Sunday, 17 October 2010

15: Philo: Budget Deficit: Lets Really Be in This Together

I suspect many in media studies see the approach of the Glasgow Media Group - exposing establishment 'bias' in the way mainstream news media frame current affairs -  as being as out-of-date as red braces or a 'Frankie Says' t-shirt. But with Thatcherism 2.0 about to been rolled out in the form of the Comprehensive Spending Review perhaps its time for a different kind of 1980s revival.

Greg Philo of the GMG has recently himself gained some media attention (for example see above) for his proposal that, rather than massive cuts to welfare, education and other public sector spending, the British budget deficit could be resolved by a one-off levy on the wealth of the richest ten per cent of the population. You can read his original proposal here.

Philo's proposal to 'privatise' the deficit is an example of one way that sociologists can contribute to public debate - not because argument will necessarily win the day but because it helps to shift the terrain over which debt and cuts are discussed. It does this firstly by moving the spotlight onto the wealthy who did so well from the boom before the banking crisis. There is £9,000 billion of private wealth in the UK and £4,000 billion of that wealth is in the hands of the top ten per cent of the population. Just 20% of this £4000 billion would clear the UK deficit!

Philo's second contribution is to question the way in which the debate about the budget deficit is framed by the media. News coverage allows discussion of the causes of the deficit and the pace and focus of cuts but takes the need to tackle the deficit through cuts as a given  (see here for example the BBC website that asks us 'what would you cut and what would you save?').

Having discussed Philo's proposal with a range of people, I think that his final contribution is to reveal the widespread fatalism that assumes the rich will inevitably find ways of avoiding any tax that they do not wish to pay. But surely 'we're all in this together'?

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