Austerity kills, and do you know who it kills? Poor people. New immigrants. The elderly. People with addictions. Young artists. Unemployed people. The disabled and infirm. Single parents.
I don’t care what political landscape you inhabit, you only have to look around to realize that some of us are suffering. We are suffering so much we are dying.
Austerity doesn’t kill directly, of course. That would be too crass. No. It kills slowly, imperceptibly, and deliberately, by degrees. Austerity thinks government has become too big. It thinks scroungers are robbing us blind. It thinks immigrants are the enemy. It thinks tax payers’ money is being wasted. It thinks the homeless just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. It thinks the addicted could just quit.
Well, austerity is wrong. None of those things is true. In fact, the opposite is true. The philosophy that invoked austerity economics failed to take into account that the people who would suffer under this economic regime were our family, friends, and neighbours. They really did not think that austerity economics would lead to a social housing high rise that would burst into flames and kill people.
Yes, I am drawing a direct line between austerity economics and the deaths of more than fifty people in the Grenfell Tower building disaster. Saving money on everything, in every budget, in every department, has ultimately lead to the unthinkable. People died. Lots of people. People with children, and parents, and faiths, and jobs, and debts, and hopes, and responsibilities, and lives.
If you thought the austerity doctrine was right, I’ll give you a few minutes to rethink that. I’m sure that once you have had time to do a little research, you will realize that it hasn’t worked out the way you thought it would. All austerity has done is make miserable lives impossible. It has also incited local authorities to make dangerous decisions about the health and safety of local residents.
Let me offer an alternative — dignity economics. We must look seriously at an economic structure that provides everyone with self-sufficiency and dignity. Some of us think that a national living wage would accomplish this. Others would like to see a universal minimum income. I would just like to see everyone living in a home they can afford in a neighbourhood that welcomes them. If you are unable to be employed, dignity economics would take that into account. If you are temporarily in need of help, the dignity economy would give you time.
We used to call this the welfare state, but those became dirty words. Today, though, those words seem like gold to me. I want to go back to the days when an economy that provided dignity took care of my family, friends, and neighbours who were in need of help. One day you and I might be among them. Dignity economics does not spend tax payers’ money carelessly. It provides for our neighbours carefully. And, it promises you and me a safety net.