Amid Mounting Criticism, Top U.K. Official Pledges Continued Austerity

Britain’s top financial official is pledging to keep the country on the path of austerity for years into the future, despite mountains of evidence that the cuts to date have worsened economic growth and unemployment.

George Osborne told the BBC on Sunday that the U.K. “would go back into intensive care” if he and Prime Minister David Cameron backed off the austerity regime they’ve pursued since 2010. The BBC reported Osborne’s forthcoming budget will cut another £11.5 billion, or about $17.7 billion.

Osborne’s commitment comes just a few months after the British economy made headlines by just barely avoiding a triple-dip recession. And the country’s austerity hasn’t just exacerbated unemployment and slowed economic growth, it’s done so while failing to deliver promised reductions in the national debt.

Three years of failure have led to increased calls for Osborne and Cameron to change course. In May, the International Monetary Fund called on Osborne to ease off. And on Sunday, 22 economists and members of Parliament signed onto a letter published in The Guardian arguing for an outright reversal, including billions in near-term stimulus spending and middle-term tax increases on the wealthy to close deficits.


The divergent governmental responses to the Great Recession in America and the U.K. provide a straightforward verdict: stimulus fed a gradual recovery in the U.S. as the austerity-mired Brits fell short of growth predictions time and again. But at this point, Osborne’s dogmatic commitment to austerity may actually look reasonable compared to the cuts sought by American conservatives. The British plan reported Monday amounts to an average cut of 8.5 percent across most government departments, but House Republicans are proposing double-digit cuts from various appropriations bills for 2014. Those cuts come on top of the steep, automatic cuts of sequestration, which are already holding back economic growth and keeping unemployment much higher than it would otherwise be.