Monday, October 20, 2008

Cut Up The Credit Card

Still racking up

This month's credit card bill has just crashed onto the doormat. In fact it's so big and heavy it crashed straight through the floor.

The outstanding balance of £645bn is the biggest ever. And net borrowing of £37.6bn year-to-date is the highest since modern records began in 1946. Truly shocking.

Worse, this takes no account of the downward economic lurch now in prospect, let alone all those Keynesian splurges everyone's now talking about. In technical fiscal parlance, we are totally, hog-whimperly, stuffed.

Of course, government ministers are scuttling round saying it's not a problem because they've cut our debt so much since 1997 - Lord Mandy repeated the formula yesterday. But that's not at all what the official ONS statistics say.

The official measure of our National Debt (the measure Gordo always used to bang on about in his bragging days) is called Net Debt as a % GDP (ONS series code RUTO). It currently stands at 43.4%, and here's the long-term chart:

When Labour came to power in 1997 Q2, net debt stood at 42.9% of GDP - lower than today's 43.4%. So they haven't cut our debt at all.

Well OK. During the longest boom this country had seen since 1379 (as Gordo kept bragging), they did manage to get borrowing down. The low point was 29.7% of GDP in 2002 Q1. But that was reached only after 8 years of 3% pa growth, and compared poorly with the 26% achieved by the Tories just before the early 90s recession.
The truth is they chose to ignore the possibility - no, the certainty - that one day we'd hit another recession and would need to crank up borrowing to get us through.

For all the use they've been, we might just as well have left our credit cards in the hands... well... the beaks of ostriches. They also ignored Alvin's advice to cut up their credit cards and look how that ended:


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