Friday, 20 November 2015

How the mainstream media give George Osborne a free pass on the failure of ideological austerity.


One of the main reasons that the Tories have kept getting away with the their ideological austerity agenda is the pro-austerity bias of the mainstream media.

I'm not going to get sidetracked into explaining why ideological austerity is failing so badly. If you want to know more about that you can read my articles on the austerity con and the "economic recovery" lie, as well as my articles explaining fiscal multiplication, the marginal propensity to consume and the difference between a debt and a deficit.


It would also be easy to get sidetracked into explaining how the mainstream media has become so blatantly unbalanced, but I'll just point out the overwhelming right-wing bias of the corporate print media, and the way that Tony Blair castrated the BBC for daring to question the UK government narrative in favour of causing the ongoing catastrophe in Iraq.
In this article I'm not going to criticise the bias of the right-wing press. We all know that the Murdoch press, the Daily Mail (including their Metro freesheet), Telegraph, Express, Evening Standard ... will almost always take a wholly uncritical pro-austerity line. You'd have to be pretty naive to expect balanced coverage from that lot. What I'm going to look at is how even the supposedly left-wing media provide spectacularly uncritical analyses of George Osborne's ideological austerity agenda too.

The focus of my critique will be an article in the Guardian by their economics reporter Katie Allen entitled "Shock UK deficit figures dent George Osborne's economic plan". I'm not having a go at this article because it's a particularly outstanding example of pro-austerity bias in the left-wing press because it's not. It's actually a very typical example of the free pass George Osborne always seems to get from the mainstream press.

A shock?

Is it really a "shock" that George Osborne has missed his economic projections once again? Remember how back in 2010 that his ideological austerity agenda would have completely eliminated the budget deficit by now? Well "shock deficit figures" show that Osborne is on course to badly miss his much revised target of borrowing an extra £69.5 billion in 2015.

The scale of George Osborne's excess borrowing is so bad that he's created more new public debt than every single Labour government in history (measured in pounds and as a percentage of GDP).


In 2010 Osborne said we wouldn't be borrowing anything at all by 2015, yet here he is failing to meet his revised target of borrowing £69.5 billion this year. Somehow the article makes no reference to this at all, instead painting it some kind of surprise that George Osborne's current projections are wrong.

Surely it would be more of a shock if George Osborne's maths actually added up for a change?


Where is the political balance?

The article extensively quotes an unnamed "Treasury spokeswoman" who gives a masterful display of Tory propaganda speak, piffling on about "providing economic security for working people" when the actual plan is to harm the economic security of millions of working families by slashing Tax Credits (in precisely the way the Tory party promised they weren't going to).

Not a single Labour politician is asked for their opinion (not even a Blairite one) and nobody from any other political party is given the opportunity to hold the government to account.

Some balance eh?


Which economists?

The subheading to the article asserts that "economists" are "warning chancellor will need further austerity or miss annual target" as if there is some kind of economic consensus that the only solution to failing austerity is even more austerity.

In reality economic opinion is divided on austerity. Two thirds of economists say that ideological austerity has damaged the UK economy. Opposing ideological austerity is hardly an extreme-left position either. Just look at Canada where Justin Trudeau just led the Liberal party to a historic victory on an anti-austerity pro-growth platform.

Given the general economic consensus that ideological austerity is economically harmful; that Osborne's austerity policies are demonstrably failing; and that anti-austerity politics is mainstream and highly popular in other countries, one would have thought that it would be possible for the author to find at least one economist to actually critique the ideological austerity agenda that has caused the slowest post-crisis economic recovery in recorded history. But no, the article features quotes from three corporate economists who all speak from a position of complete unquestioning faith in austerity.

It's hardly surprising that the consensus amongst wealthy corporate economists is that the austerity show (that benefits the super-wealthy at the expense of almost everyone else) must go on.


Corporate economists

The three economists are Howard Archer of IHS global, Chris Hare of Investec and Samuel Tombs of Pantheon Macroeconomic. The article does not make clear how these quotations were selected, Whether it was on the basis that they are friends of the author, or by some other methodology is not clear.

Not a single academic economist was asked for their opinion. This imbalance would be bad enough if it were just the fact that the article relies solely on corporate economists, but one of the companies represented actually has financial links with the Tory party.

The Chief Economist at Pantheon Macroeconimic Samuel Tombs was quoted as saying "October’s poor borrowing numbers extinguish any lingering hope that the chancellor will be able to soften his austerity plans materially in next week’s autumn statement" but no mention was made of the the fact one of the senior partners of the Pantheon group (Rhoddy Swire) is a major donor to the Tory party having given at least £13,620 in donations to the Tories.

It's bad enough that the author doesn't bother to find one single source who is prepared to actually criticise the crackpot pseudo-economic ideology that underpins Osborne's failing "economic plan", but that she quotes the position of a company founded by a guy who actually helped put George Osborne and his ilk into power in the first place is quite another.

Conclusions

The fact that an economics article in the supposedly left-wing Guardian does absolutely nothing to hold George Osborne to account for his economic failures illustrates how desperately unbalanced the mainstream media has become. It's apparently beyond the pale these days to offer the opinion of a single dissenting voice, even in the so-called left-wing press. The first conclusion must surely be that the Guardian has now shed all pretence at being a left-wing paper.

The second conclusion is that George Osborne continues to get a free pass from the mainstream press. If it is the job of the press to hold politicians to account for their failings (rather than turn a profit for their shareholders, or promote the economic interests of their owners), then the mainstream media are not fit for purpose. If anyone else in any other occupation had presided over so many consecutive years of blunders, overspends and missed targets due to their rigid adherence to a purely ideological agenda they would have been mercilessly ridiculed and condemned by the press, yet George Osborne apparently has a free pass of indefinite duration, no matter how badly he continues to fail at getting his sums right.



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MORE ARTICLES FROM
 ANOTHER ANGRY VOICE 
         
Ideological austerity is a con
           
How on earth do some people believe George Osborne is a genius?
                             
The Tory "economic recovery" mantra is a lie
                                         
What is ... Fiscal Multiplication?
                          
What is ... The Marginal Propensity to Consume?
                
What is ... the difference between a debt and a deficit?
                      



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