Facing Austerity | Not Everyone Agrees on the End of Entitlements

Contrasting views on the age of austerity

BBC News

Stuck in a time-warp, French hippy want-a-be “youth” took to the streets to defend the Socialist nanny-state in France. How will the US react when faced with the same cuts in entitlement programs?

The UK government has unveiled the biggest package of cuts since the 1970s. Governments across Europe have also pushed through tough austerity measures – leading to widespread strike action in some countries.

In the US, politicians are yet to unleash a major package of cuts, but the government’s trillion-dollar deficit has become a hot topic ahead of mid-term elections.

Here people from three different countries – two of whom work in the public sector – share their contrasting views on their government’s action and the public response:

Helen Stollery, 23, public sector worker, Maidenhead, UK

I am a public sector worker myself and even I can see that there are a lot of jobs in the public sector that are simply not necessary. A lot of admin jobs can be cut.

The private sector has already lost many jobs, so it is only fair that the public sector also takes a hit.

We need to make these changes so our country can get through the economic mess and out onto the other side.

Trying to put more money into the economy as a stimulus would be a gamble. It would be like putting money into a fruit machine.

And I think the government has made an effort to make sure that the cuts are relatively fair. It’s right that a City worker on 150k will lose child benefits.

I think people in Britain have a different culture to those in Europe – and I don’t think we’ll see the same level of strikes.

People here are more accepting of the changes that have to be made. Our state retirement age has been going up for some time and people have accepted the changes.

There’s no point in resisting something that is inevitable.

I voted for the Conservative Party because I thought they had a good economic plan and would be best for me. I feel very confident about the future – I think they know what they are doing it.

Eleni Hondrou, 38, public sector worker, Athens, Greece

For now things are relatively quiet in Greece. Most people are trying to adapt and get on with their lives on a lower standard of living.

Reductions in my allowances mean I have lost 20% of my annual income. I have had to cut many things out of my life.

We had no choice but to make those changes in May because things were so bad, we were on the verge of bankruptcy.

But we never know what will happen next. We rely on our external creditors. If we have to borrow more money at a higher rate – and if that means we have to take further reductions then I don’t think people will accept things peacefully.

I don’t think I could adjust to even deeper cuts in my salary.

There are smaller scale strikes at the moment among specific interest groups, like railway workers.

But if we see further cuts, then you never know what will happen. We could see a return to a general strike.

People in different countries have different mentalities. In France they take to the street over what seems like a minor issue. Here we had our national strike but things have settled down for now.

As the for the UK, people seem to be taking things very calmly. But people do not know the full impact of the cuts there, so we will have to wait and see.

Brian Hind, 40, Farmer, Kansas, US

The cuts in the UK and elsewhere in Europe are just something that the governments have to do. Things won’t be as bad as they will be for us in America – we’re making things worse by delaying cuts.

Governments are known for being inefficient everywhere in the world. There’s a lot of waste that can be cut.

I think the government is like a person. A little debt is alright, but a lot of debt is dangerous.

I don’t think the stimulus money in the US has made much of a difference. Where I live, things are as bad as they always were. There are a lot of aviation companies in Kansas, and they all continue to lay people off.

We can’t continue to bail out the economy. The government can’t create jobs, private industry has to create jobs.

I think it’s ridiculous that the French are striking over increasing the retirement age from 60 to 62 while our retirement age is edging up towards 70. With life expectancy going up, I think If you’re able-bodied then you should continue to make a contribution. I think the French are being unrealistic.

I think people in the US would take austerity measures better. There would be a few strikes, but I don’t think it would be on the same scale. I think there is more of a work ethic here.