by Roz Burgin
Today, December 5th, George Osborne is to deliver his Autumn Statement outlining further cuts and ‘sacrifices’ to be made in the name of austerity. My friends and I are protesting against this austerity by occupying the office of the only Tory MP in our city – Birmingham. That is the office of Andrew “Plebgate” Mitchell.
We want to draw attention to how much our city is hurting and we are calling on everyone to fight back. These cuts are being marketed to us as necessary concessions that must be made for the good of the country. We are told they are part of an inexorable scheme to cut the nation’s deficit. It is fair to say we do not all agree, and we will use this day to get our voices heard above the narrow-minded, short-sighted announcement of our Chancellor, and to challenge this country’s dedication to harsh, dangerous austerity measures.
‘Decreasing the deficit’ is preached to us as the nation’s priority. It will be solved simply by cutting spending. Deficit is the difference between the money spent by the government and the money gained through taxation and economic growth, so yes, when the government cut spending, this helps the case in one way, but what happens to us? The economy does not work so simply, these severe cuts will have lasting damaging effects to the population, ultimately contributing to expenditure in the long run.
What hinders a healthy economy? Unemployment means more public spending into benefits and less money coming in through income tax. As more of the population tighten their belts the economy falters, deterring investment and decreasing the amount of money coming in through income tax. ‘Sacrifices made’ in the name of the cuts will only end up increasing the need for public expenditure in the long run.
These cuts are not trivial, routine changes in policy; they are extreme and radical. They constitute a huge risk, and such harsh tactics have never been implemented before. This is, as Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz suggests, an experiment with perhaps disastrous and far-reaching consequences. As Stiglitz says “Britain is embarking on a highly risky experiment. More likely than not, it will add one more data point to the well-established result that austerity in the midst of a downturn lowers GDP and increases unemployment, and excessive austerity can have long-lasting effects.”
Lets assume that profiteering is the main priority for the nation. If we completely flip the neo-liberal logic of cutting spending to save money, we come to another solution altogether: Instead of punishing those who wish to study with extortionate fees, encourage education, creating a more educated society with higher earnings, which would put more money back through taxation. Instead of creating the mass redundancies through public sector cuts, put money into creating jobs, which would decrease the burden of unemployment, and, evidently, provide people with the means to spend and contribute to the economy. What’s more, why not benefit even further from the businesses that will inevitably flourish by making the most of corporate tax.
Purely from an economic perspective, the cuts are dangerous and short-sighted. Austerity isn’t the only option for the country, and we are being unfairly punished in the name of a radical policy far more severe than the party promised. Today we are taking this opportunity to show that we are angry, that we are willing to get our opinions heard, and that there is an alternative mind-set for the nation. If you agree with us join us get involved in a local anti-cuts group, the trade union movement, your student union or the national campaign against fees and cuts.