George Osborne's budget: two ways to be fooled

By Jill Segger
March 20, 2014

George Osborne yesterday presented a budget founded in the determination to believe, if not six, at least two impossible things before breakfast.

The Chancellor's ideological refusal to distinguish between the constructive and damaging reasons for running a deficit has trapped him in falsity and denial. Refusing to differentiate Government spending on capital projects from the spending which perpetuates longer term debt, he is unable (or unwilling) to understand that an expansion of spending on, for example, social housing, infrastructure, transport and green energy, would create jobs and enable sustainable growth in the economy.

But because this is unthinkable in Osborne-world and because Conservative ideology is committed to always reducing taxation, the only means by which schools, hospitals and effective transport systems can be constructed and operated, increasingly depends upon the handing of all these public services to the private sector. It is, of course, the sick, aged, disabled and poor who bear the brunt of the marketisation and removal of these support systems and public goods.

This essentially amoral and blinkered form of macroeconomics has the government in an iron grip and the devastating impact of cuts on those with the fewest resources are evident. Somewhere in the recesses of their consciences, Ministers must have an uncomfortable sense of the mounting opposition, disbelief in, and excoriation of, their policy stance.

Minds thus divided by delusion and denial manifest strange behaviours. Britain must “outperform and outsmart the rest of the world” announced the Chancellor. The new pound coin is “ a resilient coin for a resilient economy” and – strangest of all, under an economic regime which has, over the past year, seen 800,000 people turning to food banks and has sanctioned just under 900,000 of our poorest citizens out of their benefits – “a budget for makers, doers and savers”.

Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps demonstrated how complete is his detachment from reality by tweeting that one penny off the price of a pint of beer and and a reduction in the bingo tax helps “hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy.” Outside the fantasy world of neo-liberal economics, this would surely be a career ending move.

Yesterday, Robert Chote, Chair of the Office for Budget Responsibility said: “Looking at the forecast as a trade makes very little contribution and government spending cuts will act as a drag.” George Osborne's selective use of OBR statements, will of course, make no reference to this. The delusional orthodoxy will be followed out to the bitter end. And that end will be bitter indeed for those crushed by the politics of austerity.

There are two ways to fooled, Kierkegaard warned – “One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”

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© Jill Segger is an Associate Director of Ekklesia with particular involvement in editorial issues. She is a freelance writer who contributes to the Church Times, Catholic Herald, Tribune, Reform and The Friend, among other publications. Jill is an active Quaker. See: You can follow Jill on Twitter at:

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