We live in times when the whole of the evidence means a great deal – for example, information on Q1 of 2012 that put growth at a standstill – neither up nor down – meant the UK did not enter a double-dip recession, even though the economy contracted in the periods immediately before and after. In real terms we were backtracking – but on paper, no.
Let’s remember, also, that the organisations that record our economic fortunes are liable to revise their predictions down as well as up – remember when the Office of Budget Irresponsibility changed its mind about the growth figures for 2012? It had predicted growth of 2.5 per cent for that year. In fact, once we iron out the ups and downs, the economy really only bumped along at a roughly steady state.
The International Monetary Fund had predicted a more conservative 1.6 per cent growth for 2012 – but in January of that year revised this down to 0.6 per cent. You get the picture.
The 0.6 per cent figure was in line with market expectations, though – and that is a good sign. But 0.6 per cent is a very fragile figure and the prospects for the rest of the year are “highly uncertain”, as market analyst Richard Driver said in the BBC News website’s report.
We all knew that the economy would start turning upwards again at some point. That it has taken five years to do so indicates the severity of the banker-induced crash – and also the lack of any investment in recovery.
In the past, the upturns arrived comparatively swiftly – but there had been a willingness on the part of both government and businesses to put money into it. The current government has been sucking money out of the economy in the pursuit of Gideon‘s nonsensical “expansionary fiscal contraction” and getting the deficit down – meaning that all the effort has been put into cutting spending and none into actually making a buck or two. Meanwhile, it has been estimated that businesses have been sitting on fortunes totalling six or seven per cent of GDP – around £775 billion, according to Michael Meacher.
In his blog, Mr Meacher said he expected the announcement to be “milked by Cameron-Osborne for all it’s worth” and he was not to be disappointed.
“These figures are better than forecast,” said Osborne in the BBC report – claiming credit for something that had nothing to do with him. “Britain is holding its nerve, we are sticking to our plan, and the British economy is on the mend – but there is still a long way to go.”
What will he say if a later revision knocks the figure down again?
Mr Meacher’s blog stated that the growth figures had been inflated “by being talked up by the finance sector”, and stimulated by Osborne’s Help to Buy scheme “which has ploughed taxpayers’ money into mortgages but without increasing the number of houses being built, which can only push up property prices… igniting yet another housing bubble which is the last thing the economy needs”.
He added that the real essentials of recovery are still missing – “an expansion of manufacturing and exports”.
We may have to wait for another government before that happens; the Coalition is too busy exploiting our current economic fragility as an excuse to sell off the family silver – those parts of the NHS it thinks nobody will notice, the Royal Mail, school playing fields, student loans…
I could mention ‘Starve the Beast’ again – but by now you should be on intimate terms with that expression.
Last month, Vox Political wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a Mr Osborne, politely asking him whether he had any other documentary justifications for his disastrous programme of austerity after the previous principal pillar of his faith – a paper by Harvard economists Reinhart and Rogoff – had been disproved by a student at a rival university.
Today we received a response! A lengthy, well-considered one at that.
What a shame that we found a way to trash it before we reached the end of page one.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s all read the letter together, shall we? It begins:
“Thank you for your letter dated 22 April about the recent publication by Herndon, Ash and Pollin, a critique to the paper ‘Growth in the time of Debt’ by Reinhart and Rogoff.
“You asked for the Treasury’s views on the recent criticism of the paper by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff which concluded that public debt above 90% of GDP could prove a significant drag on economic growth.
“As you will be aware, the Coalition Government inherited the largest deficit in post-war history due to unsustainable increases in Government spending by the previous Government and the effects of the financial crisis [We don’t know that at all. The largest deficit in post-war history is something to which this writer cannot respond – I only know that the national debt at the end of WWII was 250 per cent of GDP, or very nearly four times as much as it is now. Spending by the Labour administration was less than that of the Conservatives until the financial crisis took place, so the writer is effectively admitting that Conservative spending between 1979 and 1997 was even more unsustainable. As for the financial crisis, the Tories would have done the same as Labour at the time, as is borne out by the history books]. In order to address these problems the Coalition Government set a clear and credible consolidation plan to reduce the risks of a costly loss of market confidence in the UK, to restore confidence and underpin sustainable growth.
“As noted by the OECD in their Economy Survey of the United Kingdom February 2013, ‘global developments have shown that the consequences of loosing [sic] market confidence can be [a] sudden and severe and sharp rise in the interest rates [that] would [be] particularly damaging to an economy with the United Kingdom’s level of indebtedness.’ A 1 percentage point increase in government bond yields would add around £8.1 billion to annual debt interest payments by 2017-18.
