Sunday, 27 March 2011

I Predict a Riot

Could someone please explain to me how smashing up a Spanish-owned bank and generally causing the state to spend money on policing and cleaning up desecrated memorials that it patently doesn't have is an appropriate way of complaining about public sector cuts?

I'm a little confused. If you know there isn't enough money, why go out and waste some more? And what do Santander have to do with it? The one bit in the budget about banks was an increase in the bank levy to pay for the increase in the personal tax free allowance. So why the anger at the banks, especially not just at the ones we 'own'?

Perhaps one answer might be that the several hundred morons who decided it'd be a great idea to smash up central London again are not even aware of the topic of the day on these organised riots/protests. So frequent are the protests maybe they got a little confused. You half expect to see placards bemoaning the rise in university fees and flying fire extinguishers.

Anyway, I suppose it is neither here nor there. There will always be party poopers who turn up for a ruck instead of peaceful protest. As with the student protests the actions of a minority (though very sizeable one still) rather drown out any legitimate message that people might have wanted to get across. Where this weekend's fracas differs from the student protests is that this lot didn't have a legitimate point to be drowned out.

I have mentioned it once or twice before, but if you missed it, here's my brief "how to run a country's finances 101" … If you spend more money on stuff (public spending) than you get given each year (taxes), you will rack up debt. If this is the general theme not a one off, the interest on this debt will eventually take up all the money you get given (taxes) so there's no money to spend on stuff at all (public spending). So, when inheriting a country where the bill for all the stuff is many billions more than the bag of cash, you have two options. This is where I'd like all those who wasted their weekend and our time and money to listen in…

Your two options are a) make your bag of money bigger (raise taxes), or b) don't spend as much on stuff (cut public spending). Now, hands up if you would like to volunteer to pay more taxes to pay for the current public spending levels? No-one? Ok, who'd like fewer public services? Oh, some of you seem indignant about that, perhaps you could revisit the basic maths in the last paragraph. Which one do you want, no cuts but tax rises to cover the enormous gap or cuts to move spending back towards the income from current tax levels? Ah yes, prat at the back, you have a question - "are you suggesting that there should be some kind of relationship when coming up with a budget between what you have and can therefore afford and what you decide to buy?" Catch on quick this lot don't they - one might be unkind enough to suggest that the clue might even be in the definition of the word budget?

It's a shame to look out on those violent scenes and realise depressingly not only that your vote counts exactly the same as the ignorant rioters (unless we get AV in which case theirs will perhaps count many times over - another day), but that about a third of Parliament also haven't grasped the basic mathematics. Clearly the failure of Blair's "education education education" policy extended even to his own Parliamentary party.

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