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David Gauke: Whatever briefings from Downing Street may claim, an election fought on a No Deal platform would be disastrous

David Gauke is a former Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, and is MP for South West Hertfordshire.

How much has the Conservative Party changed? To what extent has it moved from being a mainstream, centre-right party containing a broad range of views to being a party overwhelmingly focused on delivering an uncompromising Brexit?

It is a question I have asked myself a lot in recent months. Having fought off a deselection attempt because I opposed a No Deal Brexit, and having lost the Conservative whip because I continued to oppose a No Deal Brexit, it is hard to escape the conclusion that quite a lot of Conservatives disapprove of people who oppose a No Deal Brexit. Has the debate become so rancorous and intolerant that there is no longer a place for the likes of me in the Conservative Party?

The answer to that question is uncertain, but I took some encouragement from the Manchester Party conference.
I admit to attending with some trepidation. My position on Brexit is evidently a minority one within the Party. I have not sought to hide my criticisms of the substance and tone of the Government’s approach to Brexit. And I have not ruled out standing in my constituency as an independent if the whip is not returned. If ever I was going to get a hard time from Party activists, now would be the time.

And yet, at fringe event after fringe event, Party members were courteous and polite. Andrew Gimson generously wrote up my appearance at the ConservativeHome event, but a similar report could have been written for those I did with the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator. Don’t get me wrong: I am not claiming that I won the audiences over to my position – the occasional eye-roll, sigh and shake of the head was detectable – but nor was there anything like the hostility one might expect if, for example, you ever read the comments below one of my ConHome articles.

In truth, the Conservative Party felt – in those fringe meetings, at least – very similar to the party of which I have been a member for 29 years. Sensible, practical, well-meaning and decent.

I also take some encouragement from the apparent, new-found enthusiasm within the Government to reach a deal on Brexit. In previous columns, I have argued that seeking a deal and being willing to compromise is the right approach. That view would appear to be in the ascendant at the time of writing.

Until recently, an alternative approach appeared to be prevailing which seemed determined to crash us out on  October 31 at any cost. I have previously acknowledged the electoral case for this strategy, but in terms of the outcome for the country, it is thoroughly irresponsible. As such, it is also a huge departure from the modern traditions of the Conservative Party.

Let me give seven examples of principles that most Conservatives would support. I would happily sign up to each and every one of them but I struggle to reconcile them with those pursuing a No Deal Brexit at any cost.

  • We believe that living standards can only be raised and public services properly funded if you have a strong economy.

It is the argument that we have to fight at every election when our opponents make great promises but we respond by pointing out that we have to create the wealth in the first place if we properly want to fund the NHS, for example. Yet the overwhelming economic consensus is that No Deal Brexit would result in a sharp contraction in GDP. And before anyone rushes to claim that this is all a re-run of 2016’s ‘Project Fear’, remember our economy is 2.5-3 per cent smaller than it would have been had Remain won.

  • We believe in free trade.

Open markets benefit both our exporters but also our consumers. This has not always been the Conservative position but, thankfully, it has been for some time. And I know that there are plenty of Brexiteers who are sincere free traders and think that Brexit provides great new opportunities for bringing down trade barriers.

Unfortunately, it is simply not true. The Government’s analysis shows the benefit of getting trade deals with all the English-speaking nations and the major emerging economies will be just 0.2 to 0.6 per cent of GDP whereas the loss of access to European markets of a Canada-style free trade agreement (let alone a no deal Brexit) will be 4 to 7 per cent of GDP. The net effect of a No Deal Brexit or even a Canada style FTA will be to make our economy less open and more protectionist.

  • We believe in fiscal responsibility.

This was the battleground of British politics from 2009 to 2015 when we made the case for getting the deficit down. The contraction of the British economy will inevitably result in deteriorating public finances. Add to that a political strategy which focuses on winning the support of traditional Labour voters which has meant that we are almost certainly already breaking our fiscal rules.  Remember when we criticised Labour for more borrowing and more debt?

  • We don’t believe that the Government should bail-out unviable industries or businesses.

As a statement, this sounds like a bit of a throw-back to the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher weaned the country off supporting lame-duck businesses. But what do we think would happen when businesses no longer became viable because of the impact of No Deal? The pressure to provide support ‘in order to deal with the temporary disruption’ will be immense. The Government has already prepared for this with Operation Kingfisher but removing that support will be very difficult politically. There is a risk that our economy will become much more corporatist than any time since the 1970s.

  • We believe in our national institutions – Parliament, the monarchy and the independent judiciary.

This should go without saying but when Number Ten briefs that the next election will be people versus Parliament, that the Prime Minister will ‘dare the Queen to sack him’, that the judiciary is biased and that the Government will not comply with the law, we don’t sound very conservative (to put it mildly).

  • We believe in national security and ensuring that we do all we can to protect our citizens from terrorism.

And yet a ‘source in No 10’ says we will withhold security co-operation from those countries that fail to block an extension. Meanwhile, the former head of MI6 says that our security depends upon co-operation with the EU and that leaving without a deal means we will have to ‘start again with a blank sheet of paper’. In addition, it is hard to see how any ‘no deal’ outcome doesn’t destabilise the Good Friday Agreement one way or another. The Prime Minister, it is reported, is increasingly concerned about the risk of an upsurge in terrorist activities by dissident republican groups.

  • We believe in the United Kingdom.

It is obvious that Brexit is placing a strain on the union. A No Deal Brexit would be likely to result in a border poll in Northern Ireland, especially with Stormont not sitting and some form of direct rule being necessary. As for Scotland, the chaos of a No Deal Brexit provides plenty of ammunition for the separatists.

