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No doubt some of you will scream that this post is overdramatizing, but the consequences of further fiscal consolidation (that’s austerity to most of us), as laid out in Professor Simon Wren-Lewis’s latest Mainly Macroarticle, seem undeniable.
He tells us the National Institute has used the model NIGEM to analyse the macroeconomic impact of the different political parties’ fiscal plans post-2015, which is published in the latest Review. (Chris Giles has a FT write-up.) The result: The more fiscal austerity you undertake, and if monetary policy fails to perfectly offset the impact on demand, the lower output will be.
You don’t need a crystal ball to see what this means, if we get another Conservative, or Tory-led, government. Lower output means a lower tax take, therefore less money to spend on the NHS and welfare benefits (areas like Defence and International Development will always have funds – we can’t let ourselves go defenceless and we must continue our programmes of cultural imperialism, after all).
So further Tory austerity instantly implies the imposition of even harsher standards of qualification for state benefits, pushing even more vulnerable, sick and disabled people off the books and into their graves. We’ve all known that voting Tory is an endorsement of state-sponsored suicide but it’s time we all owned up to it.
It means the sale of the National Health Service in England to private companies will be accelerated, with consequent impacts on the amount of grant funding for the health service in the other UK countries; the service will continue to worsen and even more deaths will be the result.
But the Tories will want to pretend to the media that all is well, which means an increased push to get people into part-time, temporary or zero-hours work, and an increased number of benefit claimants being funnelled into work activity programmes that, in fact, reduce the number of available jobs. The resulting low-pay economy is exactly what the Conservatives want; the workers will be kept down and the employers can pocket the profits.
Nobody in the government or even the Bank of England will tell you this because, it seems, they haven’t done any analysis and won’t make any such forecasts.
The Office for Budget Irresponsibility is not allowed to look at alternative fiscal policies in the short term and must therefore put the bravest possible face on what is offered to it – that is why every single forecast to come out of that organisation has been hopelessly optimistic.
We’re back to evidenceless policies again. The Tories are saying “everything will be okay”, because – for them – it will be. They and their rich friends will have loads of cash. Who cares that the entire infrastructure of the United Kingdom – and the British way of life – will be dismantled and disappearing from under them?
Think this is overexaggerating? Let’s go back to Prof Wren-Lewis and examine the Tories’ record. He writes: “If you go back to 2010, the OBR’s main forecast didn’t look too bad: the recovery was continuing, and interest rates were able to rise as a result.
“But good policy does not just look at central projections, but it also looks at risks. Then, the risks were asymmetric: if the recovery became too strong, interest rates could always rise further too cool things, but if the recovery did not happen, interest rates would be stuck at their lower bound and monetary policy would be unable to keep the recovery on track.
“In 2010 and beyond that downside risk came to pass [bolding mine], and the recovery was delayed. Fiscal policy put the economy in a position where it was particularly vulnerable to downside risks, which is why it was an entirely foreseeable mistake.
“Exactly this point applies to 2015 and beyond. The problem with further fiscal consolidation while interest rates remain at their lower bound is that it makes the economy much more vulnerable to downside risks.”
In other words, it seems Conservative policy, as set down by History graduate and towel-folder George Osborne, deliberately weakened this country’s ability to recover from the crash of 2008 and afterwards.
How secure is you job? How safe are your savings?
Do you really want to risk them on more Tory bungling?
Speech: Nigel Farage addresses the party faithful at Doncaster racecourse. Does anyone else think he bears a striking resemblance to Adolf Hitler at Nuremberg?
It seems the UK Independence Party has decided to lure blue-collar workers away from Labour and the Conservatives by promising to push their faces even more firmly into the dirt.
The party’s tax policies, unveiled at UKIP’s conference today (Friday) offer huge benefits to top earners while threatening fewer services to those at the bottom.
At the moment, UK citizens don’t pay tax unless they earn more than £10,000 per year, then they pay a basic rate of 20 per cent on earnings up to £41,865. From £41,866 to £150,000, 40 per cent is payable, and an ‘additional rate’ of 45 per cent is paid on anything over £150,000.
