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Truthdig Radio: The Great Recession, Jobs and the Royal Spectacle
Posted on Apr 28, 2011
Peter Scheer: Can you just …
Chris Ziegler: … doing everything that it can to free up spectrum. But that is a very, very big issue over the next five to 10 years.
Peter Scheer: I’m getting the light, so we have to go. But I’m pleased to be joined by Chris Ziegler, formerly of Engadget, who now can be read on ThisIsMyNext.com. Thanks for speaking with us.
Chris Ziegler: Thanks for having me, guys.
Peter Scheer: Take care.
Chris Ziegler: Bye-bye.
Kasia Anderson: This is Kasia Anderson, associate editor at Truthdig. And we’re here, ostensibly, to talk about the royal wedding, but given that this is KPFK and Truthdig, we’re obviously not going to go all “Kate and Wills” crazy on our listeners. Rather, we’re going to situate Friday’s big spectacle in the broader context of what’s going on now and what’s been going on in the U.K. in recent months. Here to tell us about the political and cultural climate in the U.K. is Truthdig special correspondent Celine Kuklowsky, who is not only a master’s student in social policy at the London School of Economics, but she also blogs at DrPop.org, and she’s a member of a local anti-cuts group in her neighborhood of Brixton. Celine, why don’t you give us a quick sketch of the big picture over there, as a backdrop for the hoopla about the royal wedding?
Celine Kuklowsky: Sure. So, the royal wedding is coming at an extremely volatile time here politically. Last October the newly elected coalition government—which is made up of conservatives who are led by David Cameron, and the liberal democrats led by Nick Clegg—announced public expenditure cuts of 83 billion pounds, in order to cut the deficit over the next four years. So these austerity measures represent the biggest public funding cuts in Britain since World War II. I mean, this is …
Kasia Anderson: Wow.
Celine Kuklowsky:… And concretely, we’re looking at—I mean, conservative estimates are that half a million people are going to lose their jobs in the next three to four years, starting now. And there’s going to be devastating impacts on local communities, who are going to see their services disappear. So, you know, to give a few examples: The National Health Service, for example, is going to lose over 50,000 jobs. Entire [components] are going to disappear; some chunks are going to be privatized, which is of course, you know, we’re not talking about—I mean, the government isn’t talking about privatization, but that’s what’s happening. Local councils have to cut their budgets by a third over the next three years, which means that front-line services are going to go. Some libraries are being shut down; children’s services, day cares; old people’s homes; police; I mean, pretty much anything you can think of that is in the public sector is cut or, you know, completely scaled back, basically. And just as a third example—I mean, I could go on—the government is cutting public-housing spending by 50 percent. And they’re changing housing benefits which are given to lower- and middle-income families which, you know, allows them to live in places like London, which is one of the most expensive cities in the world. So, as a result of the changes that they’re doing with benefits, hundreds of thousands of people are going to be displaced from cities. In London alone, we’re talking about 200,000 people that are going to have to leave the city in the next three to four years, because they won’t be able to live here anymore. So it’s—terrifying. And these cuts are, of course, going to hit the poorest and the most vulnerable hardest. I mean, old people, people on disability … it’s also going to disproportionately affect women, and black and ethnic minorities. So that’s kind of the background.
Kasia Anderson: Well, let me ask you this: I’ve been aware of some of the non-mainstream press buzz around the wedding, and it seems to me there are some who think that it’s happening at this moment not by mistake. I mean, conspiracy theories aside, do you have anything to say about the timing with the backdrop you just sketched out?
Celine Kuklowsky: Yeah, the timing is interesting. I mean—you know, yeah, without going into a crazy lefty rant… [Laughter], the fact of the matter is that—so, the justification that is used for these funding cuts is that we’re supposedly in the throes of a historical debt crisis in this country. Which isn’t true. Historically speaking, we’re at one of this country’s lowest points of debt. And right now on an international scale—I mean, the U.S., France, Japan, Germany—they’re at much greater debt than we are. So it’s clear that these cuts would be illogical. And at this moment in time, it’s like in the U.S.: The crisis, and the lack of any real reaction from policymakers or from the streets, are being used by people in power to shift the conversation and blame away from those who got us here in the first place, toward the poor and the more vulnerable. I mean, David Cameron is talking as if welfare recipients are responsible for the national debt. So this conversation justifies privatizing whole slots of the public sector, and essentially decimating the welfare state. So the timing is interesting, only in that it is kind of yet another giant national distraction away from the economic realities of what the country is facing right now.
Kasia Anderson: The sideshow becomes sort of the main act, from what I’m gathering. But what’s your sense of the attitudes of the Brits right now about the wedding, you know, positive and negative?
Celine Kuklowsky: I think, generally speaking, the Brits don’t really care that much [Laughs] about the royal family. I mean, the wedding is … I think people are happy because we all get a day off of work, and there’s going to be a lot of street parties, and I think most people just kind of drink beer. And I get the sense that the royal wedding is more of a background thing for most people. Of course, there are going to be the kind of crazies—well, not the crazies, but the more intense people who will be there in central London wearing their Union Jack shirts and stuff. So …
Kasia Anderson: But there will be others, also, who are having some alternative activities, from what I understand, on the day itself. Maybe some anti-royal action?
Celine Kuklowsky: There’s talk of that, particularly because there are sections in which it’s completely illegal to protest on the … royal wedding day, which is sort of reason enough, I think, to go out and protest. But I can’t confirm anything. I …
Kasia Anderson:…Can neither confirm nor deny…
Celine Kuklowsky: Yeah, exactly.
Kasia Anderson:… But that’s unfortunately all we have time for. And I’ve been talking with Celine Kuklowsky, and she’s an LSE master’s student and rabble rouser around town [Laughter], and she’s been taking the pulse on the royal wedding in London. Thank you, Celine.
Celine Kuklowsky: Thanks.
Peter Scheer: That’s also it for this week’s show. Catch us next Wednesday at 2 on KPFK, or anytime online at Truthdig.com. Thanks to our guests, Heather Boushey, Prabhat Gautam, Sheerly Avni and Chris Ziegler. Thanks also to our board-ops, engineer Stan Mizrahi, and recovering Dodger fan Alan Minsky. For Robert Scheer, Kasia Anderson, Josh Scheer, Celine Kuklowsky and myself, this is Truthdig.
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