A wonderful letter in the Guardian:
Let me just make sure I’ve got this right. First of all, a bunch of bankers lose unimaginable amounts of our money by making bets on a bunch of dodgy mortgages. Eventually the banks realise the bets are based on worthless assets, and that technically they are bankrupt.
The government bails them out with billions of pounds, transferring the debt to the public sector. The bankers, full of gratitude, pay themselves multimillion-pound bonuses which they invest in such a way as to pay as little tax as possible.
We express our anger by voting out the government and replacing it with a new one, which promptly blames the debt on the profligate spending of its predecessor, and tells us that the only solution is to cut public services. Civil servants lose their jobs, unemployment rises, libraries are closed, support services for the very poor, the dispossessed and the desperate disappear. Those who caused this mess in the first place get away with it, and are probably already planning the next disaster.
Are we really that gullible?
It looks like it, doesn’t it? And there’s not a lot that can be done, especially when loan sharks start huffing and puffing. (Are the world markets not structurally adjusted enough already? Clearly not. Get cutting!)
The situation is a wet dream for those who preach liberalisation, seduced by having less reliance on the State. Spending on public services must be cut, but no, no, don’t cry, it won’t be as bad as Thatcher – Cleggeron tells us – where the public spending cuts were severe.
A retro aside. Even in the 80s, under Thatcher, the “government cut overall spending in only [the] year – 1988-89 – and froze it once – 1985-86. Overall, current spending under Thatcher – from 1978-79 to 1989-90 – rose by 1.7% a year. This is only a smidgeon less than the 1.8% annual growth under New Labour’s first term.” If public spending wasn’t being cut, where was some of the money going? Sweetening arms deals with “aid” offers that were “unlawful”? Maybe the money was spent on sending forth warships to open up (supposedly free) markets? Surely not? Maybe the State isn’t so bad when it’s opening up a neoliberal dream.
Back to today, the cuts, and to the effects. We can rule out defence money being touched. It’s all right to preach the free market, so long as we lean on the State when it suits – we can’t make those defence cuts, old boy – they’re good for business, as we’ve seen, and have been so for years.
So our taxes must be put to better use by cutting back, so we can help those financial firms (who, incidentally, with their table magic accountancy, have managed to avoid helping us for years). This means that, yes, the people that must take one for the team are… the general public, the ones who pumped £27bn into Northern Rock in order to rescue it from the neoliberal mess.
Yes, you, the general public. You’ve been having it too easy. You must pay for the unregulated sins of the ultra rich, but it’s okay – here’s the wonderful, Blofeldesque rub: you can decide what appendage to chop off first.