On the other hand, when the banks were in trouble in 2007, state aid was lavished upon them in mind-boggling quantities.
In the period from 2007 to 2010, the British taxpayer directly subsidised the banks to the tune of £1,162 billion.
Try thinking about that for a second. That’s one thousand, one hundred and sixty two thousand million; or one thousand, one hundred and sixty two followed by nine noughts.
It’s a huge number. So huge, in fact, that it’s almost impossible to imagine it. But let’s try.
If one pound equalled one second, it would take 36,821 years to reach that number.
If every pound was an inch, it would add up to over 18,339,646 miles; or to the Moon and back nearly 40 times.
That’s how much money was transferred from the public to the private sector in that period, and which we are currently paying for in the form of austerity
No such commitment is being offered to the steel industry, of course
Port Talbot is losing around £1 million a day. That’s a lot of money. To put it into perspective: at that rate we could continue to subsidise steel for over 3,181 years for what we spent in just three years to bail out the banks.
RBS is about to be re-privatised, at a loss to the taxpayer of £22 billion. That would keep the steel industry afloat for 60 years.
You have to ask why there is such a discrepancy in the government’s attitude to one set of people, as opposed to the other? The answer is fairly obvious if you stop and think about it.
Sajid Javid is a merchant banker. George Osborne’s family own a lucrative wallpaper business which has not paid corporation tax for seven years. David Cameron’s father founded a multi-million pound investment fund in a number of off-shore accounts.
In other words, these people are rich: they have more in common with bankers in the City of London than they do with steelworkers in Port Talbot.
There’s an old fashioned word to describe what this is really all about. That word is “class”.
So when Noam Chomsky says that “austerity is just a fancy word for class war” we know what he’s talking about.