Don’t let people get away with cuts special pleading
The pre-election promises that £6 billion worth of cuts could be easily conjured up from efficiency savings that no-one would notice, that front-line services (whatever they are) would not be hit and that the poor and vulnerable could be protected have all been broken already.
Few will mourn the General Teaching Council or ID cards but cuts to even quite modest programmes such as Every Child a Reader revealed by Nicola break all these promises.
Business organisations that have talked up the deficit and backed early cuts now have to face their members who will suffer as the state is one of the biggest customers for large parts of the private sector.
The inevitable reaction has been special pleading. Don’t cut us, sectors say, we are far too important.
Yet it is the vulnerable who have the least clout and smallest voice in any battle of interest groups.
But none of the speacial pleading does anything to challenge the new “conventional wisdom” that turns Keynes on his head. The progressive moment that peaked around the time of the G20 summit seems to have evaporated as Paul Krugman and Martin Wolf have both noted in their savage critiques of the new economic orthodoxy of the OECD. (Same as the old economic orthodoxy).
And how depressing to see Vince Cable to echo this yesterday (even if in a speech with some strong words about banks and other good sense):
“The basic reality is simple: government is no longer in a position to promote growth through fiscal stimulus. Private consumers are debt-laden. Growth will have to come from the business sector. It will need to come from trade.”
But with the new orthodoxy depressing demand in our main trading partners this ain’t going to happen.
Journalists – particularly broadcast journalists with their duty of impartiality – should not uncritically accept this new consensus. They are of course right to cover those lobbying against particular cuts but they should never let anyone oppose a cut without challenging them with:
- whether they think it’s right to cut before the recovery is clear and sustainable,
- whether they favour the great burden of deficit reduction being put on spending cuts rather than tax rises and
- where the cuts should fall if not on their particular interest.