Wednesday, February 11, 2004

The Economy


Should other nations follow our economic example? A couple of British columnists share their thoughts. Al Kennedy in The Guardian:
And are you spending enough? Because if you're only spending what you've got, that's not enough - you need to be IN DEBT. Not just a little bit overdrawn, I mean proper, wake up screaming, selling your underwear, Russian roulette in Soho basements to win back your kidneys debt.

Because we're going all out to reproduce the US economic miracle and you must play your part. Bush lowered interest rates, cut taxes for the super rich, slashed social programmes and solved his nation's problems. Cataclysmic borrowing, soaring unemployment and homelessness, soup kitchens, bankruptcy, increased racial segregation and collapsing access to medical care and education are all signs of a healthy economy; and Gordon Brown is so confident that Britain will thrive just as spiffingly under a Bush-style regime that he nobly helped keep the PM in place, ensuring Tony will be in charge when the arse fat hits the fan.
And Johann Hari in The Independent:
If you want a child from an estate to have a chance of getting to the top, all the academic research (reality, as opposed to dogma) indicates you have to spend public money on nurturing him or her. It's not quantum physics: you have to build quality childcare to ensure that the child is as stimulated before schooling as a middle-class kid; you must redistribute wealth to his or her school; you should employ access regulators to ensure the child gets into university. None of these is compatible with fetishising small government.

When it comes to the issue at the heart of British politics - the public services - Howard's philosophy has nothing to add. It is absurd to claim that vast sums could be saved by cutting back government waste. Lower taxes will obviously mean less money for public services. (And, yes, less freedom too, because more people will be stuck in agony on waiting lists, or trapped in illiteracy and ignorance). It's very simple: you gets what you pays for. We will only have European-quality public services if we have European levels of tax and spending. The Government is quietly, slowly nudging towards this target; Howard would slam us into reverse gear.
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