Austerity: The Demolition of the Welfare State and the Rise of the Zombie Economy
By Kerry-Anne Mendoza
Austerity is not a short-term disruption to balance the books. It is the demolition of the welfare state – transferring the UK from social democracy to corporate power.
Austerity has been presented as necessary, constructive and temporary by governments across the world, the UK included. By the end of this book, it will be clear to the reader that Austerity is unnecessary, destructive and intended as a permanent break with the traditions of social democracy.
This destruction has happened so cynically and quickly in Britain that, without having kept a constant eye on the issues at hand, many people still believe they live in a social democracy and that they hold rights that were confiscated long ago.
Austerity did not start in the UK in 2010 or Greece in 2009. It has been a tactic used to deliver the goals of the neoliberal project throughout the latter half of the 20th century.
In 1944, before the end of World War Two, a conference took place in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. It was at this conference that the US, now with the world’s largest standing army and the only functioning economy in the West, set out the framework for the neoliberal project.
Delegations from 44 nations attended, including a 30-member delegation from China, and no fewer than seven future prime ministers and presidents.
The Bretton Woods conference established:
The International Monetary Fund (IMF)
The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (the World Bank)
The General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT – later to become the World Trade Organization)
Fixed Exchange Rates – all currencies would be valued in US dollars and the dollar value would be set by gold.
By 1971, the Bretton Woods system had contributed to the successful reinvigoration of Western economies devastated by World War Two, but there had not been enough gold made available to account for this growth.
President Nixon announced that the US would no longer convert dollars into gold, and interest rates were set to float against each other.
The rest of the Bretton Woods infrastructure remains intact, and continues to set the roadmap for domestic and international economic policy to this day.
In short, they have overseen the transfer of power from the State to private institutions and corporations. This is the endgame of the neoliberal project – whether the key players know and intend it or not.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) invented Austerity.
The IMF has used predatory lending (often to tyrannical regimes) in order to retain control of the assets, national resources, cheap labour and corporate monopoly that the colonial powers held before decolonization. The colonial powers replaced the shackles of slavery and state colonialism with the Debt Trap.
The creditor nations found a way to impose neoliberal economic policies on foreign populations and sidestep the democratic process in doing so. *
Human cost has been felt most painfully in public health. The stipulations to cut spending on health, sanitation and the development of water systems created a public-health catastrophe in the ‘Third World’.
There is no ‘developing’ world. Instead, there are a host of countries being deliberately decivilized, in order that corporatized states benefit economically and geopolitically. The Debt Trap has been used to reorientate national economies to the service of unsustainable and unethical debt burden, in order to transfer wealth to the creditor institutions and nations. *
It is worth reflecting on the way in which Africa and Latin America were sucked into the Debt Trap when studying the financial crisis of 2007/8.
The UK National Debt rose by £850 billion as a result of Bank Bailout. This is almost twice the nation’s total annual budget. For this amount, the UK could have funded the entire NHS (£106.7 billion a year) for 8 years, its whole education system for 20 years.
Structural Adjustment Programmes are now being rolled out across Europe, disguised as ‘Austerity programmes’ – to reorientate European economies toward servicing the debt economy.
Central banks are lending to stabilize national economies that have been broken by the cost of bailing out other banks. The central banks make these funds contingent upon the national government imposing an Austerity programme. *
Austerity is Structural Adjustment with a new name.
As with the creation of the Debt Trap that plagued African and Latin American countries, the main consideration here has been the continued profitability of the biggest banks and corporations – not the socio-economic conditions of ordinary citizens.
The National Health Service (NHS) celebrated its 65th birthday in 2013. While politicians cut celebratory ribbons and theoretical cake, they were also busy cutting the lifelines that make the service viable. Ceaseless scare stories; never-ending costly reorganizations; rampant commercialization and privatization; and the deliberate loading of unsustainable debt onto hospital balance sheets: these acts are killing the the NHS was born under the auspices of socialist Labour Health Secretary Aneurin Bevan on 5 July 1948. For the first time anywhere in the world, healthcare was based on citizenship, not ability to pay.
