The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

A Budget With Balls

Posted by The Futility Monster on June 25, 2010 @ 09:32

The battered old Budget box keeps on going...

No, not the Ed kind of Balls – though more on him tomorrow – but the other kind.

Though the Budget has annoyed me in more ways than one, it has been very interesting, and very good, for another reason.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote this post imploring the government to just get on with it as far as cuts are concerned. At the time, I was fed up with the pussy-footing around, the idea that maybe cuts were going to be quick, or slow, and might exclude certain things too politically sensitive.

In the end, I got exactly what I wished for, and for that I am actually quite pleased.

The reason I am happy about this is simple. Politics doesn’t seem to be about anything these days; the three parties are increasingly close to each other. But this Budget really will set the cat amongst the pigeons. Labour, whoever their new leader is, are drawing a very clear line in the sand. They are, naturally, going to stand up for their record in power, and are going to snipe from the sidelines, but will be ready to say, “I told you so” if the worst predictions for this Budget do happen.

That is good. It feels like there is a real division between the coalition government and the Opposition, and that’s because, at last, there actually is. So many times politics is all about an imaginary distance between the two parties. So many times we have to suffer the tedium of centrist politicians fighting between themselves to out manoeuvre each other.

Naturally, I am under no illusion that Labour would also have been making cuts. But there is a stark difference between the parties. One is for cutting all the deficit within the next five years. The other had made half of that ambition. One is taking its ideological belief in a small state right to its logical conclusion. The other would have reluctantly made cuts, but only out of fiscal necessity, on a small and slower time scale in order to protect the state apparatus they genuine believe in.

OK, maybe when it’s put like that I might be exaggerating just how exciting this apparently yawning gap between the parties is. But in today’s catch-all politics, we have to be grateful for small mercies.

The coalition will either live by the cuts, or it’ll die by the cuts. Its whole reputation has been staked on this gamble.

As a person, I am deeply worried that we’re heading down the wrong path.

But as a political observer, the coalition government is the gift that keeps on giving.

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3 Responses to “A Budget With Balls”

  1. Neil Craig said

    However there is a 3rd alternative of more firmly cutting the state – I don’t think anybody believes the coalition intends to cut the state to as low as 40% of GNP & there are numbers lower than that – & cutting the regulations – housing, health & safety & anti-nuclear – that restrain growth. The “radical” coalition policy is simply to achieve solvency & that is a necessary condition for achieving world average growth but not a sufficient one.

    It would be quite nice if, if only for the sake of having a real opposition, there were some party represented who said they had not seen sufficient evidence of catastrophic global warming to wish to destroy more than half of the economy. Even ione that was opposed in principle to criminal wars.

  2. Dougf said

    I agree that the Coalition will live or die by the cuts, but I don’t agree with your underlying assumptions about the ‘timing’ or the ‘direction’ of the cuts.
    My belief is that the ‘economy’ is in FAR worse shape than the scattered statistics might lead people to believe. I believe in fact that the ‘system’ is fundamentally broken, and that prosperity is not just going to ‘bounce back’. So paradoxically , continuing to ‘stimulate’ would have, in this view, done nothing but eventual harm. It would not have resurrected the increasingly cold corpse but it would have added LOTS more ‘debits’ to the system. More dead weight which would have had to be got through later as a ‘new’ economy was constructed from the rubble of the old.
    So the ‘best’ option was and is to deal with the ‘social’ issues which can no longer be avoided, even if the economy does not ‘recover’ very quickly. Because those ‘social’ issues are serious inhibitors of any future restructuring. They have to be dealt with. Best do it now when the money is running out anyway, and make a virtue out of necessity. Therefore:
    A. Reduce State Employment — You can’t afford it. It’s that simple.
    B. Reduce State support of and for the ‘dole’. You can’t afford that either, and it has indeed created a dependency culture. A culture that depended on never empty State pockets. Now the State is finding itself lucky to even have pockets.
    C. Investigate how a new tranche of jobs can be created by targeting viable industrial sectors for growth.

    Going to be a hard slog for years, but there is now literally no alternative to going forward.

  3. Neil Craig said

    C Targeting sectors tends not to work because the politicians aren’t the best people to choose targets. That is why cutting corporation tax, which most benefits the most profitable is a better example of using the market’s “invisibkle hand” to target. I would make an exception to this in having a technology X-Prize Foundation. I have justified this idealogical impurity elsewhere but it may also be because I am a technophile.

    B While the moral effects of dependency are very damaging i think the actual costs of those benefits reaching the “benefitted” are far smaller than the amou8nt wasted on government regulators, quangos etc. The purpose of government spending is to benefit government employees & their friends, the nominal purpose is, at best, secondary.

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