Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Budget Thoughts

Just had the misfortune to watch Alastair Darling’s first budget. Apparantly tractor production is at record levels, and we should all be very happy.

Trouble is, no-one (myself included) believes it any more. The forecasts are dodgy (be it growth or public borrowing requirements), historic data and statistics have definitions changed beyond the point of absurdity to allow the ever more incredulous claims to be made. Missing your target to not borrow over the economic cycle – no problem, just change the definition of economic cycle. Worried about putting Northern Rock debt on the Government’s books – no problem, just claim it doesn’t count.

And of course, we now have to wait for the real budget measures that only appear in the small print long after the fawning BBC coverage has ended, and show how we are going to be taxed even more this year.

Cut through the spin, and it is clear that over the last decade we have been taxed like never before in ways that will do damage for years to come, like the £5 billion+ being taken from pension funds every year. The rules and red tape associated with taxation have exploded into a mess of special cases, gimmicks and means tested benefits that enslave ever more into state dependence. Nobody can seem to tell where the enormous sums raised have gone (like the NHS perhaps – except average waiting times have actually increased), or why despite high tax revenues the country is still borrowing at extraordinary levels.

Love or hate Tory Chancellors, at least you could listen to a budget speech and get a reasonable idea about what had happened and what they were going to do.

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