Friday, 17 February 2012

Ditch austerity and try another route

Two letters from The Guardian on 17/02/12:

As the Greek public order minister says his people "can't take any more", it's timely that Simon Jenkins (Austerity fails, yet we're too shy to think outside the box, 15 February) says the failure to take economic management beyond the diktats of austerity has become the great intellectual treason of today.

It is not just in Greece that austerity is failing but in the UK, too. George Osborne's emergency budget was supposed to bring Britain back from the brink but has, instead, pushed us closer to the precipice. Where he predicted growth of 2.3% last year, we got 0.3% – less than in the US, Germany, France, and even Italy where their leader's economic incompetence got him deposed.

This failure to generate growth – which Osborne pledged to create by cutting the public sector, which he said had been "crowding out" the private sector – means his government is borrowing billions more than planned, necessitating further cuts. Unemployment is the highest for a generation, with youth unemployment the highest ever on record.

The alternative required is the exact opposite of austerity; it is investing for growth, creating jobs to get people working again, and raising wages and benefits to create demand. We have distributed over 250,000 copies of our "There is an alternative" pamphlet, explaining how this would work. Even the modest stimulus in the US has meant falling unemployment and higher growth. Mr Osborne should at least aspire to that, rather than following Greece into a death spiral.

Mark Serwotka
General secretary, Public and Commercial Services Union

• Simon Jenkins rightly wails that "thousands of citizens across Europe are having their lives ruined ... because a financial elite, once burned, is too shy to think out of its box". Fair enough, but maybe part of the problem is that the Guardian, like most of the media elite, is itself too shy to publish outside the box. With the unemployment trajectory on course this week for 3 million by the end of the year, it is remarkable that the renowned policy analyst Peter Taylor-Gooby was not even mentioned when he recently published his research study linking the potential for civil disorder and riots to the legitimacy of the austerity measures taken by western governments over two decades and suggesting that without change further unrest will follow.

Similarly, when tackling the economic deficit Greg Philo offers a radical proposal of a wealth tax of 20% on the assets of the richest 10%, but his work never gets beyond the Guardian's website. There's a comforting staleness in reading the same old establishment faces in the Guardian and watching them on Question Time or the Politics Show. Exceptions apart, to have a Guardian journalist decry others for a lack of radical thinking when the paper has been a fervent advocate of the timidity of British politics is a bit rich.

John McDonnell MP
Hayes and Harlington

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