Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tories pledge not to cut National Insurance

If I buy one pint of milk a week and say "next week I'm going to buy two pints of milk" and then, before the end of the week I say "Actually I've decided I'm still only going to buy one pint of milk next week, not two", am I a pint of milk worse off when that week comes or am I in the same position I was before I changed my mind?

The reason I ask is because tonight the Tories have briefed the media that they're going to commit to not raising National insurance in 2011-12 and this is being described as a "cut" by a number of journalists. Will Straw - "evidence-based blogger" - last week called it this too, asking "Will George Osborne cut Labour’s NICs rise?".

Now let's do a bit of "reality-based blogging". If something is 1 and you say that, at some point in the future, you intend to make it 2; then someone else says they're not, at some point in the future, going to make it 2 but instead will keep it at 1; that does not equal a loss of 1. You never actually made it to 2 in the first place so you cannot say that not going to 2 means you have lost 1.

Of course, this isn't the first time that a proposal to do something different in the future with money- or more correctly, "yet to exist money" - has been framed in this intellectually bankrupt way. It happened back in the 2005 General Election campaign as well.

Back then, the Tories said that they would increase public spending every year but that they would not increase it as much as Labour was planning too. These two different spending commitments about money that didn't exist yet were then added up, and the difference between them was portrayed as a "cut" of many billions over five years.

The fact is the Tories have not promised a tax cut at all, they've promised to conserve the status quo. Shocking huh? Of course, you can guarantee that the Tories "evidence-based" enemies will soon be deploying the Ul = c \ uc © equation and telling us how many less teachers, nurses and policemen that we don't yet have we'll not have - getit?

Don't you just love politics?

© Ul = c \ uc: This is where an argument will be deployed that talks of an arbitrary unit loss (Ul), which is calculated by taking the value of a real or extrapolated cut (c) and dividing it by the unit cost (uc) of the given arbitrary thing. For example, if the unit cost of one teacher is £1, and a real or extrapolated cut of £1000 is proposed, then it will be argued that the cut means a unit loss of 1000 teachers.

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