Professor Simon Wren-Lewis is a terrific source of wisdom when it comes to macroeconomics, but sometimes it seems he loses track of why we mess around with money.
His latest Mainly Macro blog article begins with a claim that it is odd to criticise the policy of fiscal austerity, and at the same time complain that the government has failed to meet its own 2010 fiscal target. “It would be more logical to praise the government for abandoning its 2010 target,” he writes. “But politicians cannot resist criticising a missed target.”
What about the human cost, Professor?
People with mental illnesses have been forced off Employment and Support Allowance and onto Jobseekers’ Allowance, then sanctioned off of that benefit to meet government-imposed targets. We know of one such person who froze to death in the street – and the government still missed its 2010 fiscal target.
Another person – also with mental health problems – committed suicide after being sanctioned and was found, hanged, at the top of his stairs – and the government still missed its 2010 fiscal target.
What about the grandmother who committed suicide by walking in front of a lorry on the motorway, because she couldn’t afford the cost of living after the Bedroom Tax had been introduced? We later discovered that the charge had been wrongly imposed on her. The government had kept the money but still missed its 2010 fiscal target!
Here’s a list including 70 other people whose deaths were related to government cutbacks – the vast majority of which took place during the current Parliament. They died for the government to reach its fiscal target – and it didn’t.
Perhaps Professor Wren-Lewis has made a good point by accident.
He is right to suggest that politicians are wrong to criticise the government for failing to meet its fiscal target – but only because they are doing so for the wrong reasons.
Maybe we should remind our MPs that, every time they attack the Coalition Government’s fiscal failures, they need to mention the many deaths that have been caused – deaths which Conservative ministers at the Treasury and the Department for Work and Pensions seem to regard as collateral damage or an occupational hazard.
Perhaps we should invite Professor Wren-Lewis to ensure he mentions these deaths in his own communications with the government – if and when he ever does so.
Please also share this with any politicians you believe would benefit from the information.
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