Not every Conservative voter will agree with every single one of those principles, or my criticisms of a No Deal Brexit. But a Conservative Party that fights a general election with No Deal at its heart must know that it will be pursuing an approach that is such a radical departure from the traditions of the Conservative Party and that it is vulnerable to losing the support of millions of our longstanding supporters.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Ryan Bourne: To help grow prosperity, let’s focus on people and not places – such as towns

Ryan Bourne is Chair in Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute.

Stian Westlake describes it as the “Strange Death of Tory Economic Thinking”. Conservatives have ceased telling an economic story about why they should govern, and how. Sure, there’s still the odd infrastructure announcement, or tax change. But, since Theresa May became leader, the governing party has shirked articulating a grand economic narrative for its actions.

This is striking and problematic. From Macmillan to Thatcherism to deficit reduction, the party’s success has coincided with having clear economic agendas, gaining credibility for taking tough decisions in delivering a shared goal. But, arguably, deficit reduction masked a secular decline in interest in economics. David Cameron and George Osborne, remember, wanted to move on to social and environmental issues until the financial crisis and its aftermath slapped them in the face.

Now, with the deficit down, economics is in the back seat. Fiscal events are low key and economic advisors back room. To the extent the dismal science is discussed, it’s as a means to other ends, or a genuflect to “Karaoke Thatcherism.”

In short, I think Westlake is right: the Tories do not have an economic story and, post-Brexit, it would be desirable if they did. So we should thank both him and Sam Bowman (formerly of the Adam Smith Institute), who have attempted to fill the vacuum. In a rich and interesting new paper, the pair set out to diagnose our key economic ailments and develop a Conservative-friendly narrative and policy platform to ameliorate them, even suggesting reform of the Right’s institutions and think-tanks in pursuit of the goals.

Such an effort deserves to be taken seriously, though not everyone will agree with their starting premises. It is assumed, for example, that Conservatives believe in markets and want to maintain fiscal discipline, which bridles against recent musings from Onward or thinkers such as David Skelton.

But, again, the key economic problem they identify is incontrovertible: poor economic growth. Weak productivity improvements since the crash have been both politically and economically toxic, lowering wages, investment returns, and necessitating more austerity to get the public finances in structural order. And the nature of modern innovation, arising from clusters and intangible assets, means that growth that is experienced isn’t always broadly shared.

Their agenda’s aim then is to achieve both concurrently: maximize the potential of the economy by taking policy steps on planning, tax policy, infrastructure, and devolution, to increase investment levels, allow successful cities and towns to grow, and to connect “left behind” places to local growth spots through good infrastructure. None of their ideas are crazy. Indeed, I would support the vast majority of them.

And yet, something bothered me about their narrative. In line with the current zeitgeist, they too discuss “places” and their potential, as if towns and cities are autonomous beings. My fear is this focus – shared by those who want to regenerate “left behind” areas – creates unrealistic expectations about what policies can achieve in a way that undermines a pro-market agenda. Importantly, it warps what we should really care about: “left behind” people, not left behind places.

A people-centred narrative recognises that just as firms fail in the face of changing consumer demands and global trends, so high streets, towns, cities, and even regions will shrink too. As Tim Leunig once said, coastal
and river cities that developed and thrived in a heavy manufacturing, maritime nineteenth century world might not be best placed to flourish in a service sector era of air and rail.

A true pro-market policy agenda would admit -and that’s ok. Or at least, it should be, provided we understand that raising growth and sharing prosperity requires adaptation, not regeneration. That means removing barriers for people either to move to new opportunities or have control to adapt their situations to ever-changing circumstances. This might sound Tebbit-like (“get on your bike”), but really it’s just saying policy must work with market signals, not against them.

Today though, interventions actively work in a sort of one-two-three punch against inclusive growth and adjustment. First, we constrain the growth of flourishing cities. Tight land use planning laws around London, Oxford, and Cambridge contribute to very high rents and house prices, and prevent these places benefiting from growing to obtain thicker agglomeration effects.

This contributes to the “left behind” scandal, but not in the way people imagine. When rents and house prices are higher in London and the South East and we subsidse home ownership or council housing elsewhere, it’s low productivity workers from poor regions that find it most difficult to move given housing cost differentials. As a result, they get locked into poorer cities and towns that would otherwise shrink further. That’s why Burnley, Hull and Stoke are the most egalitarian cities in the country, whereas prosperous London, Cambridge and Oxford are the most unequal, even as inequality between regions has intensified.

Having restricted people’s mobility through bad housing policy, we then impose one-size-fits-all solutions and subsidies which dampen market signals further. National minimum wages, fiscal transfers, national pay bargaining, and more, might be designed to alleviate hardship, but they deter poorer regions from attracting new businesses and industries by trading on their market cost advantages. Then, to top that off, we compound the problem further by centralising tax and spending powers, preventing localities from prioritising their spending and revenue streams to their own economic needs.

Now, as it happens, Bowman and Westlake’s policy agenda is perfectly compatible with assisting  “people” rather than “places,” precisely because it’s market-based. They advocate planning liberalisation, a flexible right to buy, and stamp duty, all of which would improve labour mobility. They prioritise infrastructure spending based on benefit-cost ratios, making investments more profitable with sensible tax changes, and devolving more transport power to regions and localities. All, again, will help facilitate areas adapting to changed economic conditions, rather than reviving Labour’s failed top-down regeneration attempts.

But pitching this as a city and town agenda still risks creating the false impression that the net gains from “creative destruction” nevertheless can be achieved without the destruction, and that all places can thrive in the right policy environment.