It was a moment the tide turned in Britain towards a more equal, collaborative society respectful of everyone’s contributions.
In the 65 years since the inception of the NHS, therefore, private enterprise has been seeking a way back in.
The nation’s sick are a potential goldmine for the private medical industry.
With a population stubbornly attached to their publicly funded institution, what were successive neoliberal governments and private healthcare providers to do? Privatize by stealth.
The National Health Service is being gutted by endless and costly reorganizations, rampant commercialization and unaffordable Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contracts. The latest major reorganization of the NHS, under the Health and Social Care Act, will suck another £4 billion out of the health service. This comes on the back of the £780 million blown by New Labour on 70 reorganizations in just four years between 2005 and 2009.
The S75 Regulations of the Coalition government’s Health and Social Care Act will deliver the NHS into the hands of these private companies. These new ‘Competition Regulations’ force the NHS to put all but a tiny minority of services out for competitive tender. The majority of services currently run by the NHS will shortly and swiftly be turned over to profit-making private-healthcare providers. This is what is meant by privatization by stealth.
The reality is that, wherever we look, all our major institutions meant to protect and serve the long-term public interest are stuffed with individuals who have abandoned this role in favour of their own short-term self-interest.
Placing self-interest over the public interest in matters of health has far-reaching and potentially catastrophic human costs.
Real people get poor quality care and die as a result.
Inside the NHS, hundreds of thousands of healthcare professionals are trying to save or improve lives, while the financial resources meant to be at their disposal are being consumed by this process of financialization.
In the summer of 2013, a Freedom of Information request revealed that 52 NHS staff have been paid £2 million by their hospitals in gagging orders that ban them from reporting significant failures of private healthcare providers operating NHS contracts against the public interest.
In 2012, Serco – the private firm delivering out-of-hours GP services in Cornwall – admitted it had grossly understaffed its service, failed to meet performance targets and so falsified more than 250 reports to the NHS.
The contract with Serco provided no mechanism by which the firm could be fined, let alone removed, so the company remains unpunished, delivering a service that it has demonstrated it is unfit to manage.
Private firms now have a massive and increasing stake in the NHS.
The entire responsibility for discovering malpractice and underperformance is in the hands of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which is itself in crisis.
This woefully understaffed, poorly managed unit which is the only system we have for identifying healthcare failures, while NHS executives pay staff to keep their mouths shut.
The NHS is being outsourced, commercialized and financialized to destruction.
When the end comes, the blame will be placed on the public service, not the private parasites. The argument will be made that we can no longer afford our NHS, and the public-health goldmine will be entirely under the ownership of the profiteers. This same model is being used to undermine not only public health, but also public education.
Today, the majority of UK children attend privately owned schools, where the majority of services are delivered by private-sector staff – even though the parents likely believe their child attends a state school. The results have seen costs soar and quality plummet.
A recent report by the Public Accounts Committee,the parliamentary select committee responsible for ensuring value for money for the taxpayer, condemned the programme as ‘complex and inefficient’, leading to more than a billion pounds of overspending. This billion pounds had to be met from the budgets for other non-academy schools.
The state sector is being starved of funds, while the academy sector enjoys a glut of funding, which it spends inefficiently and opaquely. *
The criticism and warning from those actively involved in the education of our children and young adults has been united, consistent, loud and sustained.
Gove’s response to this almost universal rejection of his policies was to denounce the critics as ‘enemies of promise’.
Not only is the government using the ‘securitization food chain’ to privatize the public education system by stealth, but it is also dismantling the very elements of the system that promote critical thinking, social mobility and aspiration in children. This same approach is being pursued in higher education.
In June 2013, the UK government commissioned the Rothschild Bank to develop plans for the sale of student loans taken out since 1998.
If adopted, this would leave 3.6 million graduates facing sharp rises in their student loan repayments, while the taxpayer stands as guarantor in the event students default on the debt, paying up to ensure the private investors never lose a penny.
It’s hard to believe that, a little over a decade ago, the UK viewed higher education as a social service.
There was no public need for the securitizing of higher education. Nor was there any public benefit to be derived from it – only massive and ultimately unsustainable costs.
