I like it when one chart demolishes two myths.
The graph below from Citi’s Michael Saunders shows how the coalition government has consistently delayed its fiscal tightening.
This suggests how the chancellor has been less dogged in pursuit of “plan A” than often believed. If you were being kind you could say it was a sign of pragmatism. But it also indicates how, contrary to the Budget rhetoric about responsibility, George Osborne is funding some tax cuts with temporary revenue-raisers and unspecified spending cuts. Ironically, it is the sort of financial short-termism depicted above that worries the morte thoughtful critics of the chancellor’s pensions changes.
Wednesday is the UK’s Budget day. For those who enjoyed exams when they were younger, this is a glorious occasion; the chancellor announces lots of new information, including some things have that haven’t been leaked, and he prompts a scramble to understand what it means. Normal people and the rest of the world find the scene baffling. But there is a good chance you will be called upon to say something intelligent about this unintelligible event – and that this will happen before any typically-brained human being will have been able to analyse the figures.
Here are seven things that you can say in any conversation about the Budget. This bluffer’s guide has the advantage that you don’t have to watch the event.
1. “Any announcement worth less than £10bn is not worth discussing.” No-one wants to seem without perspective or worse, vision. And vision means the big picture and the big picture means big numbers
On Saturday, Ed Balls announced that a Labour government would bring back the 50 per cent tax rate on incomes over £150,000. His main justification is that it would raise more revenue than government estimates suggest. Is the shadow chancellor correct?
In his speech today, George Osborne made two arguments in defence of his economic policy. First, that there was no an alternative. Second, that there is no alternative.
In the past few weeks the opposition’s case against the chancellor has shifted emphasis from the existence of a recovery to its nature. The overall picture may be improving, his critics admit, but it does not feel like that for many people. Policy must change to ensure an improvement in “living standards”, the argument goes. But Mr Osborne chose not to accept the premise. Instead, he repeatedly argued that the same approach (albeit with some amendments) that “worked” for the macroeconomy will also deliver on a micro level.