One can understand why they framed it in this way. Their aim is to persuade the party and its MPs of their platform. Anti-market commentators would call them fatalistic and “abandoning” places if they acknowledged the downside, as if facilitating more free choice amounts to design.

Successful past Tory economic narratives, though, willingly acknowledged hard truths. Deficit reduction entailed tough choices to curb spending. Thatcherism entailed making the case for letting inefficient industries fail. If a new Tory vision is serious about raising productivity growth and spreading opportunity for people, it will have to confront the inevitable market-based adaptation for some places.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Mark Sanford: Yes, I’m running for president in the Republican primary against Trump

Westlake Legal Group s Mark Sanford: Yes, I’m running for president in the Republican primary against Trump The Blog republican Mark Sanford libertarian Justin Amash Joe Walsh gop Deficit debt

What primary? I thought the primary was canceled.

I’m surprised Sanford pulled the trigger. He’s been talking about running for months but always as just one option for his next step, even noting in the “ad” he cut a few months ago that he might pass on a presidential run and start an “advocacy organization” focused on federal spending instead. Sure seemed like he was teasing a primary challenge to Trump to get free media buzz for whatever his actual plans were.

Nope. He’s doing it.

As of yesterday, his home state of South Carolina won’t even be holding a presidential primary in the spring. So why’s Sanford running? To do damage to Trump in the media, I assume. Now that he’s in the race, news networks will be even more eager than they were before to give him airtime. He’ll have six months to make the case against the president every day to “soft” Trump supporters. How does that shake out next fall?

The interesting thing about Sanford’s candidacy is how it complements the other insurgent campaign against Trump. Joe Walsh isn’t running on issues; his anti-Trump pitch aims squarely (and ironically) at character and fitness. Sanford’s the one running on issues, specifically the mind-boggling deficit Trump is somehow running in the midst of a booming economy. Can he win the Republican nomination reminding center-righties and the phony fiscal hawks who used to call themselves “tea partiers” that POTUS has completely upended party dogma on spending? Nah. Can he make some reluctant Trump voters a little more reluctant to reward Trump with another term, particularly with Walsh using his own media appearances to highlight the embarrassing Trump tweet/photo op du jour?

Maybe, yeah. The number of Trump voters whom he and Walsh help turn against the president may be marginal but the 2016 election was won at the margins in key states. If nothing else, it may surprise some casual GOP voters who dislike Trump but don’t follow politics closely to learn that he has several primary challengers now. Sanford and Walsh are marginally mainstreaming the idea that it’s okay for Republicans to not want to reelect the president. Again, margins are important.

Sanford’s candidacy might complement another (potential) challenger besides Walsh. He’s buddies with Justin Amash, who’s weighing a run for the Libertarian Party’s nomination. If Sanford can galvanize, say, 10 percent of Republican voters to oppose Trump on grounds of fiscal responsibility, those Republicans would potentially be primed to switch to Amash in the general election. I wonder, in fact, if that’s not the plan here, with Sanford prepared to “pass the baton” to Amash and endorse him in the general election. A guy who’s consumed with profligate spending can’t rightly support a Democrat against Trump, after all. (Walsh, who’s focused on character above all, potentially could.) Maybe the idea is to build a small but meaningful libertarian constituency on the right that’ll endure through the primary and into the general election and frighten Trump into taking spending more seriously.

Imagine if that constituency ended up helping elect Bernie Sanders president by siphoning off votes from POTUS.

Sanford’s campaign website is already live and features two introductory videos, one called “Why I’m Running” that hammers at spending and the other called “Two Other Things” that addresses norms and humility, a more Walsh-ian critique of Trump but one which Sanford’s clearly designating as secondary in his campaign. Trump’s going to lash out at him for his bizarre episode years ago as governor in which he disappeared to go be with his mistress in Argentina but that may end up doing POTUS more harm than good. It’s a fair hit, it’s just that character attacks are destined to backfire on him by reminding people of their misgivings about Trump’s own character. (“This guy is goofing on Sanford for infidelity?”) He’s better off ignoring all of his challengers and hoping Republican voters do too. Exit question: Is this revenge for Trump wrecking Sanford’s House primary last year?

The post Mark Sanford: Yes, I’m running for president in the Republican primary against Trump appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group s-300x159 Mark Sanford: Yes, I’m running for president in the Republican primary against Trump The Blog republican Mark Sanford libertarian Justin Amash Joe Walsh gop Deficit debt   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Ryan Bourne: In America, public spending conservatism is being lost. It could happen in Britain.

Ryan Bourne is Chair in Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute.

Austerity is over. Theresa May told us so after the 2017 election, and again at the Conservative Party Conference last year. Philip Hammond tried restraining her from a blitz of high-profile spending announcements. Yet Team Johnson has now picked up the baton anyway. Today’s spending review from Sajid Javid will reportedly confirm significant money injections for schools, hospitals and the police. The Prime Minister said Monday it will be “the most ambitious spending round for more than a decade.”

Restraining government spending was always said to be a temporary deficit repair tool, of course. Those “tough choices,” added to net tax hikes, have helped bring down the budget deficit to just 1.3 per cent of GDP, from a gargantuan 9.9 per cent in 2010. Once near-balance, a spending squeeze was never envisaged to continue year after year. Despite Nick Timothy’s fear of libertarians under the bed, no recent Conservative leader has been ideologically committed to shrink the size and scope of government. Absent “thinking the unthinkable,” one eventually must release the spending grip given voter demands for high-quality services.

