Flimflam Does London
George Osbornes Autumn Statement laying out the Cameron governments alleged fiscal plans has provoked a fair bit of incredulity among British commentators; never mind the macroeconomics, it envisages sharp cuts in public spending that would presumably be devastating in their impact on public services, but with no specifics. What the hell is he playing at? asks Chris Dillow .
The answer is obvious if youve been paying attention on this side of the Atlantic: hes playing at being Paul Ryan . Its exactly the same playbook; claim, often and loudly, that youre deeply concerned about the deficit, while offering budget proposals whose concrete elements involve savaging aid to the poor while cutting taxes on the rich, doing little to reduce the deficit (or, in Ryans case, actually increasing the deficit.) Yet you continue to claim that youre bringing deficits down, because you pencil in huge spending cuts without any explanation of what they will involve or how they can take place.
And whats the goal? Its basically a war on the welfare state, but the implausible spending cuts are there to snooker the Very Serious People (or what Simon Wren-Lewis , who has the same analysis, calls mediamacro.) And it works! Even now, Ryan gets treated with kid gloves by reporters who wont let go of the story line about the Serious, Honest Conservative. Osborne produces a ludicrous budget, and even commentators who acknowledge that its ludicrous give him credit for showing
a keen understanding of the constraints facing the country
Think about that: someone says that 2+2=5, and gets credit, because it shows that he recognizes how hard it is to live within the constraint of 2+2 just equalling 4. Give this man a Fiscy !
So, to UK commentators puzzled by the combination of hardheartedness, intellectual dishonesty, and self-righteousness on display: Welcome to my world.
Flimflam Does London by Paul Krugman, New York Times