Why can the country not afford the things that it could afford forty years ago? Why have we to work longer hours and see our pensions cut? Why do so many suffer zero hours contracts? Why are libraries and youth clubs closed? Why are students pushed into tens of thousands of pounds of debt? Is it really necessary to cut benefits again and again and to drive people to food banks and to pay day loan sharks?
The government says that all these things are necessary. It plans to cut another billion pounds a year from public spending. Today’s young workers, if they are lucky enough to get some kind of a job, will have to work till they are 70 before they qualify for a state pension. Their private pension, if they can afford one, will have been drained dry by the boys and girls in the City who have supposedly been managing it. There will be further pressure on young people to take any job at any price or work for nothing. And it is all necessary, says multimillionaire Chancellor George Osborne, because we can’t afford a welfare state any more: we have to make cuts. Is the country really broke? Is the country poorer now than it was in fifty years ago? No, of course it isn’t. The country is now thirty times wealthier than in 1970 when we could afford all the things we apparently can’t afford now.
What is different is who has got the money. We haven’t got it because George Osborne and his pals have. Since the 1970s the richest have been getting richer and richer. One per cent of the population now get 20% of all the country’s income, four times as much as they got in the 1970s. They don’t want a welfare state and they won’t pay for a welfare state. Why should they when they can buy up care homes, make money out of selling us health care and lend us money at exorbitant interest rates?
Is There An Answer?
Many feel anger and despair at what is happening to their lives and the lives of their children. The easy and soft target to blame immigrants. Yet immigrants contribute more to the economy and are exploited more than the rest. There is a harder fact to face up to. The fact is that the rich and powerful exploit us all. Labour states the obvious when it says that the recovery is only for the rich because most don’t feel any better off. In fact most are worse off and the recovery is largely based on credit and transient jobs. To his credit, Labour’s Bob Blizzard has campaigned tirelessly against local cuts but Labour councillors sit silent and passive. The Labour Party won’t reject cuts nor will it acknowledge the root of the problem. It is neither capable nor willing to confront the wealth and power of the City, the media barons and the corporations who run the show.
We have to help ourselves. That means becoming involved in opposing cuts to our services; right now opposing the shameful attack on mental health services. It means being vocal and active in our society and, at work, in our trade unions. It means never saying: “We all know we have to make cuts.”