Triple A by Barbara Nadel

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I don’t claim to know that much about economics but then I don’t really have to. Were I the Chancellor of the Exchequer however I may find it a bit handy to be clued up on things like inflation, quantitative easing and massive tax fraud but unfortunately George Osborne, the current UK Chancellor doesn’t feel the same. He’s too busy panicking. Moodys, the international financial rating agency, has downgraded the UK’s credit rating from triple A to something-just-below-that-that-won’t-really-make-too-much-difference-at-all. Oh my God!! I’m making it light of it because in a world where people die of starvation every day and one in four children is in poverty right here in the UK, it’s no big deal. But then given the situation we are in now, that isn’t entirely true.

Very few people starve to death here in the UK but that happy position has been hard won. When my parents were children, before the Welfare State, poor people had a choice if they became sick. They could get into debt and possibly ruin their family’s prospects for a better future by paying for a doctor or they could just die. It almost happened to my dad. He had appendicitis which, because of the family’s poverty had to be treated by starvation rather than surgery. Luckily he survived. Many did not. Then, in the wake of World War II the Welfare State was formed and all that horror disappeared overnight.

Now I know that some people are going to say that a lot of folk here in the UK have taken advantage of the welfare state and sat about doing nothing for decades on end. Well that was always going to happen and if anyone ever thought that a few individuals and/or families were not going to do that then they must have been having a funny moment. Whatever system a country uses to address the problems associated with ill health and unemployment, will be flawed. To expect perfection is ridiculous. But this country decided that looking after the health of the nation (rich people included) and tackling poverty and ignorance was its priority. When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, East London was a poor, shabby place but everyone had enough to eat, no-one died of TB anymore and people had places to live that were no longer infested with rats. It was a good time to be alive and people like my parents could even consider buying their own house.

I guess this country was insular back then, focussed on its own people and its own problems and it’s good that the UK is more open to the world now. Back then we didn’t really compete. Taxation for the rich was sky high, at one time at 90% which meant that a lot of them just left the country. But then in the 1980s everything changed and under Margaret Thatcher we became both competitive and a post industrial service nation whose profits were based on ‘invisible’ earnings. This meant that a few people got very rich and some of those who had left the country back in the 1960s came back. And although Thatcher chipped away at the Welfare State it carried on albeit in a rather truncated fashion. However, what she did do, was change a lot of people’s mindsets. By selling off council houses (local authority rented property) she encouraged many amongst the working classes to think of themselves as property owning middle class people. Sometimes this ‘dream’ did happen for them but often these people lost their homes because they couldn’t keep up the payments. And this inevitably depleted the nations housing stock.

So where are we now? Well right now we have no triple A credit rating, we have a housing crisis and the National Health Service is in chaos. What needs to be done? Well housing needs to be built and we need to completely overhaul the NHS so that it works for those it was designed to serve, the public, and isn’t just used as a way for wealthy managers and doctors to climb the ladder of success. This inevitably means spending some money. And in fact just from an economic point of view our economy, which has flatlined for the last two years does need to be stimulated. The solution would seem like a no brainer. But unfortunately we happen to have a Chancellor who indeed has no brain and who has decided to continue with the cuts and impose still more austerity on the nation – or rather parts of the nation.

Just like when my parents were children, the rich will be protected mainly because they don’t use the public services that the rest of us do. They only use the NHS in an emergency, they don’t use libraries, public transport or public swimming pools or community centres or any of the things that George Osborne wants to cut in the name of ‘fiscal prudence’. Not that any of it will do him any good. If I, and millions like me, thought that all this cutting was actually going to do anything at all we’d get behind it, but it won’t. The country will simply stay in recession, more and more people will become unemployed and lose their homes to big banks who will clean up the property market and eventually, make yet more killings.

In the meantime Osborne will perpetuate the myth he always comes out with that if you are rich it is because you are prudent and wise and therefore you deserve what you have got. In some cases this is true but in many cases it isn’t. What about the banker who has ruined his company and walked away with millions of pounds worth of ‘golden handshake’ money? What about the lazy aristocrats who have done nothing for 500 years? Or the gangsters who got where they are today by ripping people’s arms off? I don’t want to lose my library for their sake and I am utterly sick to my stomach at the thought of more people losing their jobs and their homes – which will happen.

This country is currently being run by clueless men and women who live in a weird delusion that features nice good rich people and roaming tribes of feckless poor bastards who must now prove that they deserve a few good things in life. But the Welfare State was for everyone and triple A or no triple A that should be a given. In fact what they’re doing with their austerity policies is creating even more poor people who will eventually and inevitably overwhelm the welfare state with their numerous and ever more complex needs. They’ll do this until it breaks. It won’t take long now. And then Mr Osborne’s work will be done and he’ll be able to retire to his gated community and thank God that he can afford the bevy of security guards he’ll have to employ to keep the rest of us at arms length. Then I fully expect to get TB. Hopefully I’ll die without causing the country to spend too much money.

Today, as you can no doubt tell, I’ll fucking furious.

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