I despair sometimes, I really do.
I think yesterday’s Sun had something in it about ‘painful cuts’ to public spending and how awful it was going to have to be. I was (very uncharacteristically) waving the paper around at work remarking how it wasn’t going to be painful at all for me, and I wasn’t sure what the big deal was.
“Cuts to wages!” they said. “Not our wages,” I said. “Civil Servants, Public Sector workers. We work in the private sector,” I said. “Our wages have already been cut.”
“Cuts in pensions!” They cried. “Not OUR pensions,” I said. “Public Sector Workers Pensions. Besides which, the Brown Gorgon already fleeced OUR pensions.”
It just wasn’t sinking in. People -and these are otherwise intelligent people, some very so- just do not seem to grasp the concept that the money the government spends is their money that’s been taken away from them. They fully believe that it’s magic money that will be taken out of the economy by cuts in government spending. Even when I said that sacking all the civil servants and putting them on the dole would still be cheaper because you’re giving them less money for doing the same job (boom boom!) all I got was blank faces. Crazy.
What high-falutin’ libertarian types like the Samizdatistas would call the ‘meta-context’ is well and truly sewn up by the Keynesian left. Regular, credulous people the country up and down (and I know that this isn’t a scientific survey, but I bet you’d find the same story in tearooms everywhere) are totally bought into the notion that government spending is essential to the economy and the idea that the government and civil service are actually parasitic on the economy is totally alien to them.
What doesn’t help of course is supposedly highbrow programmes like BBC Breakfast (yes, I know) constantly pushing this line. Whether this is by design or just a symptom of the organisation being run by people who are also totally bought into the same idea I’ll leave for another time. This very morning they were discussing Cleggerton’s idea of following the Canadian model and both ‘sides’ of the ‘debate’ were worried that instead of a few hundred thousand people possibly being out of work (like in Canadia) we had several million public sector employees (the figure I think they quoted was 20% of the workforce) and cutting all their wages and/or jobs would be bad for the economy. Nobody saw fit to mention that 20% is an absurdly high figure to start with, nobody saw fit to mention that most of those employees are doing jobs that don’t really need doing (or are in fact completely undesirable for anybody to be doing full stop) and yet again nobody saw fit to mention that paying them JSA instead of £40,000 p.a. would be a hell of a lot cheaper anyway and most importantly nobody saw fit to mention that if they were not doing non-jobs at the other 80% of the populations expense they would be more likely to find work doing actual useful jobs, making products or providing services that other people were willing to pay for. And this from a programme that supposedly ‘well-informed’ people watch. Sheesh.
I feel completely despondent.