|Volume 49 Number 21, November 16, 2019||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
An Election Issue - Investment in Social Programmes:
This week, starting on Sunday, November 10, the BBC as well as other media are reporting that a "spending row" has erupted over investing in the NHS, other social programmes and the public sector as a whole. In fact the row stems from the Conservatives' claim that "Labour's policies would cost £1.2 trillion over the course of the next five years", if the party wins next month's general election. Chancellor Sajid Javid has also continued to attack Labour over "reckless" spending plans and "hiking up taxes". For his part, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell condemned the report as "fake news" and pointed out that the Labour Party has yet to publish its 2019 election manifesto detailing its policies and spending proposals.
This "spending row" came after a week of campaigning in which there have been claims that the Conservatives would undertake extra spending on the NHS, police and so on. Meanwhile, a scandal emerged when The National Audit Office (NAO) said that the Conservatives had failed to build even one of the "affordable starter homes" of the 200,000 they had promised in the 2015 general election. However, besides the Conservatives' brazen record of broken promises and deception, the main aim here is the limiting of "government spending" on the public sector and social programmes. The argument is presented that future investment in the NHS and other social programmes is a matter of "home economics", of "balancing the books" of the Treasury, of "costing" expenditure to be matched by income from taxation. The Labour Party had also spoken about investment in the NHS, social care, education, public services and social programmes. When challenged by the media to say what they would cut elsewhere, Labour responded that their manifesto plans would be "fully costed". The argument therefore continues along these lines.
In this way, the issue of wealth creation is obscured, as is that of the wrecking of public services that a neo-liberal economic perspective has contributed to. The question of who the economy should serve and what role the NHS, education and public services and social programmes play in the socialised economy is not discussed but deliberately avoided.
What is obscured is that those who work in health and social care, education and other social programmes all add value to the economy. Their work, which improves the productive capacity of the working class itself, is the origin of value in this sector of the economy, which directly contributes to other sectors. The issue of putting this value back into the economy as investment to meet all that is needed to sustain a modern universal health care, education and public services system at the highest level is never discussed. Moreover, enterprises that directly benefit from the health care their workers receive in the form of greater productivity do not pay for this benefit, meaning that the value created through that health work is not realised. Instead, it is made an individual matter to be paid for privately, or must be funded from the public purse and sourced from taxation.
Not only does this election "spending row" serve to try and create the notion that health, education and social care services are a "cost and a burden" to the "real economy", but it also serves to hide the fact that the private sector actually recognises this wealth creation in the public sector and social programmes. This is why global monopolies from the EU and Anglo-US are striving to take over the NHS and public services so as to realise for themselves the wealth created in health, social care, education and other social programmes. Such privatisation of public services drastically reduces the amount of services to the people and makes people pay for them through taxes or direct income. It is also well recognised that previous governments have not engaged in such arguments about "hiking up taxes" and "balancing the books" on taxation when funding war and war production, or bailouts to the rich and their interests.
It is important that the value produced by workers in health, social care, education and all social programmes is recognised. It is not possible to organise any aspect of the society without the contribution of the public sector and social programmes. In a modern society, not only can the mill wheels not turn but every aspect of the economy and of life cannot function without the need for healthy, educated people and the social programmes that contribute to the well-being of society as a whole, including welfare payments and pensions in old age and so on.
In a modern society, the health care, social care and education of working people are a vital claim on the wealth created by all of the people in the economy. For a government to speak about these social programmes being dependent on the balancing of income and outcome in taxation is to obscure the source of wealth available so as to serve other interests, notably that there are any number of pay-the-rich schemes funded by the Treasury. A government of the people has a claim on the whole economy to serve the general interests of society to meet the needs of all for modern public services. This is the way forward that working people fight for, and would unblock the path to resolving the crisis in the health service, social care and other social programmes.