“Fiscal consolidation also reduces the risk of adverse feedback between weak public finances and a strained financial sector. This feedback can be very damaging, as evidenced by recent events in the euro area. Globally, the UK has one of the largest financial systems relative to the size of its economy, meaning that any loss of investor confidence in the UK’s fiscal position would not only affect the UK, but also the global economy. As the IMF has stated in their United Kingdom – 2011 Article IV Consultation Concluding Statement of the Mission, ‘the UK financial system thus serves as a global public good’. It is the IMF’s view that the UK’s economic and financial sector policies have a systemic impact on the global economy.
“The Government’s approach is supported by a large body of academic and professional literature which finds that there are strong theoretical and empirical grounds for a relationship between high levels of debt and slow growth, including:
“1. Work by staff of the Bank for International Settlements:
“* ‘The Real Effects of Debt’ by Cecchetti et al, 2011 (published as a Bank of International Settlements working paper in September 2011), found that government debt above 85% had a negative impact on growth.
“2. Research by staff of the International Monetary Fund:
“* ‘Public Debt and Growth’, an IMF 2010 working paper prepared by Kumar and Woo, found that an increase in debt ratio of 10& resulted in an annual decrease of 0.2% in per capita GDP growth, with a stronger effect at higher levels of debt. The paper found some evidence of nonlinearity with higher levels of initial debt having a proportionately larger negative effect on subsequent growth. Analysis of the components of growth suggested that the adverse effect largely reflects a slowdown in labour productivity growth mainly due to reduced investment and slower growth of capigal stock.
“* ‘How costly are debt crises’, an IMF 2011 working paper prepared by Furceri and Zdzienicka, finds that debt crises produce significant and long-lasting output losses. This study also provides support to the idea of a threshold for the debt-to-GDP ratio above which output growth starts to decline.
“* The IMF 2013 WEO box 1.2 ‘Public Debt Overhang and Private Sector Performance’, cites studies that have found a threshold beyond which public debt harms growth. It also lists several reasons why a debt overhang can affect economic activity.
“3. Work by staff of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development:
“* ‘Public Debt, Economic Growth and Nonlinear effects, Myth or Reality?’ Egert, OECD 2012, finds ‘some evidence in favour of a negative nonlinear relationship between debt and growth using a variety of econometric models.
“4. Work by staff of the European Commission:
“* Report on Public Finances in EMU 2012 supports the statement that public debt can trigger economic growth: ‘higher debt levels and interest rates might weigh on economic growth, especially when debt exceeds a certain threshold level as a number of papers suggest.’
“There are also theoretical reasons, highlighted in Boskin, 2012 and OECD, 2012 for believing that higher levels of public debt will damage medium-term growth prospect:
“* First, tax hikes needed to service a higher public debt may crowd out private investment by reducing disposable income and saving.
“* Second, if the higher debt servicing costs associated with increased debt levels are financed by increasing tax revenue, they also imply a deadweight loss on the economy as a result of distortionary effect of raising tax revenues.
“* Third, there is broad agreement that large deficit and debt levels are associated with a higher level of long-term Government bond yields which may crowd out productive public investment and reduce private investment through an increase in the cost of capital. Reduced investment in research and development will have long-lasting negative impacts on growth.
“The approach is also supported by international organisations. The OECD, for example, noted in its November 2012 Economic Outlook that ‘With the budget deficit (excluding temporary factors) at over 8% of GDP and gross government debt at over 80% of GDP, fiscal consolidation is necessary to restore the sustainability of public finances and will strengthen medium-term growth prospects. The fiscal stance remains appropriate, and is supported by the strong institutional framework.’
“Olli Rehn, Vice President of the European Commission, on the speech of the Spring Forecast in May 2013 noted: ‘It is important that the UK follows through with consistent consolidation of public finances with a view to achieve (sic) a more sustainable fiscal position.’
“At the end of this letter you can find the papers referred to above online.”
I shan’t embarrass the letter’s author by naming that person.
… all of which can be picked apart with one observation and a couple of attached questions:
Mr Osborne demanded in 2010, that cuts to welfare benefits alone should total £18bn per year by 2014-15 (meaning a total of £90bn over the five years of Coalition government). Other government departments have had to take huge hits as well.
So why is the total drop in the deficit this year just £300 million? And why is the national debt now more than 88 per cent of total GDP – well inside the danger zone that Mr Osborne has been trying to avoid?
