Let’s drop the word ‘austerity’ – it’s really poverty

‘Austerity’ is bunkum. It suits those who are imposing financial and cultural poverty on the UK, but they are small minority of millionaires and billionaires. Let’s dump that word: let’s say ‘poverty’ instead, because that is what it means.
Austerity is, in four dictionaries:
• Severely simple or plain, self-disciplined (as in a religious order)- Collins
• Harsh, severe, stern, without luxuries – Chambers reference
• A period of economic depression –Chambers 21st century
• Self denial, enforced thrift – Encarta
Nowhere is there a reference to a constant imposition; nowhere is there mention that those with wealth continue to increase their riches; nowhere is there a definition that states that all the hardship will be directed at those who suffer most – almost everyone. Austerity is a religious rite and involves fasting. It is a personal choice; it is voluntary.
History shows two recent eras of ‘austerity’: the 1920s and 30s, and the post-WW2 1950s. What is significant about these decades is that that they either immediately followed a world war or preceded one. Great Britain was using its reserves to fight a threat to our way of life or rebuild. How did the people of the UK respond? They buckled down and saw that future prosperity depended on a short period of ‘hair shirt’ shortages.
In 2010, austerity was flagged up as the short term solution to the problems caused by the global crash in 2008. We were in a recession – although history shows that we were on our way out – and national austerity was imposed to reverse the economic deficiency and stop the spiralling debt within a couple of years or so. Eight years on and the deficit is back to what it was when the austerity programme was installed; the national debt has boomed to £1.7 trillion. That does not smell of successful economic strategies to me.
The concept of austerity, as understood from the 19th century eras, was totally different. The UK was in the same position as much of the western world as a result of the crash, but perhaps it’s significant that every other country grew out of recession faster than the UK. That is why the word ‘austerity’ should be dumped. Replace it with ‘imposed poverty’.
The government grasped the tragic results of the 2008 crash with open arms: this was a golden opportunity to bring in economic and social policies that reduced the role of the state, apart from a collector of revenues, and cut back on the public services that had been gradually and carefully developed since the beginning of the previous century.
First in the spotlight were local authorities: over-staffed and inefficient, they could be forced to make millions of savings. The results were twofold: a reduction in services, that continues at at alarming rate; and an increase in self-employment, with resulting loss in tax revenue. The ideology of a low tax/reduced state control system has two significant downsides. The government needs tax revenues to tackle the deficit and reduce borrowing; the public want to maintain those services that it has grown up with. So the NHS is part privatised, transport, energy and water are fully privatised and the standards of all these services fall. There is an inescapable fact that pandering to short term profits and human greed will quickly result in long term deprivation, divisions between haves and have-nots, and economic isolationism local, regionally, nationally and internationally. It didn’t take a world-renowned, highly qualified economist like Gordon Brown to work this out; it just took a small number of greedy people to be in a position to create it.
We live in an age where poverty has transcended simple finances; it is affecting the very basis on which we have created our society.
In the mid 19th century, libraries were formed in the UK, and have been a central element of our education and enlightened social structure for well over a century. During periods of austerity, libraries were a rock on which people could better themselves, improve their education and be entertained at minimal cost. Today libraries are considered an unnecessary expense. It’s a selfish, penny-pinching attitude that runs counter to the rest of the world.
I am no politician, nor a leader, nor influencer, but I feel that the word ‘austerity’ should be rejected. I don’t believe that if you asked the people in almost any street of a Tuesday afternoon, or the ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’ many wouldn’t know what the word actually means.
‘Austerity’ is for some a voluntary lifestyle choice, a demonstration of self-discipline. It isn’t a wholesale, extended, unending period of imposed poverty. ‘Poverty’ is what we are suffering, be caring for those who need help most including the ill, disabled and the aged, a good education for all, security and safety, culture and freedom, and transport.

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