Laws & Osborne target my generation
So, George and David have announced where they are going to start their 5 year assault on the British economy. And the answer is pretty clear. First up against the wall are the young – my generation: my friends.
I can assure you, we’re pretty cross.
As I write this, I’m surrounded by friends who have just finished their finals. Most feel the genuine fear of graduating, alongside thousands, into unemployment – with an average debt of £20,000. David Blanchflower predicts today that, as a result of these cuts, youth unemployment will “be above a million, unless the government reverses course immediately.”
One of these friends, Sophie, who graduated a year ago, currently has a short term contract in the Civil Service. Hopes of this turning into a long term job serving her country have evaporated with the Civil Service recruitment freeze. This will hit anyone depending on the civil service – erm, all of us. But those trying to set out for a career of Service will feel the pain the most.
But it is, perhaps, our younger siblings who have more cause for anger. Cutting university places by 10,000 in the midst of a recession is a bizarre thing to do – especially in a year when 100,000 more school-leavers are applying for university. The short term multiplier effect of a pound spent in a university is huge (as I explain here), which means cuts to university funding multiply up to massive cuts to the economy. But the long term assault on education is astonishing – and again, it’s my generation which will feel the pain.
While the value of learning should never be measured in its economic output alone, you can’t build a knowledge economy without paying for teachers. Our generation is going to have to spend the next ten years of our lives re-building an economy left in ashes. And now Laws and Osborne are taking away the tools we will need to do the work. The UK already spends a lower portion of wealth on Higher Education than most Western countries. To pull this rug from under the feet of those leaving school this term is as foolish as it is cruel. Cameron and Clegg’s new politics is about to deliver a new lost generation.
And while those kept out of university try to get off the dole, that job will be made harder. The Future Jobs Fund has gone – costing up to 60,000 jobs for young people.
If you wanted to increase youth crime, and drug abuse, I can think of few better ways to do it.
And, of course, all of these cuts are an attack on my generation in that they are a failure to invest in the future. As Joseph Stiglitz points out, in his excellent piece in the Guardian on deficit-cut fetishism:
“Banks’ short-sightedness helped create the crisis; we cannot let government short-sightedness – prodded by the financial sector – prolong it.Faster growth and returns on public investment yield higher tax revenues, and a 5 to 6% return is more than enough to offset temporary increases in the national debt.” (my bolding)
While some right wing economists wrote to the Times to argue that it is a good idea to have cuts in the medium term (not, they didn’t support the Tory immediate cuts, as most of the media claimed), this fails to recognise what most of the economists who predicted this recession point out – that the value of public investment is often in the longer term. If we today destroy the institutions which deliver public services, they will take decades to re-build. This is essentially a process of the wealthier baby-boomers avoiding higher taxes in a couple of years, by refusing to invest in the services my friends and I will require throughout our lives.
And looking to when I expect to retire – around 2050 – my generation faces the genuine fear of the impacts of runaway climate change. So, when David Laws and George Osborne announced that they are cutting those bodies helping drive us (far too slowly already) towards a low carbon economy, this is a direct assault on my future.
These cuts are not needed. As David Blanchflower said today, they are not driven by sound economic thinking, but by right wing dogma. Many will feel the pain Law’s ‘shockwaves‘ – announced immediately after Cameron promised to cut tax for the wealthiest. But it is my generation who will feel most pain.
And as another year of graduates find themselves standing beside their school-leaver siblings in lengthening dole queues, how long will it take them to realise what Mr Osborne really means when he tells us that “we are all in this together”?