And yet…the zeal with which the Tories have turned heel on their spending narrative is surprising. Whatever one’s view on the efficacy or composition of “cuts”, they were central to the party’s offer through 2016, including the 2015 election win. Balancing the books was said to be about unburdening the next generation from dumping more debt on top of the iceberg associated with an ageing population. Any intergenerational justice message has now gone the way of the Titanic.

For the Government is not promising gradual targeted spending increases in these areas – a natural uplift from a reset baseline after years of restraint. No, proposed hikes in education funding would virtually reverse any real schools’ spending cuts over the past decade. May’s extra money for the NHS is a big step-change too. The spending review is celebrated as the “biggest, most generous spending review since the height of Tony Blair’s New Labour,” no less – a far cry from denouncing that era’s profligacy. In one swoop, the Treasury has undercut its long-held opposition to raising borrowing and junked the idea that public service reform trumps showering public services with money.

Javid attempts to thread the needle by arguing that more spending is still consistent with keeping the debt-to-GDP ratio on a shallow downward path. That maybe true. But a stated goal of policy was always to balance the books overall, even if George Osborne and David Cameron continually pushed back the deadline. A former Treasury fiscal policy director now says that borrowing will in fact start rising again, and soon be above two per cent of GDP. Manageable, yes – but a clear change in direction.

The public discourse effects of this reversal should worry fiscal conservatives. Cameron and Osborne’s consistent messaging helped entrench two crucial contours in discussions about government spending. First, that there was no free lunch (every Labour proposal for years was met with the question “how will you pay for it?”) Second, that what you did with the money (the organisation of public services) was as important as spending levels. After years of Tony Blair’s money throwing, the public were receptive to such apparently grown-up thinking. Now, both those claims-cum-restraints that ensnared Labour have been removed.

If large, real increases in education funding are synonymous with better schools, as Tories imply, Labour can coherently ask “why did you cut real funding beforehand?” Such corrective spending hikes look an admission of a past mistake. Doubly so if funded through borrowing that was previously considered intolerable.

Couching this as “an end to austerity” brings similar peril. These particular decisions don’t imply “we are going to return to affordable spending increases consistent with a low deficit.” If large spending hikes for education are seen as reversing austerity, then obvious questions arise: what about local authority funding? Prisons? Criminal justice? Have these not suffered more from the pain you admit was damaging?

Of course, Brexit is the important context here. It is sucking oxygen from normal economic debates – one reason why the logjam needs to be broken. A slowing economy, induced in part by uncertainty, means an obsessive near-term public finance focus is probably unwise. The very process of extrication requires budget flexibility, not least because the underlying public finances could look very different when future trade relations crystallise.

But all this would be a case for relaxing or suspending fiscal targets through the choppy Brexit seas, not bold new announcements.

No, it’s difficult not to conclude there’s not something bigger happening here. Much of the party has embraced a simplistic “left behind” narrative of the Brexit vote – that it was a cry for investment in public services. They are egged on by former government advisors, armed with polling, who see an opportunity to steer the party towards a “bigger government” vision for the party they’ve always spoiled for.

Academic evidence in fact shows new Brexit voters affiliating with the Tories quickly adopt traditional Tory views on other issues. There’s no need to pander. Yet when you see John Redwood railing against austerity, you realise how strong this view about the changing party voter base has set.

Whether Johnson shares that interpretation is less clear. Perhaps he sees funding boosts now in three major non-Brexit policy areas as short-term deck clearing before an election. Polling strength from these “good news stories” might even firm up pressure on the EU and rebel MPs on his central task. If it helps finally deliver Brexit, many of us will accept fiscal jam tomorrow.

I want to believe this, but the noises aren’t encouraging. And living in the US, where Republicans have gone from a Tea Party anti-spending force to delivering unprecedented deficits for peacetime, in just a decade, I’ve observed just how easily spending conservatism is lost.

Here, it started with big spending increases on priorities too. Republicans cut taxes, yes, but huge cash increases for defence were delivered, greased by money for some Democrat priorities. Once that dam opened though, the money poured. July’s budget deal threw off the last vestiges of spending caps delivered by the Tea Party Congress. Promises of Republican spending restraint in Donald Trump’s potential second term ring as hollow as claims he’s using tariffs as a path to freer trade.

Here’s the worrying consequence. As US conservatives have learned to love deficits, or at least use them, the left’s spending demands have only gotten more extreme. With constraints stripped away, Democratic Presidential candidates feel liberated to propose mammoth programmes and spending hikes – the Green New Deal, a jobs guarantee, universal childcare and more. When asked how the country can afford this, they point out to the red ink spilled for Republican priorities. There is no answer.

UK Conservatives are far from the Republican point of no return on spending, as yet. But the mood music has changed dramatically. America shows that when conservatives abandon spending constraint, they legitimise the left’s spending wild demands, to taxpayers’ detriment.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Ryan Bourne: In America, public spending conservatism is being lost. It could happen in Britain.

Ryan Bourne is Chair in Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute.

Austerity is over. Theresa May told us so after the 2017 election, and again at the Conservative Party Conference last year. Philip Hammond tried restraining her from a blitz of high-profile spending announcements. Yet Team Johnson has now picked up the baton anyway. Today’s spending review from Sajid Javid will reportedly confirm significant money injections for schools, hospitals and the police. The Prime Minister said Monday it will be “the most ambitious spending round for more than a decade.”

