The real question is – what kind of economy do we want?

by Ray_North on January 23, 2014

images-3Last night, George Osborne probably opened up a bottle Dom Perignon, sat back in his sumptuous leather seat at the Treasury, supped gently and praised himself for a job well done (Danny Alexander was probably outside in the waiting area with a can of pop and some crisps) – because, in George Osborne’s mind, everything has worked out wonderfully – he can, whether we like it or not, tell the country that statistics show unemployment is falling and that the economy is growing, and, again, whether we like it or not, many, many voters will be persuaded by this rather shallow argument.

Because, the real question that we should as a nation be asking ourselves, is not – ‘is the economy succeeding,’ the real question is, ‘are we building a society that we can be proud of.’

Because the fall in unemployment rates and the increase in growth should not be seen in isolation – economics and economic performance is not a panacea, economic figures are not the sole indicator of national success, economics is, as we’ve said before on these pages, a tool to assist in the creation of a society.

And that is important – because Osborne’s economic policy is clear: he wants to promote growth in certain sectors for certain people in certain parts of the country.

And, as a policy that is broadly what is happening – yesterday’s unemployment figures may have fallen, but wages are still rising at a rate that is well below the rate of inflation; whilst the continued increase in utility prices and energy prices means that for most people in low paid jobs life is a continuing struggle. Osborne has no answer to this – the Tories have little notion of the struggle of those in work, whose prospects of a pay rise are minimal and who are struggling to make ends meet.

The growth in employment is actually, a growth in low paid jobs – which is economically short-termist and socially and morally wrong,

Similarly, although the unemployment has fallen, the fall has not been enjoyed throughout the country – in Northern Ireland and the North East unemployment actually rose – but, again, Osborne doesn’t really care about this, because there are no Tory voters in either of these areas.

And, the sectors that are starting to enjoy economic success are mainly in the City, a little in retail, some in Manufacturing and some in the false construction boom that has accompanied the Government’s dangerous policy of guaranteeing the mortgages of first time buyers which has prompted a spike in house prices and the potential for another bubble. But, again, Osborne doesn’t care about this, because he is more interested in presenting to the electorate figures that are broadly going upwards when it comes to the next general election – he doesn’t care a hoot how he brings this about – nor about the potential for massive fall again in the future.

He also doesn’t care, that the process of austerity (which has not contributed one iota to economic growth, but has in fact impeded it), has seen the public sector suffer – schools, hospitals, social services, libraries, courts, roads, police forces, the fire service, the civil service, the CPS, the environmental agencies, the arts council, and just about every other sector that is reliant upon public money have been cut back – often in a way that means that they’ll never recover. Is this a good thing? Is this an indicator of a nation that is doing well? No, of course it isn’t. But, again, the Tory way, the Osborne way is that anything to do with the State is bad – but, more often than not, the private sector is totally unable to replicate the way in which the state does its work either in terms of quality or value for money. But, that doesn’t trouble Osborne, because, quite simply, in the private sector someone, often someone he knows or knows will support him, will be making a few quid – and that is the Tory way.

So, when George Osborne is boasting about his success – we should remember that it’s a con, he is not actually succeeding, he is not creating a better society, with richer happier, better educated people, he is actually creating a nation that is socially, economically and geographically riven like never before. He is creating a society where schools and hospitals and social services are worse, where the weak the ill and the old are looked after less well – and where the rich will have the chance to just get richer.

Is that something that we should be proud of? No. Is that something that we should boast about? Well not in my house.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

George_East January 23, 2014 at 2:02 pm

We should also never forget that he inherited a growing economy with falling unemployment in May 2010 and promptly reversed all of that by his austerity policies. We have had 3 unnecessary years of economic misery, in order for George Osborne to be able to time growth for a 2015 election. As you say, living standards are for most still falling as wages, in real terms, are for most falling.

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Charlie_East_West January 23, 2014 at 2:42 pm

All Osborne cares about is to wrap austerity around the auspices of public sector cuts – leading to private tendering opportunities. The propaganda may be about “we are all in this together” and how “labour spent all the money” – but in reality, it is just a smokescreen to sell absolutely everything off to the highest bidder.

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Eddie Kaye January 23, 2014 at 3:00 pm

The trouble is that the man on a Clapham omnibus does not realise what has gone on. They see the headlines claiming economic recovery, and fail to notice it has not trickled down. It won’t trickle down either – claims that it will are a lie. One indicator is temporarily fixed and it is hailed as a miracle. The realities that affect normal people (social services, wages, living standards etc) are not fixed, in fact they are perhaps irreversably broken. I agree Ray, we have nothing to shout about.

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Ray_ North January 23, 2014 at 10:45 pm

That’s right George – but, hearing the same argument from Ed Balls will leave most people cold – if Labour continue to simply sit back and say ‘it’s taken three years to get here.’ Then they might as well book themselves back into opposition now.

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George_East January 23, 2014 at 11:23 pm

But Labour don’t say it and never have. Their problem was they conceded the argument from the get go. They were too scared of being tainted by embracing the approach of Brown and Darling in 08-10, even though it was broadly the right approach (if no expansive enough).
Fortunately it remains the case that the numbers are against a Tory majority. It is possible but pretty unlikely. A continuation of the current coalition on the other hand is certainly a real possibility.

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Mike Killingworth January 24, 2014 at 9:22 am

As I understand it, the current construction boom is not only in residential property. I’ve been told that new & stricter H&S regulations mean that there is currently a boom in commercial construction to get jobs done under the current H&S régime.

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George_East January 24, 2014 at 9:37 am

It is certainly the case that the whole of the City of London pretty much is a building site.

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Robin Thorpe January 24, 2014 at 1:15 pm

I agree that deciding what sort of economy we want is at the heart of what we should expect from our elected representatives.
Economist/author George Lakoff sums this up best:
“The liberal market economy maximizes overall freedom by serving public needs: providing needed products at reasonable prices for reasonable profits, paying workers fairly and treating them well, and serving the communities to which they belong. In short, “the people the economy is supposed to serve” are ordinary citizens.”
I think that Labour need to acknowledge this and campaign on radical grounds to realign the approach of government to serve the needs of the people and not the very few at the top of the tree.
I have written a few posts on Labour Uncut arguing for this; the latest of which has appeared today
http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2014/01/24/ed-miliband-is-the-only-politician-talking-about-what-really-matters-inequality/

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