How is the age of austerity treating you? There’s plenty more pain to come, as George Osborne frequently reminds us, but it’s in his interest to do so. To give the coalition its greatest chance of survival, cuts must be oversold in order to appear under-delivered. Doom mongering carries no lasting effect as long as the actual pain is less than expected.
Like a Tory Hans Gruber, Osborne will keep cutting until he finds something you do care about. But the aim is that when the time comes to close the local library on Wednesdays, you’ll be too preoccupied with the survival of your hospital’s cancer ward to care.
In the US, the headline cuts have already begun. A piece in the New York Times detailed a range of fiscal lacerations deep enough to make you wonder whether Obama has any kind of overarching strategy at all. Clayton County, a suburb of Atlanta, shut down its entire public bus system, stranding 8,400 daily commuters. In Colorado Springs, the authorities switched off “a third of its 24,512 streetlights to save money on electricity, while trimming its police force and auctioning off its police helicopters.”
Glenn Greenwald from salon.com notes that across rural America, paved roads are being torn up and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces “as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue", while the state of Utah is “seriously considering eliminating the 12th grade”.
For Greenwald, the end is nigh:
“Does anyone doubt that once a society ceases to be able to afford schools, public transit, paved roads, libraries and street lights—or once it chooses not to be able to afford those things in pursuit of imperial priorities and the maintenance of a vast Surveillance and National Security State—that a very serious problem has arisen, that things have gone seriously awry, that imperial collapse, by definition, is an imminent inevitability?”
A recent Ipsos Mori poll found that 55 per cent of respondents had never heard of Cameron’s Big Society. They’ll find out soon enough.