After the riots in London and other cities in Great Britain last week, the true cause for the extent of the violence and mayhem must still be determined, though many community leaders in the affected areas are citing social and economic inequities as the chief cause of its almost viral spread. Yet the United States is on the verge of enacting similar strict austerity measures which, if the Republican Party has its way, will dwarf similar measures undertaken by other countries such as Great Britain and France, and may lead to the same frustration here that many in England have experienced.
In Great Britain, austerity measures came primarily in the form of spending cuts in programs which are critical to the lives of its everyday citizens. In the end spending cuts will ultimately result in the dissolution of half a million or more jobs, which will in turn put further strain on job availability in the private sector. Taxes were raised somewhat, though many in Britain were dismayed that the wealthy were not asked to proportionately shoulder more of burden.
Correspondingly, in the United States in 2011 alone, hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs have been lost and billions of dollars have been cut in vital social programs in GOP-controlled states, while at the same time wealthy individuals and corporations have seen some of the most advantageous tax cuts in decades. In addition, if the GOP’s federal level austerity plans come to fruition, there will be hundreds of thousands and perhaps even a million or more public sector jobs lost while billions of dollars more in tax breaks will go to the wealthy and corporations.
With such job losses in the public sector and a slow job recovery in the private sector unable to absorb the public sector losses for the foreseeable future, unemployment will remain high for years to come. Also, if the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy are sustained, funds will not be available to finance government-sponsored initiatives to spur job growth.
The Gross Domestic Product simply will not grow sufficiently without significant job growth. Sorry to the many deficit hawks who think spending cuts alone will lower the deficit, but without growth in the GDP and by default job growth, the country will never make significant progress in deficit reduction or debt reduction no matter how much spending is cut from the budget. Spending during an economic downturn or recession is required to help increase job growth, and the only sector of the economy which spends at such times is the government; that is just a basic fact which has been well illustrated most recently over the past three years.
Time and time again, the poor, working, and middle class have been asked to give and sacrifice in order to help our nation through its difficult times while wealthy individuals and corporations, who are largely responsible for those same difficult times, have not had to lift a finger; instead they continue to enjoy record-level profits and record-high salaries and bonuses, all at the expense of the vast majority of Americans. Add to this the fact that the ultra-wealthy own more of the nation’s total wealth than ever before and such blatant inequities create a feeling of despair to which many may react negatively, perhaps even violently, paralleling the possible cause of the rioting in Great Britain.
Most people have an amazing capacity to sacrifice in order to help society achieve a positive goal. We have seen this time and time again throughout history, and indeed it is one of the great qualities of humanity. However, if people see that their sacrifice is in vain and even used to further the ends of a select few beneficiaries, they tend to harbor ever-growing frustration and resentment which can then boil over into violent action.
The purpose in writing this piece is not to condone such acts, for such violence of any kind should be met with justice. Rather, the intended purpose is to state that which could be easily avoided, if only this nation would return to being, as President Lincoln stated in the Gettysburg Address, “of the people, by the people, for the people.” If needed, government should be there to help the everyday person in his or her pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, protecting him or her from the rich and powerful. Unfortunately, until the people’s freedom of speech and voice carries an equal weight as that of the wealthy and the corporations in this country, government will remain incapable of doing so.
–Raymond Gellner, National Liberal Examiner, joltleft.com | Twitter: @regellner