Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The household economy

There are a number of homely economy analogies doing the rounds at the moment. As Counterfire have pointed out one is that the government’s finances are like a household budget. But of course, the employment of millions of people to do socially productive work isn’t exactly the same as whether you buy a new telly or not. There are subtle differences.

Another is the idea that “We all have to tighten our belts”. It’s not quite true though. The economic crisis, also known as the ConDem government, will not hit everyone equally. There are some that are doing very well thank you very much. The champagne corks are still popping in many executive boardrooms.

But more than this the analogy makes it sound a relatively simple exercise involving a bit of grit and determination. You could do without a little luxury or work an extra hour couldn’t you? Tightening our belts sounds relatively harmless, in fact it might even be a little good for you.

But that’s not the plan.

It’s not just that the rich and the poor aren’t in it together, even those in work aren’t going to feel the full force of the government’s attacks equally.

We’re going to see possibly hundreds of thousands out of work while those that remain are forced to take up the slack. It's awful for everyone, but in different ways. Is that tightening our belts or having some their heads put in a noose?

And as for the services that are lost, well the closure of your local library does not hit everyone equally. If you can afford books and a daily paper it means something quite different to you than if you can’t. If they cut housing benefit it doesn’t mean everyone is slightly worse off, it means thousands struggle and others are thrown on the streets it effects some and not others.

That’s not tightening our belts, that letting the most vulnerable go to the wall. The point of the analogy is to minimise the significance of the cuts, and to brush over our common responsibility to each other. It also happens to be the line that people who aren't effected by the cuts use to pay less tax at the expense of the immiseration of their neighbours.

1 comment:

Derek Wall said...

Can you imagine gambling to keep your household going, well thats the strategy of recent governments including this one.

Stop putting the cash into gambling is one essential (speculative city activity) and paying the mortgage off over a decade or two instead of over the next year would be sensible.

Its a giant neo-liberal experiment to deregulate the economy, justified because deregulation has led to a finanicial crisis.