Debt, gimmicks and the right

The right loves its gimmicks. First, the brains trust behind the disastrous Rally Against Debt paraded their “Debt Clock” around the streets of London. They were trying to tell us that “time was running out” and that the government had to “cut deeper and faster”. They thought that if they drove a massive clock on the back of an articulated lorry around Westminster’s streets on a Saturday afternoon, with the city full of people shopping on their credit cards, spending money they don’t have on things they d0n’t need… would somehow convince these people, some of them tourists, of  the merit of their argument, they were sadly mistaken. They just looked like a bunch of rich Ayn Rand-reading nerds with too much time on their hands who could afford to hire a truck for a stunt. Whoopee-do.

In a classic example of monkey-see/monkey-do, Hammersmith & Fulham Council has come up with its own version of a gimmicky debt gauge. It’s called the “Debtometer” and the ‘device’, so our overlords tell us,  is meant to measure the debt “going down”. Shepherds Bush blog has the story.

The council website says,

Millions of pounds are being freed up for vital frontline services as the council looks set to hit its target of halving its historic debt mountain by 2014.

Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council’s debt reduction strategy, which includes moves to sell under-used council buildings, is set to wipe another £12million off the town hall’s debt burden by April 2012.

The news comes as the council launches a new quarterly online ‘debtometer’ so that residents can keep a track of the progress made in reducing municipal debt.

You’ve got to love the way LBH&F’s Tories dissemble the facts. All councils run up debts; that’s how they survive. I mean, have you ever heard of a council being forced to shut down because it had no money? No, I haven’t either. Hackney is  poor borough that often finds itself in massive debt but it hasn’t shut down. The entire article about the “debtometer” is reproduced verbatim on the H&F Tories site .

These cute little gimmicks that are dreamt up by the right are distractions and nothing more. They are PR confidence tricks designed to divert attention away from the fact that they have no real ideas beyond cutting public services.  Why? Because they tell us that don’t use them (so who empties their bins?) and they think that the rest of us are ‘addicted’ to the state. It’s the old new classical liberal idea of deserving and undeserving poor revivified under the neo-Hayekian aegis of ‘freedom’ and ’empowerment’.

But those who claim these stunts are more than the sum of their parts are deluding themselves. These are the people who come out with snappy lines like “the nation had maxed out its credit card” and “we need to live within our means”. In their arrogance, they have convinced themselves that no one understand economics like they do. They talk a good talk but like a cheap jumper, their argument soon unravels when it is scrutinized.  They can only “speak in maths”, as the Radiohead song goes. Yet without people – a society – there is no economy. No people, no need for commodities.

But try and tell them that.

Not to be outdone by Gordon Brown’s “quantitative easing”,  Hon Gid introduced his own idea of economic interventionism at the Conservative Party Conference. He called his concept gimmick, “credit easing”.

But credit is debt.

Ask anyone who has a credit card, a bank loan or a mortgage.

But people with credit cards don’t have access to the international bond markets. They can’t sell their junk in the same way as a nation-state. In fact, while this government talks about reducing debt, it raises money on the bond markets to continue its costly wars in Libya and Afghanistan. This is something that our slash and burn Tories won’t tell you about. Instead, they’ll tell you that cuts are “necessary” and will beg the question with a “But surely you realize how important it is for the government to reduce the nation’s debt”?

The Taxpayers Alliance loves to claim that its “our money” that’s being “burnt” but what they won’t tell you is that most of the nation’s wealth is concentrated in a small number of hands and those people (including the entire membership of TPA) are well insulated against economic hardship. If you put that point to them, they’ll start flailing about and will regurgitate the usual neo-Hayekian drivel about “responsibility”.

The cuts to public services, especially those to education, is a form of de-investment. That is to say, the Tory-led government is not investing in the economy – as it should at this time. Instead, it is sucking money out of the economy and diverting some of those funds to those pet projects that are run by its supporters – the free schools, for example. It has no interest in investing in people…unless they come from a privileged background. In which case, there is no need to invest in them because they will, by dint of their circumstances of birth, reproduce the same selfish, dimwitted values that were espoused by their parents.

No wonder we’re in the shit.

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Filed under Economics, Hammersmith & Fulham, London, neoliberalism, Rally Against Debt, Spiv capitalism

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