I wonder if, as they sit round their mahogany table in Threadneedle Street, that discreet group – the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) – ever wonder about whether more than eighteen months of near-zero interest rates have actually achieved anything. I wonder if – not every day, but now and again – they have a few moments’ doubt about the correctness of their strategy.
My guess is that they must do. Speaking as one over sixty, where it’s got me is borassic lint, and having to rent our Devon home out for the summer in order to make ends meet. If that sounds a bit me-me-me, and likely to evoke the ‘lucky you having two homes’, I’d probably have two responses: luck had nothing to do with it; and think a bit harder about the contribution my age demographic makes to the UK economy.
I was born slap bang in the middle of the late 1940s baby boom, and thanks to randy returning soldiers and the NHS, there are more of us than any other comparable group. Baby Boomers control over 80% of personal financial assets and more than 50% of discretionary spending power. We are responsible for more than half of all consumer spending, and buy 77% of all prescription drugs…..as well as 61% of all OTC medicines.
I raise with you now two what-ifs: supposing a year ago, better-off Silvers like me had been told that from now on our prescriptions would be means tested; and suppose that – instead of dropping interest rates – we’d raised them?
My contention is that had these two things been done, the NHS would be in slightly better shape (prescriptions are 14% of all NHS costs)…..and the economy would be in far better shape. (If the previous lot had given my generation an incentive to buy British, it’d be in infinitely better shape).
As it is, yesterday’s news was not great on any front. UK Consumer spending was said to be on wane, and UK car sales slumped. Were we French, all would be well – because the financial seerette that is Christine Lagarde has asserted that bad news must always be followed by good.
But sadly, we have no such Gallic advantage: all we have is more fluffy stupidity, which reared it’s head yesterday in the shape of West Midlands Council, who insisted on protesting that – asteroid heading straight for Solihull or not – they want to build all their new schools. Indeed, they have vowed that Gove shall not have them. All I can do in the face of this is recount what Noel Coward said, viz, “I don’t see why not darling – everyone else has”.
The reality is that Brown Labour chose to save the banks rather than the economy. There really is no other explanation for slashing interest rates, which lost them the one chance they had of the banks attracting family-forming depositors while the likes of me and Mrs W went splurging on solid-gold olive-stoners, forty-foot wide American fridges and the like.
As it is, the country is knackered – but we wrinklies will have our day. For I have no doubt that what awaits us now is inevitably rising interest rates and massive deflation. Thus will people like me become carpetbaggers, tearing around the land in our Aston Martin sports coupes and buying up stately homes for what used to be the price of a decent lunch at The Ivy.
Our pensions and houses will be worthless, but our investment incomes will make us Headmasters of the Universe. We shall cane all those silly young bankers, tell them it hurts us more than it hurts them, and charge extortionate amounts of money to teach them the basics of civics (‘it’s not just about you’), physics (‘what goes up will probably also come down’) and mathematics (‘100 x 0 = 0’).