“We”? Who is this “we”?

I have to laugh every time the government comes out with the line “It costs you, the taxpayer, millions of pounds each year to blah blah blah”. Framing state costs as though they were personal items of expenditure is misleading and a little narcissistic (we can see the State in a similar vein to serial killers here).  But it is only certain forms of state expenditure that are personalised in this way: immigration, benefits and and other forms of public spending are presented by government as a cost to you personally. In fact, the cost of war-making is rarely discussed outside the cloistered circles of governmental politics. Yet the cost to conduct a war is staggering to say the least and the amount of money spent on killing people is no doubt astronomic.

This article in The Times treads the same ground as other articles do in similar papers about public spending. The cost to you is…

The Prime Minister seized on the £70 billion cost to the taxpayer of servicing these obligations in five years’ time, a “huge drain on our public finances” and a figure he accused Labour of keeping hidden from the public. The Institute for Fiscal Studies calculated in March that debt interest payments would rise to £73.8 billion in 2014/15.

But which debt are we talking about here? The national debt or the budget deficit or the Cameron’s housekeeping bill? As with all loans (and debt), there is interest to pay and guess who pays that? You’ve guessed it – the taxpayer.

If public spending impacts on all of us, then why don’t we get a say in how government is run and how public funds are spent? Why isn’t politics more participatory instead of spectacular? The only time the voting public ever participate in politics is once ever four or five years when we go to the ballot box and place an ‘x’ against the name of a candidate who is the least worst possible choice…then it’s all over.

I’ve just heard on the news that Cameron wants ‘us’ to tell him where the cuts should fall. If I told him, would he listen? Probably not, the Tories are hell-bent on slashing benefits for the poorest in our society and convincing them otherwise is pointless. It is at this time that I think of Trotsky’s quote again.


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