Could it be that, once put into practice, the theories outlined above aren’t actually worth a farthing?
Expect much more on this subject as we really get our teeth into the material the Treasury has kindly provided.
Triple-dip breakfast: Will we all be dining on the sour cereal of recession again, when GDP figures are published on Thursday morning?
Thursday will be another ‘crunch’ day for our part-time Chancellor of the Exchequer – he’s having quite a lot of those lately, isn’t he?
Only last week, the academic justification for his austerity policy was disproven by an American student (oh, the shame!), and then his former allies at the International Monetary Fund distanced themselves from him (oh, the betrayal!) saying he should calm down a bit.
That’s the best advice this columnist has ever heard the IMF provide; if not for his own health, then for the nation’s.
Thursday, though, is a really big day. On Thursday, GDP figures for the first quarter of 2013 will be published.
It is a sign of how low expectations have fallen, that all the economic commentators are saying the best we can expect is to have kept out of a triple-dip recession – with falls in output due to the weather, among other things, making that unprecedented outcome more likely.
There is a problem with all of these predictions, which should be obvious to those of us living in the real world: Short-termism.
It’s all about how the UK managed in the last quarter, how it will manage in the next; what the situation is today. What about six months from now? What about next year? What about 2015, when we’re all expecting an election and the chance to banish this nightmare? What about 2017-18, when 0sborne still reckons he’ll have eliminated the budget deficit (fat chance)?
The fact is that the only options open to a Chancellor in the current climate are unpalatable to the Boy.
He could boost investment in infrastructure, in a bid to make this country a better place to open – and carry out – business. The trouble is, this tends to be a long-term project and he no longer has the time. His chances would have been better if he had started this in 2010, but his government cancelled as many such projects as they could back then, claiming it was more important to cut public spending in order to balance the books.
That was a vain hope. Without new investment, the country has lost revenue.
But if that is unpalatable, the other alternative is likely to make him choke on his pate de foie gras (or whatever it is these posh boys ingest): Increase the spending power of the poor.
It is known that the ‘trickle-down effect’ is a myth – giving all of a country’s money to the very rich, in the belief that they will spend it, boosting the economy and the income of the poor, is nonsense. What they actually do is bank it – in offshore tax havens, most likely. That is what 0sborne has been doing; it is another reason the economy has bombed.
It is also a rock-solid fact that poor people do spend their money – or as much as they can get their hands on. When you are constantly struggling to make ends meet, it’s very hard to keep cash in the bank – you have to spend it on food, clothes, rent, heat, light, water… the list is endless, because it constantly repeats.
When you don’t have much cash, as Edmund Blackadder once said, you feel like a pelican. Everywhere you turn, there’s a large bill in front of you.
That money does work for society. It reinvigorates the economy as it filters through different hands. And it brings with it the extra joy of fiscal multipliers – every pound that gets put into the economy is worth more after it has been through.
The trouble is, Gideon shut off that money supply. He raised VAT, making it harder for working-class people and those on benefits to buy certain economy-boosting products, and then he and Iain Duncan Smith spent the last few years on their project to depress wages.
(For clarity, it goes like this: The DWP makes the benefit system so difficult to navigate that people in receipt have to do their utmost to get off-benefit as soon as possible. This means they are constantly looking for jobs, which in turn makes it possible for employers to refuse pay rises for their workforce, with the classic line that “there are plenty of other people who’d be happy to have your job, you know!” You didn’t really think the benefit cap was about making work pay, did you?)
Say what you like about Labour, but they’ve got the right idea when it comes to the money supply. Ed Balls wants to cut VAT; he wants to bring back the 10 per cent tax rate for the lowest-paid; he wants to bring in a National Insurance holiday for companies that agree to take on new employees.
Clearly, the fact that a principal pillar of his faith – the work by Harvard economists Reinhart and Rogoff – has been disproved, and by a student at a rival university, should have shaken his confidence. It is also ironic for a member of the Conservative Party to realise that they would have got their sums right, if they had done them the old-fashioned way.
But we’ve had no expressions of apology or acts of contrition from the Treasury. It seems Mr Osborne is determined to keep going, no matter what damage this causes.
I don’t reckon that’s good enough. I think he should be brought to account. So I have written him a letter, asking him to justify his position.
I reproduce it below. If you agree that it is time Mr Osborne put his cards on the table, you might wish to consider using it as a template for a letter of your own.
