This morning Gordon Brown was interviewed by John Humphrys on BBC R4 Today. Unfortunately John Humphrys allowed him to get away with a number of infelicities that should have been properly challenged:
- "Tax is only 37% of GDP" - when Humphrys put it to him that taxes are now 40% plus, Brown whacked him: "you must get your facts right John." But the truth is that while declared tax is officially put at 37% this year (Budget report), that excludes a further 2.3% of GDP accounted for by "other receipts". Among other things, they comprise all those service charges now imposed for things that used to be delivered free, or nearly free (eg see this blog). Including them, the government's take goes up to 39%. And on top of that, we have government borrowing of 3% of GDP, implying that the government is actually grabbing 42% of our income, as shown in the chart (government borrowing being no more than deferred tax - an inescapable fact first highlighted by David Ricardo 200 years ago).
- "The 10p tax rate mainly lined the pockets of the rich"- jaw-droppingly, Brown explained he'd abolished the 10p rate because 85% of the benefit was going to the undeserving rich. Humphrys failed to point out it had been Brown himself who had introduced it in the first place. And he also failed to point out that the money from its abolition had been used to fund a cut in the basic rate, which itself "lines the pockets of the rich".
- "The banks were wrong to conduct so much business off-balance sheet"- coming from the Great Enron accountant Brown, who currently has well over £1 trillion of off-balance sheet debt (see this blog), that is outrageous cheek. But once again Humphrys failed to pick it up, preferring instead to concentrate on what he called "moral issues" and whether Mr Brown was enjoying the job? To which his reply was...
..."it is a privilege to serve."
A privilege to serve.
Taxpayers would feel much better served if Mr Brown took less of their money, and was a deal more open and straightforward about his fiscal sums.