The leader of the Scottish Tories, the feisty Ruth Davidson, has set the cat among the pigeons with a claim today that 88% of Scots are net takers from the State. The reaction is predictable. But this is not a Scottish issue. She articulates THE defining issue for the whole of the West, not just for the crackpot Socialist economic basket case North of Hadrian’s wall. How we react determines our fate. I fear for the worst.
Davidson’s maths is correct. Official figures from the ONS show that only 283,080 households in the welfare addicted nation that is Scotland, that is 12% of the total, pay more in tax than they receive in public services. She argues (correctly) that, because the public sector is seen as the key provider of everything from housing to employment, state spending now accounts for more than half Scotland’s wealth and she says that the Scottish Nationalist Party and Labour have nurtured a “corrosive sense of entitlement” among voters. In this she is only half right.
The ONS data shows that the average Scottish household consumes £14,151 more in public services every year than it pays in tax. Even the families in the middle income groups consume around £20,000 more in state spending than they contribute. However, those in the top 10 per cent pay £17,205 more in tax than they receive in public services.
The reaction: The Nationalists ( Sean Connery’s party) describe her claims as her “Mitt Romney moment.” Mitt recently claimed that 47% of Americans pay no income tax and are dependent on the state. Kenny Gibson, a Nationalist MSP, described it as Miss Davidson’s “Mitt Romney moment”. He added: “At least Mitt Romney only insulted around half of Americans, while Ruth Davidson believes almost 90 per cent of Scots do not ‘contribute’ to society.”
Of course Kenny Gibson is being a disingenuous tosser. What do you expect. La Davidson is not saying that 90% do not contribute to society. Just that almost 90% are net takers from the state. Most Scots contribute something, just not enough to cover the costs of an overly generous socialist crackpot spendfest regime. I note that he does not argue about the data. That is because Davidson’s numbers are correct.
Some will see this as a Scottish issue. Why the hell should England subsidise this spendfest by the welfare junkies? In a narrow sense I agree. Cut the jocks off, give the SNP its independence and let them sink or swim (it would be the former) under their own steam. But that is to take to narrow a view. What Davidson identifies is the defining issue for the entire West. But few politicians are brave enough to admit it.
The question you should be asking today is what percentage of British ( or if you insist, English) households are net takers from the State. And the answer is way over 50%. In fact the number is not that much lower than that for Scotland. The same stats apply pretty much across Europe and in the USA as well ( albeit at a lower level). This is THE defining question for the West and one that our leaders dare not – or cannot – address.
John Stuart Mill discussed the idea in On Liberty of “The Tyranny of the Majority” – citing the man who brought the phrase to prominence, de Tocqueville, as his inspiration. Mill was referring to the idea that a majority might impose its mores on a minority. He could not have imagined how the tyranny would become an economic one. But it has.
As Bill Gross pointed out last week, both the UK and USA ( and naturally most of the EU) are spending far more than they recoup in taxation. As such they are hurtling towards achieving Greek style Government balance sheets by 2020. We will all be bust. Governments will either default or print money to hyper-inflate away the real value of debts. And then default afterwards as this solution proves unsustainable.
But with only a very small percentage of the population net givers to the State, any attack on the vast entitlements culture which sustains the vast majority is treated as an outrage. Thus Romney, Davidson and anyone else who dares state the bleedingly obvious truth is slammed as “elite, out of touch, on the side of the rich.” And populist chancers of the left pander to the majority and win electoral success thanks to this vast client state. Thus we carry on hurtling closer to the abyss.
All too aware of this, timid politicians of the right (notably our very own Call me Dave Cameron and George Osborne) talk of cuts but in fact increase spending and widen Budget deficits. They take the fast train to the abyss, the Left offers an alternative of a high-speed train to the abyss.
Davidson raises an issue not for Scotland but for the entire United Kingdom and indeed the whole of the West. If we carry on as we are we go bust but to change tack will enrage most voters. That is the state of the soon to be bankrupt liberal democracies of the West as 2012 draws to a close. Will the real debate ever begin? Or is it too late?