Ali’s blog

Mostly quant stuff with occasional digressions

European woes

Posted by alifinmath on February 10, 2008

A couple of years back, I was reading in some magazine that the US Democratic Party is slightly to the right of European conservative parties and the Republican Party is slightly to the left of European national front (i.e. fascist) parties — a point of view with which I concur. American politicial discourse and campaigning is so vacuous and vapid as to beggar belief — talk of “courage,” “the audacity of hope,” “vision,” and other such nonsense, which doubtless helps to camouflage the sordid realities of the American political process. European discourse tends to be about public services and how they’re going to be funded. The chill winds of neo-liberal change can be felt on the European political landscape as well, but in more attenuated form. Anyway, here’s a piece of analysis in the Guardian:

QUOTE

There is agreement across the parties about quite a lot. All are committed to publicly funded services free at the point of use. The Tories have binned trying to sell radically free-market approaches. One thing all the candidates in the American presidential race agree on is that their insurance system is not working when nearly 50 million Americans are uninsured. All the parties also agree that we cannot carry on as we are. One reason is purely financial. The days of plenty are over. Even before the current economic turmoil made the public finances look so shaky, the spending surge which began in 2000 was coming to its end. Though the budgets for health and education are still set to grow over the next three years, they will do so at a lower rate than before. Even if the maths say it isn’t a cut, this tightening may well feel like a cut.

On most measures, the money that Labour spent has shown up in improvements. But better has not been good enough. Some of our hospitals are still so filthy that they kill the patients they are supposed to be curing. It’s a shocking statistic that more than 30,000 16-year-olds leave school every year without a single GCSE to their names.

Here is one further thing the parties now agree on. None of them will go into the next election saying they will find more money for public services by increasing taxes. Gordon Brown has told confidantes that he will repeat Labour’s pledge not to raise the basic level of income tax and not to introduce a new higher rate. Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, argues that there’s no public appetite for any further increase in the tax take. On the level of spending, the parties are again in agreement. They are all committed to spending the same since both the Lib Dems and the Tories have signed up to Labour’s totals. So all of them are confronted with the same dilemma, trying to reconcile tighter money with voters’ rising expectations. Public services will be asked to do more for less.

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