Osborne’s budget has gone down like a bucket of sick on the front-pages this morning. As long as we have flat-lining growth and a failure of political will to tackle spending, all fiscally-neutral budgets will be like this, identifiable ‘losers’ will out-number identifiable ‘winners’. The losers this time are those who were prudent enough to save for their retirement. The so-called lucky generation of baby boomers who had a working life in a long term growing economy and an overly generous welfare state which has now impoverished their children and grand-children. Some might spin this as a bit of inter-generational payback, others as an unjust punishment of those who saved for their retirement. Pensioners have a propensity to be voters…
Osborne is spending more than Brown, borrowing more than Brown and taxing more than Brown. The official numbers revealed yesterday show that spending is still rising in real terms, there is no hope of for an “expansionary fiscal contraction” if there is no fiscal contracti0n. The national debt is still rising. The coalition government’s self-defined primary mission, to close the deficit by the next election, is on course for failure. As long as this obsession with fiscal neutrality and timidity towards cutting spending continues the tax burden will not be reduced, the debt will not be reduced and growth will flat-line. Fiscally neutrality is just another phrase for tinkering with the tax burden.
The bond markets already know the government is going to miss the deficit target. All the fast growing economies in Asia and the Americas have lower tax economies than the UK and Europe. A dash for growth stimulated by across the board tax cuts will not as Osborne fears be punished by the bond markets, that is a fundamental mis-reading of bond market mentality. Osborne knows bond markets think long term, that is why the Treasury is contemplating issuing 100 year bonds. Bond traders understand that broad tax cuts are a real stimulus that will lead to a more dynamic growing economy which will reap more tax revenues long term. Why are we waiting?
Click the above to download the PDF with hyperlinks. Rules are simple: choose one phrase, policy or scenario from each row, so eight overall. Listen out during the Chancellor’s statement, first to six wins. Don’t forget to shout “Budget Bingo”!
Ed Balls was on the Marr show this morning and also has an article in the Sunday Times ahead of the budget, advocating tax cuts to boost growth. He repeats his long-standing call for a reversal of the consumer whacking VAT hike and comes over like a born-again Nigel Lawson in his article:
…cut the basic rate of income tax by 3p for a year. Or raise the income tax personal allowance to more than £10,000… It would be better to cut VAT now — it’s fairer and quicker and would help pensioners and others who don’t pay income tax. But any substantial tax cuts to help households and stimulate the economy would be better than doing nothing.
Tax cuts won’t scare international bond markets, even the austerity friendly IMF is advocating a VAT cut for Britain, government gilts are propped up by QE (for now) so the issue of bond market vigilantism doesn’t arise.
It was a mistake to hike VAT and it is a strategic error to burden industry with crushingly high green taxes and penal marginal income tax rates of over 50% discouraging entrepreneurs from coming to invest in Britain. If the government is going to miss the deficit target, and it is, miss it because the government slashed taxes to grow the economy. The international bond markets will forgive a finance minister with a growing economy who misses his deficit target, they won’t forgive a finance minister with a contracting economy in any circumstances. Chancellor Zero knows that with no growth there is no hope for the deficit.
Last week’s shrinking GDP figures were spun by George Osborne as due to the crisis in the €urozone. The decline in GDP could hardly be blamed on the US market which is picking up and growing at a respectable 2.8% last quarter, nor on Asian markets where China grew at an annualised 8.9% and India at 7.8%.
Is the decline in UK GDP really, as George Osborne implies, down to economic trade with the crisis ridden continent falling? The answer is no.
UK exports to €urozone states actually rose a healthy 11.3% last year:
It is a myth that the decline in GDP has anything to do with the €uro-crisis leading to a decline in exports to the €urozone. The barriers to growth are a domestic problem…
George Osborne gave a cast iron promise last October:
“Britain will not be putting money into the bailout fund either directly or through the IMF… the IMF exists to support countries, it does not exist to support currencies. The IMF contributing money to the eurozone bailout fund, no; Britain contributing money to the eurozone bailout fund, no. That is Britain’s clear position.”
Ed Balls and Tory backbenchers are at one on this, it is for Germany through the ECB to support the €uro. The American and Chinese Treasury ministers agree, it is not the purpose of the IMF to bailout an ill-conceived currency union. Don’t forget your promise George*…
*Guido hasn’t forgotten his IMF promise.
Even if the GDP numbers are not entirely unexpected, they are still a failure, a failure to grow the economy. The deficit can only be paid down if the economy grows, we can’t borrow our way out of a debt crisis. It is time for a supply-side revolution, why is the government implementing a policy of selected regional enterprise zones, why not make the whole economy an enterprise zone? It was a mistake to hike VAT and it is a strategic error to burden industry with crushingly high green taxes and penal marginal income tax rates of over 50% discourage entrepreneurs from coming to invest in Britain.
If the government is going to miss the deficit target, and it is, miss it because the government slashed taxes to grow the economy. The international bond markets will forgive a finance minister with a growing economy who misses his deficit target, they won’t forgive a finance minister with a contracting economy in any circumstances. Chancellor Zero knows that with no growth there is no hope for the deficit.
Despite the protestations from Nick Clegg, Cameron has given the go ahead for a full blown consultation on Boris Island – the airport plan in the Thames Estuary. The Telegraph says Clegg has been fussing so much that the announcement was delayed from the beginning of the year. Clues that it was coming have been emerging since last summer when Steve Hilton and Osborne backed the idea. It’s Clegg that is being accused of playing politics in the Mayoral election year, but in even longer terms, if the £40bn plan gets the go ahead, it’s Boris who has the most to gain politically. Especially as has he won George Osborne over…
Regressive taxes aren’t just about forcing up the price of supermarket booze, it was putting up VAT – a mistake that boosted inflation which was already above target and hit consumer spending when it was already weak. Unquestionably that was a regressive tax. Even the usually austerity friendly IMF cautioned against the VAT hike.
The squeezed middle aren’t spared either. Air Passenger Duty means that a family of four flying to America for their annual holiday can pay up to £587 in taxes. The Fawkes family fly back and forth to Ireland regularly spending more on air taxes than on air tickets. UK subjects pay more in air taxes than all the rest of the EU’s citizens – combined. It won’t bother the Chancellor on his £10,000 skiing holiday weeks, but those of us in the private sector, not on benefits, reckon he could do more to cut spending and the tax burden. It is called a growth strategy…
Last night Guido tweeted
If Osborne doesn't risk any more British taxes to the IMF I'll run naked from the EU HQ around Smith Square on St Patrick's Day.—
Guido Fawkes (@GuidoFawkes) December 19, 2011
Guido reckons the spin coming from the Treasury about them saying “No” is bluster. Guido suspects they mean they are not ready to send billions to the IMF just yet…
If by St Patrick’s day Osborne has kept his promise, made to MPs on October 27, that “Britain will not be putting money into the bail-out fund either directly or through the IMF” Guido will keep his promise* and run naked around Smith Square from the EU offices right past Transport House and back. Don’t count on seeing Guido’s bare arse streaking past the daffodils on March 17…
*Iain Dale has yet to “run naked down Whitehall” as promised on election night.
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The Belgravia Gallery reports:
“Having been asked by Nelson Mandela’s art publisher to represent his work,drawings mainly of Robben Island, we had the privilege of spending a morning with Mandela when he was signing the lithographs at his home in Johannesburg in December 2002. He delighted us with stories about a number of well known British personalities over the years when he was president. Perhaps the most surprising was his description of Margaret Thatcher as “Motherly” and he remembered how she had poured him tea and they had discussed various ailments and how after he returned home, she had sent him herbal remedies.”