Let’s get something straight: there is no such thing as “The Deficit” there are deficits, and the politicians of the three main parties are all guilty of presenting an image of a single monolithic deficit that must be “brought down” at all costs. This is to support their cock-eyed view that cuts, particularly to social security benefits are necessary, while tax cuts for the rich will somehow stimulate the sluggish (some would say moribund) economy because the “wealth” will miraculously “trickle down” to those below. Not even the very right-wing George H W Bush believed that and derisively referred to trickle down (or supply side) economics as “voodoo economics”.
Our imperial masters will confuse, sometimes deliberately, “The Deficit” with “The Debt”. Again, there is a debt and it’s called The National Debt, which is accumulated through government spending on wars, for example. The current national debt has been around since the end of the First World War. Politicians, many of whom are not economists, will often claim that “The Debt” also needs to “paid off” and will again cite government spending on social security as the main culprit of increased borrowing. This is economically illiterate bunkum. Yet, we are now in a situation where, once again, the level of the nationals debt is set to be increased by a new war in the Middle East. Yet, the government can’t find money for the NHS? Please, pull the other one.
When politicians talk about The Deficit, most of the public haven’t a clue what it means and this suits our imperial masters well, for they can use this magic phrase to rebut any criticism of austerity, privatizations and cuts to public services. I have lost count of the numbers of vox pop interviews where some member of the public has quite literally repeated verbatim the spiel of some government minister or other. “The country is broke and we need to pay our debts” some ignoramus will opine, while another will claim “There’s no money, we need to cut something”. The United Kingdom is the seventh richest country in the world and there’s no money? Come off it.
There are five kinds of deficits. Let’s deal with each one in turn.
First, there is the structural or budget deficit. This is when the government is spending more money than it receives. Usually, governments receive money through taxation. If a government is cutting taxes for billionaires and faceless corporations, then it isn’t making any money. It’s simple logic. The other way a government can raise money is to print the stuff but quantitative easing, as it’s referred to, has only benefited the same people who got us into this mess: the bankers. The government could remedy this by taxing the rich more. Whenever this idea is proposed, our imperial masters respond by telling us this will hurt the “wealth creators”. These people only create wealth for themselves. They don’t even work for it. They get other people to do the work.
Work is over-rated. Hard work more so.
The cyclical deficit refers to, as its name suggests, the economic cycle and is caused by downturns in output. Low levels of business activity and high levels of unemployment are the manifestations of this kind of deficit. Some economists disagree over the terms ‘cyclical’ and ‘structural’ and claim that there’s no difference between the two.
A balance of trade deficit occurs when imports outstrip exports. If you’re not making and selling enough stuff to other countries but are buying in loads of stuff from overseas, then this is what happens. Every outgoing Tory government since 1964 has racked up a massive balance of trade deficit for the incoming Labour administration to deal with.
Finally, there’s the balance of payments deficit. This is related to the balance of trade. A balance of payments deficit is created when the imports of goods, services and investment income exceeds the exports of the same things. In 1974, this led to the Sterling Crisis of 1976.
So what is the national debt? Well, this is when governments borrow money from the central bank (In the case of England, this is The Bank of England), which is a private concern and not owned, in spite of its name, by the state. Governments borrow by issuing bonds, securities and bills. In the United States the level of debt to GDP is 73.60%. In the UK, it’s 88.7%. Does this make a difference to you or I? Well, not really, since the government can borrow money at preferential rates of interest. The Tory-led government claims that it’s “reducing borrowing” but it hasn’t. It’s actually borrowed more money than the previous government. Furthermore, all governments borrow money. It’s a fact of life. The Tories’ continual claim that they’re borrowing less (sic) is a lie. In fact, most people don’t even know how much the national debt is, yet Westminster politicians will usually pretend to know when they’re busy conflating the national debt with ‘The Deficit’.
I realize that I have simplified these terms without going into heavy economic theory, but this is how deficits need to be explained to the public.
Do I expect our imperial masters to come clean on government finances any time soon? I doubt it. These people can’t even lie in bed straight.
Here are more blogs about the government’s deficit lies.