Recession or Economic Decline? Part 2

The UK, like many western European economies is facing the harsh reality of bailing out a banking system that has left these societies high and dry. The 2008 financial crisis now seems like a historical watershed for many nations, and it is more likely that Italy, Spain and Greece will never be the same again, much could be said for the UK too; lack of resources and long-term political strategies leave the country looking anxiously at the future.

There is no doubt that financial over-reach, bad debts, tax avoidance and at least a hearty helping of corruption have all been involved in the toxic pickle that some of the larger economies now find themselves in. A number of social problems loom; if the economy, jobs and earnings all stagnate, these problems will only multiply.
Ultimately, public services and welfare will be phased out and slashed to a minimum, by being sold out to private companies in those economies that have implemented austerity measures – and it is clear that the private sector should not be engaged social provision services of any kind.

The UK government has done quite a job reducing the deficit – instead it has wasted £5bn on a Work programme that has yielded only 20 jobs, and spent millions on u-turns on policy. The deficit is higher now than when the coalition came in; money wasted which could’ve been spent investing in economic growth and regeneration. To cut money, often where it is needed contracts have been handed out to companies hell-bent on mining previously untapped resources.

Profit margins will always have a higher priority than life and well-being, and to assume otherwise does involve some reality suspension – perhaps by bland statistical data but not through experience. Both energy and transport are two areas that prove convincing arguments against privatisation in this country. Both are problematic areas that can no longer be addressed, having reliquished control of both years ago.

The austerity measures taken are clearly top-heavy in affecting the poor and under-privileged in society. Cuts to disability benefits and the bedroom tax, as well as Workfare make a mockery of the “we’re all in this together” mantra pushed by Cameron and the Tories – and these factors are likely to be changes that  are irreversible to the welfare state – along with the privatisation of the National Health Service. With an increased cost in living over the past 5 years, and with no guarantee of it getting any better, how would those on average wages cope with having to pay for medical insurance on top of everything else? That will soon become a reality, because even if there is a Labour government in 2015 it is unlikely that they will overturn these reforms now being implemented.

With a future NHS offering a skeletal [no pun intended] service for the poorest, many specialist treatments and forms of surgery might well be out of the reach of  those whose need is most dire and pockets shallow. Long-term strategies to cope with housing and pensions systems that are also on course to create massive problems have also been kept off the agenda by the shorter-term problems created by short-term political management.

Affordable housing is already scarce and the issue been been delayed and procrastinated upon by firstly the Conservatives who sold off the stock and then by Labour, and now by the coalition – who are to build less than 40,000 affordable homes in the next 2 and a half years. The rental market is at the mercy of landlords, who benefit handsomely from private tenants and those on housing benefit alike. Not only is it crippling the welfare system – money bleeding out of the system and into private hands when it could be better put to use in social housing initiatives – it has also removed the hope of ever owning property for a huge number of people. There is also the obvious issue of increases in rental prices in larger cities as demand outstrips supply.

The disappearance of company pension schemes as more people work part-time, zero-hour contracts or in a freelance capacity has not only taken away people’s safeguard against a rainy day, it has also diminished the earning power of people working in all types of work, to save for a rainy day. People will be expected to work for longer into their old age, it doesn’t bode well for anyone not in position to make savings regularly.

Without the traditional route to property ownership – if not a sign of affluence then at least financial buoyancy, is taken away – and the possibility of earning a sufficient wage is barred to many, the outlook is bleak for social mobility. Owning a house has now become as exclusive as an Oxbridge education for many earning the UK average.

Social services are being sold to make a quick injection of cash for the government coffers but in the long run it is the people (and future governments) who will suffer. These services are then being sold back to the general public for healthy profits, yet both provision and quality will suffer.
A future society with no welfare state and privatisation across the board would be a grey, officious dystopia with poverty and deprivation for many and the very act of existence an expensive luxury the majority will struggle to afford.

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