Today’s headlines have largely been accompanied with an assortment of photos of George Osborne nervously holding his darling little red briefcase up to the cameras as though it were either the political equivalent of an Oscar, or an undetonated bomb. He looks about as scared as I would look if someone told me to make a plan for the future of our economy.
The photos of a bewildered-looking middle-aged man with an inexplicably red briefcase are the only thing the headlines seem to have in common though. An innocent (if ever so slightly melodramatic) customer of any newspaper stand today would be forgiven for simultaneously bursting into tears of pain and jumping for joy. The Guardian’s gloomy tagline of “more of the same” has probably spent all day nestled between The Daily Mail’s excitable sounding capital letters proclaiming that Osborne’s budget will help “HALF A MILLION families buy new homes” and The Independent’s miserable description of “The Drown Your Sorrows Budget”.
So should I be hopeful about the prospect of an apparently easier jump onto the housing ladder or so depressed that all I have left is the silver lining of the decreased price of beer? No, really. How should I feel? Seriously. I’m an English Literature student. I’m surrounded by people who love words and are terrified of numbers. Our weekly seminars involve a couple of peer-assessed presentations which are marked on ten different criteria, each with a score out of ten. I can add those numbers together as I mark, therefore knowing the final score by the time I reach the penultimate mark. I should not feel half as proud of this as I do. A large proportion of my fellow students either have to resort to counting on their fingers or whipping out the calculators on their phones. In a society where using a calculator to add ten measly numbers together to reach a final mark of less than 100 doesn’t have side-effects of mortification, humiliation, and the sudden urge to practise your mental arithmetic skills, how on earth can we be expected to use our votes wisely when voting based on the economy?
As far as I can tell, the short term problem with the economy in the form of the economic downturn is nothing compared to the long term economic problem that nobody seems to understand the economy: not the public; not the reporters; not the politicians; not even the economists.
And how can we vote based on anything other than the economy? It seems that when the economy is experiencing a trough rather than a peak all other issues are thrown out of the single glazed window straight into the non-recyclable rubbish. Concern about global warming is apparently at a twenty year low point. Do we really want to celebrate the scrapping of the rise in fuel duty when our consumption of fuel is such a huge problem? At what point can a recession not be enough anymore for us to disavow the fact that we’re destroying ourselves along with the planet. And why do people care more about beer than about bees?!
I don’t even like beer. And George increased the tax on wine and spirits, which I do like, and which is going to make my backup plan of environmental despair based bored-line alcoholism a lot more expensive.
It’s enough to make anyone add a cheeky asterisk to the phrase ‘budget cuts’.