Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Taxing With Crazee & Gaga

I like Simon Hoggart´s "sketch"es ... he is the typical well-off upper-middle class Guardianista pretending to be a member of the working class. But he is genuinely funny.

Gordon Brown gave a press conference yesterday to explain his plans for rescuing the economy. These involve spending more money, while at the same time cutting taxes.

An intelligent layman asks: What does this mean?

Brilliant economist: "We call this the Looney Tunes strategy. It's like this. A cartoon character, such as the Road Runner, dashes off cliff top into mid-air, looks down at canyon underneath, goes 'Yikes!', and runs back on to the said cliff top."

Intelligent layman: "Does it work?"

Brilliant economist: "It does in the cartoons."

The prime minister was speaking at a press conference, just after the Conservative leader, David Cameron, had given his own press conference. The Tories had offered bacon sandwiches. Mr Brown did not. Offering breakfast snacks is not what serious politicians do. Serious politicians offer nothing - no ifs, no butties.

Mr Cameron had also proposed tax cuts. They were better and shinier tax cuts than Mr Brown had in mind. It was getting a little like the competitive commercials you sometimes see on local television in the US: "Hi, I'm 'Crazeee' Dave, and you are not going to believe the deals I'm offering on new tax cuts! I must be 'outta' my mind! If you can find a better tax cut in the metro area I'm not only 'gonna' slash taxes to match them, I'll set fire to myself! 'Cos I'm Crazeee!"

Two minutes later: "Are these tax cuts completely insane? They must be because I'm 'Gaga' Gordon and these cuts are dee ... mented! If you can get a better deal you can come on over and cut off my head! And eat it!"

The nub of the matter seemed to be that, according to the prime minister, we have a fundamentally healthy economy with a very low level of public debt - better than (and he gave us a long list) France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Ireland, America, the Planet Mong, etc.

By contrast, according to Mr Cameron, we have a massive and unsustainable level of public debt, worse than every country in the world except Pakistan and Hungary. Nevertheless, the Tories are offering their own tax cuts.

Mr Brown said that these cuts were unfunded. "Every week they have a new initiative to get themselves in the news. They are not serious. We need serious policies for serious times. Not bacon sandwiches." (He didn't say the last bit, of course, but given the way Labour attacks Tory policies and then blithely adopts an enhanced version of them, we can expect at the next presser a sideboard groaning with sausages, eggs, kedgeree, devilled kidneys, and so on.)

Now Mr Brown is off to America to use his amazing powers - you will recall that last month he saved the world banking system from complete collapse, with the ease of Superman stopping a runaway train. The general plan is to "stimulate" the world economy.

He talked so much about stimulation that he sounded like one of those kindly sex therapists who advise chaps when their marriages are going wrong. "I love my economy very much, but I find it impossible to stimulate it. I am at my wits' end.

"Kindness and gentleness are the key. And tax cuts."

The gist of the prime minister's message in Washington seems to be that all the countries that have saved money for a rainy day should now splurge it in order to help countries who have been on spending and credit binges.

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