Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Festive News From BOM Correspondents

Cato on Keynesian economics* (HTP Steve B)

While Tyler has been slumped in front of his Xmas pressie, correspondents have continued to monitor the wasteland:


Tim S notes that the Indian company Tata - the very same Tata we are about to prop up with massive cash injections into their Jag and Land Rover subs (see this blog) - are all set to sponsor Ferrari . Fantastic taxpayer value.

A new Dark Age in Powys

Mister Brillo highlights the scandalous spending priorities of Powys County Council. In an area where income per head is 15% below the national average, and the Council is by far the largest employer, the pay of senior council employees is right up there with the best. According to an FOI submitted by an enraged local council tax payer, more than 1300 staff are paid more than £30 grand pa, with top salaries exceeding £100K - a considerable income in Powys.

The Council says it "has to pay good salaries to attract good people", but as our enraged taxpayer points out: “Our street lights have gone out, schools have been closed and public services such as local bus routes are either being ended or curtailed all in the interest of supposedly saving cash."

As for those street lights, the Council switched off 9000 of them because it decided local residents didn't really need them. It reckoned it could save £225,000 pa - about the cost of just two of its Executive Directors. Local residents were cast into the darkness to risk broken limbs and footpads. Appalled and frightened, many are trapped in their homes after dark. A local pensioner has been forced to pay £300 of his own money to get some lights back on in his village.

WTF? From schools to healthcare to policing to street lighting, the only sure way to get proper "public" services is to pay for them yourself.

A Bit Late Now Ltd

Sergio spotted this in the Times:

"Looking back 20 years, Pinter frankly admitted that he was to blame. “I was extremely neurotic at the time. I was so incensed about Thatcher, I just couldn’t control it . . .”

But, he added in a crescendo of rage, “the final irony was that we all wanted a Labour government, and what a f***ing shit house that has turned out to be! I mean, give me Thatcher every time! At least she wasn’t a hypocrite.”

Harold, mate, we're really going to miss the benefit of your wisdom.

Late, hideously over budget, and useless

JD highlights this from the Telegraph:

"Government computer projects are running a combined 86 years late and nearly £2 billion over budget...

The news comes after Whitehall officials were accused by the public spending watchdog of wasting £300 million of taxpayers' money every year on poorly managed contracts with private firms.

Figures from 18 Government departments show one in three – 95 out of 252 projects – had not been completed on time. More than one in five – 58 – are over budget... The biggest overrun was an IT scheme to help enforce child-maintenance payments at the Department for Work and Pensions, which is seven years late."

And all that excludes the NHS supercomputer...

Join the Untouchables... or the Touchyfeelables

John B thought we might all like to apply for a new job at HMRC - Proactive Intelligence Officer. Basically, you will be part of HMRC's Untouchables, charged with fearlessly investigating staff members who might be up to no good:

"You will be required to travel throughout the UK, with occasional overnight stays and to work anti-social hours, and will sometimes be required to respond at short notice. You will also be prepared to die in a hail of lead." (OK, I'm paraphrasing that last bit)

Fair enough - we taxpayers don't want corrupt tax officials. But Tyler can't help reflect that when he were a lad, corruption and criminality in the old Inland Revenue and HM Customs was virtually unheard of.

Or if untouchability doesn't suit, Ian M suggests you apply to the West Sussex Police for the touchy-feely contract to supply Indian head massage services to certain "specific departments" - wonder which ones? (and see Iain Dale's blog here).

Just remind me - why can't we just have real police and real criminal justice?

Cash and salt

Adrian P directs us to this from Nanny BBC:

"We all know that the average Christmas dinner is not the most healthy of meals - but new research has revealed it contains more than 11 grammes of salt, almost double the recommended maximum for an entire day.

The group Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), analysed an average Christmas dinner for the BBC and found high levels of salt in all three courses."

How gob-smackingly amazing.

Adrian says:

"The appropriately named CASH studying the salt content of the average Christmas dinner. Asking a question nobody ever wanted asked and to which the answer can only be “Who gives a f-f-f-fig?”

And who pays? I imagine the BBC funded this project. However CASH also seems to get funding from the Food Standards Agency (see last paragraph
here). I would also hazard a guess that the link on their homepage for donations is one of the least clicked links on the whole internet (see here).

In summary, we seem to have two quangos - the BBC and the FSA - funding another quango to research something nobody cares about. It's a salt-free gravy train!"

Actually, CASH is a registered charity rather than a quango, but we take Adrian's point - we're paying for yet another unwanted helping of nanny state propaganda.

*Footnote - Yes, the Cato vid on Keynesian economics is a tad on the simplified side. But it does highlight how Keynes is once again being wheeled out by enthusiasts of Big Government to justify their expansion programme. In reality, Keynes' economics were far subtler than the "crass Keynesianism" deployed by socialist commissars like Gordo. K was much more concerned with our behavioural biases, how the madness of crowds can distort rational decision making, and how markets are rarely in equilibrium (hence Prof Leijonhufvud’s distinction between Keynesian Economics and the Economics of Keynes - see here). And K also famously reckoned government should be kept below 25% of the economy (cf our 40-45%).


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