With occasions like the pre-budget report, it's always worthwhile looking at some of the detail which don't get lots of publicity.
A lot of attention has been focused on the mammoth amount the Government is going to be borrowing next year, which is predicted to reach £118bn. The Conservatives have also been trumpeting the total amount of national debt, which is predicted to be over £1 trillion.
But that headline figure is somewhat misleading, as the total has actually increased every single year since the war. It's far more relevant to look at the figure for national debt compared to GDP.
Labour claims the reason it's able to borrow so much is because it reduced the national debt from the level it inherited from the Conservatives in 1997. Indeed it did - the level of national debt was 42.9% in 1997 and that dropped to 31.4% in 2002. But since then it has been creeping back up again - to 36.3% in 2007-08. It's estimated to be 41.2% this year.
And that's not good, because if you look at the full series of stats since 1975, the first year they were collected, the figure has tended to rise during times of economic downturn - as you would expect when the Government needs to borrow more - and fall during economic upturns. But under Labour over the last few years, it's actually been rising during an economic upturn. Labour is not nearly so well placed as it likes to pretend.
And things get worse if you look at where we're heading. The national debt is predicted to rise to a whopping 57.4% in 2013-14 (table 2.2) - significantly higher than the previous record figure of 53.8% in 1976, a year when the UK had to arrange a loan from the IMF to cope with its wretched public finances.
All this assumes that the recession is relatively short, and that this fiscal package works in stimulating the economy. But if the VAT cuts don't work, as I believe they won't due to the massive levels of private debt, then things will be a whole lot worse.
If the Government's forecasts are, as usual, unduly optimistic, then taxes are going to rise by much more than it expects or spending is going to have to be significantly curtailed. But somehow or other, more than one pound in every two of everything we produce in this country is going to have to be spent on servicing our sky-high levels of debt. And that's not good.
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