Wednesday, 6 November 2019
Some "facts" which might get in the way of feelings. (1)
First to explain the commas around "Facts" in the title. Ther are in fact no facts about the future,* just predictions with a varying likelihood of being correct. So this post is really about some perditions in the election campaign which in my view are highly likely to be correct, and which the BBC's "news reality check has deemed to be reasonable.
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn has claimed that, if the NHS is opened up to the US "Big Pharma" in a free trade deal this could cost the NHS an extra £500m a week.
This, it is true, is a "worst case scenario" and I hope Corbyn said " could" rather than "will." But the argument is that medicinal drugs in the US are priced on average at two and a half times more then NHS currently pays for the equivalent. So if we become dependent on US drugs, and the US pharmaceutical companies manage to push up our prices to the US level, this will indeed raise costs by about £500 a week.
News Reality Check thinks this is a reasonable estimation. It depends, of course, on our actually leaving the EU and accepting a free trade deal on US terms, which, as argued in an earlier post, is highly likely to be the case if we do leave.
A rise in costs of £500m a week is in sharp contrast to the flaky claim of £350m a week saved for the NHS by Brexit.
Another claim is from Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, that if we remain in the EU the economy will grow at a faster rate than if we leave, and that the extra growth will generate an additional £50bn in tax revenues over the first five years. The fact checkers say that is credible but, in terms of total government expenditure, it's not all that much!
Well, perhaps not, but it's better than nothing.
These figures for a million pounds here and a billion there are bandied around and, given that the overwhelming majority of us don't even a significant fraction of £1m, (in fact , the TUC claims that the average family is £14 000 in debt, or) they perhaps don't convey much.
However, most of us know what a second is.
It takes just over eleven and a half days to run up a million seconds.
(Stick 1 000 000 in your calculator, divide by 60 to get minutes, then 60 again to get hours, then 24 to get days. Or, if you can remember how, do it even more convincingly by long division.)
It takes nearly 31 and 3/4 years to run up a billion seconds.
If you don't believe it repeat the above starting with 1 000 000 000 or see.
So £50bn, even spread over five years, adds up to quite a lot of decent social security payments, affordable houses built, , schools and hospitals modernised and properly staffed, potholes in the roads repaired, or whatever your priorities are.)
Not to be sniffed at.
Brexit supporters please note.
* some people argue there are no facts about the past either, just different interpretations.