George Osborne, the British Chancellor's autumn statement may be many things, but fair and just it is not. Some of the poorest members of our society, public workers, who do valuable work that distinguishes a caring society from one that is not, are to carry a heavy load for dire economic conditions not of their making. The disastrous economic outlook is to be remedied by public sector workers accepting substantial cuts in their meagre wages, and additionally by a cut of 710,000 jobs in the next four years. An acknowledgment that his plan A is not working came in the shape of a paltry £5bn investment in infrastructure, with the hope that an additional £20bn would be invested by pension funds.
People can accept hardship and cuts if they perceive that the load is being shared fairly and justly, with those most able shouldering a heavier load. David Cameron, a month after taking office (June 2010), made his "we are all in this together" speech in which he said:
"I want to make sure we go about the urgent task of cutting our deficit in a way that is open, responsible and fair. I want this government to carry out Britain's unavoidable deficit reduction plan in a way that strengthens and unites the country. I have said before that as we deal with the debt crisis we must take the whole country with us - and I mean it. George Osborne has said that our plans to cut the deficit must be based on the belief that we are all in this together - and he means it...But this government will not cut this deficit in a way that hurts those we most need to help, that divides the country or that undermines the spirit and ethos of our public services. Freedom, fairness, responsibility: those are the values that drive this government, and they are the values that will drive our efforts to deal with our debts and turn this economy around."
"QE created an awful lot of liquidity intended for the real economy, but found a home in markets and speculators looking for quick returns."
"QE1 [£200bn] - combined with Bernanke's much larger US asset purchases - just handed banks lots of extra money which they used to speculate on commodities such as oil, boosting their price, pushing up inflation and making life even harder for cash-strapped consumers."
It could have invested the rest in infrastructure projects and supported innovative high tech projects where Britain has a research lead over China; money is needed to bring systems and products from research to market. It could have invested to develop renewable green energy systems that would have readymade markets worldwide today, with demand increasing as reserves of fossil fuels are depleted. All of these would have bequeathed our children and grandchildren a way of earning their living in the future. Why pump those billions into the economic equivalent of the cosmic black holes, the banks?
Why don't commentators and pundits on television and radio ask some of these questions? Where are Evan Davis and Jeremy Paxman when you need them?
The moral of the story for the government is: look after people, keep them employed and the economy will look after itself.
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