Whereas in 2007/8 the taxpayer bailed out banks that had dished out unaffordable mortgages, by 2018 we could be bailing out banks that have dished out unaffordable student loans. Unaffordable student debt only becomes less affordable when privatized, as interest rates rise. If the state is the ultimate guarantor of these loans then, * when the crisis occurs, the taxpayer will pick up a bigger financial burden than if the loans had remained with the state throughout.
Any social democracy is underpinned by a generous welfare state that ensures citizens who find themselves unable to work through involuntary unemployment, sickness, disability or age receive enough support to live in dignity. Social security means workers are less likely to be exploited by poverty wages, as people are in nations without a welfare state.
Austerity is not so much chipping away at this foundation, as taking a breaking hammer to it.
Someone who finds themselves unemployed today must work up to 30 hours a week, for up to six months at a time, stacking shelves for Tesco or Poundland simply to receive as little as the £53 per week to which they are already entitled as part of Britain’s social contract.4 In addition, Tesco isn't paying the £53; the public are, through their taxes.
The UK developed its social housing policy as part of the post-War move to social democracy in the 1940s. Prior to this, the masses were subject to exorbitant rents paid to private landlords that consumed the bulk of their wages, while often living in unsanitary, defunct housing. *
The Post-War Labour government of Clement Attlee built more than a million homes between 1945 and 1951, with 80 per cent of them being council homes with subsidized rents.
Enter Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher with the ‘right to buy’ scheme – the plan to turn the working class into a new propertied class by allowing the purchase (at discount) of council houses. This policy was a manifest failure.
More than a third of former council houses now sit in the property portfolios of wealthy landlords. In fact, the son of Thatcher’s Housing Minister at the time the ‘right to buy’ scheme was launched became the proud owner of no less than 40 ex-council houses.
The limited remaining council housing is now rationed out to the poorest of the poor,13 rather than offered as a service that most can rely on to keep the cost of living within sensible bounds. This has changed the ethos of social housing from a human right, and a part of the package of being a UK citizen, to a last resort. *
With council-housing waiting lists and mortgages ever further out of reach, everyone else is a hostage to the private rental market.
Instead of expanding the social housebuilding programme, instead of taking on this cartel of private landlords who are artificially inflating rental prices for tenants who have no option but to pay up, the government is walking away from the problem and blaming the victims.
Inside Housing, a magazine dealing with social-housing issues, reports that the Bedroom Tax will impact 660,000 social-housing tenants, and two-thirds of the households affected will contain a disabled person.
David Cameron has claimed that parents of severely disabled children would be exempt from the Bedroom Tax. This is not true.
David Cameron claimed that people requiring 24-hour care would be exempt from the Bedroom Tax. This is also not true. *
Despite the government’s claims of safety nets and hardship funds, the tax hit on 1 April 2013 and it hit hard.
Government representatives have implicitly and explicitly accused vast swathes of those claiming Incapacity Benefit of faking their illness or disability. Hate crime against disabled people shot up by 25 per cent in 2012, thanks in part to the constant media scaremongering about ‘scroungers’ faking disability so as to give themselves an easy life.
The clear implication is that people should really be working. In fact, ministers have not merely implied this, but have propagandized about it to the point where many people believe it was benefit fraud, and not the Bank Bailout, which caused our sky-high debt.
The government’s own statistics show that, between 2010 and 2011, 10,600 sick and disabled people died while going through the Atos assessment process. *
Seriously ill and disabled people up and down the country are being harassed, literally to their deaths, by this horrendous excuse for an ‘assessment’. However, it is not an assessment if the outcome is predetermined by a quota.
One could hardly have imagined in 2010 the sheer scale of horror that would be heaped upon disabled people, their loved ones and carers by the Coalition government. *
The government’s bastardization of the social model of disability is breathtaking – it uses the language of inclusion and empowerment while kicking the ladder out from under an entire community. The result of all these changes is a rising number of people left destitute.
The endgame for those who cannot find work, and cannot find shelter, is that they join the ranks of the homeless.
The government has launched no significant programmes to take action on this issue. Instead, it has chosen to criminalize homelessness through new anti-squatting legislation.
