Balanced Budget – who wins?

One of the constant refrains from the Westminster government is the need to balance the budget, i.e. restrict spending to the level of income. This is constantly used as the excuse to impose austerity on the general population, although, of course, austerity applies only to us plebs, not to MPs, who can vote themselves larger increases in salaries than the rest of us can ever hope to get and can claim expenses of the sort most of us can only dream of.

But that is is a mere pittance to what government friends and the top 1% make (and what MPs can make after they retire from their lifetime of serving the public – 🤣)

For example, there’s the £37bn allocated to the UK Test and Trace system. No one really seems to know how the money is being spent and, in any case, it has produced no discernible improvement in pandemic outcomes (see this from the Commons Public Accounts Committee). Most of that money seems to have gone to private companies and individuals and there’s more billions given to friends and colleagues of MPs to supply PPE, without using sensible (or even any) purchasing rules. Much of it turned out to be useless and is now costing more millions to store before costing even more millions to be destroyed (and we’re not just talking about Michelle Mone here, that’s the tip of the iceberg).

Then there’s the generally accepted statistic that billionaires worldwide (that’s people worth more than $1,000,000,000) increased their wealth by 54% (that’s more than $540,000,000) during the pandemic, sparking renewed calls for a wealth tax. See this report from CBS News. How did your finances do in the pandemic? In the UK, Westminster would only introduce a wealth tax if there were enough loopholes in it to allow all the really rich to avoid it. Their money is all hidden away in tax havens anyway.

For those of you who haven’t yet seen what $540 million looks like, it would create a column almost 37 miles high. When added to the existing billion, that would total 105 miles. Of course, that’s just the minimum entry qualification to the billionaires club. If you were Bernard Arnault, currently the world’s richest man, you would have to contend with a stack 11,130 miles high. That’s almost 25 times as high as Ben Nevis. Billionaires must be really grateful for electronic money.

Recent events are highlighting just the difference between Westminster’s treatment of their mates and the plebs. With government-created inflation running at over 10%, Westminster are refusing to even discuss sensible pay rises for workers who only a year or so ago were being applauded (some with weekly government sponsored gratitude sessions) for risking their lives keeping the country running. You would have thought the government would have been only too happy to reward these important workers with a decent pay rise. Perhaps, having given so much to all their mates, they’ve got nothing left? Aye, right!

Anyway, back to balancing the budget. I was pointed recently to a list of all the countries arranged by income (thanks Macalba). What I noticed from the list was that I had to go down to the 53rd biggest country in the world (Qatar) before I found one who had a budget surplus. (Qatar, of course, has all that oil income, no doubt making it easy to run a surplus. If only Scotland was in the same position.) That’s the 52 biggest countries in the world, all running a budget deficit (and that includes the UK). In fact, top of the list, the USA, the country our government is always seeking to emulate, had, in round figures, a deficit of $4trn on an income of $6trn. To paraphrase Mr Micawber, annual income 6trn dollars, expenditure 10trn dollars, result happiness. I think that’s roughly what he said. By the way, Scotland is not included in the list, not even as a dependent territory, though, if included, Scotland (around $75bn income) would rank above New Zealand (40th – $72bn) and very close to South Africa (39th – $76bn).

So why Westminster’s fixation on a balanced budget? We all know Westminster does nothing that doesn’t benefit Westminster, so what’s the point? Well, as I’ve said, a balanced budget is the excuse for austerity, so perhaps the question ought to be – what’s the point of austerity?

Handing out less money to the plebs must mean there’s more left for the really deserving rich. So, is this the reason? Is it just, as the Four Preps almost said in a song I liked as a teenager:

Musical Interlude

♫ Eliminate the proletariat
More money for you and me ♫

(What do you mean, you’ve never heard of the Four Preps. You obviously need educating on the finer aspects of pre-Beatles American popular music. Listen to a song from them that also references other famous groups such as the Fleetwoods, the Hollywood Argyles, the Platters, the Four Freshmen, the Kingston Trio and Dion and the Belmonts. You can listen to it here on YouTube. For best experience, imagine each group as your favourite bunch of MPs/MSPs. “Gosh, Angry, how old are you?“)

Back to the serious stuff.

Or could there be a more sinister reason? Are the Tories really intent on taking us back to the early twentieth century or even the late nineteenth when workers had no employment rights, when your job and your income were dependent on doing exactly what your boss told you and when you could be sacked on a whim if you showed the faintest sign of being a nuisance or if you wanted a living wage?

Other legislation planned by the current Tory government includes banning strikes in certain industries by imposing legal minimum service levels (how long before it becomes everybody) and removing or revising EU based benefits like holiday pay, maternity/paternity leave and maximum working hours. Another Brexit benefit?

Is the attempted imposition of below inflation wage increases, the cuts in real-terms benefit levels and the relatively relaxed approach to huge increases in energy and food prices just part of a softening-up process to make us plebs even more grateful for the pittance in wages or benefits we’re getting than we already are? Remember that the UK is already a low wage economy, with the lowest levels of benefits and pensions in Europe and many families in the UK dependent on foodbanks to survive.

Foodbanks are a fairly recent phenomenon in the UK. First opened in 2000, the numbers have grown to over 2,600. How long will it take before we’re all dependent on food banks, except, by then, they will be funded through charitable donations from the rich, because none of the rest of us will be able to afford it. Makes you think of Victorian times. I hear that Tories are even considering reintroducing workhouses. I wouldn’t put it past them.

With almost two years to go before the next election, there’s loads of time left for the Tories to do untold damage. Even if we get a Labour government at the next election, who would put money on them reversing the worst of the Tories’ excesses. After all, they’ve been promising to abolish (or reform) the House of Lords for more than a hundred years. Anybody notice a change? Oh yes, there are even more Labour peers. By the way, does everybody know that the Lords is the second biggest legislative chamber in the world, second only to Chinese National People’s Congress.

In any case, if the Tories throw a few goodies to the electorate before the election, who’s to say they won’t get back in. But, no matter who gets in, the balance in a balanced budget is always against you.

And by the way, with so much to look forward to, I hope you all have a great New Year. 😉

And if you want a song from the same era, why not try this, Tommy Steele’s Independence Movement anthem to Nicola Sturgeon.

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