UKIP would raise the tax-free personal allowance to £13,500, with the basic rate being increased to cover earnings up to £44,000. Then the 40p rate would be cut to 35p for people earning between £44,000 and £55,000, and those earning more would pay 40p, with the ‘additional rate’ scrapped.
Huge benefits for the obscenely rich, moderate benefits for the modestly well-off, and what do the poor get?
They get a tax-receipt black hole of at least £12 billion every year.
UKIP reckons this won’t matter, because the loss would be wiped out by savings made from leaving the EU, cutting the foreign aid budget by 85 per cent and cancelling the HS2 rail link.
The trouble is, some experts reckon the changes would cost £20 billion, meaning deeper spending cuts that would impact most strongly on services for the poorest in society.
Not only that, but there is no way of knowing what effect leaving the EU will have on the economy. The European Union is the UK’s main trading partner, with contracts worth more than £400 billion a year. How many of those will remain? And what about the UK citizens currently living in the EU? There are around two million of them, if memory serves correctly. Will they lose their jobs and be sent back here? Will those who have retired be told they can’t stay any more, as they aren’t EU citizens?
What will that do to the UK?
It seems that former Treasury official James Meadway, now senior economist at the New Economics Foundation, has the right idea. He said the proposals would be a “social catastrophe” if implemented.
“What they’re proposing is a hugely expensive means to make the tax system even more unfair. The ‘blue-collar’ stuff is just so much windbaggery and spin – this is a tax proposal that will benefit the richest most, whilst slashing the amount of money available for the public services we all need,” he said.
What a good thing it’s not going to happen, as Nigel Farage and his chums are only contesting around 12 seats.
Lynne Featherstone: Her speech may have been well-intentioned, but was also patronising and hypocritical in the light of the Coalition’s treatment of disabled people in the UK.
Today the Coalition government announced it is showing the developing world how to treat people with disabilities (don’t laugh) – by ensuring that schools built with direct UK funding will have easy access for the disabled.
According to a government press release, Liberal Democrat International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone used the High Level Meeting on Development and Disability at the United Nations in New York – the biggest disability rights meeting in five years – to call on the international community to tackle the ‘great neglect’ of a billion people globally who face unequal access to education, employment, healthcare, social support and justice as a result of disability.
Did her speech make any mention of the ‘great neglect’ of people in her own country who face discrimination on exactly the same grounds, caused by her government?
“Those living with a disability are disproportionately some of the poorest and most marginalised people in the world – part of an unseen great neglect,” she told the meeting. “It is telling that of the 57 million children currently out of school in the world today, over a third have a disability.
“As a global community, we have a duty to safeguard the most vulnerable. If developing countries are to move forward into prosperity and greater self-reliance, they must take everyone on the journey.
“That’s why from this day forward, all schools built with the direct support of British taxpayers will be designed to allow disability access.
“With the ongoing discussion of what development should focus on when the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015, we have a once-in-a-generation chance to finally put disability on the agenda.”
Leaders of developing countries would have been justified in looking askance at the British minister while she was making this speech, with her hypocrisy on display for everybody to see.
They would be right to ask themselves: “Is this not a minister from a country that demonises its disabled people? That treats them as a burden on the community? That is trying to purge its society of them?
“Did her government not drive 73 disabled people per week to suicide or death through the exacerbation of their health problems – both brought on by cuts to state benefits and the threat of destitution – during 2011? And is her government not now refusing to provide up-to-date figures on the deaths its policies have caused?
“Does this not mean that deaths of disabled people caused – directly or indirectly – by UK government policies have increased dramatically during this time period, and the same government is trying to cover up the fact?”
It is notable that the government’s announcement landed on the same day that disability activist Samuel Miller received the following correspondence from the office of the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights:
“On behalf of the Special Rapporteur, thank you very much for your communications… Ms Sepulveda is observing very closely the situation with the UK welfare policies and their effects on persons living in poverty, including persons with disability.
“She is doing her best within the limits of her mandate to address such situations not only in the UK but globally through direct engagement with Governments.
“She would like to commend you for your tireless efforts and wishes you all the best in your endeavours.”
In the light of all this, would leaders of developing countries not be right, while thanking the UK government for its well-intentioned offer, to ask why Ms Featherstone feels justified in talking down to them about the disabled when her government refuses to allow those in its own country an opportunity to live with dignity.
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