We need to talk about George

Last week was the first International Happiness Day  and in a sicko kind of way, it really was. If you’re cold and miserable (just guessing) warm yourself up with the belly laugh at the expense of @George_Osborne , launched last week to ____________ [fill the space as you think fit]. You’ll literally lose weight from laughing. Happiness indeed.

With the level of global irony that we have come to know in the economic crisis, last week also saw the UN’s latest report on wages, and some gripping research about what has happened to them  and why, Excuse me for my polarity but it turns out we actually need higher wages to get out of the recession.

Now, ahem, I’m not an economist so last week’s economics seminar on how to get out of this pickle brought me out in an intellectual sweat and I’m honestly not sure quite how interesting variables are but I had no difficulty following the line of argument. Economic Crisis = less bargaining power for working people = precarious work + low wages = working poor = can’t afford to buy much = drop in demand = deeper economic crisis. It’s a vicious circle silly.

Oh don’t make that noise, no this isn’t another public sector worker trying to secure her gold standard pension and dreams of retiring at 40 in Hawaii. Actually this stuff comes from some unlikely sources, not known for their radicalism or love of the unwaged; the UN, ILO, IMF and EU all saying “please George, stop killing off all the decent jobs, man”.

One of the reasons why the facts aren’t in charge of the UK’s economic policy is our collective failure to mourn. A failure to mourn the loss of the living wage and an economic system with a pulse. We’ve become zombies, career un-deads trying to hide from the sun light of economic realities. Crouch’s new book  argues that we’re not quite brave enough to bury neoliberalism because we’re in a kind of collective denial, unable to recognize the difference between life and death.  One of the reasons why this state of undead has creeped up on us is the growth of the “self-employed” – with nearly 40% of new jobs being self-employed roles. I’d say that right now about 25 per cent of my entrepreneurial undergraduates are directors of their own companies with business cards. £80 to companies house and you’re a CEO, what’s not to like? All well and good you say, don’t be such a prude dampening youthful enthusiasm, but the reality for them is either no pay or low pay, for bits of work that used to be done by someone with a pension. No national insurance or sick pay and you’re tipping the balance from half-dead to full on career suicide.

Facing up to reality means mourning those things that have gone and there’s no way of softening the blow that mourning the loss of a good job hurts. It means letting go of the ideas and ideals that have propelled us. It means feeling like a chump for being such a good girl and getting out of bed early on the weekend to write that report filed under bin. It means regretting not saying how you felt or not risking a confrontation with the gimp of the moment in charge of strategy (surely another word needing a decent burial).

So, we need to talk about George. I’m worried about him, stuck in a past life where entrepreneurs save economies and rich people build nations. It’s a gripping ideology, one that has worked out for George so far but with love in our hearts, let it go G. Say goodbye to the idea that lowering wages will save us from becoming a 3rd world country where people can’t afford food or anything else that we produce. Let your Plan A go baby go and have a good blub while we hold the economy for you until you’re able to come back to work. Put the economy down, George, put it down now. There you go, we feel better already.

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