Ex-Cabinet Office chief economist: slower cuts are “common sense”

Think tank boss, Jonathan Portes - who resigned recently as chief economist of the coalition's cabinet office - says a longer deficit reduction period "is not only feasible, but sensible and prudent".

The head of an independent economics think tank has raised serious questions about the rationale for the Government’s rapid spending cuts. Jonathan Portes – who resigned recently as chief economist of the coalition’s cabinet office to take over as Director of the National Institute for Economics and Social Research – writes in this week’s New Statesman that a longer deficit reduction period “is not only feasible, but sensible and prudent”.

After a summer of riots and collapsing media empires, the economy has quickly returned as the major news story. Figures in the last fortnight show that consumer confidence continues its downward slide, unemployment is on the rise, the number of young people out of employment, education and training (NEETs) is at a new highexport performance is faltering, and Britain is bottom of the growth league table. The only silver lining is that confidence in manufacturing is rising.

Against this backdrop, Jonathan Portes uses the economics essay in the New Statesman to critique three of the arguments used by David Cameron to justify closing the fiscal deficit within four years rather than eight. With historical evidence to support his arguments, Portes writes that the size of the UK debt, the rising debt interest bill, and the threat to confidence were all straw men used by Cameron, Clegg, and Osborne to justify their preferred policy.

Referring to attempts soon after the formation of the coalition to liken Britain’s economic performance to that of Greece, Portes writes:

“Cam­eron, George Osborne and Nick Clegg repeatedly likened the UK to Greece, even though no one with even a cursory knowledge of Greece’s economic position thought that such a comparison made any sense at all.”

He ends with a stinging rebuke to the Chancellor:

“Stretching out the fiscal consolidation, and moderating some of the front-loaded spending cuts, is not only feasible, but sensible and prudent. In an op-ed piece published in the Daily Telegraph on 8 August, Osborne described those of us who share this perspective, including not only Krugman but also his fellow Nobel laureates Amartya Sen, Joseph Stiglitz and Christopher Pissarides, as being “on the outer fringes of the international debate”.

“Embarrassingly for him, a few days later, we were joined by the new managing director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, who argued in the Fin­ancial Times of 16 August that “there is scope for a slower pace of consolidation combined with policies to support growth”. This argument is neither radical nor old-fashioned Keynesianism, nor is it in any way unorthodox. It is just standard, common-sense macroeconomics; or, more simply, just common sense.”

But despite calls from left and right for a Plan B, the Chancellor appears stubbornly unwilling to budge.

27 Responses to “Ex-Cabinet Office chief economist: slower cuts are “common sense””

  1. Matt Cavanagh

    Former Coalition economic adviser: slower cuts are "common sense" reports @wdjstraw http://t.co/IByVrtU

  2. Political Planet

    Former Coalition economic adviser: slower cuts are “common sense”: Think tank boss, Jonathan Portes – who resign… http://t.co/oo5mmNa

  3. Shamik Das

    Former Coalition economic adviser: slower cuts are "common sense" reports @wdjstraw http://t.co/IByVrtU

  4. Labour for Reddish

    Former Coalition economic adviser: slower cuts are "common sense" reports @wdjstraw http://t.co/IByVrtU

  5. Michael

    Former Coalition economic adviser: slower cuts are “common sense” l Left Foot Forward – http://j.mp/p266bm

  6. sajj

    Former Coalition economic adviser: slower cuts are “common sense” l Left Foot Forward – http://j.mp/p266bm

  7. Clive Burgess

    Former Coalition economic adviser: slower cuts are “common sense” l Left Foot Forward – http://j.mp/p266bm

  8. Richard McCarthy

    Former Coalition economic adviser: slower cuts are "common sense" reports @wdjstraw http://t.co/IByVrtU

  9. Nick George de Souza

    Former Coalition economic adviser: slower cuts are "common sense" reports @wdjstraw http://t.co/IByVrtU

  10. Mehdi Hasan

    Former Coalition economic adviser: slower cuts are "common sense" reports @wdjstraw http://t.co/IByVrtU

  11. Emma Dent Coad

    Former Coalition economic adviser: slower cuts are “common sense” l Left Foot Forward – http://j.mp/p266bm

  12. DPAC

    Former Coalition economic adviser: slower cuts are "common sense" reports @wdjstraw http://t.co/IByVrtU

  13. Alex Braithwaite

    RT @leftfootfwd: Former Coalition economic adviser: slower cuts are "common sense" http://t.co/kHPrzBg

  14. Nick

    What do you think would happen if Osborne stood up and said he was switching to Plan B as economic growth was much weaker than expected and the government would need to borrow billions more.

    My guess ? Bond yields would rise and sterling would fall. The impact of sterling falling would push up inflation as the price of petrol, heating oil and food all rose. How would this possibly benefit the economy as a whole ?

    As it happens Osborne did allow some leeway in his deficit reduction plan, and looking at areas that the government has u-turned on (from forest sell offs to failure to close quangos) I suspect there is fairly significant slowing of Osborne’s original deficit targets (to take account of weaker global economy and impact of global inflationary pressures).

  15. facemusic

    Former Coalition economic adviser: slower cuts are "common sense" reports @wdjstraw http://t.co/IByVrtU

  16. Jon Slater

    Former Coalition economic adviser: slower cuts are "common sense" reports @wdjstraw http://t.co/IByVrtU

  17. CllrAsifK

    Former Coalition economic adviser: slower cuts are "common sense" reports @wdjstraw http://t.co/IByVrtU

  18. David Ward

    RT @leftfootfwd: Former Coalition economic adviser: slower cuts are "common sense" http://t.co/izoevgb

  19. Sue Davies

    RT @leftfootfwd: Former Coalition economic adviser: slower cuts are "common sense" http://t.co/qJlKxLa

  20. Ben Mitchell

    RT @leftfootfwd: Former Coalition economic adviser: slower cuts are "common sense" http://t.co/epvThxL

  21. Tony Braisby

    RT @leftfootfwd: Former Coalition economic adviser: slower cuts are "common sense" http://t.co/HQsf8Hh

  22. Anon E Mouse

    Will Straw – With the chancellor spending more than the last Labour government where are these cuts?

  23. Keith Heron

    Former Coalition economic adviser: slower cuts are "common sense" reports @wdjstraw http://t.co/IByVrtU

  24. Tom White

    Try higher education, you dopey troll.

  25. Ed's Talking Balls

    Remind me again, Tom White, who commissioned the Browne Review and, while we’re at it, were Labour not committed to implementing its findings?

  26. jmulligan

    RT @leftfootfwd: Ex-Cabinet Office chief economist: slower cuts are "common sense" http://t.co/PQ9KkZw

  27. Leon Wolfson

    Labour screwed up on higher educational policy in a major way, the Browne review has sealed the fate of it in this country. As I’ve said elsewhere, if you pay £9k/year anywhere but Oxbridge, you’re too stupid to belong in the University system. Not that anyone will fail a degree as long as they’re breathing, now.

    @2- All over the place. Simply because they’re pouring cash down the rabbit hole on their pet projects doesn’t mean they’re not eviscerating the social structure of this country at the same time.

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