The false economy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts

We heard the shriek of ‘Noooooooooo!’ in the North East. The Government’s ideological decision to renege on support for Forgemasters in Sheffield triggered anger but also bewilderment among people I know in Yorkshire.

By Neil Foster, policy and campaigns officer, Northern TUC

We heard the shriek of ‘Noooooooooo!’ in the North East. The Government’s ideological decision to renege on support for Forgemasters in Sheffield triggered anger but also bewilderment among people I know in Yorkshire. Cancelling this loan was a ‘false economy’ since the investment would have brought economic benefits across an extensive supply chain, linked with universities and secured many new jobs.

Since then we’ve seen many more examples of ‘false economy’ primarily through the decision to savagely cut public spending. As the welfare bill expands to pay for an estimated 1.3 million job losses, the declining spending power of those who are made unemployed will hamper business growth and curtail the tax receipts needed to narrow the deficit.

Each region has its own painful tale to tell and the TUC’s Cutswatch chronicles the fallout to jobs and services.

Among the list a pattern is emerging. Many of the cuts are short sighted and have scant regard for the social and economic consequences. Yet we still rarely hear of the ‘false economy’ of these measures in the media, pubs or workplaces. As Gary Younge explained in The Guardian yesterday, this is because the Left is currently losing the key language wars.

Formidable economist David Blanchflower and Paul Krugman have outlined a clear and credible alternative economic agenda. Despite the cogency of their arguments, they can appear ‘counter-intuitive’ to many members of the public. Having the correct arguments is of little use if few are listening.

In contrast and in a manner reminiscent of Thatcher, the Government routinely compares household budgets with that of public spending. It may be wrong, but it’s understandable and in danger of taking root. Medhi Hasan astutely pointed out to my TUC colleagues recently of the need to sit down and reframe the whole debate on cuts. I think he’s right.

So what language should we be deploying? Let’s talk more about how the Government risks ‘taking wages from the economy’, is ‘undermining growth’, ‘only making matters worse’ and appears ‘soft on the banks but hard on the poor’. Our alternative economic agenda should be characterised around the need for ‘job creation not job destruction’, ‘to invest in growth’ and ‘to work our way out of recession’.

Sunny Hundal argues ‘if we want to turn public opinion against the Coalition’s cuts then we have to start with a proposition they won’t be immediately sceptical of’. Describing all cuts as ‘an attack on public services’ may be accurate, but it will be insufficient to win mainstream public opinion to our position.

There is however much to be said for characterising most Government’s spending cuts as a ‘false economy’. This acknowledges that what may initially appear superficially plausible does in fact hide the true social and economic cost which we’ll be paying. It allows us to adopt a tone of pragmatism and experience, while our criticisms can be readily supported by evidence.

Starting today we should also begin to reframe debate online and proactively encourage tweeters to adopt the #falseeconomy hashtag alongside tweets relating to cuts in jobs and services. By widely adopting this hashtag we will take one step forward in redefining this debate. From now on all our arguments and language must go with the grain of public thinking to maximise support. We simply cannot risk doing otherwise.

38 Responses to “The false economy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts”

  1. Caitlin Fitzmaurice

    RT @leftfootfwd: The false economy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts: //bit.ly/d3dtsN #falseeconomy

  2. Aisha Gani

    RT @leftfootfwd: The false economy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts: //bit.ly/d3dtsN #falseeconomy

  3. MICHAEL SPARLING

    RT @leftfootfwd: The false economy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts: //bit.ly/d3dtsN #falseeconomy

  4. neilrfoster

    RT @leftfootfwd: The #falseeconomy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts //bit.ly/d3dtsN

  5. neilrfoster

    RT @leftfootfwd: The #falseeconomy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts //bit.ly/d3dtsN

  6. NewLeftProject

    RT @leftfootfwd: The false economy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts: //bit.ly/d3dtsN #falseeconomy

  7. Other TaxPayers Alli

    Very good article by @neilrfoster at @leftfootfwd: The #falseeconomy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts //bit.ly/d3dtsN

  8. Jane Watkinson

    RT @leftfootfwd: The false economy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts //bit.ly/d3dtsN #falseeconomy

  9. Tom Miller

    RT @OtherTPA: Very good article by @neilrfoster at @leftfootfwd: The #falseeconomy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts //bit.ly/d3dtsN

  10. Tom Miller

    RT @OtherTPA: Very good article by @neilrfoster at @leftfootfwd: The #falseeconomy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts //bit.ly/d3dtsN

  11. gemma tumelty

    RT @OtherTPA: Very good article by @neilrfoster at @leftfootfwd: The #falseeconomy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts //bit.ly/d3dtsN

  12. gemma tumelty

    RT @OtherTPA: Very good article by @neilrfoster at @leftfootfwd: The #falseeconomy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts //bit.ly/d3dtsN

  13. 2me2you

    RT @JaneWatkinson: RT @leftfootfwd: The false economy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts //bit.ly/d3dtsN #falseeconomy

  14. Anne

    RT @OtherTPA: Very good article by @neilrfoster at @leftfootfwd: The #falseeconomy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts //bit.ly/d3dtsN

