Ah yes, it’s the economy stupid.
While I am not a massive fan of the former US President – Bill Clinton – it’s for a good reason. His ‘three strikes’ policy and his sordid relationship with Monica Lewinsky did little to endear him to me. But there are lessons we can salvage from his two terms.
To his credit, he was right about one thing when he grasped at the national mood around the economy.
This was highlighted in the campaign when he effectively took down Bush (’41) on how he himself was not affected by the economic decline in the early 90s, but he was.
The Clinton Administration, while divisive, led to the creation of a budget surplus of $128bn, 18.6m new jobs but increased income taxes.
Boris Johnson could take a lesson from Bill’s book. In the 60-page booklet, published by 10 Downing Street, the Government demonstrates a firm understanding of the kind of tactile approach necessary to emerge from the crisis.
“COVID-19 is a new and invisible threat. It has spread to almost every country in the world… The Government’s aim has been to save lives. This continues to be the overriding priority at the heart of this plan. The Government must also seek to minimise the other harms it knows the current restrictive measures are causing – to people’s wellbeing, livelihoods, and wider health.”
Transparency and the safeguarding of lives and livelihoods aside, the impact of COVID-19 on all accounts is demonstrable.
For example, the Government has since reported that 1.8 million households made a claim for Universal Credit between 16th of March and 28th of April. This is shockingly high and to make things worse GDP will fall by 35 % later in the year, according to OBS.
The situation is bad for everybody as more and more jobs will be lost as businesses fail, look for example at British Airways who announced layoffs of 12,000 people last week, despite the Government’s furlough scheme.
I’m unsure which industry will seek to purge costs through staff wages in an attempt to stay alive next, but I know there is more to come.
These measures are hitting working people hard. Simon Dolan, the man, taking the Government to court over human rights violations due to this lockdown, shared a message from a supporter called Robin Hunter.
Robin states that his 20-year career in hospitality was eradicated, with little chance of getting back on his feet due to his age. To make matters worse, he was laid off before the furlough scheme was introduced, and now lives on a sofa in his mums flat, while receiving £74 a week from the government.
This could happen to anyone, as thousands of small business have not been trading over the last three months and possibly even longer. What’s worse is this could happen to you next.
Boris needs to do something quick; he needs to reopen the economy and get Britain back to work. This isn’t a matter of money over lives: I grasp that people are dying, but poverty kills too.
In the previously mentioned report, the government openly admits that the country needs to get back to work and produce. The report made clear that the longer the sustained lockdown and the reduction in economic activity, the harder to maintain public finances, including services like the NHS.
It’s simple: the longer we’re in lockdown, the harder it’ll be for the economy to recover. This will lead to a significant reduction to our current living standards as compared to the past as we will have to accept a crumbling public purse and even smaller private one.
This will lead to thousands more avoidable deaths through things like suicide and poverty. When it does not kill, it mentally scares and scars the lands around it, in the words of Lord Sumption. Therefore, we must end the lockdown as soon as possible to save the economy, save the people and save the future.
While the Clinton presidency is a divisive one, a pedal-to-the-metal approach is one that the British Government needs to have at the forefront if it is to emerge from the present crisis.