Here it is:
The Right Honourable George Osborne MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Horse Guards Road
London SW1A 2HQ
Following the revelation that a fundamental justification for your austerity policy has been disproved – the paper by Reinhart and Rogoff that was based on a mistake on a spreadsheet – I am writing to ask: What other documentary evidence do you have that supports your policy of economic austerity?
It should also be noted that this aide added, “It remains the case that the majority of economists still back the government’s strategy.” I await proof to justify this statement as well. Perhaps it is worthwhile to remind you that, of the 20 economists who publicly backed the Osborne Austerity plan in 2010, only one was willing to publicly back it in August last year. Nine publicly disavowed you, and the other 10 had no comment or went on holiday (http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/politics/2012/08/exclusive-osbornes-supporters-turn-him).
Be advised that it will not be enough for you to discount the quotations above because they come from left-wing sources. As it stands at the moment, the situation is that your policy has no evidence to support it, nor does it have the support of expert opinion that is being claimed for it. Bear in mind that even the International Monetary Fund is criticising your policy, despite having been a staunch support in 2010.
You will recall that the Coalition came into being, nearly three years ago, for the specific purpose of bringing the economy under control. Your policy is the instrument with which this was to be done.
If you do not provide evidence to support its continuation, then what are we, the public, to think? That you are inflicting austerity on us – primarily upon the poorest of us – purely to shrink the state? To sell off the profitable parts to private industry, for the good of private bank balances rather than for the benefit of the nation as a whole? For spite?
If I were in that position, honour would demand an admission of the mistake and either an alteration of policy to one that is more likely to support economic growth (I understand alternatives are available) or – considering this government that was formed to fix the economy has spent three years doing the exact opposite – the dissolution of this administration and election of one that is better-equipped to make the best decisions, in the interest of the nation as a whole.
George Osborne famously shed tears at the funeral of Margaret Thatcher – but were they really for the Blue Baroness, a woman he is understood to have met only once (twice if you count Wednesday), or was it because he’d just heard that the entire theory forming the basis for his economic policy had just disappeared from under him?
The government’s principal justification for pursuing austerity lay in tatters today, after it was revealed that the economic theory behind it is based on a mistake.
The Chancellor’s entire austerity policy is based on a paper by economists Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff, which is itself based on a spreadsheet concluding that public debt of more than 90 per cent of a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) slows down growth by 0.1 per cent – which is wrong.
It should have found that countries with such levels of debt see their economies grow by 2.2 per cent – but the false conclusion was used by the UK Treasury to justify the horrific austerity programme that has already caused terrible harm to many British citizens, and is expected to cause much worse harm in the future.
It means that the slaughter of innocents down at the DWP – the deaths of many thousands of people claiming Employment and Support Allowance, due to changes in the assessment regime that were based on a false theory dreamed up by an American insurance company when it needed an excuse not to pay out – have been in vain.
It means that the huge cuts to social security benefits for those who are out of work and those in work but poorly paid are totally unjustified. Here in Mid Wales, they average out at £433 per year, for everyone of working age. That’s roughly one week’s wages here – and of course much more than that in terms of benefits because, let’s remember, this government wants to make sure that work pays more than worklessness.
And it means that the Income Tax cut for the very rich, and the cuts that have reduced Corporation Tax by a quarter, were also unjustified. Let’s not forget that the Coalition government has been giving our money back to its influential friends.
Gideon George Osborne’s ridiculous plan was known as “expansionary fiscal contraction”. Just looking at those words together, anyone with an ounce of common sense knows it’s ridiculous. It implied that the economy would grow if it was starved of investment. What rubbish. How on earth can anything grow if it is being starved?
Now that plan has been exposed as “total nonsense” – which is exactly the way Ed Balls described it after hearing of the mistake.
Osborne, of course, is sticking to it. An aide said it was “absurd” that only one paper supports the Chancellor’s case for austerity – but put forward no examples of other justifications.
The aide said “the majority of economists still back the government’s strategy”.
But the International Monetary Fund doesn’t. The IMF was the main supporter of Osborne, using the same Reinhart-Rogoff paper to justify austerity schemes three years ago.
Now, both IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard and its head, Christine LaGarde, have suggested that he should be “slowing the pace” of his cutbacks.
In fact, we all know why Osborne will continue to push austerity down our throats, and it has nothing to do with balancing the budget.
He knows it is extremely unlikely that the Conservative Party will win an election in 2015 – the damage he has already done to all our lives means that is a statistical probability on which he can rely.