People finding themselves without shelter should be supported by social workers and housing officers, not bullied by bailiffs and police officers. We have permitted our parliament and our police force to criminalize homelessness.
Sadly, it is not only our homeless people who have been abandoned in the name of Austerity.
The elderly have now joined the ranks of the sick, the disabled, the young and the unemployed as a ‘problem’ demographic for our government. Essentially, anyone who isn't in full-time work and earning a taxable income is considered a burden – a drain on the system in these times of Austerity.
This entire line of argument is simply absurd. Our economy needs to fit the demographics it exists to serve, not the other way round. *
It costs a lot to be old now because we thought it was a good idea to allow people to profit from our most basic requirements – warmth, food and water, shelter and care.
In the UK today, over 90 per cent of all care-home provision – up from 61 per cent in 1990 – for elderly people is in the private sector after the public sector was encouraged to outsource provision in an effort to cut costs. The same period has seen an astronomical rise in the cost of care-home places.
Some of our old people, moreover, are dying in the most appalling conditions. Take 81-year-old Gloria Foster, who suffered a lonely and excruciating death in 2013 from starvation and thirst, trapped in her own bed, having been left without her essential care for nine days.
Whave abandoned our elderly people to the whims of the free market; they suffer the indignity of not having their most basic care needs met and are bankrupted for the privilege.
These are people who have worked over 40 years, paid their dues, and often even fought a war on our behalf.
The neoliberal model of privatized, for-profit, core services simply does not work. Any system that views people living longer, healthier lives as some kind of problem is no system worth having.
Austerity is ideological On arrival in government, the dominant Conservative section of the Coalition government was keen to present Austerity as temporary, necessary and purely practical.
What we can now see, is that Austerity is delivering the half-century-long ambition of the Conservative Party: to revoke the UK’s Post-War social contract.
The modern welfare state: decent pensions, affordable social housing, a publicly funded and managed healthcare system, a reliable and low-cost transport system, the guarantee of an education regardless of circumstances of birth. This was the social contract the UK public signed up to in the aftermath of the Second World War. Why? Because these generations had lived through the horrific consequences of unrestrained capitalism: enormous inequality; widespread poverty and destitution; starving and malnourished children; an entrenched class system; the benefits of the hard work of the many enjoyed by a privileged and undeserving few.
David Cameron is taking the country back to those dark days.
Chancellor George Osborne has insisted he will ‘stay the course’ on Austerity – apparently regardless of the fact that it puts the majority of the UK population on course for poverty and suffering. UK Prime Minister David Cameron seems positively gleeful at the advancement of his Austerity agenda, declaring there is ‘no end in sight’ for the programme of public-sector cuts.
The UK’s political and economic leaders have rejected the evidence that blew, apart the theory behind Austerity, they have dismissed the criticism of the architects of Austerity and they have turned a blind eye to the reality of the programme’s devastating results on the ground. These people are not rational, they are ideologues.
While the government continues its assault on the welfare state, and conditions decline for the majority of working and non-working people in the UK, things at the top are only getting better.
Only one in four of the UK’s top companies pay their taxes, while they receive tax credits to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds from public funds provided by people who did pay their taxes.
According to mainstream thinking, the UK is in economic recovery. The economy is now growing again, more people are in employment, and the deficit is shrinking. This is the narrative. So what’s really going on? The basis of this ‘economic growth’ is an unsustainable rise in private consumption, which can only be temporary as those consumers are using debt to consume.
The government has used benefit sanctions to reduce the numbers of people claiming out-of-work benefits, and used this to argue that more people are in work.
Workfare, zero-hours contracts and other non-jobs mean that while people appear as employed, that employment is neither secure nor adequate to meet their living costs or their aspirations. This is not an economic recovery by any reasonable definition of the term.
Hunger, poverty and homelessness rising exponentially in a time of economic growth can only ever be a political choice. Austerity is planned hunger, planned poverty and planned homelessness.
It is the deliberate destitution of the many, to benefit the few.
