One of the most important questions raised in the General Election campaign, and one over which the maximum confusion is spread, is over the necessity to fund the NHS. One would think, to hear the complaints coming from the ruling elite, that to assert that health care is a right is to avoid the question of the funding of election promises, that people do not live in a socialised economy, that the onus is on everyone to fend for themselves. So great is this pressure that parties who are demanding an alternative to austerity are either ridiculed that their agenda is uncosted, or it is assumed that heavy progressive taxation is the answer to the funding of social programmes.
The mantra of the Coalition government has been that “you can only deliver a strong NHS with a strong economy”. In this scenario, public services including the NHS are a “cost and a burden” to that “strong economy”. It is never discussed that all those who live and work in the socialised economy are producers of the social product and have a claim over the goods and services of society. Therefore a strong economy is one in which all have a right to a strong NHS and other public services as of right. In other words, a strong economy is an economy that serves the interests of all and is an economy that can only be strong if it guarantees the right of all the people in society to free public health care and other public services.
But this is only the beginning of what a strong NHS means to a strong economy. For one thing, a definition of a strong economy in a modern civilised society must mean that it serves the interests of the society. The issue is not “rationing” the NHS, but reversing the direction whereby the monopolies have a stranglehold and demand privatisation at all costs. But another issue is that a healthy population is best placed to contribute to the health of the national economy. That the monopolies and their representatives cannot even see this far, but denigrate the population as “consumers” of health care and are prepared to decimate the NHS and starve it of funding for their private interests shows how low they have sunk. Furthermore, a poverty-stricken, unemployed and vulnerable population is almost by definition unhealthy, as the statistical connection between poverty and ill health underlines. This is where the austerity agenda is increasingly leading. The ruling elite has abandoned the aim of promoting the public good, and is making the victims of the recurring economic crises the scapegoat for its ills, including the problems exhibited by the health service.
However, the issue of “funding” must also be addressed head on. The propaganda of the ruling elite wants people to think that the NHS is a “cost and burden” to the economy that must serve the interests and the monopolies first. Then to fund and “ring fence” the NHS there must be cuts to public services elsewhere so as not to affect the interests of the rich to “create wealth”, but rather “balance the budget” and “eliminate the deficit”. The reality is that the NHS and its health workers like all the working class and people are not a cost to society but quite the opposite. They create added value. Health workers provide society with a healthy workforce as do other public service workers and social programmes which look after the welfare of society and all its members. That means the NHS and other public services add the value of a healthy workforce to the private monopolies for which
big corporations do not pay. They reap vast wealth from the society. Some of these monopolies outstrip the economy of whole nation-states in terms of the scale of their private expropriation of the wealth the working class produces. Then working people are left to pay for their public services and the profits of the privateers of their public services out of the taxation of their wages. Also, government borrow funds and pay the “deficit” interest from the very privatised social wealth that working people have created in the first place by social production. The conclusion is that the monopolies must pay a proper exchange value for what could be called the product of the NHS, as well as for all public services utilised by them in a similar fashion. General taxation, particularly of individuals, cannot be the answer to increasing the necessary investment and funding of the NHS. Not to mention the existence of outrageous pay-the-rich schemes such as PFI which cripple and distort the health service.
The crucial issue of funding the NHS and public services in a modern society requires that this whole question of the direction of the economy that pays the rich out of the social wealth that is produced needs to be addressed. Health care is a right, as are the public services that satisfy the well being of all people resident in Britain. The rights of all in society have to be met by an economy fit for a modern world that has to meet those needs. Increasing taxation simply lets the financial oligarchy off the hook and makes the working people pay again. The funding of the NHS must be done not by increasing taxation on the people, or increasing the deficit to the financial oligarchy.
A pro-social direction for the economy and society is absolutely necessary, and the demand must be that the monopolies disgorge their accumulated social wealth in paying for a healthy workforce when they realise the value worked up in that workforce. The electorate must be in a position to enforce this payment. That is why funding for the NHS is such a crucial and central election issue. All candidates which oppose the austerity agenda as applied to the NHS must be supported.