Sunday, 25 October 2015
Austerity Vs Democracy.
Austerity is fast becoming the new orthodoxy, championed by millionaire politicians on behalf of billionaire businessmen who want the rest of us to believe that we are too greedy. The central message is that the world has only limited resources and ordinary people have been harbouring unrealistic expectations for far too long. We are told that we have been living beyond our means and it was because of this that the world economy crashed and burned in 2008. Like all propaganda this message has power because it contains a grain of truth. The world does indeed have only limited resources and some of us at least have been living beyond our means. But this is not a question of what resources are available so much as how those resources are shared out. The world economy did indeed crash and burn because of unrealistic expectations - the unrealistic expectations of the greedy, selfish and already too wealthy. It was the bankers, chasing unearned and undeserved bonuses, who crashed the world economy. It was the bankers who lied, cheated and ignored reality while greedy and corrupt politicians turned a blind eye and stashed their own equally unearned and undeserved "bonuses" in off-shore, tax free bank accounts. The central message of Austerity is, therefore, not about ordinary people being too greedy but how to disguise, excuse and explain away the greed and selfishness of a small elite. It is a difficult message to sell in the face of the facts and, quite often, the reality of what Austerity actually is becomes so clear that politicians have to take emergency action. Such emergency action has been recently witnessed in Portugal where new elections have delivered an absolute majority to a left-wing anti-Austerity coalition. To prevent this coalition from gaining real power Portugal's President, Anibal Cavaco Silva, has refused point-blank to allow it to form a government, telling a bemused Portuguese electorate that 'This is the worst moment for a radical change to the foundations of our democracy'. In other words democracy in Portugal can only be preserved by denying the democratic process. A similar message is also being heard here in Britain where the Tory plan to reduce tax credits paid to the working poor has run into trouble. Brushing aside the fact that Cameron and Osborne told a direct lie to the electorate in order to fool them into giving the Tories a working majority, the government has solved this dilemma by similarly undermining what passes for the democratic process at Westminster. Faced by opposition from the completely undemocratic House of Lords Cameron is threatening to close it down. Austerity is not and never has been about righting wrongs in the world economy. It is about preserving those wrongs and saving a greedy, selfish and ultimately stupid elite from the consequences of their own actions. It is all about ordinary people - you and me - paying for their mistakes and nothing, especially democracy, can be allowed to get in the way of that.