It is long overdue that compassionate citizens presented a credible and committed resistance to this project. Not only to the present government, but to an entire political and economic system that has enabled corporations to co-opt the parliamentary process, neuter any diversity of political voices, and dismantle the promise of a fair chance for all.
Austerity is ripping apart the services, institutions and safety nets that make the UK a social democracy.
The concepts of social democracy and the welfare state are anathema to neoliberalism – which knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Immigration to be an issue when so many myths, untruths and outright lies are promulgated by the political class and the mainstream media. *
Cameron is contributing to myths that pit dirt-poor UK citizens against dirt-poor newcomers while achieving a negligible real-world result at the very best. It is a political stunt designed to appeal to the fears and prejudices of people that are already being exploited by UKIP. Worse, the Labour Party has now joined in – just to make sure no-one thinks it has an enlightened view on immigration either.
‘The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism – ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.’ Franklin D Roosevelt, message to US Congress, 29 April 1938
Neoliberalism and the Austerity project are placing governments in the hands of controlling private power. *
When you look at the bank bailout, the Health & Social Care Bill, the Welfare Reform Bill, workfare, the privatization of the police force and the education system, it is easy to spot a common thread: the transfer of public services to powerful private interests, funded by public money.
There is no mainstream party that does not espouse these ‘neoliberal’ policies, which means that utilizing the vote to arrest this process is not possible. This egregious domination of our democracy by self-serving corporatism is fascist.
UK population is being taught to fear the ‘illegal’ and the ‘immigrant’ as a drain on their resources, while the country is actually being feasted upon by privateers and profiteers. Immigration, fear of difference, is being used as a decoy – diverting justified anger into safe (from the point of view of the one per cent) channels.
Each protection in law was won by workers, not gifted to workers. They were not the trickle-down benefits of capitalism. They were won from capitalism.
Successive governments of Heath, Thatcher, Major, Blair and Cameron have pitched their war against the unions as if the unions were something other than working people.
As a result, at a time when the UK has the fastest-growing economy in the West, its people also have the fastest falling wages. And the consequences do not stop there.
Employers in the UK are increasingly employing staff on ‘Zero Hours’ contracts. These contracts have no specified working hours – meaning that an employee is placed on permanent standby until the employer needs them. While classed as employed, the person has no wage security as they cannot guarantee their pay from one week to the next.
It is not difficult to see the advantages of zero-hours contracts to employers – they can achieve maximum flexibility, effectively retaining their workforce on a pay-as-you-go basis. It is also clear that, in the short term, the government of the day also enjoys the advantage of hiding the true effects of their cut-throat economic policies.
In the UK today, corporate criminals receive greater dismissal payments than regular working people who have been mistreated by their employers. But it doesn't stop there.
The net result of three decades of so-called ‘liberalization’ of employment protections has been a devastating reduction in wages. Increased access to personal debt (credit cards, loans, store cards, buy now pay later, hire purchase and so on) has been masking the expanding gulf between the cost of living and the level of wages for decades. *
Contrary to the language of ‘workers versus shirkers’ in the UK, working people are working harder than they ever have, and for less.
Not only are average wages rising more slowly than inflation, but the incomes of the top one per cent of earners are rising significantly faster than inflation, creating an ever bigger wealth gap.
Neoliberalism’s basic assumption, of equality as a by-product of dismantling protections from the whims and travails of this cartel-based system, has been proven false. Yet none of the mainstream political parties or successive governments have sought to develop a solution to the inherent problem of perpetually falling wages, regardless of the economic conditions.
Over the last four decades, the services and institutions of law and justice in the UK have increasingly been taken out of the hands of representative government and consigned to corporate control.
One of the biggest benefactors of the largesse of the UK state has been security giant G4S.
The reach of the G4S criminal-justice empire is eye watering.
Almost every service that G4S has been given to run has ended up costing us more, whether that is measured in pounds sterling or in human suffering. Yet the UK government seems determined to hand over ever more of the nation’s most critical public services into this company’s unworthy hands.
Over the past four decades that private prisons were rolled out across the US, there has been an explosion in crime. Did US citizens suddenly become more criminal? No. Rather, poverty was criminalized from the school system onwards. *
In short – it pays to lock people up.
