Thursday, 6 October 2011

Dismantling the government’s ideological economic argument


Mehdi Hasan is a prolific tweeter, blogger and writer, and the senior political editor of the New Statesman. Earlier this year he also found time to write a
biography of Ed Miliband.

The Debt Delusion would be of great use to Ed Miliband since Hasan has assembled an array of arguments that dismantles the government’s economic agenda far more effectively than the official opposition has so far managed.

The short book takes aim at 10 myths perpetuated by the coalition about the debt and the deficit – and what remedies are most effective to reduce the debt, close the deficit and get the economy growing again.

One of the most alluring arguments deployed by the prime minister and the chancellor has been their equating of the national debt with a credit card, accusing Labour of
“maxing out the nation’s credit card”. But, as Hasan points out:

"Governments can increase their revenues by raising taxes; households cannot. Governments can print money and issue currency; households cannot."

As well as arming activists with some useful conceptual arguments, the book also puts
its case with some indisputable facts and statistics: like how there are only two cases out of 15 studied by the International Monetary Fund when cuts preceded economic growth.

There is also an interesting international comparison demonstrating that in 2009 the
UK took less as a proportion in tax than Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Germany – and yet George Osborne’s first move as chancellor was to cut business taxes.

The conclusion is straightforward: the government’s economic policy “is part of a
political and ideological project to roll back the frontiers of the state”. As Hasan says: “The debt is just a distraction.”

For activists it is a useful complement to our own union’s pamphlet ‘There is an Alternative’ – see pcs.org.uk/alternative – which has helped change the terms of the debate and won praise from other unions.

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