How Austerity Affects Readers of The Guardian

The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and then there are readers of The Guardian. What does austerity mean to them? Thankfully, we now know their sad stories, as recounted in their own words, and shared via The Guardian’s new smartphone app. The app allows readers to give feedback on what ‘real life’ is like. Supposedly. I mean, I am sure the app works fine, but I am not so sure that all Guardian readers live in the real world. Or maybe they do live in the real world, but this version of the world is not one that Guardian column writers like to write about. The app populates a new feature called ‘the cuts get personal’, and this is the kind of stuff that The Guardian expects their readers to contribute:

How has your life been affected by the UK government cuts? Has a local public service like a library or a sports facility closed? Or perhaps there’s a shop you can no longer go to – or an item that you need to replace but can’t? To help us build a comprehensive picture of life under the cuts – share your images of things you can no longer afford.

So how is it going, with building a comprehensive picture of life under the cuts? Not well. Not well at all. It seems Guardian readers have given rather too comprehensive a picture of how their lives have been affected, indicating that instead of being worried about closing libraries or not being able to replace essentials, they have other serious worries. Like buying a cheaper vintage of wine. Or wiring their own plugs. I kid you not. The following were all taken from The Guardian’s own site:

Had to switch from the superior 2000 vintage due to the ever increasing price of alcohol.

Strictly speaking, increasing the duty on wine is not a government ‘cut’. Also, only a plonker would write this and share a photo of the 2003 vintage he had downgraded to.

I am wanting to set up my own creative business. I graduated last year with a 2:1. I’m two years too old for The Prince’s Trust. I would have liked to have got a grant, but it looks like I’ll have to get a loan to help with start-up costs. I’ll try applying to The Arts Council, but with them having over £11 million cut from them, I can’t say for sure that I will get any help. I’m afraid there will be many people whose talents will go to waste.

It makes you wonder how Shakespeare set up his own creative business, given that Arts Council grants were even harder to get in ye olden days.

Pot holes in the middle of the road take longer to fill.

Are potholes the most serious consequence of austerity? If so, the rumours of our austerity have been greatly exaggerated.

I know that it’s minor in the grand scheme of things. But potholes aren’t filled anymore, which makes my daily cycle either painful as I hit them, or more dangerous as I swerve to avoid them.

Yes, potholes are minor in the grand scheme of things. Hence some people maintain a stiff upper lip, instead of moaning like a self-absorbed bore. Bicycle-riding clots who cycle from their home, to their job, should try to keep a sense of perspective. Some people have no jobs, homes, or bicycles.

The travelling fair no longer visits, there is no more town fireworks display and the summer holidays no longer echo to the sounds of children’s voices and laughter. This hasn’t happened overnight but shows the inevitable result of cutting funding.

I put my emphasis on the words ‘this hasn’t happened overnight’. To conclude, this author thinks the economic priority is decades of sustained expenditure on travelling fairs, in order to bring back children’s voices. Unfortunately for him, evidence-based policymaking recognizes that children laughed in the days before municipal fireworks displays.

I can no longer afford to buy organic and have to buy my two children vegetables that could be GM or anything.

Those vegetables could be anything! In WW2 people dug up their own gardens to grow vegetables. Now people complain they cannot afford the price of veggies that might have been grown in someone’s garden.

Protest against NHS cuts at Canterbury Cathedral… The Independent covered the protest on the day. By the next day the link led to an article in which the protesters did not exist. It was only with shitwizardry I managed to get a cached copy.

What exactly is the problem here? A news story was so minor that The Independent had second thoughts and decided not to cover it. Is she arguing that the The Independent, home of Owen Jones, is a Fascist entity suppressing the truth about demos? (There is no mention of The Guardian covering this story either.) Or is she saying that austerity is a good thing, because it means that going on a demo is enough to get your name in the paper?

With #4GEE you can upload them just as fast. See #4GEE in action >

I kid, of course. This was not a submission by a Guardian reader. It is an advert by the Guardian’s sponsor for this feature, EE, the mobile phone network. They thoughtfully included it in the middle of the feature so anybody uploading photographs of their Job Centre, or their empty fridge, would be reminded of what they are missing. Also, they put it there so all the wealthy Guardian readers – the ones not affected by austerity – would be tempted to buy a more expensive mobile service in order to enjoy the lightning fast data speeds of a 4G network. Who said there was a problem reconciling a social conscience with thoughtless marketing?

…think I would be better off financially being the nursery cleaner than the leader of quality and education.

Fortunately, nursery cleaners do not read The Guardian, and hence will not be upset by this self-pitying clod. But hold on, I can hear the complaint coming – what makes me think that nursery cleaners do not read The Guardian? Because The Guardian is expensive, that is why.

Making play-doh volcanoes… because I can’t afford exotic holidays

If you find it hard to imagine a time before long-haul flights to exotic locations, then try to imagine a time before Play-Doh. In other words, try to imagine life in 1955. Did children laugh, back then?

Wiring my own white goods… because I can’t afford an electrician.

Some of the more sensible comments on The Guardian’s site are about cuts to education. I remember that I received a school lesson about wiring plugs. However, it is hard to justify needing more and more expenditure on education, if people act like every subject is theoretical.

I am an ESOL teacher at independent language schools in London. The recession has meant that schools now ask me to sign a waiver confirming that I am willing to work over 48 hours a week for the same wage. When I divide the time I am working by the amount I earn, it works out at roughly $4/hour and I’m unprotected by a union or goverment policy here.

This excellent argument is only spoiled by one inconvenient fact. Private sector companies routinely told their employees to sign waivers when the 48 hour directive was first enforced in the UK, back in 1998. Yup, Tony Blair’s government ‘enforced’ this European rule, but looked the other way when the private sector opted-out en masse. So this has nothing to do with public sector cuts, austerity, or even the current government.

It’s not just those on a low wage …but also will effect those in the middle.

Heaven forbid. Between the wine drinkers, plug wirers, Play-Doh moulders and pothole-avoiders, it is clear that there really is a grand alliance of the 99% who persevere despite terrible suffering. Not a single member of the 99% is exaggerating their personal suffering, not even a tiny bit. It is clearly wrong to suggest that there is a miserable middling 50%, who spend far too much time complaining, living in fantasy worlds where potholes are synonymous with poverty because it causes them to drop their smartphones whilst cycling to work. Any suggestion that half of the 99% are self-absorbed prats, oblivious to what real suffering is like, must have originated in a right-wing media plot, or something similar. Probably the plotters are in the 1%. However, it is possible that the Fascists sometimes win the support of all those people who lack homes, food, jobs etc, and so feel less concerned about potholes and the patchy implementation of the 48-hour working directive.

Pretty funny, huh? Now comes the really funny part. These contributions were all approved by The Guardian’s moderaters (though they had second thoughts about some of them, so later pulled them). Yup, not every submission gets published. Imagine what austerity-inspired contributions failed to make the cut!?? At this rate, The Guardian might need to make some kind of dramatic gesture, like cutting their price. Then again, probably not.

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