According to Wikipedia austerity is the policy of reducing government budget deficits. Austerity policies may include spending cuts, tax increases, or a mixture of both.
Recently, thousands of people took to the streets in protests against austerity. I’ve heard a lot of people asking why. If you are a person who will only care when a situation directly affects you then you may well not give a damn about austerity. However, for less selfish people, austerity is increasing inequality and plunging families into poverty.
In July, the government is expected to set out a plan which will see huge amounts of money cut from welfare. The conservatives are claiming that huge cuts in spending are the only way to reduce the deficit and get the country back on track. Austerity benefits the rich in society.
Where are the cuts going to happen?
There have been plans to stop housing benefit for theunder 25s. This means that if you graduate university and are yet to secure a job, you will probably have to move back home with your parents are relinquish the independence you love. Housing benefit has enabled several people I know to stay in their university towns, live with friends and remain independent whilst looking for a job.
Remember the case of the woman who committed suicide because of the bedroom tax? It seems likely that the welfare cuts could lead to many more cases like this. There is already huge strain on the mental health services. With people having increasing financial worries, the strain could increase further.
My mother is on benefits. She cannot work for various reasons. The bedroom tax is yet to be scrapped in her area. She gets £70 per week to live off. From this, she pays for gas, electricity and food. But before this, the council takes £20 because she has a spare room. That leaves her £50 per week to live off. Could you live off that? Do not even get me started on the fact that her local council messed up her housing benefit and are holding her responsible for a £1400 overpayment. My mother is stressed, fearing that she will be evicted and unable to feed herself some days. The help for her is not out there and there are so many people around the country in situations like this. It is, quite frankly, disgusting.
Councils are under increasing pressure to move all housing to the private sectors. Many local councils have already had their housing put under private housing associations. This often leads to increasing rents. Once again, the rich go untouched and the working class are faced with more problems. There needs to be more control over the increasing rents that private landlords are charging. Homelessness is at an all-time high and the government does not seem to care. The use of food banks has dramatically increased. People cannot even afford to put food on their tables because of austerity. If that doesn’t make you angry then I do not know what will.
Please do not believe what the media is saying about people on benefits. Not everyone on benefits is lazy and just making up excuses to avoid working. Benefit fraud is much less common than tax evasion. But the government continues to try and shame people who live off benefits; they continue to paint a picture of those in receipt of benefits as lazy junkies. It is not true. Do you know how complicated the process has become to be allowed benefits? A few years ago, it was probably fairly straight forward to falsely claim benefits. Now, it’s pretty much impossible. There are crazy amounts of forms required, GP evidence and face to face assessments. Available here are the government statistics re: benefit fraud.
Atos healthcare is in charge of the assessments for PIP (Personal Independence Payment) for people with disabilities. MPs have recently called for data to be released about how many people have died following being told they are fit to work (see here). There have been so many stories about severely disabled people being told they are fit to work after their Atos assessment. Thankfully, this decision is often overturned by DWP. But, the stress this puts on vulnerable people is completely unnecessary and so damaging. Something here needs to urgently change.
Why would the government do this?
Surely the government is only making these cuts because it is absolutely necessary? You’d like to think so but it just is not true, there are available alternatives. For one, the richest 10% of people in the country owe billions in tax. The payment of said tax has been evaded, avoided and sometimes just left unpaid. Whether you look at figures from HMRC or elsewhere, there is still a huge amount of tax remaining unpaid. Figures from Tax Research UK and the government are available to view online.
The government could focus on getting this paid by putting laws in place to stop tax evasion. Instead, they are choosing to focus on cutting welfare costs. Why? Political parties have backing from a lot of big corporations and they look to benefit their supporters who are willing to place a lot of money into the party. Simply put, the government is corrupt and this is not a democracy like we are led to believe.
The elite have one goal: profit. That is why so many big business export goods and labour from abroad. They can get cheaper labour and lower taxes meaning more profit. These companies are taking jobs from people in Britain because they know they can pay people less if they send the work overseas. Having to pay less tax is just another bonus they look for.
In recent years, the amount of people going into unpaid work has grown. We are told that to get a job we need experience. To get experience, we need experience. In come the companies who say ‘hey come and work for us, the experience will be so useful but we won’t be paying you.’ People are desperate to get jobs so they work for free. In huge businesses that make millions, unpaid internships are exploitation. They can afford to pay you for a few weeks but they know that someone will do it for free so they’ll stick with that. There are people who are pushed to work part time or on zero hour contracts which can barely pay the bills. But as long as the elite remain untouched then the government turns a blind eye.
Essentially, inequality benefits the government. The increasing divide between the rich and the poor is being exacerbated by austerity. The demonization of people on benefits helps the government get away with welfare cuts. The constant talk of wanting to help ‘hard working families’ enforces the idea that only people capable of working hard deserve to be supported. That leaves a lot of disabled people or people caring for relatives with no help from the state.
“Austerity does not hurt me”
Maybe you think that you do work hard so deserve more than those who do not. Yet some people cannot work for various reasons. Do they deserve to be left in poverty to die? Maybe you think that you earn a lot of money because you have worked hard for it? So those people who work long shifts at multiple jobs are not working hard? Contrary to what this government wants you to believe, ability to work hard in a specific area does not entitle you to have a better quality of life than anyone else. Providing benefits to those who need them should not be viewed as a burden on the economy, rather a step towards a more equal society.
There are so many ways in which the government can save money that will not see the deaths of people, increased homelessness and poverty. There are alternatives to austerity that the government continue to ignore because they would lose the support of all those that austerity benefits.
Do not believe that there is no other way. Remember that the government benefits off your prejudices towards those in receipt of benefits. Remember that one day, you might lose everything or someone you love might. If you were suddenly disabled and unable to work, how would you feel about the measures that the government is taking? The dangers of austerity are real; the government is literally causing death to people in Britain because of money.
You can find out more about all of this (in a much more articulate way) at www.thepeoplesassembly.org.uk