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Watch your language, Osborne.

August 17, 2010

‘We are engaged as a Government in a collective effort […] to create a simpler, fairer welfare system that, above all, gets people into work,’ said Osborne.

And if you don’t agree that cuts are the way to deliver a simpler, fairer welfare system then Osborne knows what to call you: deficit-denier.  A deficit denier isn’t someone who actually denies the deficit – that would be ignoring the facts in front of us.  Rather it is someone who disagrees that Osborne’s methods will give us fair and progressive cuts in public spending, or (even worse!) it is someone who’s found that cutting public spending is not the only way to save or make public money.

Yet Osborne chooses to call these people ‘deficit-deniers’ not ‘cuts-are-the-only-answer deniers’ nor ‘front-line-services-must-go deniers’. Instead it is the deficit that we deny, as though our economic stance was just plain stoooopid, informed by our liberal ideology rather than the reality of the deficit.  According to Osborne we betray an inability to see the world as it is and deal with as we must after all it is his way or ruin.

It is true that my liberal ideology balks at the ferocity of Tory cuts and fears for those who the cuts will hurt. But my reaction is not (just) ideological, in fact I find I share it with conservative reports and Conservative ministers. The IFS, the FT and Teresa May MP are all asking the same question as I ask: can we fix the defecit without increasing the gap between rich and poor, South and North, men and women. Will Osborne include them in his hit-list of ‘deficit-deniers’?

But I go further than these unfamiliar allies because I’m also also denying that sweeping cuts are the only way out of the deficit.  I am impressed by the Green Party’s work on alternatives to cuts, the need for sustainable investment that can generate jobs and business opportunities.  Afterall it was Keynes who said ‘look after unemployment and the budget will look after itself.’  I am also shocked by this government’s reliance on experts, like Sir Philip Green, and donors, like Lord Ashcroft, who prefer to avoid tax. Each year the public purse loses over £30 billion to tax evasion (deliberate or otherwise).  The funds from Osborne’s cuts and Cameron’s cut-down on benefit-fraud could be refunded if this government would only work out how to collect all taxes owed.

So yes I am guilty of being a cuts-are-progressive-and-necessary denier but I’m not sure that means that I’m rubbing my hands in glee at the thought of England’s economic ruin.  Like many under-30s I’m very worried about what this deficit means for my future.  I’m freaking out about growing old in a country stuck in debt.  But these threats should not allow our Chancellor to be tyrannical with language.

The holocaust was real and people who deny it deserve to be called deniers.  The defecit is real, few deny it and even those that do deserve to be called ‘crazies’ rather than being hit with the historical ramifications of being called a ‘denier’. Political tyranny is the denial of an alternative.  Osborne’s term ‘defecit-denier’ leaves no room for argument, disagreement or different solutions to our need to cut the defecit.  Instead he forces language to fit his political arguments rather than using arguments to persuade us of his policies.

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