A recent study in Britain confirms that austerity has serious consequences. Owen Jones writes:
Let us take a moment to reflect on what the Tories have done to this country. They made apocalyptic warnings of what would happen if they did not eliminate the deficit by 2015; they didn’t get close, and now that target has vanished off to the distant mid-2020s. They added more debt then every Labour government. They battered disabled people with cuts and slashed support for the working poor. They presided over the longest squeeze in wages since the 19th century, and the worst peacetime record of housebuilding since the 1920s. And now we know they have presided over a fall in the rate of increase in life expectancy.
And yes, the combined effects of the bankers’ crash and austerity did kill in Britain. Until Lehman Brothers came toppling down, the number of men taking their own lives was steadily falling. Then it began to climb again: hundreds of people died who – if the previous trend had continued – would still be with us today. And at the end of 2015, Britain endured the biggest jump in mortality rates for nearly half a century. As Liverpool University’s Dr Mark Green put it: “It is plausible that the impacts of cutbacks in public services are beginning to materialise.”
The mantra was "short term pain for long term gain." But the results are in. And it's clear that austerity has not resulted in progress:
And yet new research by an ex-government adviser, Sir Michael Marmot, suggests that the rise in life expectancy – a constant trend for a hundred years – has stalled since 2010. What happened that year, exactly? Was that not when David Cameron, George Osborne and their Lib Dem stooges began slashing public services with a false economic pretext?
No, it’s not that life expectancy is declining. That really would be the sign of a social calamity in a country as advanced as this. But we are still talking about the robbing of life. People’s lives have been truncated, because they are not living as long as they should have done if the rate of increase had continued. And terrifyingly, this rate of increase is “pretty close to having ground to a halt”, says Marmot. He is “deeply concerned” and “expected it to just keep getting better.”
Marmot does not make the claim that cuts are responsible. What he does say is that, in 2010, ministers made a “political decision” to cut spending; and he highlights the “miserly” recent spending on health and social care.
What's the bottom line? Austerity is not a cure to society's ills. It's a catalyst. It makes them worse.
Image: Common Dreams