Archive for March, 2011

Inane Thoughts: Diary of a Frustrated Writer – A Cunning Plan

March 3, 2011

I have a cunning plan.

It seems that the coalition government want to cut the deficit at a foolishly fast rate. I won’t delve too far into this debate, other than to echo the sentiment in the boos that recently rang out on Question Time, when Francis Maude started up the “these cuts are necessary” shtick. To paraphrase the angry shouting lady at the time: spin us another line.

So far the government have made a host of swingeing, seemingly unnecessary cuts, whose impact will begin to be felt from April onwards. Libraries will shut, Sure Start’s doors will close, 300,000 public sector staff cuts will begin, child benefit will be frozen – and that’s just for starters.

Some have suggested that these cuts might not be quite as necessary as the coalition are suggesting and that, just perhaps, this is all ideology-driven. These people include three Nobel-prize winning economists and Martin Wolf of the Financial Times. Statistics might or might not corroborate this suggestion (clue: they mostly do – our level of debt is lower than almost all OECD countries, it is low by historical standards (we sustained debt at more than 100% of GDP for 20 years up until the early ‘70s) and debt repayments are lower than they were under Thatcher (5.15%) and Major (3.8%)).

For the purposes of my cunning plan, I’m going to pretend that this austerity drive isn’t ideologically driven (as Cameron et al insist) and that it really is necessary (as Gideon Osborne insists). I’m going to pretend that it’s not true that the US, who have made almost no deficit reductions, have made a decent recovery from the recession, where as Greece and Ireland, who introduced austerity measures akin to the coalition’s are actually now both doing just fine. I’m going to pretend that there’s a possibility that it’s necessary to cut at this rate, as opposed to a more sensible slower rate, such as the cuts made in around 12 years in Sweden.

So, what is my plan? Is it to not give further tax breaks to corporations and banks? Don’t be silly. Is it to ask companies like Vodafone to pay their full tax bill? How very dare you. Is it to introduce rules to stop Boots, Topshop and other corporations paying (relatively) next to nothing in tax? Tommyrot and poppycock – Phillip Green needs all the help we can give him. My plan is far more feasible than any of these far-fetched ideas. It is simple and it also solves the problem of unemployment be re-employing virtually all of the 300,000 public sector workers to go… but don’t fear DavCam & Giddy-up Osborne, these guys will no longer be sitting around stealing paper-clips and post-it notes: they’ll be working (sort of) hard for their money… so hard for their money.

Whenever you read about management consultants, self-help gurus, homeopaths and the general union of quackery, you are bound to at some point hear that this is a “tax on the stupid”, much like the National Lottery is a tax on the mathematically-illiterate. Unlike the National Lottery however, these consultants, gurus and quacks are often paid for by people who are stupid and rich. Tony and Cherie Blair, Prince Charles and the Queen are all said to be fans of homeopathic remedies and management double-speak. Hell, Tony Blair built a government initiative around this kind of nonsense: “The Third Way” (David Cameron’s “Big Society” twaddle isn’t getting quite as easy a ride). Many large businesses employ management consultants and gurus, to do little more than state the bloody obvious in new and pithy ways.

My idea is simple: why not mine this well of dim-wittedness and create an actual government tax on the stupid.

The government could employ teams of people (perhaps graduates, or the recently unemployed) to sell exactly this kind of mumbo-jumbo. Those at the top levels of this scheme would know that this was a complete sham, but they would be the type of blindly-patriotic person happy to be bringing in money to the public coffers. It could be a rare example of the public sector going into direct competition with the private sector; who knows, we could end up nationalising hogwash and claptrap. I for one would be happy to head up the Department of Poppycock, Hocus-Pocus, Gibberish and Gobbledygook.

Of course, I am willing to admit that there are drawbacks to my idea. One major concern, on the management consultant/guru side of things, would be lack of public trust in the government’s handling of finance. However, catastrophic financial failure, dodgy stock-market tips (a tautology?) and even outright fraud have not managed to stop many other “consultants” from continuing their success.

Another concern would be that employing homeopaths might be seen as a capitulation to the forces of idiocy, though since when has this stopped governments from throwing their hat into the ring of stupid? The NHS already offers certain “alternative” therapies to patients, despite the overwhelming medical evidence that shows that alternative therapies simply don’t work. Sure, it would be giving the green-light to a whole heap of stupid, but this is a government that has green-lighted free schools and the closure of libraries: we’re already half-way down that path.

When private companies rip people off by selling them “water memory”, “ear candles” or “seven easy steps to success”, the government will take a certain amount in tax, but why stop there DavCam? We keep being told that we’re “all in this together”, which means that we must already be standing side-by-side with a whole bunch of execrable nincompoops. In these austere times, why not take a slice of their idiot-savant-pie DavCam, huh?