This is what happens when the profit motive is introduced to the justice system. A justice system working in the public interest seeks to reduce crime as a social disorder, whereas one working for profit views crime as a source of income. An outsourced justice system seeks to deliver criminals, not justice.
The government is cutting the number of contracts given to firms for Legal Aid from 1,600 to just 400, and putting these out to competitive tender. This is likely to see contracts awarded to low-cost, low-quality, law mega-shops like those run by Tesco, G4S and even haulier Eddie Stobart.
The Law Society, which represents more than 120,000 solicitors, is willing to sue the government over these planned changes to Legal Aid, which it says are ‘so unworkable and damaging that they are likely to push the justice system beyond breaking point to a devastating collapse’.
The tax cut gifted to the richest in the land in the 2013/14 budget will cost the Treasury three billion pounds a year. This is three times the cost of the entire Legal Aid budget. There is public money enough to provide tax cuts for the wealthiest, yet not enough to provide justice for the poorest.
The justice system is the one institution left with any claim to independence, and that too has been utterly compromised – it is being rapidly re-engineered to ensure that those suffering at the bottom are left with no lawful means of opposing their ever-worsening conditions. *
Civil liberties, human rights and democracy itself are incompatible with the neoliberal political and economic paradigm. This is why the neoliberal project was first rolled out in dictatorships, such as Pinochet’s Chile.
The end game of Austerity is to de-civilize and disempower whole sections of the UK population. In order to do so, the legal underpinning of UK civilization is being unpicked.
The modern welfare state was born, and with it a flurry of civil liberties were gained throughout the latter half of the 20th century. Finally, in 1998, the New Labour government signed the European Convention on Human Rights into British law, providing a legal underpinning to this enshrinement of our civil liberties.
The road to civil liberties in Britain winds through almost a thousand years.They were not gifted, they did not naturally evolve; they were fought for and won.
Despite being but half a century old, they are taken for granted by many today – and, regrettably, not appreciated.
Nevertheless, many people are unaware of or unalarmed by the current rapid erosion of these rights and liberties.
Prior to 1984, a person could not be held by police for longer than 24 hours without a criminal charge being made against them.
The Anti-Terrorism and Security Act 2001 allowed for indefinite detention of non-British citizens suspected of committing terrorist acts, where there was not enough evidence to proceed to a court of law.
The 700-year-old tradition of oen justice had been under attack from successive pieces of legislation since 1997 that have allowed ‘closed material proceedings’ or secret courts into the justice system .
In a stunning move in March 2013, the Coalition government and parliament approved legislation to introduce secret courts into civil cases.
Reverend Nicholas Mercer, a lieutenant colonel who was the army’s most senior lawyer during the last Iraq war, told the Daily Mail: ‘The justice and security bill has one principal aim and that is to cover up UK complicity in rendition and torture. The bill is an affront to the open justice on which this country rightly prides itself and, above all, it is an affront to human dignity.’
The Serious and Organized Crime and Police Act 2005 granted a number of powers to police and restricted protesters in a number of different ways. *
As a result it is now virtually impossible to protest outside the UK parliament without being arrested.
Since the Bill of Rights Act 1689, it has been illegal for the British government to dispatch the armed forces to British streets during peace time without the consent of parliament. The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 ended this tradition.
The exponential rise in surveillance permitted by law in the UK is astounding.
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 allowed the government full surveillance powers over all kinds of communications.
Britain has gone from zero to over four million CCTV cameras in recent decades.
In March 2014 new government legislation made any behaviour perceived to potentially ‘cause nuisance or annoyance’ a criminal offence.
The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill also grants local authorities, police and even private security firms sweeping powers to bar citizens from assembling lawfully in public spaces.It creates a series of wildly ambiguous, generic orders that grant officers of the state and private sector even greater powers to issue tougher sentences, with fewer checks and balances to protect citizens.
Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) and new Dispersal Orders will present the most significant threat to lawful assembly and protest in modern history.
These new laws effectively end freedom of assembly in England and Wales, as any lawful assembly can be instantly redefined as illegal on the spot by a part-time PCSO, people’s personal possessions can be confiscated, and anyone who dares to challenge the process may end up in jail.
