Ten Miserable Years of Austerity

Like the rest of the UK, I’ve been steadfastly ignoring anything to do with Brexit. It’s like there’s a ticking time-bomb hanging over our heads and we are doing everything we can to distract ourselves from the countdown, hoping that it won’t explode if we just ignore it hard enough. Sometimes though, something slips through. This week I saw the chancellor’s comments on how Brexit will probably reduce public spending further.

This is not a post about Brexit. This is a post about austerity.

We are now ten years into austerity in Britain. The financial crash seems like a distant dream and those caused it remained unpunished. This means we have had ten years of the Tories cutting public services to the bone. The NHS is continually in crisis. Public sector wages have been stagnant. Libraries are closing everywhere. Essential council services are being cut, if they haven’t already gone into administration like Northampton. Since I moved from wealthy Surrey to Bristol, I’ve really noticed the drastic impact these cuts have had on people. There are too many people that need to be referred to social workers for drug and alcohol dependency, or who are living rough. They need help but the systems of support are no longer there. The council here is working against massive budget cuts and a restriction in tax, meaning they have to cut back on services. 1

This will all get worse of course, if investment isn’t put back into the system. But the chances of that happening are slim to none. The Tories are in power 2 and if Brexit happens, they will likely cut everything back further. Essential services for the public are going to collapse. The knives are out and they will continue to cut to the bone.

Of course, none of this will affect the rich and powerful in the slightest, despite them being the ones that caused the crisis in the first place. No tax havens will be shut down. No billionaires will be chip in for new hospitals. The systems is rigged in their favour and they will not do anything against that. No, the ones that will suffer, as always, are the poor. Disabled people have to go through ridiculous assessments to claim basic assistance. Lack of adequate libraries and hospitals will adversely affect the poor. People will die from inadequate healthcare. And yes, the poor will be the ones most affected by Brexit as well as food and medicines could be stopped at the border. The rich will be fine. They always are.

This is what happens when a government values profit over people. It’s a selfish manifesto that serves to line their own pockets and nothing more. It has made our society poorer, stripped away essential services and made us more selfish. There’s less to go around because the richer in society are taking it all. There should be a national outrage at this vampiric, vicious policy, yet it hardly ever gets blamed for anything. Usually, it is seen as necessary to reduce our national debt, an excuse that wears thin when the debt is actually increasing.

Instead, the rich and powerful blame immigrants, blame foreigners, blame those on benefits, blame anyone except themselves. They continually blame the ones who need the most help. Over the past ten years we’ve seen the media stoke the flames of nationalism and xenophobia for their own gain. That’s part of the reason we’ve ended up with Brexit.

The sad thing is that none of this was necessary. This horrible situation could have been avoided and so could endless stress and even deaths. But austerity is idealistic. The people who implemented it hate the very idea of the welfare state. They hate the idea that some people are getting things for free and they hate the government giving hand outs to help anyone. So they have set out to destroy the welfare state. The scary part is, they have mostly succeeded.

A government should look after it’s people. It should provide for the weakest and poorest members of society. It should help it’s citizens live healthy and long lives. If that means providing free healthcare to everyone, then it should. The same goes for welfare. The utopian dream of the nineteen fifties still should apply today. We pay taxes to make society a better place for everyone. That’s the bargain. Everyone is in this mess together. If we don’t pay taxes to make society better, why are we doing it? To fund bombs and guns? Help keep one family in big palaces? We do not need selfish politicians in power who want to line their own pockets. It drains our society of the best people, stops others from reaching their full potential and creates artificial scarcity. There needs to be national outcry against this horrible policy before it destroys our services for good. We need to stop blaming the most vulnerable and start holding the powerful to account. If anything, Brexit needs to be the end of austerity.

  1. As in any system, there’s a lot of corruption and waste. Councillors are out for themselves of course.
  2. Only just.

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