Today the stock markets are tumbling, on a scale not seen since 2008. They might bounce back tomorrow or tumble further, we don’t claim to know.
What we do claim to know is that the rich and powerful would like the poor and vulnerable to pay for declining global wealth. In fact they’d like the vulnerable to pay as high a price as possible regardless of whether we’re in boomtime or depression.
In the current ‘economic crisis’ this paying by the poor is called ‘austerity’. The implication is that seeing that we’re ‘all in this together’, the poor should expect to suffer a little as times are tough for all of us.
Well, times clearly aren’t tough for all of us. Some of ‘us’ are Eton and Oxbridge educated, own vast tracts of land and enjoy the trappings of parliamentary expenses. Some of ‘us’ are CEOs of corporations which pay out huge salaries regardless of whether the business is in any way functioning – and pay bonuses when we successfully profit from getting others of ‘us’ (the poor) to work harder and pay more for the things which we need to survive.
For those of ‘us’ who aren’t, news that E.on are raising gas prices by 18.1% and electricity prices by 11.4% is pretty terrifying. Especially when at the same time there is a lack of opportunities in the labour market.
In recent months we’ve seen an incredible political awakening on a global scale. In North Africa and the Middle East this was very much driven by an immediate feeling of poverty brought on by changing economic situations. In the UK too we’ve seen protests around austerity, but so far the debate has only widened as far as government spending. As such rising fuel prices, which caused anti-government prices in societies with more direct government involvement in determining prices, haven’t been the source of protest in the UK, where a fuel protest seems the preserve of lorry drivers.
So far in the UK, fuel poverty has been something that is suffered in silence at home, not something which generates political movements. In general this is the case for all elements of the ‘cost of living’.
This is not because real fuel poverty does not exist in our society, it has something to do with how we see these things culturally.
Similarly real homelessness and housing crisis exist in our society, yet these are yet to produce political movements that challenge the dominance of the market system too.
We think it’s very much time that ‘the cost of living’ became a highly politicised issue.
Then we can discuss what to do about it!