Wednesday, 27 February 2013

This is what you want, this is what you get. This is what you want, this is what you get.

This is what... hacks me off about right-wing think tanks like the Centre for Policy Studies. As far as facts and figures go, they are usually pretty reliable, but there is no intellectual coherence to the conclusions they draw; so in one context, a figure is seen as good news and in another it's seen as bad news:

• The quantity of UK sovereign bonds issued has increased by two and a half times in just five years, by £832 billion – the equivalent of £33,000 for every UK household.

• At the same time, monetary policy has been extremely loose: UK base rates at 0.5% are at their lowest in 300 years. QE has also been larger, relative to GDP, in the UK (at 22% of GDP) than in either the US (13%) or the Eurozone (4%).

• These policies, while extreme, have had unimpressive results. Since 2008, UK growth has been the weakest of any G20 nation (with the exception of Italy).

• The Bank of England and the Treasury promised that QE would be temporary, stimulatory, and non-inflationary. These promises have been broken.

• QE has punished the innocent parties of this recession to the benefit of the indebted*. QE has imposed a stealth tax on savers, who are losing an estimated £65 billion a year in interest foregone**. Pensioners and the young have also lost out.***

• The sovereign bond market is no longer a free market in the normal sense of the phrase. Low gilt yields should not be taken as a 'vote of confidence in the UK economy' (as the Chancellor has previously claimed).

If public spending had grown in line with nominal GDP since 2001/02, it would have been £150bn lower than it was in 2011/12. There would be no deficit. Despite claims of austerity, total spending is rising, not falling.

All of which is factually correct and good stuff etc. You get the impression that they are in favour of small government and low taxes and against subsidies - most of the subsidies (i.e. deficit spending) they rail against here are subsidies to the land owners and bankers.

But the CPS are also at the forefront of Home-Owner-Ism, they are the ones crying out for these subsidies and for low interest rates! Any self-respecting free market liberal would like to see an end to artificially low interest rates and those who have thought about it would also like to see taxes on income and output replaced with a user charge for benefits received by land owners (i.e. Land Value Tax).

* They merrily gloss over the fact that about 90% of all indebtedness relates to mortgages secured on or taken out to buy vastly overpriced land. These people and the banks and the really big landowners are the main beneficiaries of the ultra-low interest rate policies.

** That £65 billion figure for "interest foregone" is most interesting. Assuming it is correct (it seems a bit on the high side to me), then there's your answer. If we introduced LVT (at about 3% of current house prices) and increased interest rates to where they "should" be, i.e. inflation plus two per cent (so three or four per cent higher than what they are now), then a genuine prudent home owner who holds the same amount in real cash savings as his house is worth would be able to pay the LVT out of his interest income. Sorted.

*** That's crocodile tear crap. Home-Owner-Ists couldn't give a stuff about "pensioners and the young", they are quite happy shafting the latter group via inflated house prices. If you only need to save up a small deposit to buy a sensibly priced house, then whether you earn any interest or not in the couple of years you are saving up makes precious little difference to anything whatsoever.


Lola said...

"...then a genuine prudent home owner who holds the same amount in real cash savings as his house is worth would be able to pay the LVT out of his interest income. Sorted." That's very interesting, because it is really saying that if you had twice the value of your house saved up you could pay the LVT and the rent for the house (if it was for rent) from the interest. Which broadly accords with my estimate that if you rent and save the forced saving / capital repayment component that the mortgage you would have to take on to buy, at the end of about 25 - 35 years the fund you'd have built up would pay enough interest to rent the house you have bought. -ish.

Mark Wadsworth said...

L, broadly speaking and in a sane world, yes. On Planet Homey, clearly not.