But he has more ideologically-motivated changes to foist upon us, whether we want them or not. His buddy David Cameron once said he wanted to see all public services except justice and the security services privatised, and we can expect Osborne to push this agenda forward with vigour.
This government is all about taking public services and putting them into private hands, for profit and to spite the poor.
That is the real truth that was revealed by a statistical error in a spreadsheet this week.
The Iron Lady: This is probably the most iconic image of Margaret Thatcher from her tenure as Prime Minister of the UK. “The lady’s not for turning,” she warned. Unfortunately for Britain, she kept her word.
It isn’t every day that a former Prime Minister dies – and even rarer that we witness the death of one who affected the UK in such a fundamental way as Baroness Thatcher.
As I write this, the outpouring of tributes and discussion of her achievements in the mass media are in full swing – mostly concentrating on what their editors would define as the ‘good’ she did for our country. Most of the TV channels and papers are run by right-wingers, of course – so you can expect them to be dripping with adulation.
However, as I commented on Facebook yesterday evening, street parties broke out in Brixton and Glasgow, celebrating her demise (I understand celebrations took place in Leeds and Liverpool, and possibly many other cities, towns and villages across the UK). They had bands, they have people handing out milk (remember, she was the ‘Milk Snatcher’ before she was PM), they were chanting “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie – dead, dead, dead” and popping champagne.
There was a humour – a sense of wit – about it, not only in what was going on (the milk, for example) but also the locations (there were riots in Brixton during her tenure, and Scotland was where the hated Poll Tax was piloted).
But I said it is also tragic “that a person should do so much harm in her life, and be so hated by the people she was elected to represent – more than 20 years after she left office – that her death is marked by spontaneous celebration and, literally, dancing in the streets”.
That comment thread has now been read by more than 15,000 people (usually I get one or two thousand through my Facebook door). A question I posted has received more than four times as many votes saying she harmed the country as say she improved it (47 – 11).
What DID she achieve?
According to Paul Krugman’s blog, it’s debatable whether she achieved anything, in terms of the economy.
“Thatcher came to power in 1979, and imposed a radical change in policy almost immediately,” he wrote. “But the big improvement in British performance doesn’t really show in the data until the mid-1990s. Does she get credit for a reward so long delayed?”
Good question. In fact, her two-and-a-half terms in office constituted an extremely rocky road for those of us who had to live through them (and I was one)! My opinion is that this is because she was not interested in improving Britain’s NATIONAL prosperity.
No – the Thatcher crusade was ideological. She wanted to thrust her form of Conservatism so far down everybody’s throat that it would take decades for any other way to be accepted – and she succeeded beyond her wildest dreams.
Let’s look at the policies that most clearly demonstrate this ideology.
She sold off Britain’s council houses. The cheap, rented social housing that accommodated those of us who earned the least were sold wholesale during her premiership – and not replaced. Mrs Thatcher is said to have had a dream to create a Britain full of homeowners. Sadly, this is not what happened. Instead, the majority of council houses were sold off to private landlords who then rented them out again – at higher cost. The lack of replacement council houses meant that the country’s poor had no alternative but to rent at the higher level, meaning they had less disposable income than before the sell-off. The rise of housing associations to fill the social housing gap has meant an extra layer of bureaucracy between the tenant and their elected representatives, who can now claim that any abuse of power by landlords is nothing to do with them.
She broke the unions. Some say this was vitally important, as the unions had become too powerful and were able to bring the country to its knees whenever they felt like it, calling strikes on a whim – and there is mileage in this. But it’s also possible to say that business bosses and members of the Thatcher government provoked confrontation in order to justify the erosion of union power – this is certainly true in the case of the mineworkers’ strike of 1984-5. There is an argument that National Coal Board chairman Ian MacGregor was paid millions of pounds to engineer the confrontation. The result was that the unions were stripped of many of their rights, meaning working people had nobody left to stand up for them in wage negotiations. It is a direct result of this that workers’ wages have risen by just 27 per cent over the last 30 years, while bosses’ salaries have multiplied by 800 per cent, and the gap between the country’s richest and poorest has grown, massively.
She stripped the UK of its manufacturing industries. What can be said about this? Thatcher saw much of Britain’s private industry as uneconomical, unprofitable. She oversaw a switch to service industries and finance – boosting this with bank deregulation. It is this move, which took place in the USA at around the same time, that led to the financial crisis of 2008 and the austerity measures which the current Coalition government is using to hammer the poorest in the modern UK.
