AT least he didn’t have the gall this time to say there was no alternative. Maybe even George Osborne knew that wouldn’t wash when he was talking about raising VAT to an all-time high.
Instead the chancellor claimed that putting up VAT from an already swingeing 17½ per cent to a thumping 20pc was the “least damaging” way of reducing Britain’s deficit.
To which the question is: “Least damaging to whom?”
Not to those families who will have to pay around £400 a year more for their basic necessities.
Which might not sound a lot if you’re a multi-millionaire Tory, but hits rather harder on the streets of Chantry.
The Tories and their LibDem co-conspirators have been revelling in the economic crisis as an excuse to do all those things they’ve always wanted to do.
Rolling back government. Putting what should be everyone’s concern – such as street-cleaning and further education – into private hands. Where profit, not service, is the motive.
And the same naturally applies to their tax policies.
Crank it up on the food and clothing everyone needs. While banks remain exempt.
Let the fat cats go on licking up the cream. Let the common people pay through their weekly grocery bill.
A simplification? Of course. Economics is always a lot more complicated than anyone can explain in a newspaper column.
In fact, economics is a lot more complicated than anyone can really explain at all. It’s a conjuring trick. A baffling with pseudo-science.
The complexity of terms and figures bandied about by economists is a cover for the plain fact that nobody truly knows what’s going on. Or what the ultimate effects of any change will be.
It’s pretty obvious that the stock market is a huge gambling business. Less obvious, but equally true, is that the whole of capitalism works that way.
Economists, including chancellors (and bankers), like to talk as if they know what they’re doing. In fact, most of it’s as much a stab in the dark as I’d be making if I bet on Connor Wickham to score the first goal in Sunday’s Cup-tie at Stamford Bridge.
Among the things Osborne said this week to justify the VAT increase was this: “It’s a structural tax change to deal with a structural deficit and a structural increase in expenditure that happened.”
Does that make it clearer to you? No, nor to me.
But that, really, is the point. What he’s really saying there is: “I know what I’m talking about.”
To which he might add, under his breath, as it were: “And if you don’t, so much the better.”
He claims, rather improbably, that putting up VAT will somehow save jobs.
Others, whose crystal balls are surely no cloudier than his, think otherwise.
The British Beer and Pub Association say the increase will cost 8,800 jobs in the pub trade. It seems a curiously precise figure for a guess, but the trend of what they’re saying is clear enough.
The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development puts total job losses at 750,000.
More than two-thirds of small firms expect the rise to damage their businesses.
International finance advisors KPMG say most firms will put up prices “by far more than the VAT jump”.
One retail consultant quoted in the pro-Tory Daily Telegraph said he expected high-street prices to rise by between 5pc and 8pc.
Others warn that falling sales due to rising prices will mean the government will get less in tax revenue than they expect. Maybe a lot less. Maybe less than they’ve been getting at the lower rate.
Truth is, none of the experts really knows any better than George Osborne, or me, what all the effects will be.
But it does sound like a bare-faced bluff when Osborne claims his VAT rise will be “progressive” – in other words that it will actually benefit the poor.
You can almost see the satisfied smirk as he lifts the cane and claims: “This will hurt me more than it hurts you.”
NEWS that a US Navy captain has been stripped of his command over a series of smutty and homophobic videos is vaguely dispiriting but no great surprise.
What makes it more fun is the name of the vessel from which Capt Owen Honors has been sacked. The USS Enterprise.
Seems Capt Honors has been boldly going where no man should’ve gone before. A clear case of “Don’t make it so, No.1.”
I’M not a difficult customer, but… our New Year meal out was one to remember.
During the hour and a half it took for our food to arrive, the pub ran out of beer.
When at last our meals were presented, one was merely a little over-cooked. Of the rest:
• my partner’s salmon was raw in the middle;
• my mother’s “hot goat’s cheese salad” wasn’t hot and had barely a trace of cheese;
• my stew was severely under-cooked, the accompanying rice dried out into one solid lump.
If more festive feasts were like that we wouldn’t need to go on a January diet.