We are shortly to be treated to another fairy tale from the Chancellor. Alas the Autumn Statement is unlikely to presage any happy ending. Apart from the NHS, it seem that even further cuts are in store for the rest of public spending. All of this will be accompanied by the usual tale that “we” or more often “the country” cannot afford so much public spending. This is a kind of ghost story designed solely to frighten the public. A very successful story, backed up by the Labour party and just about all of our media. Nevertheless it is all one big porky.
It’s really about taxation and not spending
The mantra that “the country” cannot afford to continue spending on whatever item is under threat is most obviously a lie in that virtually no-one who makes this claim actually wants the spending to stop. Which is rather strange, since this is what is usually meant when someone says he or she cannot afford something. I cannot afford to buy a Rolls Royce car, so I do not buy a Rolls Royce car. But when it comes to prescription charges for example, when Labour, the Tories and the LibDems all say “we” cannot afford this public expenditure, they are not advocating that people stop buying prescriptions. The money will still get spent. But instead of coming out of general taxation, the same spending will come out of individual pockets. So it is pretty clear that “we” or whoever these people mean, can in fact afford this spending. The same applies to just about all public spending, such as tuition fees. The money will continue to be spent, so it is a bit of a lie to claim that “we” or “the country” cannot afford this spending.
What Labour and their cronies mean is that they want to reduce the level of taxes or to hold them at the current level. They advocate a switch from publicly funded spending to the same spending, but by by individuals. Which is perfectly understandably from Tories and LibDems, as at bottom they both represent the well-off, the rich, the very rich and the obscenely rich. People who can afford to buy whatever they want and who would benefit most from reduced taxation. But it still feels a bit strange from Labour, which at least pretended to represent the poor and the less well-off. But then again just about everything from Labour is a bit strange these days.
The country can afford more and better public services
It is quite remarkable that we have reached this stage in our public debate where the starting point is can the country afford good public services. An incredible achievement for the Tories, ably abetted by their fellow travellers in Labour and the LibDems. It should not need emphasising, but the UK is a very, very rich state. One of the richest in the world. A state with a very large and growing number of millionaires and billionaires. Starting with a significant number of members of the cabinet. The cabinet as a whole is probably wealthy enough to pay off the national debt among themselves. Yet these people and the big companies, both British and multinational that dominate the UK economy seem to pay relatively little in taxes. Some in fact like to boast about how little they contribute to the welfare of their fellow citizens.
There should never have been a debate about the affordability of good quality public services. That this has become the dominant frame of reference is just another example of the monumental failure of the left in the UK. How this came about is not for this post, but it is worth noting that Labour may have once upon a time merited inclusion in the left, but that time has long since gone. Labour remains part of the problem and in no sense part of the solution. We just need to keep reminding people that Labour is part of the big lie.