Restraining government spending was always said to be a temporary deficit repair tool, of course. Those “tough choices,” added to net tax hikes, have helped bring down the budget deficit to just 1.3 per cent of GDP, from a gargantuan 9.9 per cent in 2010. Once near-balance, a spending squeeze was never envisaged to continue year after year. Despite Nick Timothy’s fear of libertarians under the bed, no recent Conservative leader has been ideologically committed to shrink the size and scope of government. Absent “thinking the unthinkable,” one eventually must release the spending grip given voter demands for high-quality services.

And yet…the zeal with which the Tories have turned heel on their spending narrative is surprising. Whatever one’s view on the efficacy or composition of “cuts”, they were central to the party’s offer through 2016, including the 2015 election win. Balancing the books was said to be about unburdening the next generation from dumping more debt on top of the iceberg associated with an ageing population. Any intergenerational justice message has now gone the way of the Titanic.

For the Government is not promising gradual targeted spending increases in these areas – a natural uplift from a reset baseline after years of restraint. No, proposed hikes in education funding would virtually reverse any real schools’ spending cuts over the past decade. May’s extra money for the NHS is a big step-change too. The spending review is celebrated as the “biggest, most generous spending review since the height of Tony Blair’s New Labour,” no less – a far cry from denouncing that era’s profligacy. In one swoop, the Treasury has undercut its long-held opposition to raising borrowing and junked the idea that public service reform trumps showering public services with money.

Javid attempts to thread the needle by arguing that more spending is still consistent with keeping the debt-to-GDP ratio on a shallow downward path. That maybe true. But a stated goal of policy was always to balance the books overall, even if George Osborne and David Cameron continually pushed back the deadline. A former Treasury fiscal policy director now says that borrowing will in fact start rising again, and soon be above two per cent of GDP. Manageable, yes – but a clear change in direction.

The public discourse effects of this reversal should worry fiscal conservatives. Cameron and Osborne’s consistent messaging helped entrench two crucial contours in discussions about government spending. First, that there was no free lunch (every Labour proposal for years was met with the question “how will you pay for it?”) Second, that what you did with the money (the organisation of public services) was as important as spending levels. After years of Tony Blair’s money throwing, the public were receptive to such apparently grown-up thinking. Now, both those claims-cum-restraints that ensnared Labour have been removed.

If large, real increases in education funding are synonymous with better schools, as Tories imply, Labour can coherently ask “why did you cut real funding beforehand?” Such corrective spending hikes look an admission of a past mistake. Doubly so if funded through borrowing that was previously considered intolerable.

Couching this as “an end to austerity” brings similar peril. These particular decisions don’t imply “we are going to return to affordable spending increases consistent with a low deficit.” If large spending hikes for education are seen as reversing austerity, then obvious questions arise: what about local authority funding? Prisons? Criminal justice? Have these not suffered more from the pain you admit was damaging?

Of course, Brexit is the important context here. It is sucking oxygen from normal economic debates – one reason why the logjam needs to be broken. A slowing economy, induced in part by uncertainty, means an obsessive near-term public finance focus is probably unwise. The very process of extrication requires budget flexibility, not least because the underlying public finances could look very different when future trade relations crystallise.

But all this would be a case for relaxing or suspending fiscal targets through the choppy Brexit seas, not bold new announcements.

No, it’s difficult not to conclude there’s not something bigger happening here. Much of the party has embraced a simplistic “left behind” narrative of the Brexit vote – that it was a cry for investment in public services. They are egged on by former government advisors, armed with polling, who see an opportunity to steer the party towards a “bigger government” vision for the party they’ve always spoiled for.

Academic evidence in fact shows new Brexit voters affiliating with the Tories quickly adopt traditional Tory views on other issues. There’s no need to pander. Yet when you see John Redwood railing against austerity, you realise how strong this view about the changing party voter base has set.

Whether Johnson shares that interpretation is less clear. Perhaps he sees funding boosts now in three major non-Brexit policy areas as short-term deck clearing before an election. Polling strength from these “good news stories” might even firm up pressure on the EU and rebel MPs on his central task. If it helps finally deliver Brexit, many of us will accept fiscal jam tomorrow.

I want to believe this, but the noises aren’t encouraging. And living in the US, where Republicans have gone from a Tea Party anti-spending force to delivering unprecedented deficits for peacetime, in just a decade, I’ve observed just how easily spending conservatism is lost.

Here, it started with big spending increases on priorities too. Republicans cut taxes, yes, but huge cash increases for defence were delivered, greased by money for some Democrat priorities. Once that dam opened though, the money poured. July’s budget deal threw off the last vestiges of spending caps delivered by the Tea Party Congress. Promises of Republican spending restraint in Donald Trump’s potential second term ring as hollow as claims he’s using tariffs as a path to freer trade.

Here’s the worrying consequence. As US conservatives have learned to love deficits, or at least use them, the left’s spending demands have only gotten more extreme. With constraints stripped away, Democratic Presidential candidates feel liberated to propose mammoth programmes and spending hikes – the Green New Deal, a jobs guarantee, universal childcare and more. When asked how the country can afford this, they point out to the red ink spilled for Republican priorities. There is no answer.

UK Conservatives are far from the Republican point of no return on spending, as yet. But the mood music has changed dramatically. America shows that when conservatives abandon spending constraint, they legitimise the left’s spending wild demands, to taxpayers’ detriment.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

We did it! America nearing trillion-dollar deficit this year, should run trillion-dollar deficit next year too

Westlake Legal Group tp-1 We did it! America nearing trillion-dollar deficit this year, should run trillion-dollar deficit next year too Trump trillion The Blog pelosi dollar democrats Deficit America

They say America can’t achieve big things anymore, particularly big things that require bipartisan cooperation.

