When the price of a loaf of bread starts to become the subject of conversations at work it’s a terrible sign of the times—hard times.
Not a day goes by without stories of price increases in food and fuel bills, and on top of that there’s the rise in VAT.
Ordinary people in Britain are facing a double whammy of rocketing prices and for many wages are falling.
In fact prices are rising more than twice as fast as wages.
The end of 2010 saw the highest ever rise in food prices in a November to December period. The largest increases were everyday staples—vegetables, bread and cereals and milk, cheese and eggs.
Also in December—the coldest in 100 years—five out of six energy companies announced price rises of up to 9 percent.
Whichever measure for price inflation you use, they show rises of between 3.7 and 4.8 percent. Yet workers are getting average wage rises of only 2.1 percent.
From April, benefit levels will be linked to the lower measure of inflation. This means that everyone who depends on welfare benefits will be forced to live on even less.
The lower rate has also been used to allow bosses to pay less into workers’ pension funds—so they win either way.
But where is the opposition to these wholesale attacks on our living standards?
Ed Balls, Ed Miliband’s new shadow chancellor, has been described in the press as Labour’s “attack dog”.
But the coalition will not be too worried. Balls’ big attack on his first day in post was to say the coalition “are cutting spending now in a fast and reckless way”.
This isn’t enough—there is no slow and thoughtful way to cut.
Balls and Miliband accept the logic that the deficit has to be brought down, and that the only way to do that is to attack workers and the poor.
The deficit came from bailing out banks—those whose reckless gambling caused the crisis in the first place.
They now reward themselves with huge bonuses while millions worry about affording the basics of life.
Last year the total earnings of FTSE 100 directors rose by a spectacular 55 percent.
It’s about time we made the Tories and bosses suffer some hard times.