Britain needs to reduce its £169 billion budget deficit. That means either more public spending cuts or an 8p rise in income tax.
Our annual tax take is already over 37% of GDP — it’s time to take public spending around the back of the House of Commons for a kicking.
Everyone has their own priorities, of course:
- Even the most frothy right-wingers want taxes to pay for nuclear weapons and other military toys. But beyond that they say make citizens pay directly for roads, health care, and even local policing.
- At the other end are those who’d tax the rich down to their last bottle of Château Lafite on principle, and decide how to spend the loot later. (These are the guys who get the girls in college, but who lose them later to investment bankers).
Sensible people – even rich ones who don’t want to live in a fortified bunker in Wales – believe there’s a middle road to public spending. Yet the past few years of drunken driving by Gordon Brown has seen us drift away from it.
Here’s a graphic of the UK’s public spending bill:
Download this public sector spending graphic as a PDF
It’s also time for us bloggers to voice our personal public spending peeves!
1. Pointless university degrees
In theory it’s great that 45% of young people now go to university, compared to 20% in 1980. In practice, too many are barely literate or numerate, and are doing pointless degrees. Worse, the graduate salary premium is disappearing, even as these students rack up more debt. I’d refocus public spending towards science, engineering, and maths, and ration social science and arts degrees.
2. Military grandstanding
Britain is no longer a global superpower. Yet our military spending of £57 billion is third highest in the world. We should posture within our means, and retain a cheap nuclear deterrent sufficient to blow up a half-a-dozen capital cities. If Canada and Spain can spend £15 billion, why can’t we?
3. Rich and middle-class kids
Environment degradation due to over-population and over-consumption is my biggest fear. It’s therefore intolerable that I’m taxed so that middle class parents find having kids more affordable, and rich ones can give theirs extra ponies or a bigger first flat in Fulham. I’d scrap all child benefits for any household with an income over say £40,000 a year.
4. Non-working class kids
I don’t mind helping the working poor, but I don’t want to fund feckless layabouts to have kids at our expense. Then again, I don’t want innocent kids to suffer, either. How about some sort of tax clawback for non-working parents? In this scheme, child-related benefits would effectively be a loan, which is taxed back from the non-working parents (even out of their benefits) when their kids reach 18. Having children is a right, but you should pay for it.
Government spending on quangos is out of control. You don’t spend billions without achieving something, but I doubt it’s very efficient. The justification for quangos is that getting private enterprise and individuals involved means money is better directed. Here’s a different idea – get the State out of the way entirely and let private enterprise and market forces address needs directly. Government can set the rules with tax and regulation to tilt the playing field.
6. Unfunded public sector pensions
Why can’t public sector employees fund their pensions as they earn like everyone else? It seems an anachronistic hangover from the days when the State consisted of a few thousand Whitehall mandarins and everyone died at 60. Ideally the whole public/private pension system should be unified.
7. Defending indefensible criminals
We spent nearly £2 billion on publicly funded legal services last year. Three-quarters of that would probably survive scrutiny, but paying anything to give legal aid to hoodlums who routinely terrorize neighborhoods is galling. Oh for an Australia to send them to. Unfortunately we can’t even deport known terrorists.
8. Obviously polluting transport strategies
Enough roads already. I wouldn’t mind so much if they helped, but all the evidence is they don’t; build more roads and you get more congestion. Visit L.A. for evidence. Perhaps some new toll roads would be a fair compromise.
9. Lesbian socialist empowerment outreach workers
I used to think these were a myth until a much more right-wing friend started sending me Guardian adverts. It’s not just that these roles exist, or that they’re clearly created to appease liberal guilt. The pay is high, too, and the opportunity cost of having well-educated people involved in such nebulous careers is scary. Meanwhile, one lesbian kiss on a soap opera or Barack Obama’s election in the US achieves more for equality in a day than 1,000 of these non-jobs does in a decade.
10. The bloated BBC and its licence fee
I love Radio 4, I love the BBC’s news coverage, and though it never links to me I even love Robert Peston’s BBC blog. But it’s a joke that the licence fee costs £123 million to collect, when it’s a non-negotiable tax. It’s also ridiculous that this publicly-funded channel spends millions on Jonathan Ross and his ilk. I’d scale the BBC back to its radio output (I’d scrap Radio 1), a serious TV culture channel, and a news and current affairs channel. There’s a place for pop music, reality TV and dancing celebrities – it’s called the commercial sector, and it delivers it all without charging me.
Readers, what don’t you like paying taxes for? Get it off your chest below!