The anger over the unilateral implementation of modern day conservative ideology as a war against everyone who is not a “have-more” is wide-spread. Today, parts of London were brought to a standstill as over a half of a million teachers, nurses, students, NHS council staff and other public sector workers as well as community members took to the streets to protest their government’s spending cuts in what is being called the biggest union organized march in the last twenty years in London.
“TUC’s March for the Alternative” protesters spanned as far as the eye could see and were comprised of socially diverse marchers, including non-labor movement groups, pensioners, lawyers and families. It took over 800 buses and dozens of trains to transport them all to the capital, where thousands of police were dispatched to keep order. Breakaway protesters, including the group UK Uncut, were planning to occupy an area in Oxford Circus.
The organizers of the protest, TUC, say that their goal is for their government, led by David Cameron, to reconsider their current approach of spending cuts with no tax increases, an approach that has already led to massive unemployment with at least 50,000 more jobs slated to be cut and 170,000 public sector jobs at risk while corporations are not paying a fair share of the taxes.
The marchers got started fifteen minutes earlier than expected and were led by labor movement as well as people in wheelchairs, blowing whistles and calling for a general strike as they marched through central London from the Embankment to Hyde Park. Most of the protesters were peaceful, with the majority gathering in Hyde Park to listen to speeches.
Telegraph UK reported:
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, says the turnout for the march is “absolutely enormous”. He says: “We always expected an enormous turnout because Unison alone has laid on 500 coaches and a number of special trains but the numbers are simply incredible.
“These are ordinary families and working people, many with their children to send a strong message to David Cameron to halt the damaging cuts which are leading to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs and the closure of services including libraries and care homes.”
Labour leader Ed Miliband has been speaking to the thousands in Hyde Park, claiming the Government wanted to take Britain back to the 1980s. He said: “We know what the government will say: that this is a march of the minority. They are so wrong…We speak today for the mainstream of Britain because we are the mainstream of Britain.”
The protesters wonder why the most vulnerable are being targeted by the cuts the government claims are mandated by their program of rapid deficit reduction, with services for domestic violence victims, the disabled, HIV treatments, the elderly, and youth services being cut. Many protesters questioned why there is always money for war but no money for libraries, education, health, and other important community services.
Many of the services being cut will be felt hardest in communities some distance from Westminster, where the government can largely ignore the results of their decisions. In one poignant example of cuts being made to the public sector, Amelia Gentleman of the Guardian UK reported that when these cuts take effect next week, “…600 children with severe learning disabilities, many of them unable to speak, will no longer benefit from music therapy when the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust loses its budget. These children have learned to express themselves with the help of percussion instruments, pianos and guitars; the decision will have a “major impact on this already vulnerable and disadvantaged group of people,” the charity’s director says.”
But next week will just be the first wave of these cuts, the full impact of which won’t be felt for years to come as jobs and education are cut while police services are weakened. People will have to “fend for themselves.”
Among the breakaway protesters were groups, labeled “anarchists” by the Telegraph Daily UK, which painted “thieves” on HSBC bank at Cambridge Circus, smashed windows, and chanted outside of McDonalds. One group, wearing all black and carrying red and black banners, also staged a sit-down protest outside of a bank, where they chanted ‘BHS pay your tax’.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: According to the Mirror, Mr. Cameron ran on pledges that he would not cut NHS services and yet:
…The highly-respected Institute for Fiscal Studies showed yesterday rising inflation means NHS funding will fall 0.9% over the next four years, equivalent to a cut of £900million…. Before the election, Mr Cameron said: “Let me say very clearly to pensioners, if you have a Conservative Government your winter fuel allowance, your bus pass, your Pension Credit, your free TV licence, all these things are safe.”
