This is a must-read article in the New York Times. Check it out!
How Austerity Kills – NYTimes.com.
The authors, two academics, David Stuckler (Oxford) and Sanjay Basu (Stanford) provide evidence linking increasing suicides and austerity. Here is an extract from their article to give you a flavor:
If suicides were an unavoidable consequence of economic downturns, this would just be another story about the human toll of the Great Recession. But it isn’t so. Countries that slashed health and social protection budgets, like Greece, Italy and Spain, have seen starkly worse health outcomes than nations like Germany, Iceland and Sweden, which maintained their social safety nets and opted for stimulus over austerity. (Germany preaches the virtues of austerity — for others.)
Personally, I am hopeful that Germany will discretely soften her stance after the September election. The alternative of continued “austerity” is unthinkable.
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We would expect the poorest nations to show the highest levels of austerity linked suicides et al and that is, indeed, what is happening.
The problem now is threefold: a global situation over which we have little or no control, the euro which allowed member states to join even when the accounts presented were known to be, bluntly, fictitious and national/personal debt spiraling out of control. Now we are faced with a situation in which people are going to suffer. We know from bitter experience that the ones who suffer the most are the poorest and there is little or nothing that can be done to avoid that. Yes, the present situation is awful and it would be wonderful if there were a few magic wands that could be waved. Yes, the government could be doing more to enable private enterprise to produce more wealth for the UK but there is no point in the government funding wealth creation out of further borrowing as that would make one of the three problems worse. We have to live through this somehow by which I mean live through a period in which we balance the nation’s books and people at a personal level balance theirs.
Now, however, is the time when we time when we should be getting enterprise UK on its feet and planning a system of taxation which is fair, almost impossible to cheat and, very important this, narrows the gap in the living standards of the poor and the wealthy. Even then there will be some who will be unable to manage for themselves and that is so very sad but hard cases DO make for bad law and no matter what we do we cannot ensure that nobody at all falls to the floor.
I would like to dwell on some of your statements:
“Yes, the government could be doing more to enable private enterprise to produce more wealth for the UK but there is no point in the government funding wealth creation out of further borrowing as that would make one of the three problems worse.”
I agree that the government should do more to “enable private enterprise to produce more wealth for the UK” but disagree with the statement “there is no point in the government funding wealth creation out of further borrowing as that would make one of the three problems worse.” I strongly believe that the Government SHOULD be investing in major capital programs, like infrastructure, which have been carefully costed and risk assessed. The cost of borrowing is historically low and programs with a well-proven NPV (net present value) will create economic wealth for the nation.
Also I am all for fairer taxation and less opportunity for evasion but the same is true for “benefits fraud”.
The problem that the UK and much of Southern Europe faces is what to do with the increasing millions of unemployed people. I fear that unless this is addressed urgently, we shall see increasing civil unrest and political extremism.
What would you recommend to address unemployment?
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Having no money is obviously depressing but it is more depressing if you are lonely and if you cannot see any end in sight for your own condition.
In recessions and times of austerity, divorce and cohabitee breakup increases and more people choose to remain single and alone, often far away from their families. As this happens people get depressed as evidenced by the fact that in the UK 40% of the population are permanently depressed and constantly ingesting serontonin uptake drugs like Prozac and Seroxat.
Money or in this case the lack of it is just one cause of depression, others are poor diet, lack of friends (they often disappear when there is no money) and lack of normal human relations (most of us are not best suited to the lives of Trappist monks which is why monks take vows of poverty and chastity and pray a lot).
Eating sugary foods, ingesting soft drinks, drinking too much cheap beer from supermarkets, not maintaining a disciplined routine and lack of a strong and sustaining personal philosophy will also allow you to get depressed and remain in that state.
Some religions, including my own, forbid suicide and so in those communities there is less of it than there is in other parts of the population.
A proportion of these depressed people will if austere conditions go on for too long will, unless they develop mental toughness and stoicism become clinically depressed and then commit suicide in greater numbers than would be the case if there was no austerity, so in that sense Krugman is right.
Beyond that politicians have to take a lead and explain the game plan for getting out of the austere conditions, how long the process will take and by their every word and deed convey the impression through intelligently devised programs that they WANT to ameliorate the conditions of those austerity victims who are most at risk.
At present the politicians have no clear strategy, are not offering hope and are spending money whilst they claim there isn’t any on unnecessary wars, overseas aid and a whole host of other things. Whilst I am resigned to the fact that they are doing this and understand the deliberate and wider agenda which is to kill off by stealth, the old (Liverpool Care Pathway), healthcare rationing, squeezed fixed incomes, energy taxes, the weak, the voiceless and anyone who might cost a healthcare system too much money, others such as those affected by austerity in America and Europe who rummage in dumpsters for food /attend Trussell Trust and Knights of Malta food-banks cannot cope.
In this country, there is an unofficial but very real policy of “sanctioning ” a proportion of benefit recipients (sanctioning means denying benefits and often stopping crisis loans) which then drives people to petty criminality, the use of food-banks or in extreme cases suicide.
My take on all this is that austerity has to be time limited and that export led growth and inward investment has to be aggressively promoted to bring in the money to create growth and jobs.
Secondly, the Government and other Governments need to promote enterprise so that people can create their own jobs and regain their self esteem.
Along with this, we need to be building system-built houses and using converted shipping containers to rehouse Housing Benefit recipients to put builders /blue collar workers to work, eliminate the housing shortage and reduce and eliminate the Housing Benefit bill.
Third, there must be a UK “Charity begins at home policy” with no more foreign aid, local authority wastefulness or massive rewards for failure on the part of civil servants, CEOs, quango-crats and the like—The words “We are all in this together” really must have some meaning.
Fourth, we must promote marriage and inculcate mental toughness in people so that when things are difficult they can sustain themselves.
Fifth, we need to move all long-term unemployed people out of their own areas and comfort zones into areas of the country where there is more work in a form of National Service run by the Army.Leaving them where they are just creates a breeding ground for criminality, drug taking, depression and gang culture and yes, in some cases, suicide. Each of these people needs to be mentored and trained and given spiritual help and guidance and a pathway to normal life devised with/for them by people who know what they are doing(not DwP staff who generally know next to nothing).