Posts Tagged ‘spending cuts’



February 24, 2010

The Governor of the Bank of England, on euphemistic form:

“I’m sure the rating agencies and the markets will be looking… for a more detailed explanation of how the structural fiscal deficit will be brought down over the lifetime of the next parliament,” said Mr King.

“…more detailed explanation”: also known as spending cuts, post-election. Big ones. Note, incidentally, who appears to be really running Britain’s economic policy.

For the time being, however, it would appear Darling’s cuts-tomorrow strategy retains the markets’ confidence; the projected growth figures may be hokey, but the Cabinet behind them looks a better bet for the City than the chancers on the benches opposite.

Whether that confidence will hold until the general election is an open question. A single bad day’s trading could focus minds on the UK’s ropey public finances, sparking a speculative attack.

And in Greece, the protests are hotting up as the full, miserable extent of the austerity package there becomes clear. The question of a political alternative to the bankers’ diktat is going to be posed sharply: either we break the grip of the financial markets, or they will break us.


No mass support for neoliberalism: the British Social Attitudes survey

January 27, 2010

Liam Mac Uaid has a downbeat post on the just-published 2009 British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey results. The BSA attempts, every year, to capture the British public’s feelings on a huge range of issues. Here’s Liam:

…neo-liberal values are gaining a real grip on mass consciousness. The authors say ”only two in five people (39%) now support increased taxes and spending on health and education,the lowest level since 1984 and down from 62% in 1997.” They add that “support for redistribution from the better off to those who are less well off has dropped markedly. Fewer than two in five (38%) now think the government should redistribute income from the better off to those who are less well off, down from half (51%) in 1994.” In a nasty Thatcherite echo[, a] minority of one in five (21%) think unemployment benefits are too low and cause hardship, compared with over half (53%) in 1994.

I think he’s got the wrong intepretation of the results. That shift on public spending has been taking place for nearly a decade, from a peak in 2002 when 63 per cent supported increased expendiute. But it’s not flipped over into support for axing public services. People want, instead, to maintain what they’ve got.

There is no mass support for Thatcherite spending cuts. Here’s what the report’s authors say:

Public support for increasing taxation and public spending is now at its lowest level since the early 1980s. 39% support this, down from 62% in 1997. Only 8% support cuts. The most popular view, held by 50%, is that spending and taxation levels should stay as they are.

Only 8 per cent of the population support cuts. That’s hardly compelling evidence of ‘neoliberal values’ gaining popular support. And it leaves 89 per cent wanting either the same spending levels, or an increase.

Set these broad-brush figures against more detailed work that finds over 70 per cent believing the gap between rich and poor is too large, or the 80 per cent wanting caps on corporate pay, and the situation is – at least – more complex than Liam suggests.

There’s no reason for complacency. Attitudes can shift. The Right is looking more organised. But the whiff of battles ahead should not mean conceding defeat now.