Monday, May 23, 2011

Trickle Up Economics and the Perversity of Cuts to Public Health Care

It's common knowledge that throughout Canada, the UK, and the US continued economic growth has not translated in increased living standards for the masses. For example, in the US the economy has doubled in size over the last 30 years, but the median wage has remained stagnant when adjusted for inflation.

In fact, the lion's share of the gains caused by economic growth accrue to the top 1% of revenue earners. As a result, pursuing continued growth within the present economic conditions only serves to exacerbate rising inequality, which in turn only exacerbates a degradation of the public's health, which in turn increases expenditures on public health care.

What I truly find perverse in the political rhetoric prevalent in both the UK and the US is the fixation on making cuts to public health care as a means to addressing the fiscal woes caused by the collapse of the financial markets, which both countries came to rely on for generated economic growth, and the subsequent global recession that ensued.

The securities markets have recovered thanks to the trillion dollar bailouts supplied by the public purse. However, the real economy peopled by wage earners has not. The timing of austerity measures could not be worse for those in need and yet cutting back on public expenditures to those in need seems to have gained the status of received wisdom.

What doesn't make its way onto the political agenda is a realignment of fiscal policy to reflect our present fiscal reality. In short, financiers, the corporate sector, and the political class (see the documentary film, The Inside Job) perpetrated the largest Ponzi scheme in history upon unsuspecting public and now behave as if nothing extraordinary happened.

Where's the payback?

There won't be one because of the colossal failure of collective memory and the capacity of the traditional media to frame the current state of affairs so that the only option is to cut public expenditures aimed to help those who are the victims of a financial fraud that defies the imagination.

Faced with an unmanageable debt load, the governments in place could raise taxes on those who could afford to pay and to the corporations that don't pay them, but that would reduce financial contributions much needed to wage successful electoral campaigns, so the institutional lock is on and the population has no way out but to see a significant reduction in living standards for the bottom 90%.

At the same time, a growing body of evidence demonstrates that inequality of income correlates to a host of societal ills that require public funds if they are to be addressed. However, it appears that faced with the choice of reducing the wealth of the very well off in order to address the societal problems that inequality brings about, keeping in mind that the reduction of inequality itself can have a beneficial effect, and doing nothing other than leaving more and more people to fend for themselves in underperforming sectors of the economy, there is considerable will for the latter.

Consequently, politicians will continue to portray themselves as managers of THE economy bolstered by economic data selectively aggregated that supports the ruse when in reality the economic trajectory of the haves and the have nots will only to continue to widen.

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