I had to pinch myself this week listening to the run of political news.
A senior Lib Dem has been up and about demanding that the state takes on much more of the cost of elderly people in nursing homes so they can leave more of their capital to their children. Whilst he said this could be paid for by some cuts in benefits to the better off elderly, the longer term liability is likely to prove much larger than the cuts. In other words he wants to transfer more money from the elderly to their often richer children by raising taxes on everyone to do so.
Labour has been out and about saying they want to offer everyone out of work for more than two years the minimum wage for six months, to pay them more than benefits, with a view to giving them some experience of working. They would pay for this by a further raid on savings in pension funds.
Many lobby groups are back in full cry for more money. Councils want more to spend. People want bigger subsidies for the railway industry as the fares have gone up yet again. It’s business as usual. There’s apparently nothing wrong with the UK that a bit more public spending would not put right.
Meanwhile the UK is still adding to its borrowing at more than £100 billion a year. State debt just keeps increasing at an alarming rate. This week the UK ten year cost of money for the government rose again, to 2.1%. This is still a low figure, but it is 40% up from the bottom and rising. Every 1% added to the average interest rate is a large increase in future spending on just servicing the ballooning debt. (£10 bn extra cost if you include the Bank of England owned debt)
Let’s try and get these huge figures across in a more accessible form. For every man, woman and child the UK now has borrowed nearly £17000. On top of this is all the bank, PFI and pension debts of the public sector, which take it to £40,000 of borrowing per person. As each person’s income is only £25000 on average, the task of repaying the debt is now gargantuan. Meanwhile instead of starting to rein it in, the state borrows more, so people are adding £1700 a year extra to their already large debts.
Would any indvidual or family behave like this? If you were so much in debt already, would you be allowed to borrow so much more? Individuals are reducing their big debts of the Credit bubble period.
Tomorrow I will look at the excessive spending and losses of some of our nationalised industries, where managing them better could start to make a difference to their costs. More politicians and officials need to spend more time thinking how to do well with less, instead of looking for yet more areas where the state should accept the liability.
The big issue with the benefit bill is not the level of the benefits to the deserving, but the eligibility criteria. The cuts people want to see is disallowing benefits to people who come here to work of their own volition but are not citizens, as they could return home if there is not sufficient well paid work here. Many also want to find ways to encourage more people on benefits to take the jobs available.