Anyone who sends an email, makes a phone call over the internet, or sends a message using social media platforms can no longer do so in the belief that this communication is private.
Just a few short years ago, repressive countries’ restriction of the internet access of their citizens met with the scorn of the ‘civilized West’. Those days are gone. The revelations of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show just how closely and arbitrarily internet communications are being monitored in the UK, Europe and the US – and how feeble our protections from such abuses of power truly are.
With the Conservative Party promising to abolish the Human Rights Act * we are facing the complete revocation of the legal underpinning of our civil liberties.
All of these regressive changes are founded on the fixed neoliberal belief that what is best for ‘business’ is best for all of us.
As more people become aware of the exploitative nature of the system and institutions governing their lives, democracy becomes an ever greater threat to the neoliberal project.
The endgame will be the creation of globalized legal frameworks making Austerity permanent, and enforceable through international law.
The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are the largest trade agreements in history, and yet are not open for review, debate or amendment by national parliaments or the public.
They seek to enshrine the rights of corporations under international law, restricting future governments from overturning Austerity policies.
Proponents of capitalism who so vociferously oppose the threat of state power (even in a democratic state) appear to have no such issues with the rise of corporate power, which has no democratic foundation or restraint whatsoever.
These trade agreements remove the protections of the EU, the US and the Pacific Rim countries. Ultimately, this will lead to the de-civilization of the developed democracies.
Corporations will actively exploit the increased rights in TPP and TTIP to extend their own interests – maximizing profits. The public interest will be subordinated.
Tax evasion costs Europe one trillion euros each year – this is more than the combined spending on health, and four times the total spending on education. TTIP claims to be worth an estimated 119 billion euros a year. Yet, while pan-EU agreements on ending tax evasion languish unresolved, TTIP, at just one tenth of the value, in return for handing swathes of national sovereignty over to corporations and faceless supranational bodies, will be concluded in just 18-24 months.
All democratic barriers are being moved aside in order to support this goal.
A significant number of the world’s ‘democracies’ are being railroaded into these undemocratic agreements by corporatized governments. *
Your democratic representative will not be able to see or amend these agreements before they become legally binding – while corporate lobbyists will not only be able to see them, but will have written them.
But these agreements complete the ambitions of the neoliberal project, from 1944 to today – to end social democracy, its institutions and its protections. To establish a world run by corporations, for corporations.
Neoliberalism has enabled an ever-widening wealth gap, which has handed economic and political power to a few incredibly wealthy individuals, institutions and corporations.
That in its essence is fascism: ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power.’
What use is the idea of a smartphone, a computer or the internet when you cannot afford to eat, to access medical developments that would treat your illness, to keep a roof over your head?
If a country implements neoliberalism, it is an economic certainty that inequality will increase. This is, quite simply, how the system works.
So it is in the interests of those privileged few who reap maximum benefit from the system to avoid the majority from coming to that same conclusion
This is why politicians and large sections of the media, also corrupted by the system, spend their time inculcating in people the belief that too many immigrants, too many scroungers, a bloated public-sector bureaucracy, or any number of other scapegoats are to blame for the inherent failings of neoliberalism. *
When corporations break the law, they are either not tried or are given a fine that comes nowhere near the profits reaped by breaking the law. Worse, corporations are buying the drafting of laws which make their unethical and damaging behaviour legal.
The horrors of austerity we have witnessed to date are mere trifles compared with the future that awaits us if we continue down this road to corporate fascism.
Those generations of the early 20th century bequeathed us a welfare state including an NHS, a free state education for every child up to the age of 18, sickness and unemployment benefits, pensions, and high-quality, low-cost social housing. But what will we leave behind for future generations? A society in which people are working longer, for lower wages, to receive a lower pension, only to die racking up exorbitant debts in a substandard care home.
We need to understand it deep in our bones that the cavalry is not coming. We ourselves are the cavalry. Only our newly emerging people’s campaigns and institutions can resolve the crisis, because the existing institutions not only created it, but exist to serve it.