Saturday, July 03, 2010

No Age of Austerity for the Rich

click on the title for the complete article............

Published on Friday, July 2, 2010 by The Guardian/UK

No Age of Austerity for the Rich

If austerity implies shared sacrifice to preserve a shared public sphere, America isn't really experiencing such an age

by Sasha Abramsky

We are, pundits frequently inform us, living through an "age of austerity". True, perhaps; but what that means, and what community responses it mandates, vary widely from country to country.

UK chancellor George Osborne's emergency budget was stark in the cuts that it laid out - and there's obviously a good case to be made that the notion of an impending debt crisis was largely used as a foil for an ideologically motivated attack on the public sector. But, to sell the cuts, the government couldn't resort to a simplistic "government-is-bad, welfare-is-awful" rhetoric. It wouldn't have worked with an electorate that still retains some affection for the redistributive, protective functions of government vis-à-vis the nation's poor; that still believes in a societal obligation to smooth out the roughest edges of a market system.

And so, in addition to cutting many public services by an eye-popping 25%, the budget also increased taxes. Most interestingly, it significantly raised the capital gains tax, a tax that falls largely on wealthier Brits.

For all its faults, Osborne's budget was one that made some attempt, both rhetorically and in reality, to share the pain. In that sense, the language of "austerity", with its deliberate historical linkage to the dreary, but socially cohesive, post-second world war years, wasn't entirely misguided. For in the aftermath of the second world war a shared sacrifice narrative developed that, in a powerful way, served as something of a societal glue, a cross-class bonding mechanism, keeping a devastated, in some ways humbled, country from fissuring as its imperial greatness waned; paving the way, eventually, for a return to prosperity in the 1950s.

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