Since I have been alive, I’ve felt that my time on this Earth has been dominated by one disaster to another. I’m not a morbid person, far from it. But I do feel as if my years have been somewhat mired by various financial crashes. We hear the term “once in a generation” get bandied about a lot these days. By my count, I think I’m on my third “once in a generation” financial crash at the ripe old age of 25.
Just this morning, I checked Sky News to do some fact-checking for this column and noticed they now have a live-blog for the Cost of Living Crisis. A LIVE BLOG.
Two weeks ago, the pound plummeted, the value of government bonds crashed, and the Bank of England intervened with an emergency plan to stabilise financial markets. I don’t know what a lot of these actually mean in principle, but as a friend who knows a lot more about economics than I ever will aptly put it, things are “pretty f—ed.”
This latest round of chaos can be traced back to our newly sacked Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, who announced his “mini-budget” on September 23. A bit like when a boy band gets back together and puts out an album literally nobody asked for, this new budget just feels like the latest punch in a long round of getting battered by consecutive Conservative governments.
The hits of this latest record include widespread tax cuts, fewer rules and regulations for corporations and the removal of a cap on bonuses for bankers. I’m old enough to remember why we had the financial crash before this one, and I do have a vague memory that it might almost be entirely those very bankers’ fault. But who’s counting!
I don’t think there has been a single year in my short life that I haven’t felt like I was getting screwed over by someone, somewhere, when it came to simply trying to live my life. Housing? In crisis. Health service? Absolutely crippled. Childcare costs? Astronomical.
Let’s look at housing. After the mini-budget mortgage rates are rising quickly, with the latest figures showing the average two-year fixed rate is now close to 6%. At the moment, an average two-year fixed deal is at 5.97%—up from 4.74% on the day of Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget.
According to those in the know, all of this will cause a sharp rise in people going to arrears and eventually having their homes repossessed.
There are many things in this world that I find hard to stomach, but someone losing their home because a banker or a politician in a London office decided to play havoc with the pound because someone at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) told them to on behalf of a billionaire somewhere else makes me want to take to the streets.
Oh: and if, somehow, things do eventually get better, we have the added extra problem that the planet is dying!
By all accounts, I am not ready to have kids yet. But the thought of bringing new life into this world whilst the planet slowly burns does fill me with existential dread. I have little to no faith that any of our current politicians are working to keep warming to 1.5 degrees, as decreed by the United Nations. Particularly because our Prime Minister, Liz Truss, has just waived through a tonne of fracking licenses that will hugely contribute to the UKs carbon footprint and is sending climate protestors to jail.
Over drinks with colleagues recently, we joked about what we consider to be our secret “right wing opinion.” I laid out my theory that there is no point paying into a pension pot anymore, as it’s likely we’ll work until death; nobody will own a house, and if you do, you’ll be selling it to pay for your social care. Then, somehow, if you do make it to the ripe old age of 68 without more “once in a generation” financial crashes, the climate might be completely inhabitable anyway. So why not scrap pension plans for the under 25’s, say, and allow them to have back that vital money from their paycheque and accept our fate as a doomed generation?
Sadly, quite a few people agreed with me. It’s a silly idea, but it does tap into a wider issue of the young persons’ psyche. Which is simply—what is the point?
So where does all this leave us? I am an out and proud socialist, so for me the obvious answer is enacting structural change that involves redistributing wealth and the means of production into the hands of the many, not the few (throwback!).
But what I think the Conservatives have seriously got wrong here is that they’re actually just messing with their own core voter base at this point.
If you’re a middle-aged person living in middle England and your house is on a mortgage up for renewal this year, your car is leased, and you own a small business, it’s likely that this budget is not going to go in your favour. Now, I am by no means a polling expert, but a lot of the people I have described above tend to vote Tory. What Liz Truss and her band of IEA nutters have done is basically upset everyone except for a few billionaires.
The thing is that lots of other Tories know this, that’s why it’s all falling apart for them, too.
“It’s all there in Britannia Unchained, co-authored by Liz Truss and Kwarteng: the pound can collapse, borrowing and mortgages can soar, pensioners can freeze, kids can go hungry, as long as the economy is ripe for venture capitalists freed from regulation and, ideally, tax,” tweeted former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
“But even venture capitalists know they don’t get rich on their own. Public investment – in education, infrastructure, skills, health – is vital to create growth. It’s time this government remembered that age-old truth: when the strong help the weak, it makes us all stronger.”
On the whole, I agree with him; also I’m not an economist, so you won’t catch me trying to critique his financial logic.
There is something that all of this misses, though. The problem with capitalism, on the whole, is that if you don’t have any capital to protect in the first place, you’re less and less likely to become a capitalist. There is nothing about Conservative governments anymore that makes it possible for anyone under the age of 30 to accumulate any real capital, and if you do, it’s definitely not a safe investment, even if you do somehow manage to game the system.
For my generation, it’s not politicians like Jeremy Corbyn that you need to worry about turning us all into socialists—it’s Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng.