Austerity and how Santa Claus maybe able to help out
by Colm O’Regan
Austerity – listen to the word. Even if you didn’t know what it meant the combination of consonants and vowels alone give you the feeling that there won’t be any biscuits with the tea.
This Christmas austerity is all the rage. Across Europe governments used to ‘sugar coat’ bad news but now delight in unveiling swingeing cuts. At EU summits Finance Ministers congratulate each other on their ability to take brave unpopular decisions and how much they are tightening their belts. Oh yes a word about belt tightening – national governments are warning us to adjust are waists size at the same time we are told that consumers need to have more confidence and spend to stimulate more growth so we need to buy need belts and tighten those – Oh and VAT is being raised and that belt will cost more. Of course this is not proper austerity not like the old days. My mother, born in 1935, didn’t see an orange until she was 11 years old– the war and rationing made for a very gray life – there is nothing as austere as that now. I didn’t eat asparagus until I was 27 years old but that was more due to an unsophisticated palate rather than an embargo enforced by U-boats lurking offshore. In future years it is unlikely that our children will be listening to our tales of economic hardship. To save money we cancelled our cable subscription and watched TV online. Smart phones – I was 35 before I got my first smart phone and look at you now with your microchip embedded in your neck. If you want to watch TV you just have to think about it, we had to press a button. But although we don’t plumb to the depths of previous lean times we have formed a grim relationship with financial prudence. Consumers are hoarding money for “a month of rainy Sundays”. Companies are delighted to take the opportunity to freeze or cut wages whether they have to or not – a wage rise now is seen as the height of hedonistic success like bringing one’s employees to a strip club. But we can’t cut and save and wait forever. How could we break free from this worthy cycle? We need a stimulus but from where? If there is one person who could encourage us to loosen the shackles its Santa Claus. Santa is better equipped that most to ride out the current economic storm. He has a committed, and by all accounts, free workforce. He maintains very high market share and because part of Lapland is outside the Euro he has a bit more flexibility when it comes to his fiscal policy. As the creator of millions of toys each year, which he just gives away, Santa is just the type of Keynesian thinker Europe needs. Unlike President Obama’s financial package which has been beset by allegations of waste and mismanagement – Santa is very careful about who benefits from his financial largesse. Each year he makes a list and checks it twice. So lets hope that Santa leads the way and shakes us out of our love affair with thrift so we can austerity for posterity.