Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The ConDem Debt Repayment Con

Economics is never going to be my specialist subject, but even I can see that the line of argument from Cleggeron is a con.

They keep repeating that the nation's debt must be paid off as soon as possible or else catastrophe will ensue. (Not that the LibDems believed that during the election campaign when they wanted progressive-minded supporters of public services to vote for them, but hey.)

Many millions of us are in debt. It's called a mortgage, and it was positively encouraged by the Tories the last time they were in power. But how many of us feel an overwhelming sense of urgency to pay off their mortgage RIGHT NOW? Hardly anyone. The arrangement with the lender is to pay it off over 25 years or so.

Similarly, you'd think, the nation's debt. Especially as, as I understand it, most of the debt is in a form equivalent to bonds, so the lenders are not beating at the door to get it repaid.

Would you pay off your mortgage this year if you could? Maybe. Would you starve your family to enable you to do so? Of course not. But Cleggeron are not starving their own families, are they? They are starving ours - of the services, wages and pensions we need.

Clegg's speech yesterday was particularly loathsome, with not a sniff of liberalism or democracy in the air: it was a straightforward Tory speech. Public sector workers' pensions are, apparently, 'gold-plated' and unfair to private-sector workers (not that private-sector workers will benefit from attacks on public-sector workers' pensions, but hey). And it's a shame to cut public-sector workers' wages, but we really have to, except the very very badly-paid ones (why there are very very badly-paid workers in the public sector to start with is glossed over). Taxing the super-rich, stopping the massive tax avoidance/evasion, or nationalising the banks? Nah.

It seems to me that if the ConDem coalition does not need to slash public services and attack public-sector workers in order to pay off the debt immediately, then it must be doing so because it wants to. And why does it want to? Because this lash-up of ruling-class parties wants to break the consensus that grew after the Second World War that the state should provide for people's welfare, and replace it with one that we should fend for ourselves.

It's an economic, political and ideological offensive that we must respond to with an industrial, political and ideological counter-offensive - including by spreading the word that people should not believe the crap about having to pay off the debt right now.

[PS. All of this, of course, skims over the argument that Labour could have avoided building up such a big debt by taking the money from the big financial institutions rather than borrowing it from them. But that's for another time.]

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