"Bonkers Tax Cutters"
I do not normally expect to find myself in strong agreement with John Rentoul of the Independent but he makes some very good points on his blog today here.
Not long ago, any suggestion from the Conservatives that they might cut taxes was greeted with a barrage of accusations from the Labour party in general and Gordon Brown in particular that these tax cuts were not properly costed and that "unfunded" tax cuts (or indeed "unfunded" spending) was a disaster.
Now after billions of "unfunded" spending to nationalise Northern Rock and more unfunded billions paid out to support the other banks, Brown is not only proposing unfunded tax cuts of his own, but criticising, yes, criticising the Conservatives for the fact that the tax cuts we in turn are proposing are not unfunded, e.g. that there has been an attempt to say how they would be paid for.
As Rentoul puts it
From punk tax cuts to bonkers tax cuts. I could not believe what Gordon Brown was saying this morning, that Conservative tax cuts didn't count because they were "funded" - that is, paid for by savings elsewhere.
For Brown to advocate unfunded tax cuts - that is, paid for by more borrowing - suddenly takes us into the political economy of Alice in Wonderland.
"Now Brown hints at big tax cuts paid for by higher borrowing. It is a complete reversal of his previous rhetoric, even if he hasn't stuck to it since about 2003.
"I cannot understand the current presentation of Brown as a statesman suddenly come into his own, while Cameron and Osborne are portrayed as schoolboys who have responded to the economic crisis erratically and uncertainly. Higher borrowing - on top of the much higher borrowing that kicks in automatically because tax receipts fall in a recession - will make matters worse in the long run.
"Brown is making it up as he goes along, as he has done since his golden rules were rewritten to suit his political ambitions, only now it is serious, and seriously wrongheaded."
(I will save any Labour backers reading this the effort of posting a comment to ask what I would have done about Northern Rock and the bank bail out. I would have let Richard Branson buy Northern Rock. The bank bailout, however regrettable the need for it, was necessary to prevent a serious risk of grave damage to the rest of the economy and the Conservatives supported it.)