Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Polly Toynbee on EMA...sigh

Here we go again.  EMA gets shoehorned in here as part of a wider argument that GDP isn't that important - it's all about happiness:
Because the likes of Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen, Layard and many others found all the evidence showed that a doubled GDP in 30 years hadn't made people in developed countries any happier.
Then, later on in the article is the massive contradiction:
The poorest teenagers are about to lose the educational maintenance allowance that paid their travel to college and gave them a little money of their own. 
I don't see how you can advocate EMA in the same breath as denouncing the value of GDP growth. Essentially, the whole point about New Labour and some of its classic programmes such as EMA were that they were entirely dependent on economic growth. New Labour's answer to most social problems was to chuck money at them.  Some Labour MPs are honest about this - Jon Cruddas accepts that 'The Blair-Brown period – its central characteristic was growth: 15 years, 60 quarters of growth.' Even Sunny Hundal accepts that 'The second problem is that a significant portion of tax revenues prior to the crash came from the banking sector. Those revenues are unlikely to recover to similar levels as the financial merry-go-round has stopped.'

Polly Toynbee and most of Labour are still squealing when any of this money is cut.  If you want to be a leftwing reactionary and try and preserve as much of what New Labour did, then you bloody well need to hope that GDP doubles in the next thirty years as it did in the last, because unless it does you are really not going to be able to afford to give away half a billion quid to 17 year olds. Millions of poor teenagers went to college, went to university, built careers for themselves and I would guess were quite happy in the decades before it was ever introduced - I am one of them.  EMA was introduced in 2004, at the peak of the boom in the midst of the growth we thought would never end.  If the growth really had never ended, it would still be wasteful but I suppose you could argue we could afford it. As it is, it is completely indefensible. Essentially, that was the New Labour compact - encourage unsustainable, frivolous and socially useless speculation and spend the proceeds on unsustainable, frivolous and socially useless government programmes.

Ultimately, Toynbee's article is founded on a massive contradiction common to many in Labour at the moment - money doesn't make you any happier, but if you cut the money of any government programme whatsoever, it results in massive unhappiness.

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