The myopia of fiscal austerity

When I was studying in the UK during the dark Thatcher years there was a rat plague in Manchester. The reason was traced to the public spending cuts that had led to the reduction in rat catchers/baiters who had worked on the canals that go through Manchester. Later that year (December 1982), there were widespread collapses in the Manchester underground sewers which caused effluent in the streets, traffic chaos and long-term street closures. Major inner city roads were closed for a good 6 months while repairs were rendered. The reason – cut backs in maintenance budgets. The repairs ended up costing much more than the on-going maintenance bills. That experience brought hometo me the myopia of austerity. While the austerity causes massive short-term damage, it is clear that it also generates a need for higher public outlays in the future as a response to repairing or attending to the short-run costs. The latest focus in Britain is on rising waiting lists in hospitals and increasing violence in prisons. All these examples of austerity compound and reverberate throughout society in countless little ways that accumulate to one huge mess. The Thatcher years were highly destructive for the well being of the British people contrary to the myths that the conservatives pump out. The current period will be of a similar ilk. And spare a thought for the long-term damage in places like Greece! It is beyond belief.

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