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AltAusterity Digest #86 February 14-20, 2018

This week in Austerity News:

Feb 22, 2019

The leaders of West Virginia’s educator unions called for a statewide walkout strike as a response to Republican efforts to push through a pro-privatization bill in the state legislature. The omnibus bill aimed to legalize charter schools and private vouchers, which amount to privately-run, but publicly funded institutions and transfers. The bill also contained a 5% pay raise for all public sector workers, but the teachers unions have refused to accept the pay raise if it means also accepting privatization measures. As a result of the walkout, Republican legislators have decided to “indefinitely postpone” the bill, and teachers stayed on strike an extra day to make sure the bill was not revived.

In a sort of backlash against austerity, Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) has gained a foothold amongst an increasing group of economists and activists. MMT contests the logic of balanced budgets and treating public spending as household spending, by pointing out that many states have a monopoly on the creation of money. In simple terms, MMT discredits the notion that money needs to be “found” to pay for government programs as governments can create money to stimulate demand and then use the fiscal lever of taxation to pull excess money out of the economy when inflation begins to rise. While MMT has been critiqued by some orthodox economists and its practices would to a certain extent be uncertain, it may offer both a rhetorical counterargument against austerity and an economic alternative.

Ian Mell, Senior Lecturer in Environmental & Landscape Planning, University of Manchester discusses the relationship between austerity and national parks. Research has found that access to green space is an important health resources that helps lower the risks of cardiovascular disease, asthma, obesity and helps mitigate mental health issues. However, approximately 50% of the UKs poorest people live over 15 miles from a national park, often with insufficient public transport links. Furthermore, the most affluent 20% of wards in the UK also have five times the amount of green space as the 10% of wards at the bottom of the income distribution. Despite the prominence of neighbourhood parks across most residential areas, cuts to local government and the environment sector have left local parks severely underfunded, with many experiencing budget cuts of up to 90% since 2010.

On Tuesday, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced he will be running for president in 2020. The self-described democratic socialist will be running on a host of progressive proposals including free college tuition, single-payer health care, breaking up the big banks, a $15 minimum wage and a Green New Deal. Sanders has stated that he wants to “lay the groundwork for transforming the economic and political life of this country” through a grassroots movement. While many of Sanders’ ideas were dismissed as being “too radical” by the mainstream media his 2016 presidential bid, many of the policies he has been pushing for decades are now part of the political mainstream.

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