But I’d call this “big.” And it really is an achievement: Imagine how terrible at basic responsible governance both of our national parties needed to be to produce trillion-dollar deficits at a moment of gangbusters economic growth.

Any schmuck can run a deficit when the economy’s shrinking. But when it’s growing steadily and adding six figures in new jobs month after month?

That’s a bona fide accomplishment. The degree of difficulty is off the charts.

The federal budget deficit is growing faster than expected as President Trump’s spending and tax cut policies force the United States to borrow increasing sums of money.

The deficit — the gap between what the government takes in through taxes and other sources of revenue and what it spends — will reach $960 billion for the 2019 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. That gap will widen to $1 trillion for the 2020 fiscal year, the Congressional Budget Office said in updated forecasts released on Wednesday.

That damage would be even higher if not for lower-than-expected interest rates, which are reducing the amount of money the government has to pay to its lenders. Still, the 2019 deficit is projected to be 25 percent larger than it was in 2018, and the budget office predicts it will continue to rise every year through 2023.

The current record for consecutive years with a deficit increase is five, notes the Times — and that during World War II, when the country was marshaling every available resource towards war.

Choose your culprit here — or rather, don’t choose since they’re not mutually exclusive. It starts with Trump, who’s showed zero interest in spending cuts at the same time that he’s pursued massive revenue reduction in the form of tax cuts. Twitter pal Jeff Dobbs reminded me yesterday of this exchange, immortalized by the Daily Beast in an article from December:

Since the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump’s aides and advisers have tried to convince him of the importance of tackling the national debt…

The friction came to a head in early 2017 when senior officials offered Trump charts and graphics laying out the numbers and showing a “hockey stick” spike in the national debt in the not-too-distant future. In response, Trump noted that the data suggested the debt would reach a critical mass only after his possible second term in office.

“Yeah, but I won’t be here,” the president bluntly said, according to a source who was in the room when Trump made this comment during discussions on the debt.

Trump was chattering about new tax cuts as recently as two days ago, consumed with economic stimulus to improve his electoral chances despite what that would mean for future deficits, particularly entitlements. And that’s on top of the tax revenue lost to the slower pace of economic growth due to his trade war. But it can’t all be laid off on Trump: The many Republican frauds in Congress who pounded the table for smaller government when Obama was in charge are also complicit, of course, starting with Trump’s own chief of staff. If the essential fraudulence of the tea-party era had to be reduced to a single quote, it would be this one from former fiscal superhawk Mick Mulvaney:

The post-Trump era for the Republican Party will be a parade of people whimpering that they privately disagreed with a lot of the things he did and said, but none of that pandering will be as disgusting as the Mulvaneys on the Hill suddenly rediscovering that they’re against deficits once Democrats are back in charge. As it is, the best the Times can do to find Republicans in a position of influence willing to criticize Trump’s spending is John Thune sheepishly saying, “I hope in a second term, he is interested” in entitlement reform, as if he and McConnell couldn’t roadblock any legislation they wanted to right now in order to focus Trump on spending.

And then there are the Democrats, for whom any cut to discretionary spending apart from defense spending is a new Holocaust, stealing bread from the mouths of children by reverting to the archaic spending levels the federal government maintained just one or two years ago. Even defense cuts are uncomfortable for them since it leaves them open to the Republican charge that they’re weak on national security. This year’s presidential primary has been a sustained exercise in who can promise more by way of new spending, with Bernie Sanders rolling out a $16 trillion environmental plan literally yesterday. Invariably lip service is paid to how these programs will “pay for themselves” but no one, progressives included, believes that; the federal track record of blowing through budgets is too long for even semi-plausible deniability. “It’ll pay for itself” is just a way of dismissing the inevitable rejoinder that massive new entitlements like Medicare for All and total student-loan forgiveness aren’t within our means. The “best” argument for preferring Democrats to the modern GOP on deficits is that they at least understand that tax revenue is a component of deficit reduction. The worst is that they’d have to soak the middle class 10 times over to make their agenda deficit-neutral.

Exit question: With both parties trending left on spending, what’s the way out of this? Is there one apart from a massive fiscal crisis that forces a bipartisan reckoning?

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Fox vs. Fox: Neil Cavuto clashes with Lou Dobbs on Trump and the deficit

Westlake Legal Group c Fox vs. Fox: Neil Cavuto clashes with Lou Dobbs on Trump and the deficit The Blog Spending Fox Business Federal dobbs Deficit debt cavuto

Via the Examiner, this was making the rounds yesterday but it’s best enjoyed today, on the occasion of the Senate rubber-stamping the latest garbage spending bill.

I’ve never seen a purer microcosm of the news/opinion divide within Fox News than these three minutes. Cavuto straddles that divide to some degree since he delivers his own commentary on air alongside newsier segments, but that commentary has been lukewarm about Trump on a network where opinion about the president runs almost entirely one way. And Cavuto’s show airs dayside, right after Shep, as part of a run of newsy programming. Dobbs, on the other hand, is not only Fox Business’s loudest pro-Trump pundit, he’s part of the circle of Fox hosts like Hannity and Tucker who are on good enough terms personally with the president to chat with him by phone during off-hours. So deep does their mutual admiration run that Trump has reportedly been known to patch Dobbs through on speakerphone during White House meetings.

What I’m saying is that, while we’re probably never going to get a segment in which Hannity and Shep yell at each other on air about Trump, this is the next best thing.

