Sunday, 25 March 2012

The Sunday- On a Budget Edition

First off, HURRAH!- having already subjected myself to geographically driven inflation by ending up living in our fair (but pricey!) nations capital, the freeze on alcohol duty comes as a welcome relief to my creaking wallet. No such luck for the smoking fraternity however, as baccy duty rose by 37p a pack. Whilst I recline in my hypocritical delight at such measures, smokers are left to face the tight-chested future once more the poorer.

This is the first budget I've experienced as a tax-payer, having sat through previous editions as any self-respecting economics & politics student would- hungover, on the couch. This change meant two things. Firstly, I was unable to subject myself to watching the live TV coverage of the great event- no watching the Helicopter following the ministerial car from No.11 to the House of Commons like the dullest ever episode of Police, Camera, Action!, no listening to the rhetorical din of George Osborne smugly decimating the country's future like he's reading last weeks shopping list. I don't know why I used to do it- it's torture. Take my word for it, an interest in politics far from precludes the dark, quite possibly arrestable, thoughts that cross one's mind when, ready to resume your life, the Chancellor having taken his seat to bawdy exhortations from his own benches, you see the Shadow Chancellor/Leader of the Opposition rising to launch into a string of poorly written jokes and objectionable soundbites. To know that the next hour of your life is sunk into the same all-encompassing catatonia as the previous- just because 'it's the budget'- is one of those moments that, whilst tragic at the time, must one day come in handy at 'meetings'.

The second difference of my new salaried-ness was that I am now able to enjoy the full delights of budget calculators. Having previously been smashed to the tune of about £7 a year by previous rises in alcohol duty, this year I was able to play properly and find out the true extent of the Chancellor's shenanigans on 'real people' like me. Turns out George's income tax changes have gone and saved me about £190. Bingo! Good budget right?

Spot the tax-cut for the rich...
Well, would have been better had I been what's known as 'filthy rich'. The highest earners were gifted a tax cut on the basis that they weren't bothering to pay the 50p rate. Whilst Osborne grandstanded on his moral objection to tax evasion he effectively gave into it, as the rich, like a bratty child manipulating their parent, got their own way. As Osborne retired having finished his budget he was greeted by a congratulatory slap on the back from his pal Cameron, a slap carrying the gratitude of the country's, now slightly richer, millionaires. By the way, we're all in it together...

Any debate around the above, however, has been somewhat derailed by fuss kicked up around the Granny tax. The hysteria around 'the raid on pensioners' illustrates nicely the yawning failures of the media coverage surrounding the budget. In the weeks leading up to the event the papers are filled with unsubstantiated claims of cuts to this and grants to that, and following the delivery they devolve into concocted attacks and raids by the Chancellor. In the end, the only way that George Osborne gets away with his pretence of trying to help the whole country, and not just the wealthy tribe, is because the media coverage somehow manages to beat him for disingenuous-ness. The budget is a distinctly unsexy event. The media coverage makes it up like a West End tart.

Things I like this week: A list of some of the things I'm enjoying at the moment.

  • Homeland- Out the loop was what I was. After recommendations from numerous friends I've started catching up on this. Can't stand the titles but apart from that it's pretty good. Intrigued more than Gripped at the moment
  • Audiobooks- again on the recommendation of friends, I made use of the free trial available at Audible. For me, novels should be read, so I've sought to expand my mind with a bit of history and used my one free credit on the first volume David Renolds' Empire of Liberty. Commuting and learning- the wonders of the iPod.
  • Real books- Re-reading Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey, better known for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. A few books I've loved first time round have succumbed to the sophmore effect and left me a little disappointed. This is not one of them. Superbly crafted characters, explored through a brilliantly innovative narrative technique, placed against the wondrous backdrop of rural Oregon. It's a brilliant book.
  • The Boss- Is Bruce Springsteen a guilty pleasure? I've got friends who can't stand him, and I kind of get how the stadium rock, working-class sloganeering schtick can grate, but for me he gets away with it cause it all seems pretty genuine. The new album's a fine listen, filled with big tunes, the Okie Springsteen drawl, and some good old leftie tub-thumping

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