  15. DrKMJ

    The false economy of the Coalitions short sighted cuts: //bit.ly/d3dtsN #falseeconomy via @leftfootfwd

  16. Kevin Arscott

    RT @leftfootfwd: The false economy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts: //bit.ly/d3dtsN #falseeconomy

  17. Sarah Louise

    RT @uponnothing: RT @leftfootfwd: The false economy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts: //bit.ly/d3dtsN #falseeconomy

  18. winston k moss

    RT @leftfootfwd: The false economy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts: //bit.ly/d3dtsN #falseeconomy

  19. Simon Ashall

    Typical of left not to admit they were wrong – the only 'false economy' is the one built on debt that they bequeathed //bit.ly/d3dtsN”

  20. ani brooker

    RT @leftfootfwd: The false economy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts: //bit.ly/d3dtsN #falseeconomy

  21. Anne Long

    The false economy of the Coalition's short sighted cuts | Left … //bit.ly/d3klyC

  22. Carol Gratz

    The false economy of the Coalition's short sighted cuts | Left …: We heard the shriek of 'Noooooooooo!' in the N… //bit.ly/9stRWu

  23. James Emery

    The false economy of the Coalition's short sighted cuts | Left …: We heard the shriek of 'Noooooooooo!' in the N… //bit.ly/9stRWu

  24. 0-i biz

    The false economy of the Coalition's short sighted cuts | Left … //bit.ly/cPvQ07

  25. Katie

    The false economy of the Coalition's short sighted cuts | Left … //bit.ly/91Avl5

  26. For Free

    The false economy of the Coalition's short sighted cuts | Left … //bit.ly/cPvQ07

  27. Matthew McGregor

    RT @leftfootfwd: The false economy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts //bit.ly/d3dtsN #falseeconomy

  28. Mike

    see Ireland has been demoted for making large cuts

    Ireland no jobs no future

  29. Rachel Hardy

    RT @JaneWatkinson: RT @leftfootfwd: The false economy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts //bit.ly/d3dtsN #falseeconomy

  30. Mark M

    But you’re only looking at one side of the argument. The alternative to cuts is, of course, no cuts. In that case, we run a serious risk of interest rate rises and, more damaging, a credit downgrade. These will also have an impact on business growth.

    Now, the argument about which course of action is most damaging is actually still there to win, but unless those arguing against the cuts are willing to acknowledge that there are risks in their plans then no-one will listen.

    Listen to the language the government uses – “yes there will be job losses, but things would be far worse if we did nothing”. That’s their stance. It acknowledges that what they are doing is not a good thing but argues that to not cut spending would be even worse. On the other hand, the ‘no cuts’ stance says “you must keep spending or else the economy will shrink”. There’s no acceptance that there’s even the slightest risk involved.

    Everyone knows that there’s no easy path to reducing the deficit. If the left continues to argue that spending carries no risk at all then they will continue to lose the argument.

  31. Anon E Mouse

    Mike – Remember we’re all in this together.

    It is quite clear from this article that Labour supporting bloggers have learned absolutely nothing from May 6th – the lowest Labour turnout since 1983.

    Why can’t the writers of these articles actually listen to the leadership candidates before posting this type of nonsense – articles like this will keep Labour in opposition for a long time to come…

  32. Stephen W

    I was thinking this was a very good, well thought out article until I got right to the end and saw this:

    “Starting today we should also begin to reframe debate online and proactively encourage tweeters to adopt the #falseeconomy hashtag alongside tweets relating to cuts in jobs and services. By widely adopting this hashtag we will take one step forward in redefining this debate.”

    What is onlinw lwft-wingers obsession with twitter? Twitter is a totally useless medium. It’s a tiny selective subset of people shrieking at each other. You’ve got to have a better plan than this, please.

  33. Mickey h

    I think this is actually a very well made argument. The Conservative cuts are driven by ideology as much as necessity, just look at their privatisation of the NHS, which will actually cost money. Its a classic shock doctrine of steaming through an ideological agenda in times of flux. To be a proper opposition, this must be opposed with reputable ideas, as from Krugman and Blanchflower, as the article mentions, and a refocus on how this recession was caused. The inequality in the fall out from the bankers recession and the budget is shocking as it is foolish and will weaken the economy by hoarding money amongst the few at the top, who then do little with it, other than squirrel it away. i think this article gets it spot on, its as if there has been a collective amnesia as to how we got here.

  34. Northern TUC

    This article from our office's Neil Foster in July //tinyurl.com/3yd7zer led to this campaign //www.falseeconomy.org.uk. #cannychuffed

  35. Tony Dowling

    RT @northerntuc: This article from our office's Neil Foster in July //tinyurl.com/3yd7zer led to this campaign //www.falseeconomy.org

  36. False Economy

    It did! RT @northerntuc This article by our office's Neil Foster //tinyurl.com/3yd7zer led to //www.falseeconomy.org.uk #cannychuffed

  37. neilrfoster

    RT @FalseEcon: It did! RT @northerntuc This article by our office's Neil Foster //tinyurl.com/3yd7zer led to //www.falseeconomy.org.u

  38. neilrfoster

    @johannhari101 Excellent column today. Started thinking about some of this last year. //tinyurl.com/3yd7zer We need to do more.

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