Each man typifies his wing of the network during the exchange. For Cavuto, it’s a matter of simple fact: Not only is this country still running mammoth deficits under Trump, it’s doing so at a moment of tremendous economic growth, when tax revenue should be up and deficits therefore should be down. That’s not a matter of debate. It’s not a “deep state talking point” or whatever. The numbers are what they are. For Dobbs, the imperative at all times is to protect the president (at least unless and until Trump crosses him on a core nationalist concern, like immigration) and so he’s left here to figure out on the fly how to dodge Cavuto’s irrebuttable point. The first thing he does is get personal, telling Cavuto, “You have to work this thing out with the president, Neil” — that “thing” being a reference to Trump taking issue with some of Cavuto’s unflattering commentary about him in the past. What he’s implying, in other words, is that Cavuto wouldn’t be bringing up a basic, basic, basic, basic fact like, “We’re spending way too much money and Trump obviously doesn’t care” if there weren’t some sort of personal grudge between him and the president.

Which is true, at least, to the cult of personality that defines Trumpism. To criticize the president for a policy failure is to impugn our national savior.

Cavuto didn’t care for that, which is why he starts raising his voice — and maybe too out of sheer exasperation that Dobbs couldn’t bring himself to find fault with Trump even when the evidence is indisputable. So he pressed him on the point — what about the debt and deficit? — and, well, just watch. Dobbs has no answer, because what answer could he rightly give? Is he supposed to badmouth the Trump tax cuts, knowing that that’s Trump’s most notable domestic achievement to date? All he can do is try to shift to happier subjects, like the unemployment rate. Never mind that, as I say, booming employment somehow hasn’t done a thing to cut the budget deficit given the insane rate of federal spending under Trump.

This isn’t the only Fox vs. Fox battle simmering today, by the way. Some FNC employees took issue with this Tomi Lahren tweet last night:

Kat Timpf, Britt McHenry, and Janice Dean called her out for that online, with others complaining anonymously to CNN behind the scenes. Lahren has since apologized, which I’m treating as evidence that Fox management also had a word with her. Is Fox’s personnel roster going to survive this election cycle intact? Stay tuned. Exit quotation from the president of the United States, assessing his favorite news network: “What the hell is going on?”

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Mark Sanford presidential campaign ad(?): We have a fiscal crisis whether we want to admit it or not

Westlake Legal Group ms Mark Sanford presidential campaign ad(?): We have a fiscal crisis whether we want to admit it or not Trump The Blog south carolina Mark Sanford fiscal Deficit debt crisis

LOL at this guy trying to win righties over with something other than brute lib-triggering.

Although, even by the degraded modern Republican cardinal rule of “we’re for whatever the left is against,” you would think it’d be easier to maintain GOP interest in shrinking government. By one estimate the Green New Deal will cost $93 trillion, no typo. It’s no exaggeration to say that AOC and the Squad think the national debt should be waaaaaay bigger than it already is. They also think the problem of not being able to pay for federal programs can be solved by, ahem, simply printing more money. “Slash spending, reform entitlements” is the most obvious way to own the libs.

But it turns out the subject of debt and deficits is the one exception to the cardinal rule. Perfect.

Here’s Mark Sanford, who lost his congressional primary last year for the right-wing heresy of not thinking much of Trump, announcing that … actually, it’s not clear what he’s announcing. He’s considering a primary challenge to POTUS, but he’s also seriously considering passing on electoral politics and launching an “advocacy organization.” In fact, this is the first ad I’ve ever seen in which an apparent candidate for high office makes clear right in the ad that he may *not* end up running after all. He might go off and found “Nerds for Tax Cuts” or whatever instead.

Maybe wait a week until you’ve made up your mind before cutting the ad, eh, Mark?

I like him but he’s one weird dude. Always has been, and not just for his infamous “hiking of the Appalachian Trail.”

He was on “The View” today as well — another move typical of a presidential candidate, not a think-tank founder — and naturally was asked about the topic du jour. That clip is interesting because it shows Sanford grappling with his biggest challenge if he ends up primarying Trump: How does he resist getting sucked into talking about the daily Trump controversy and away from what he really wants to be talking about, spending? You can see an early example of that here, with the hosts pressuring him to call Trump’s tweets about the Squad racist and Sanford obliging them but also making a point of noting that they’re playing Trump’s game by focusing on it. America’s political class can’t go chasing every shiny object he tosses at them, he scolds. Uh, Mark, m’man, I have bad news. We can and we will.

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Rush: “All this talk about concern for the deficit and the budget has been bogus for as long as it’s been around”

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“Nobody is a fiscal conservative anymore,” he said on today’s show.

Well, I know one person who isn’t.

He said this today in response to a caller who wants Trump dumped from the GOP ticket next year. Why? Because, the guy reasoned, it’s bananas to stick with someone who has as much baggage as POTUS when you could swap in an anodyne Republican and make the election all about how insane Democrats have become instead. Why rerun the lesser-of-two-very-evil-evils contest of 2016 when you could take the lay-up?

That’s a flawed argument for several reasons, starting with the fact that no political party will voluntarily shed the advantage of incumbency. But Rush’s reply went in an … interesting direction:

CALLER: (unintelligible) …Trump Derangement Syndrome, and that will allow any normal Republican to get elected in 2020. Republicans can nominate a young, potentially two-term president, one that believes in fiscal conservatism. We’re gonna have… In 2019, there’s gonna be a $1 trillion deficit. Trump doesn’t really care about that. He’s not really a fiscal conservative. We have to acknowledge that Trump has been cruelly used.

RUSH: Nobody is a fiscal conservative anymore. All this talk about concern for the deficit and the budget has been bogus for as long as it’s been around.

Well.

