they are – investment to regenerate the economy, to create sustainable jobs, to expand our health and education systems, to increase wages and pensions, to expand our benefit system to meet the needs of the people, to ensure for everyone the opportunities in our society that belong to each of us by right as a human being.
And the reality is that the money is there. There is plenty of money. It’s just in the wrong places, under the wrong control and being spent on the wrong priorities.
There are plenty of economists who could make the economy work and grow and redistribute to the people.
Of course the government isn’t interested. And unfortunately the Labour leadership isn’t interested either.
Why does it persist in saying that we need austerity? That it will continue with the cuts when in government. It knows perfectly well that there are other ways to run the economy.
Just one example of a wrong priority, pursued by both Tory and Labour, is military spending and the disgraceful so-called values that underpin it. Britain has the fourth-highest military spending in the world – over £60 billion a year. It spent £40bn on the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. It plans to spend over £100bn on a new nuclear weapons system, even though by its own reckoning we don’t face any nuclear threat and the security threats we do face are things like terrorism, climate change and pandemics.
The government may say there is no money for public services, yet it can always find vast sums for war and weapons.
Why? Because the largely male elites, across both Tory and Labour parties, still hold the view that Britain’s role in the world must be militaristic, a heavy hitter punching above its weight.
The alternative we want is one where our country’s resources enrich people’s lives. Where the money wasted on nuclear weapons is instead spent on sustainable homes and sustainable energy provision, on free education, on dignified and supported lives for our older people.
But we also need an alternative set of values in our society – where Britain would aspire to solve the problem of poverty here at home as well as working internationally to solve it worldwide.
Where military spending was reduced to a minimum and the arms trade was ended, with production diversified into socially useful areas, with every worker’s skills producing for life not death.
This is the type of society we can have if the political will is there. This is the reality that can be brought into being, and it is a vision that our movement must embrace.
Kate Hudson is general secretary of the Campaign for Nucear Disarmament.