However, the benefit will be reduced from £250 to £200 for the over-60s and £400 to £300 for those over 80 in a move buried in the Budget small print….. The Government tried to blame Labour…”
The objections of the London protesters to their conservative government’s “deficit reduction program” closely mimic the outcry we’ve heard here in states being led by newly elected Republican governors. While deficits are a problem, most economists do not recommend addressing deficits while in the middle of a recession. If we look back through history, we see that government spending saved our own economy during the great depression and again during this latest recession. However, the largest fallacy of the conservative argument is that deficit reduction will lead to a balanced budget while they roundly ignore the other side of the equation; revenue generation.
I have yet to meet an honest conservative accountant who would not stress revenue as a crucial part of any balanced budget. And so the question really becomes why are conservatives so averse to doing the one thing they know will help the economy? If conservatives were serious about deficit reduction, they would raise revenue by taxing corporations while making careful budgetary cuts.
The worldview of the modern day conservative is that everyone should fend for themselves, except for corporations and the uber wealthy, who are entitled to tax breaks and bailouts. This is not an honest ideology; and therefore, the debate is not about conservative financial approaches versus liberal. If we allow ourselves to have a debate over the deficit or over public sector employees “deserving” their pay, we are being manipulated.
The only question to ask a conservative is why they have abandoned the fiscal reality that one cannot balance a budget without revenue. In the UK as well as in America, the budgets are being used as an excuse to cut funding to programs that conservatives are ideologically opposed to. Conservatives are morally opposed to the government helping the most vulnerable in our society, and their goal is for everyone (except corporations) to fend for himself or herself.
You will notice that this ideology is perpetrated by the wealthy and privileged, but parroted often by the very people who are hit the hardest by it because it is sold in disingenuous ways such as blaming labor for the budget woes, thereby pitting the working class against one another; an effective war strategy of divide and conquer. Conservative ideology is inherently an ideology sans compassion, which can ironically appeal to the down and out looking for an easy scapegoat for their economic misery. They will buy into the blame game as sold by conservative leaders and their media cohorts: It’s labors’ fault; also heard as: The (greedy) unions. The (privileged) teachers. The (lazy) disabled. The (minority) children. The (trashy) unwed mothers. The (thuggish) teamsters.
Notice how the implied adjectives used by conservatives regarding all of these groups suggest that they are not worthy of our compassion because they are inherently flawed? Conservatives tell us that is all of those “entitled” people who are ruining the economy, not the banks and huge corporations whom these same economically hit people are told to worship as if they were Jesus himself. But the reality is that to debate the “worth” of any of these segments of the population is a distraction from the real issue.
While we may agree that some budget cuts are necessary, and we may share what we think is a fiscally conservative viewpoint – that is, share a value of living within our means and paying our bills – to label that as conservative is a misnomer. Conservatives only want the people to fend for themselves, while their ideology as implemented by the current swath of leaders is one of corporate welfare, an utter lack of compassion for the vulnerable, and is ultimately disingenuous in its pretense at being fiscally sound.
Again, if conservatives want to balance the budget, they need to raise revenue from the sources that can generate the most revenue – the wealthy and the corporations. They are not doing that, and therefore their concern is not the budget or the deficit. If you do not vote, or you vote for a Republican, do not be surprised when you are forced to pay for the Koch brothers jet while you feed your children Spam. This “debate” is not about the “worthiness” of union members or the “entitlements” of the vulnerable.
This debate is about why conservatives refuse to generate revenue while cloaking themselves in the mantle of fiscal responsibility. And the question is, what kind of world do we value? Do we value a world where our children can get a good public education, where our seniors are safe from economic threat, where art matters, where hard working people can earn a fair living without working three jobs, where we show our fellow citizens compassion or do we want Bank of America CEO’s to get a bigger bonus. The conservatives will moan that I am couching this as class warfare against the rich, to which I’d like to preemptively respond that conservatives made this a class war all by themselves, between the have-mores and the rest of the world. It’s time they stopped blaming all of us for their fiscal failures.
I guess they didn’t think we’d catch on.