I went looking for audio and couldn’t find it. Re-reading the exchange, I thought what Limbaugh might have meant was that nobody *in Washington* is a fiscal conservative anymore, which is true enough. He’s not saying that he thinks concern about spending is bogus, he’s saying that the Republican leadership’s endless screeching about it during the Obama presidency was bogus based on how they’ve behaved themselves while in power. Which, again, is true. Rush wasn’t giving us his view here, he was critiquing the GOP establishment’s abandonment of small-government conservatism.

Except no, he wasn’t. The segment continued:

Well, we have a name! A Republican has thrown hit hat into the ring. It happened on CNN right now earlier this afternoon. The hostette, Brianna Keilar, was asking a member of Congress — a Republican from South Carolina — about his possibility of running for president. “So you’re considering a primary run against a sitting president. Tell us why, Mark Sanford.”

SANFORD: There is little to no — I guess I’d say no — discussion of debt, deficit, and government spending in Washington these days. I’ve watched two Democratic presidential debates, and there’s been zero discussion on both of them as to this issue. The president said we’re not gonna touch the very things that drive debt and spending. So I think that we’re walking away into one heck of a financial storm, and there’s no discussion. I was just sitting on set and listening to people discussing both sides of the president’s comments. I think that they’re noxious and they’re weird and they’re all those different things that people are discussing. But there is, again, plenty of discussion on that front. The place where there’s no discussion is the way in which interest is the largest growing expense in the federal government!

RUSH: Well, there you have it. I mean, how can you stop this guy? Mark Sanford: “Everybody’s talking about how weird Trump is, but nobody’s talking about the interest and how interest on the debt is the largest growing expense of the federal government.” (interruption) “The Mark Sanford, yes. “The” Mark Sanford! (laughing) How many years have people tried to scare everybody about [the deficit]? How many years, how many decades have politicians tried to scare us about the deficit, the national debt, (Sen. Jim Sasser pronunciation) “the dafycit,” any number of things? Yet here we’re still here, and the great jaws of the deficit have not bitten off our heads and chewed them up and spit them out.

“Well, it’s coming, Rush.”

Media Matters people are rounding up some of his choicer quotes about the debt and deficits during the Obama era, when O argued that a historic recession left him no choice but to accept massive shortfalls in the federal budget while the country slowly recovered economically. Trump, however, presides over a roaring economy and yet we’re still running a mammoth deficit this year, after two years of total Republican control of government. That is, Rush’s conclusion that gross fiscal irresponsibility simply isn’t much of a concern seems curiously recent. Dating, say, to around November 2016 or thereabouts, I’m guessing.

These aren’t his first comments along these lines during the Trump era. Within a month of Trump’s victory three years ago, he was talking up how a massive infrastructure stimulus might be worth entertaining — so long as it was done right, of course, unlike Obama’s shoddy stimulus of 2009. Last year he confessed his newfound skepticism of the innermost core principle of fiscal conservatism, that government should live within its means, when he said, “[I]n the real world all of the apocalyptic warnings I grew up hearing have yet to happen. The national debt has not choked us. The national debt is not destroyed us. We may be living in the middle of the destruction and don’t see it yet, but for some reason I didn’t get caught up in it.” All he did today is reiterate that he continues to believe that. Coincidentally, on a day when news is breaking that our deficit reached a trillion dollars under Trump last year and his regular listeners might otherwise be under the impression that that’s a bad thing.

Oh well. Everyone’s entitled to change their minds politically. If the most celebrated conservative broadcaster in the history of American radio is now a Krugman-style Keynesian, that’s his right — although a little more truth in how he advertises his program would be welcome. All I ask is that he show an iota of principle by sticking to this big-government position once a Democrat is back in the White House and all the phony fiscal cons on the Hill start bleating again that d-d-d-deficits matter! If he doesn’t, one might get a funny idea that Rush doesn’t really believe anything and is simply saying at any given moment what he thinks his listeners want to hear.

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The poll which should give those backing a 2050 zero emissions pledge pause for thought

Last week I warned that Philip Hammond was right to be concerned about the idea of promising to fulfil far-off radical goals on climate change without actually explaining, debating or gaining popular consent for the vast up-front costs involved.

Avoiding such honesty is not only irresponsible and cynical – deceitful, even – it is unwise and risks a backlash by declaring something to be so important that campaigners believe they can justify bypassing the hard work of bothering to engage with the people about what it is they are proposing.

There are pretty clear headline numbers from YouGov and others for general questions on the theory of acting on the issue, particularly among the young. These findings are normally used to justify skipping the grubby question of the costs and practicalities entirely.

But yesterday, Sky Data published a poll which illustrates the problem with this rather well, and should give pause to anyone who thinks it is that easy:

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-06-13-at-12.29.35 The poll which should give those backing a 2050 zero emissions pledge pause for thought ToryDiary Tax and Spending Tax Sky Data Public Spending Polling Philip Hammond MP Opinion Polls Deficit debt

That is a pretty stark demonstration of the issue. Yes, ask people “should we act” or “is it a priority” and they will say yes. But currently if you ask people where the money should come from to do so – tax, borrowing (which is, after all, just deferred tax), or lower spending elsewhere, then they reject all three.

And this isn’t a question of older voters rejecting action that they young want – with all the usual caveats about cross-cutting polls, Sky doesn’t find a majority of 18-34-year-olds supporting any of the three options, either. They are pretty much average on all three: 42-37 against tax rises, 50-22 against increasing borrowing, and 74-10 against cutting public services.

Either the proposal has to change, or those pushing for it have to actually come clean with the people who will foot the bill about how much it will cost to fulfil, and win their consent. Otherwise the debate will happen further down the line, which helps nobody.

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