Good news for the poor

Protests against cuts are nothing new. One of the problems with improving services to the public is that what is given cannot easily be taken away: the new, improved situation quickly becomes the norm. More than that – it becomes essential.

When I was growing up, back in the 50s and 60s, the local council provided only basic services: it didn’t have a website, for a start, and there were no “eco issues”. People weren’t paid all that much, and raw materials were relatively cheap too. There were far fewer time-consuming legal requirements.

It could be argued that almost everything that has changed has been for the better. That’s not a position I would take, but it’s still quite hard for me to identify cuts I would want to make in 2011. I don’t like to see people losing their jobs, even if I think the jobs are a waste of space.

But you won’t find me waving banners either – largely because I suspect that the same people protesting loudly at cuts would shout equally loudly if council tax were raised to maintain services.

I sympathise with councillors to some extent, because they have an impossible job, and they are paid only expenses. I don’t sympathise much with council officials whose salaries run into six figures.

But I can’t see how it benefits anyone to take up an attitude of hate towards any one political party. As far as I can see, politicians of all colours make disastrous mistakes, but none of them does it deliberately. Few of them, unfortunately, tell the truth, but maybe that is the cost of democracy and a fickle, selfish electorate. I hope it isn’t, but I suspect it is.

I can see that a policy of cutting debt makes sense, but strangling the economy by putting people out of work doesn’t. Making poor people poorer doesn’t help anyone. If Jesus came to preach good news to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to deliver those who are crushed, we can hardly justify trampling the poor and destroying people’s lives.

The national debt is admittedly the highest it’s been since the early 70s, but in the 50s and 60s, it was much higher. Of course, the world is a more volatile place nowadays – a place where it might be dangerous to expose yourself.

It seems to me that the only sensible course is to raise income tax in an attempt to reduce national debt in a way that harms fewest people. I don’t expect this to be a popular idea. In fact, I expect it to be ignored.

So what would make a real difference? We could start by deciding not to hate each other, even if our politics are contradictory. A society based on love and co-operation is not one that is going to come to grief. It would be good news, not just for the poor, but for everyone.