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Tuesday 22 May 2012

TPA – Answering Their Own Question

Following the less than unanimously rapturous reception awarded to the final report of the 2020 Tax Commission yesterday, the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) has been fighting back, with its head non-job holder Matther Sinclair, who gives the impression that his sense of humour has been surgically removed, on rebuttal duty, but not answering the points made by his critics.

Now it's petulant guff from Tufton Street

And chief among those critics is Nick Pearce at IPPR, who points out that the Commission’s recommendations would mean an additional cut in public expenditure of over £120 billion annually by 2020 and that where those cuts will fall is not specified (as this would take public spending back to pre-war levels, which saw no NHS and rather less welfare provision, it is not difficult to figure out).

Sinclair chooses not to respond to this point: perhaps the question is not to his liking. Instead, he attacks Pearce for citing Peter Lindert for the latter’s expertise on the development of welfare states. Sinclair asserts that Lindert is not a particularly influential economist, but Pearce never said he was. Once again, Sinclair is answering his own question.

And then we encounter that well-worn TPA phrase “empirical evidence”, which as any fule kno includes those times when someone at Tufton Street has collated some FoI responses and cobbled together a spreadsheet. It’s a much abused concept for the TPA, and Sinclair counters Pearce’s assertion that it doesn’t support the Commission’s line by saying that “mountains” of it does, so there.

The hyperbole continues as Sinclair finds the Pearce comparison between Nordic economies and the USA from the 1960s “ignores about a billion other things going on”, after asserting without explanation that Pearce “fudges the point about the Scandinavian economies”. He then goes on to claim that his preferred variable, spending, is more reliable “for a whole host of reasons”.

And remember, Sinclair can point to “eighteen reputable studies” that apparently support his contention, but out of how many? And how many of the eighteen were unequivocal in their conclusions? And why has Sinclair not answered the central point made by Pearce, that UK public spending rose progressively from 1947 to 1975 as debt reduced from 245% of GDP to 45%?

Sinclair also fails to respond to Pearce’s point about tax cutting not feeding through into debt reduction, with the USA growing by over 3.4% a year during the late 90s, then by just 1.6% after the Bush tax cuts, along with an ever-rising debt. The idea that tax and spending cuts will be some kind of panacea for economic ills is at the very least Not Proven, and at worst could do serious damage.

But Matthew Sinclair gets to answer the question he wants, so that’s all right, then.

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