Saturday, 8 January 2011

Some cuts are just plain stupid!

Green Party South West  

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the cuts that are currently devastating our public services. There is widespread belief that the speed and scale is more than is necessary to keep the bonds market happy (important though that is); concern that the balance between cuts and tax rises is wrong; fear that the cuts may cause a double-dip recession, writes Alex Lawrie.

But there are some things that we should all be able to agree on. Firstly, that cuts shouldactually save money. Consider this: each £1 spent on HMRC tackling tax evasion and avoidancebrings in £60 (and £70bn is lost to tax evasion each year). That would help reduce the deficit.But the government proposes not to increase the number of tax inspectors - by 2015 they have been told to shed one-sixth of their staff. Or how about the Sustainable Development Commission - axed by the government despite a track record of saving far more than it cost.

Secondly, surely we can agree that spending money on corruption, destruction and mass murder is a luxury we must now do without? Yet a string of corporate backed quangos known for corrupt arms deals, lobbying against sustainable resource management and subsidising unethical companies have been protected from cuts and reforms. Trident nuclear weapons remain on the government's wishlist - delayed, but not ditched.

Thirdly, under-investment isn't really a cut at all - struggling on with substandard infrastructure is about the most expensive option we could have. The whole point of bringing down the deficit is to be able to retain the nation's ability to borrow at low interest: that allows us to build housing, improve energy efficiency, install rail links and regenerate urban centres, all of which deliver solid financial benefits which keep the deficit low in the future.

Finally, some cuts are irreversible. The damage they do can never be undone, and once-in-alifetime opportunities to save precious resources are missed. If we privatise our forests,we will never get them back. If we miss the chance to stabilise the climate, it is gone for good. If we fail to save a species from extinction,we can never replace it. The case for cuts in these areas must
be resisted, because they are one-time-only offers. It is a contract with no escape clause, just as much as with any ill-advised bit of defence procurement.

So to sum it up: if cuts are expensive, untargeted,wasteful and irreversible, they aren't really cuts at all - they are just us stealing from our children once again. A  true deficit reduction strategy would involve spending on efficient infrastructure, ending corporate handouts, plugging the leaks and securing our assets, not to mention good old progressive taxation. Maybe we must also concede that the pace of social progress in an age of austerity won't be as fast as we would like; but that can only be tolerated as long as inequalities are seen to reduce, including the inequalities between generations.

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