Tuesday 22 March 2011

Budget Obsessions

Although I have taught economics for nearly half a century, and media attention to the budget should have been a help in interesting my students, I have always been, and remain,embarrassed by the national obsession with it. The only important thing about tomorrow's budget is how it will affect the macro economy: will Mr Osborne take a Keynesian view and use public spending and cuts in taxation to stimulate the economy, growth and employment. We already know the answer: he won't.

Yet on Thursday the papers, the saintly Guardian being no exception, will be full of naval gazing tables telling us the gains and losses to the single young, the family with two children, the single and married pensioner etc. These changes will be minuscule: a few percentages here and there which are hardly likely to make a serious dent in the comfortable lifestyles of the overwhelming majority. And we already know that Mr Osborne, along with his Labour and Liberal Democrat counterparts, will lack the political courage to make the comfortable share just a little bit of our wealth so that those seriously affected by the recession are adequately compensated.

According to a news bulletin on BBC Radio 4 today, Reginald Maudling brought joy to the nation in his 1953 budget by increasing the sugar ration so we could all bake more cakes to celebrate the coronation. That should put today's alleged austerity into perspective.

From this pathetic self-obsession we need to lift our political gaze to the solving of the really difficult problems: the arms trade which facilitates death and destruction, global poverty and climate change, to name but three.

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