She privatised national utilities. The share sell-offs were, on the face of it, intended to make it possible for every British citizen to buy shares in the companies that provided power, telecommunications, water and so on. In practice, the poorest couldn’t afford it, and those on middle incomes saw the shares as a short-term investment, believing they would be able to sell their shares on for many times the amount they paid, a few months later. This has led to the vast majority of shares in the privatised utilities falling into the hands of – you guessed it – the very, very rich. Another publicised intention of the sell-off was that, as private companies, these organisations would deliver a better service at a lower price. This was a fantasy; it never materialised. Look at British Rail (which I admit was privatised after Mrs Thatcher left office, but is a great example of the trend): Not only do users pay much more for their tickets now than when it was publicly-owned, but the subsidy paid to the private rail companies by the government has multiplied massively as well. Result: Rich shareholders become very much richer. Poor users struggle to cope with rising prices.
Can you spot the trend here?
She changed taxation to make the poor pay more. I refer, of course, to the infamous Poll Tax. Mrs Thatcher claimed in 1989 that a flat-rate tax for local services – with everybody, rich or poor, paying the same amount – was fairer. The public – who had already been fooled by the council housing sell-off, the public utility sell-off and the breaking of the unions, and were therefore sick of being hoodwinked – claimed otherwise and refused to pay. The public won and Mrs Thatcher was consigned to the waste basket of politics soon after. The current Coalition government is working hard to ensure that this policy is carried out, with the so-called ‘Pickles Poll Tax’ – the council tax support scheme that ensures everybody pays council tax. Meanwhile, efforts to ensure the rich pay less are going ahead, with Corporation Tax cut by a quarter during the lifetime of this Parliament, and the ‘Millionaires’ Tax Break’ cutting the top rate of Income Tax from 50p in the pound to 45p.
She kept Britain out of the Euro (or more accurately, European Monetary Union). This was her one sensible policy, history has proved. There is much to be said in favour of a free-trading zone where countries can trade amongst themselves at favourable rates – but monetary union cannot be a workable part of that, when the countries involved are at hugely varying stages of development. Mrs Thatcher was right to oppose it and the fact that the UK is not mired in the current Eurozone crisis, except as a member of the EU with trading interests to protect, is to her credit.
By now, dear reader, you are probably wondering how Mrs Thatcher lasted so long, if her policies were all so divisive, and so clearly trained on impoverishing the lower classes. The answer is simple: She was excellent at public relations. The fact that she was the UK’s first-ever female Prime Minister was a huge publicity boost for her, and she built on it by nurturing an image of herself as ‘The Iron Lady’ – a Prime Minister of firm convictions who knew that what she was doing was absolutely right for Britain (“Right for the goolies of Britain,” as Graeme Garden joked on Radio 4’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue at the time). The PR-reliance was clear from the start – the Conservative Party hired the Saatchi & Saatchi agency to run its 1979, 1983 and 1987 election campaigns. It is notable that this partnership dissolved during the 87 campaign and Thatcher’s premiership ran out of steam shortly afterwards.
To sum up, I’ll leave you with the comment I placed on the New York Times website, in response to that paper’s piece about Mrs Thatcher’s death:
“Having lived through the Thatcher years and the changes her government perpetrated on British society, allow me to assure you that there is little reason to heap praise upon her.
“The entire thrust of her thinking was to ensure that the rich and powerful became richer and more powerful, and the poor – especially those with intelligence and/or ability – would be denied any chance of prosperity or success.
“What’s the American Dream all about? Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness? Everybody created equal, with opportunity for each according to their ability or achievement, regardless of social class or circumstances of birth? The Thatcher government is a rejection of all those aspirations, as is the current Cameron government, which is its natural successor.
“The Thatcher government deprived people of their liberty by creating a large underclass of unemployed people and using the threat of unemployment to depress workers’ wages.
“As a result, they did not have the disposable funds to take advantage of the sell-offs of national utilities such as British Gas and British Telecom.
“She sold social housing but did not build any to replace it.
“She used the police as a tool of political repression, rather than as guardians of the law.
“She used taxation in a similar manner, crippling the poor with punitive measures such as the hated Poll Tax – a flat-rate charge, effectively a tax cut for the rich, but a huge tax hike for the poor.
“That was her fatal error, of course.”
Goodbye, Baroness Thatcher. Hopefully your passing will trigger a reassessment of your career, so that we can all move on from the political nightmare your policies created for the vast majority of middle- and working-class people whose only political mistake lay in entrusting their future to you.
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