State of the Union

Today in Strasbourg we were treated to the very first State of the Union address to MEPs by Commission President Jose-Manuel Barroso (former centre-right Portuguese Prime Minister).

In his attempt to mimic the traditional yearly address of the US President to Congress, Mr Barroso, true to form, parroted the right-wing view which would have us believe that deficits should be cut at all costs.

Echoing the approach of the Con Dem government and the right-wing press, Mr Barroso’s intervention overly simplified the situation by claiming that “money spent on servicing debt is money that cannot be spent on social good”. Clearly, the relationship is not that simple. It is not a zero-sum game. Money invested in the economy creates increased economic activity and helps maintain and create jobs and growth, which in turn reduces the welfare bill and increases tax returns, which not only helps avoid the tragic personal cost of unemployment and failing public services but can also help to reduce public deficits more effectively than the severe austerity measures currently being implemented not only in the UK, but across the whole continent.

I stood up to say as much this morning and told Mr Barroso that drastic cuts are not the way forward and continued investment will help safeguard the recovery and avoid a jobs crisis.

I also made a point about overseas aid budgets, which must be upheld and respected. We cannot renege on our promises and commitments of solidarity to those who are most in need, as some Member States are shamefully doing.

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