Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Topsy-Turvy Land of Tax Cuts

It's tax cuts for breakfast, lunch and supper in the topsy-turvy land of make-believe. The stakes are high as political parties try to claim the tax cut high ground. How will it be paid for, is it just talk and will they put our money where their mouth is?

The tax cut war has turned old politics on its head. Borrowing Brown wants to bowl 'em over with a spending spree. Caution Cameron is the new Prudence. Clegg, a latter day Robin Hood. 

Today's supposed to be the Tories big day for small business. Not to be out-smarted or out-gunned, the government is firing on all cylinders ahead of the Pre-budget Report, due out in months/weeks/days, with the LibDems bringing up the rear. 

Brown is on a borrowing spree as he sets out to save the word with his New World Order. His answer - just borrow more cash. It's borrow now, pay later - or rather leave it for the new suckers to pick up the tab. 

The government is adamant the only way forward is to increase the already crippling national debt. Golden borrowing rules have bit the dust. Prudence is alive and well but living in the Tory Party.

Cameron's Conservatives are looking more and more like the Angry Party of late. They've managed to turn a traditional Tory agenda on its head. Instead of reaching out for the plastic, tax cuts would have to come from real savings. 

Sit down with the household budget, tighten the purse strings, decide what to cut back on. And, at the same time, hammer home the message that it was Brown and the gang who got us in this mess in the first place. But that sort of reality check may be hard to swallow after a decade of the false good times.

And the LibDems? Clegg bless him has turned into Robin Hood with funding coming from a "tax on the wealthy". Great for sound-bites but an estimated £15 billion is needed for tax cuts and breaks to make any real difference to people's pockets. You have to start to climb down the wealth ladder to rake in all that cash. 

The Orange Party is all for a redistribution of wealth - hit the obscenely rich by all means - but how far down the that wealth ladder do you have to go, before 'wealthy' becomes just the 'better off'? 

Slashing interest rates to an all time low kicked off the tax cut bidding war, when everyone suddenly realised that would take ages to work through and, for now, there's nowt in it for them. Politicians were quick to realise there's equally nowt in it for them too. 

The point was made here earlier that the current interest rate cut isn't deep enough for a deep recession. 

In the real economy it's supposed to make people spend more. But faced with crippling debt and huge bills, any interest rate cut will just be gobbled up to help pay the bills. Tax cuts, in whatever form, put real cash in people's pockets but debt is now so endemic, tax cuts too will probably end up on the bills, loans and mortgages. 

For a decade New Labour has spun its way out of trouble with public spending craftily kept off the balance sheet. The Tories have never shied away from wanting cuts in public spending. No-ones quite sure what the LibDems really, really want.

For the first time in an age there is clear water between all three main political parties on the billion dollar economic question. And they are all convinced they have the magic formula. 

Few would disagree that tax breaks are needed. It's how they are going to be paid for that polarises the political parties. In this topsy-turvy land you can do whatever you want. As long as it's the vote winner.

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