Friday, 28 January 2011

Wherever will we find the cash? Oh wait.

So I just read this lovely piece by Philip Pullman about the approaching closures of libraries and social services all across England because the British government is being run by a whole host of burkes. He says it much more politely, but I have to admit, every time I hear about the cuts to education, public welfare, LIBRARIES for Chrissakes, it makes me just a little more incensed.

They keep maintaining that there just isn't enough to go around. "We're sorry," they say, "but we can't afford to subsidize education/community/society."

Meanwhile, they have increased spending on "defense" by One And A Half Billion Dollars.

Let me just say that again: in the midst of huge government cuts to things that affect the daily lives and future careers of millions of UK citizens, not to mention the future structure of British society, they have increased government spending on the military from £35,165,000,000 to £36,702,000,000. This is, as far as I can tell, after the 8% cut announced last October. I'm not really sure where that 8% is coming out of (perhaps that was originally going to be a bigger increase?), but you'd think that three months would be enough for them to update their website, so I can only assume that these are the right numbers. (God, they're good at squirrelling away funds for the military, though -- did you know that an additional £9.5Billion has been spent since 2001 in Afghanistan that isn't recorded as a part of the defense budget? It just comes from the Treasury Reserve. Can we get a billion to fight the war on ignorance, TR?).

Thing is, I have a lot of respect for the military. I think they do a good job. One that I couldn't do. My question is, how can it cost so much? Military spending is the most incredible thing. For the same amount of money as it costs to buy 16 fancy fighter jets (which they were, before the cuts, scheduled to buy over 130 from the US, at around £75million each) the UK could provide £9,000 tuition to 170,777 university students.

Thing is, the £3.25 billion shortfall they expect in the budget this year that they're taking out of public services like libraries, tuition subsidies, the AHRC, arts funding, and so forth, is chump change when you think about the costs of waging war.

The US does the same thing, probably worse. They just never really funded education in the first place, so people are used to it. You just can't question the spending on the military, because that would be un-Amurrican. Socialist, even.

...You know I was right-wing in the country I'm from.

So I guess what I'm saying is, I don't get it. I don't understand the priorities. I don't understand the costs. I don't get it, but it leaves me with a strong feeling of unease, that my education (undergrad, masters and doctorate, including tuition remission) costs about as much as a well-aimed missile. That it costs $80,000 in bullets alone to kill one Taliban fighter in Afghanistan. That an unmanned Predator drone costs the same as sending over 300 students to undergrad for a year.

But the UK can't afford to keep its libraries open.

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