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AltAusterity Digest #103 June 20-26, 2019

This week in Austerity News:

Jun 28, 2019

The European Commission (EC) has threatened the Italian government with disciplinary procedures for failing to cut its public debt in 2018. The procedure, which requires approval by euro zone finance ministers, would entail closer oversight of Italy’s fiscal policy and would give the EC the ability to levy fines. While the coalition government between the populist 5-Star Movement and the right-wing League has been reluctant to commit to EC fiscal targets, they have planned to cut public spending and scrap some existing tax breaks. The Italian government has been trying to find a way to balance their campaign promises as well as operate within the limits imposed by the EC.

For The Independent, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston discusses how the UK government has responded to his report. Last year Alston found that austerity in the UK has led to rising poverty, homelessness and infant mortality rates, and declining life expectancy. Since his report has been published, the UK government’s response has consisted of three strategies: denial, distraction, and attempts to discredit Alston himself. Instead of seriously considering what is laid out in his report, Alston claims the government has put a great deal of effort into trying to invalidate information that points out the “predictable effect of their own policies.”

In an article for the New York Times, Peter S. Goodman makes that case that, while austerity has certainly had negative impacts in the UK, it has also spurred political and policy innovations that might point the way forward. The most impressive “reinvention” in the UK has been in Preston, Lancashire. The Preston model, as it is now being called, is based on catalyzing local economic development by having large ‘anchor institutions’ – hospitals, universities, credit unions – shift spending towards local projects and businesses. Preston also became a living wage employer, cracked down on pay-day loan operations, and localized procurement contracts to local businesses as opposed to corporate giants. Some other councils have tried to emulate the Preston model, though with more “entrepreneurial” takes, with a greater role for real estate speculation and a lesser role for public and cooperative control.

After the Ontario Conservative cabinet reshuffle, the Ford government has raised the number of parliamentary assistants to 31. This represents an addition of 13 more assistants relative to the pre-reshuffle period. In addition to their six-figure salaries, the MPPs who have been named parliamentary assistants will each be getting an additional $16,600 in what appears to amount as a “signing bonus.” This increase will represent a 16% raise for parliamentary assistants at the same time as Ford is firing education and health care workers and is limiting the pay of public sector workers to 1% per year.

That's it for this week's Digest! Check back next Friday morning for another edition, or subscribe to our newsletter for a weekly roundup. We'll also Tweet each time we add new content, so you can keep up with our work @AltAusterity and join the #altausterity conversation.