Let me be very clear: the spending review (aka budget cuts) is a Very Bad Idea. I can’t help thinking that Baldrick got loose in the corridors of Westminster, and bloody George Osborne actually listened to his cunning plan. I’d love to be proved wrong but I believe these cuts will devastate the British economy.
I have absolutely no doubt that some cuts have to be made. Nor do I have any doubt that there are substantial efficiencies to be gained: the marvellous NHS is just one major institution that’s moribund with bureaucracy, there’s plenty more.
However, the cuts that are being made and the timescale in which they are delivered, will rip the guts out of the economy. All those people who no longer have jobs will spend less money at the supermarket, take their kids out of private school or extra-curricular activities, cancel insurance, delay major purchases, declare bankruptcy. So more people will lose their jobs and the cycle will continue. This, of course, will put greater burdens on the state: more kids will be sent to government-funded schools, more people will apply for benefits, job search support, free care. But the infrastructure to support those claims will have been undermined. Without cash or access to support, there will be more homelessness, more family breakdown, more incentive to turn towards crime.
The thing that really pisses me off is that the reason we have such a massive deficit is because we bailed out the banks. In the UK, the bailout added around £1 – £1.5 trillion to the national debt. That’s a number too big you can’t even make sense of: a million millions or 1,000,000,000,000. To put it in context, the UK’s public debt is now at somewhere between 70-100% of the UK’s gross domestic product. Yet, while the rest of the nation is still reeling over the consequences of their massive cock-up, the bankers cheerfully went back to paying themselves gi-normous bonuses.
So: ordinary Mums and Dads, good citizens, get punished while the people responsible for mess pat themselves on the back and go back to business as usual.
To make it worse, the cuts are ideologically driven. The Conservative Party are – opportunistically – ripping the guts out of systems that they have an ideological opposition to, rather than focussing on where expenditure will do most good. And doing very little to get money into government coffers from the people – like bankers – who are on high incomes. In education, for example, resources are being directed away from modernising old schools, ensuring all children have access to good IT infrastructure at school and other programmes that have demonstrably improved the general education system towards a policy that will allow parents to set up their own schools, a policy entirely without an evidence base. And while the Secretary of State for Education has railed against the wastefulness of arms-length bodies receiving grants from his department and accordingly slashed and burned them, he’s provided a grant to an organisation to support his pet policy. An organisation that sprang up just before the election, run by a 24 year old former adviser of his. Is this the government we deserve?
If the government seriously wanted to fix the economy, there are plenty of things they could do that would have a positive effect. Here are some top-of-mind ideas:
- Support the Robin Hood Tax: this is a cmapiagn to tax the financial sector to fund climate change action and universal service such as health care and education.
- Crack down on non-doms: And other tax dodgers. Non-doms are even allowed to be members of parliament: how can you be allowed to determine the future of a country you’re not willing to pay taxes in?
- Ban political advertising. Ok that’s probably not going to save massive amounts of money but without it maybe the politicians will actually focus on running the country, not raising funds to run propaganda campaigns.
- Get rid of red tape and fund front line services: why do you need to register with a doctor before you can be treated? Australia manages fine without it.
- Stop funding things that don’t work and fund front line services: for example all the security at airports. Hasn’t stopped a single terror incident, but boy, does it chew up money.
Get rid of unnecessary processes and things that don’t actually do what they’re supposed to and use the funds you free up to pay for more teachers, more nurses, more carers. We’ll be a smarter, more compassionate nation, and there’ll be plenty of lovely cashola floating around the economy, keeping everyone happy.
There must be more ideas. What are yours?