The heir to the Baronetcy of Ballintaylor appeared on the Andrew Marr Show this morning in advance of Tuesday’s Emergency Budget. What struck me was his continued insistence that the public sector should take the brunt of the cuts. He also kept adding to the lie that the deficit was the fault of those on benefits and not because of greedy bankers – this was later repeated on The Big Questions when Kelvin MacKenzie told us that the recession was the fault of the last ‘socialist government’. In that case, someone should tell Blair that he was leading a socialist government because he never once claimed to be a ‘socialist’ nor were any of his government’s policies socialistic in any sense of the word. The Honourable George also seems rather content to continue rewarding rich parasites while bashing those who are unemployed or on low incomes. Because if last week’s Dispatches on Channel 4 is correct, then we are heading for another financial crisis. Will Hutton – who has now been welcomed into the Con Dem big tent – says that while bonuses have been cut, salaries have risen to compensate for the lower bonuses. His friends in The City will continue to bleed us dry while telling us that without them the country would go down the plughole and George is happy to keep them onside: they are the soi-disant ‘Masters of the Universe’ who hold the rest of us to ransom. Banking is not an honourable profession. On the contrary, it is a crooked profession that relies on the exploitation of gullible investors. It is a profession that rewards greed and demands more and more power than it is really entitled to. As Hutton pointed out, The City of London is the most powerful borough council in the country and it wields the kind of power that other councils can only envy. It also has access to the kinds of funds that allows it to buy influence in parliament.
Accompanying this talk of cuts is the talk of the ‘need for growth’. Even the last government talked about ‘growth’. But it is the drive for economic growth that is killing us – not that these politicians are capable of seeing this. If we look at the ‘natural’ world, we can see that growth doesn’t continue indefinitely; it has to stop at some point. Yet the custodians of the national economies of the world insist that growth is not only necessary but that it can continue indefinitely. Growth is seen as the alpha and omega of western capitalist ‘democracies’. As Baudrillard notes “Growth means affluence. Affluence means democracy” (2003:51) or, at least, that is the myth. The reality is that only a few will become affluent while the rest of us continue to struggle to make ends meet. What Baudrillard is suggesting here is that two words exists to bolster the argument that the current system needs to be defended and even extended. Growth and affluence are used to convince people that we live in a real democracy when we, in fact, live in a plutocracy that gives the illusion of freedom. But it is only the rich who are truly free since they are the ones who have no need for mortgages or loans. The majority of aspiring property-owners will eventually find themselves shackled to their banks; their home, while theoretically owned by them, is in fact owned by the bank. There can be no freedom unless it comes through the banks.
If this government wants economic growth then it is going about it the wrong way. Slashing public spending and raising taxes will have the following effects: job losses, greater poverty and less money to spend. It is the latter that this government will have to be worried about. Because our western economies are built on the consumption of largely meaningless products (as well as consumer credit), the amount of money that the State receives in VAT will be lower. So much for getting more money into the nation’s coffers.
As for the budget itself, I expect to see a rise in income tax and VAT; cuts to benefits; businesses will close and less money for local government. Make no mistake, much of the drive for cuts comes from banks and other financial institutions that are integrated into the political machinery of the country. As Hutton reminds us, much of our economic activity comes from a financial sector that produces ever more intangible financial ‘products’ while refusing loans to manufacturing businesses. But who is ultimately responsible for this sad state of affairs? Was it the “last socialist government” or was it the Thatcher government of the 80’s? Under Thatcher the manufacturing sector was allowed to decay and collapse and was replaced by a service sector that was mainly built on finance – and the reason why this was allowed to happen was purely ideological.
It’s only a matter of time till some Tory bright spark pops up and tells us how we ‘need’ flat taxes.