What has the horror at Grenfell Tower to do with economists? And what have the lives lost at Grenfell Tower to do with the government’s budget deficit? A great deal, I will argue here. When on Twitter a few days ago I raised the issue of the shared responsibility that economists have for this ghastly tragedy, I was attacked. So let me explain.
In the days before the Grenfell Tower inferno, mainstream economists complained that the economy was not at the heart of the general election campaign. What they meant was something quite different: that Treasury economic dogma about the need to cut the deficit was not at the heart of the election campaign. Continue reading
I hear tell of George Osborne applying for the Evening Standard vacancy only after other people came to him for advice on their applications. What a charmer. Still, his landing the editorship of London’s biggest free sheet is as shocking as it is audacious. How is it someone barely able to string a sentence together, let alone lacking journalistic experience of any kind, can simply drop into and run one of the country’s biggest titles, and carry on doing another five jobs, including the nominally full-time role of representing the good people of Tatton?
Connections, of course. Standard proprietor, Evgeny Lebedev said “I am proud to have an editor of such substance, who reinforces The Standard’s standing and influence in London and whose political viewpoint – socially liberal and economically pragmatic – closely matches that of many of our readers”. Lebedev is the son of an oligarch who got stinking rich thanks to the plundering of Russian industry after the fall of the USSR, and has basically spent his entire life swanning around the jet set and organising parties for celebrities and other chums in London. Continue reading
In order to defeat Osbornomics it is necessary to understand it. A central tenet is that the private sector is the key to prosperity and that therefore everything possible should be done to promote and encourage it. The state should shrink in order to release the inherent dynamism of the private sector. The argument runs that it may be that some people fail temporarily so some sort of safety net may be necessary, if affordable. In this framework, if it is necessary to cut support for disabled people and the poor in order to fund tax cuts for high earners and business, then so be it.
The attack on disabled people has rightly been the focus of hostility to Osborne’s Budget. But this is not an isolated case, as all those who have suffered those cuts can testify. This has been a repeated pattern of Osborne Budgets, supported by all Tory and LibDem MPs beginning in 2010. The right of the Labour Party has had no significant disagreements with it.
At the same time, the long-term decline of the steel industry has turned into a full-blown crisis. In a very useful report the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) debunks the myth that the crisis is due to ‘dumping’ of steel in the EU. The UK loss of market share in core industries producing intermediate goods, such as steel, is twice the rate of the industrialised countries as a whole over the long-term. Despite alleged ‘dumping’ by Chinese firms in Europe, German steel production rose by 2% in 2015. Continue reading
They seek him here, they seek him there. Those lobby hacks seek him everywhere. Is he in heaven or is he in hell? That damned elusive … Chancellor of the Exchequer. Okay, so my reworked rhyme lifted from the Scarlet Pimpernel doesn’t work. But neither do Osborne’s sums, so all is balanced in the world. Well, what a torrid few days for the Tories – and not in a good way. To be sure, when Nicky Morgan was wheeled out on Thursday to announce on Question Time that the planned cut to Personal Independence Payments wasn’t happening, it was obvious the government was in deep trouble. It’s not everyday a government rows back on a key budget pledge announced by the Chancellor in the House. But then the real damage was wrought after the odious IDS carpet bombed Downing Street before his deserved departure for the back benches. Continue reading
There was much to disagree with in George Osborne’s Budget announced on Wednesday, in particular the increasingly foolish and damaging target to achieve an overall budget surplus of over £10 billion in 2019/20 and 2020/21 via further spending cuts. But one specific claim made by the Chancellor in his speech to the House of Commons was an outright untruth – yet so far, this has been passed over by the mainstream media. Mr Osborne said this:
Today, I’m publishing new analysis that shows that if we hadn’t taken the action we did in 2010, then cumulative borrowing would have been £930 billion more by the end of the decade than it is now forecast to be. If we’d taken the advice, Britain would not have been one of the best prepared economies for the current global uncertainties; we would have been one of the worst prepared.”