I spent a not inconsiderable amount of time today trying to find out about the coalition government's actual policy initiatives. I found a lot of nothing - like the manifesto, containing the aims of the agreement, but less in the way of substantial, actual, definite stuff that's going to happen.
There is a difference, after all, between what I aim to accomplish and the way I imagine that it will come about. 99% of people want a world at peace, but we don't have one because the ideas of how to promote peace have gone disastrously wrong over and over again. So when a government say they want a free and fair society it means nothing - we all want a free and fair society - what are they going to do about it? What thing, involving the real world, is going to happen to make a free and fair society?
In fact, what I could find of the government's agenda can be summed up in one word: scary. It's scary. We should be scared. I'm actually quite terrified. Shaking, you know?
All governmental departments will undergo a scaling back of, on average, a quarter (excluding health and international aid). That means funding to local authorities is being slashed by 25%, regulatory bodies are being trimmed by 25%, education cut by a whole quarter, etc. This is all for deficit reduction - i.e. the £170 billion we spent last year that we didn't have - we're going to try to pay that off.
Look at your body. Then try to work out which quarter you could do without. If you're saying "it all looks pretty essential to me" congratulations - you don't have my belly. But no-one is pretending there's much fat on the government (well, I say no-one; the coalition are) - Labour, last year, cut £44 billion out of their budget. There ain't much left to be cut that isn't going to really hurt.
But; there is a massive deficit. I'm not saying the coalition are wrong to do this, I'm just scared. Scared like a weak little child. Scared like an X-Factor contestant being beaten over the head with a lead copy of Electric Ladyland.
Then there's the rise, starting January, of VAT from 17.5% to 20%. VAT is the government's share of certain transactions - so there's VAT on air travel and on car maintenance - anything useful, but not absolutely essential. Explaining VAT looks really very dull and torturous. Fact is, a raise affects everybody because, while there is no VAT on milk, there is VAT on things that get you milk, like the petrol in the lorry that takes it to the factory to get bottled, the industrial quantities of plastic, cow psychotherapy, farmer husbandry, etc. (sorry, I'm losing the will to live - I don't want to discuss VAT, nobody does, but it's going to kill us, so I have to say something about it).
That's right, so everything is going to get more expensive because, even those things that don't have VAT on them will be affected. Add to that a two year's pay freeze in the public sector (nurses, doctors, dentists, binmen, teachers, etc.) and that adds up to more expensive stuff being sold to people with the same amount of money. That means people will be able to afford less stuff.
Speaking as a guy who is so poor that yesterday I took a shard of scrap metal from the surf at the beach, carried it a mile to the scrap merchants, got the £1.05 it was worth and then used that money to live for the next two days: stuff getting more expensive is bad.
So, that's as far as I want to go with assessing the coalition's tenure in government so far tonight. It's terribly depressing: you think it's pretty austere times now, just you wait until this time next year.
I don't want to be the harbinger of doom, but the fact that people will have less money and will therefore spend less, leads to less things being bought, MEANING less business, meaning less businesses, meaning less jobs.
Meaning less meaningless jobs.