“You know how you said I could come to you for advice about anything? Well, here’s something ...”
”What is it?”
He slid his latest credit card statement across the table, watching eyes flick down to the number at the bottom of the page. The eyebrows of his advisor shot northwards to the top of his forehead, meeting his hairline in surprise.
”I know. What should I do?”
He counted 20 long seconds. “My advice? Leave it for now. It’s too big a number.”
”Oh, er, thanks.”
That’s pretty much the advice to the United Kingdom from the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). Two eminent professors of economics have offered advice to the British Government, along the lines of, “... the problem is too big to solve. Leave it alone and trade out of it.” To place the advice in context; this is the same right-wing think tank that advised the Tories in favour of austerity eleven years ago.
The IEA think Britain’s debt “can be coped with” and don’t seem overly concerned that the first number of our national debt is an encouraging ‘one’, but then it falls off a cliff with the arrival of the second number; which is ‘a trillion’.
Regular readers of the NTI newsroom’s bulletins will know that we are a huge fan of economists and their earnest insistence on bringing total guesswork to the arena of statistics and forecasting. They are happy to use a frowning ‘four’ where a ‘nine’ would be more accurate, and will not avoid a stoic ‘six’ when anyone else would give the situation a ‘three’. However, even we are surprised by the IEA’s casual insouciance with the UK’s national debt shattering the glass-ceiling of fiscal madness.
“We do not wish to downplay the seriousness of the scale of the debt,” wrote the authors, Forrest Capie and Geoffrey Wood, both professors at City, University of London, “but although this is a time for fiscal weariness we think that the debt can be coped with and the best advice now is to encourage economic growth.” For some this is tantamount to advising a stag party which has already drained the cellars of two pubs to buy a case of vodka and go free-running across the rooftops of Bolton.
The rise in Government spending has prompted the Chancellor and shoe-in as the next James Bond, our very own Rishi Sunak, to promise higher taxes, including a future rise in corporation tax. However, the IEA have heavily criticised that move, despite backing the emergency pandemic spending. Apparently, now is the time to spend more, trust people and businesses to spend and allow natural causes to take their course.
The IEA are also strongly recommending the eating of large quantities of doughnuts to allow the obese to ‘eat their way out of their personal fat crisis’ and to ignore the reading of your petrol gauge as you embark upon a drive across a range of mountains during a storm. What some people will do to make a headline on a Bank Holiday Monday.