The Politics of Austerity & Inequality: A Comparison of US and UK Policies Aiding the Poor
This research focusses on the politics of fiscal austerity in the US and Britain and its impact upon the housing poor. Austerity is a global and not exclusively US framed issue, and this paper will compare recent United Kingdom electoral support of welfare program reductions with US’s inadvertent policy choice of budget sequestration. The specific arena of welfare state reductions that I focus upon is low income housing, as it tangibly reflects reduced financial support from Congress and from the British Parliament. The comparison of British and US policy choices in favor of increasing inequality differ in that the UK the public voted for a government explicitly committed to austerity while in the US Congressional contestation forced the imposition of unwanted budget sequestration as enacted in the Budget and Control Act of 2011.
It has been argued that this current wave of budget cuts in government programs has the prospect for “destroying” the social welfare programs created under the US New Deal and a comparable harsh set of warnings have been issued for the UK. Analyses of “permanent austerity” have though empirically neglected the role of country-level policy choices which appear to modulate the direction and timing of harmful effects of austerity. This research examines the concrete manner in which diminishing housing subsidies occur in differing parts of the US and UK, and reveals varying degrees of fraying of the housing social safety net as seen through the eyes and experiences of public housing agencies and tenants. Public opinion polling data also show the declining support for social welfare programs, revealing a more recent strident tone. The paper reveals uneven levels of budget reductions with notable levels of resistance and contestation over the continuing reductions. The research is on-going with the expectation of further austerity cuts.