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Paying for the COVID-19 lockdown

Summary:
Imagine if you were handed a bill amounting to a quarter or even a third of your annual income. You’d think: ‘How on earth can I pay that?’Well, that’s the bill the government faces for the cost of its crisis measures, such as the Job Protection Scheme. And they are asking the same question.The first possibility is to raise taxes. That’s popular with the Left , who imagine that ‘the rich’ will pay most. But tax is paid by ordinary people when they earn or spend. ‘The rich’ simply aren’t numerous enough to make much difference. Meanwhile, the higher taxes will discourage people from creating the new jobs we will need after this is all over.The second possibility is public spending cuts. Well, I’d love to see bureaucracies and prestige projects being cut back. But again, the biggest spending

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Imagine if you were handed a bill amounting to a quarter or even a third of your annual income. You’d think: ‘How on earth can I pay that?’

Well, that’s the bill the government faces for the cost of its crisis measures, such as the Job Protection Scheme. And they are asking the same question.

The first possibility is to raise taxes. That’s popular with the Left , who imagine that ‘the rich’ will pay most. But tax is paid by ordinary people when they earn or spend. ‘The rich’ simply aren’t numerous enough to make much difference. Meanwhile, the higher taxes will discourage people from creating the new jobs we will need after this is all over.

The second possibility is public spending cuts. Well, I’d love to see bureaucracies and prestige projects being cut back. But again, the biggest spending items by far are healthcare, pensions, welfare and education. That’s what would suffer most.

No, it needs to be borrowing that takes the strain. I usually oppose government borrowing because politicians use it to promise us goodies and pass the bill to future generations. But in World War II we borrowed heavily to defeat Hitler, and it makes sense in this crisis to borrow—much less—to defeat this hidden killer.

 

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Dr. Eamonn Butler
Eamonn Butler is Director of the Adam Smith Institute, rated one of the world’s leading policy think-tanks. He has degrees in economics, philosophy and psychology, gaining a PhD from the University of St Andrews in 1978.

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