When I grow up I want to be a…Posted: May 9, 2012
Well, that’s what the five year old me used to say. And after that obsession fizzled out I triumphantly declared that I wanted be a pilot. Unfortunately the closest I ever got to that dream was tying the dog to the back of an aeroplane shaped climbing frame in the park and pretending to fly to some exotic and far flung destination. The realities of life soon set in.
At secondary school you could ask me the above question and I would not be able to give a meaningful answer. Infact, if you’d have asked me the same question at my university graduation I would have again have struggled to give a meaningful answer. It was only after a disastrous foray into a company which promised better things that my mind was sharpened enough to actually sit down and think about my future. And even now, I only have an aim. The effects of a bitter financial crisis, double-dip recession, austerity and the Leveson Inquiry could quite easily conspire to derail my future plans at any given time. After all, print journalism is a dying trade and thanks to News International journalists are only a couple of notches above bankers and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the global hate index.
Anyway, that is all beside the point. For many people their ambitions and dreams have been placed on ice since the 2008 financial crisis. A deep recession, low growth and biting austerity measures across the Western hemisphere have created a sickening cocktail which has plunged an entire generation into despair. Currently, over 1 million people in the United Kingdom under the age of 25 are unemployed. Countless more are still living at home and working dead-end jobs, biding their time and praying for that elusive opportunity to appear. However, does the shock election of Francois Hollande offer a glimmer of hope to the millions negatively affected by a crisis which was created in a distant land and paid for by their taxes?
At first glance, it does. Francois Hollande has explicitly stated that he is “the President of the youth of France.” Standing against European and Western austerity, Hollande has spoken passionately throughout his election campaign and promised to refocus EU financial efforts from austerity to growth. Although vague, current ‘radical’ policies of Hollande include the creation of 60 000 new education posts, a ‘squeeze on the rich’ and the implementation of a 75% tax rate for the super rich. When combined with the complete Greek rejection of austerity are the troika demands for deficit reduction, austerity and tax rises dead in the water? After all, it does pay for the currency sharing European nations to row in the same direction and strive to avoid the potential implosion of the Eurozone.
Unfortunately even with the election of Francois Hollande the policy of European wide austerity is far from dead. Constrained by the very same financial markets that created the economic crisis and with French public sector spending currently accounting for around 57% of GDP, Hollande will undoubtedly be forced to continue with many of the policies laid out by his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy. Quite simply, the unvarnished truth is that France must find 18 billion Euros of cuts by next year to maintain favourable to the markets and keep bond yields below the psychological danger zone of 7%. And, as a reminder for those who think the impact of the markets is overhyped it is worth remembering that they have already helped to claim the scalp of several European governments; including that of the infamous Italian Lazarus, Silvio Berlusconi.
It is therefore highly likely that once the hype around Hollande and his ‘rejection of austerity’ has died down the new French President will be limited to making a few token populist gestures; paid for by the increased taxation of the rich. As if to reiterate this point, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already fired a shot across the bow of the new socialist President, warning that any previously agreed fiscal compacts were ‘not up for grabs.’
So, how does the recent European ‘rejection of austerity’ affect the millions of families across Britain who are struggling to make ends meet and the hundreds of thousands of well-educated young people unable to find a job with a promising career? The simple answer is that it doesn’t. Well, not really anyway.
Infact, to many of the public the only signs of any European spending will come from seeing a more confident Ed Miliband and subsequently resurgent New Labour exploiting the small benefits that any increased spending by a socialist President will no doubt bring. And also obviously Francois Hollande is the President of the Republic of France and not the United Kingdom. Aside from a few minor concessions on controversial tax issues such as the ‘granny tax’ and ‘pasty tax,’ it is highly unlikely that Osborne and Cameron will make a U-turn to dramatically increase spending. Such an approach was confirmed only earlier today in the annual Queen’s speech and an Andrew Marr interview in which Osborne laughably declared that “the national mood is now very much behind the deficit plan.”
Evidently people aren’t. Especially if you’re a pasty-eating pensioner with large savings and an unemployed grandchild.