ow Osborne and Cameron turned a crisis into a disaster

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Captain Haddock
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Enlightening article by economist Sion Wren-Lewis on the recent floods and the devastating incompetence of this Government. Incredible what they can get away with.

How Osborne and Cameron turned a crisis into a disaster
Would it be a wild, politically motivated jibe to call these the Osborne/Cameron floods? Of course it is nonsense to suggest that there would have been no floods over the last five years under a different government, but it is equally nonsense to deny that Osborne/Cameron policies have significantly increased the damage and human misery caused by these floods. Consider the following:

We have known since at least the Pitt review of 2007 that climate change was going to greatly increase the incidence of record breaking bursts of rainfall in the UK. Government ministers can carry on claiming they are unprecedented, but they are not unexpected.

The Labour government responded by greatly increasing their spending on flood defences, in the spending review which ended in 2010/11. In contrast Osborne demanded and obtained sharp cuts in 2011/12 and beyond. Only the arrival of floods dragged those numbers up in later years. Ministers can play around with dates as much as they like to try and tell a different story, but the evidence for those cuts is there in the data (see this post). Every news report that allows ministers to claim they did not cut spending on flood defences is complicit in deception.

The number of specific schemes cut or downsized in areas that were subsequently flooded becomes longer with every new event, as it was bound to do: Damian Carrington in the Guardian notes a £58 million scheme in Leeds cut, extra flood defences in recently flooded Kendal repeatedly postponed, schemes cut in the Somerset Levels and Yalding in Kent before the floods of 2013/14, before that Dawlish and the Thames Valley.

And for what purpose. The argument that spending had to be tight is utter nonsense. There is absolutely no evidence that if flood defence spending had been increased rather than cut by 27% in 2011/12 (as it should have been), and that higher spending maintained, the market would have stopped buying UK government debt. The UK recently sold oversubscribed 50 year debt at only 2.5% interest: with a 2% inflation target that is a real cost of only 0.5% a year. By contrast the National Audit Office in 2014 reported that the Environment Agency estimated current schemes had a benefit cost ratio of over 9:1! You have to be slightly mad to cut schemes like that when they would cost you so little to finance.

David (‘greenest government ever’) Cameron in 2013 appointed Owen Paterson, a climate sceptic, to be minister in charge of DEFRA, the ministry responsible for the environment and flood defences. He cut the number of officials working on a climate change adaptation programme from 38 to six. A rather sinister aspect to this whole affair is the influence of widespread climate denial on the right might have had on all these bad and costly decisions.

As it became clear how many farming practices can worsen flooding, the Labour government introduced regulations on land use with the specific aim of reducing flood damage. The coalition government scrapped these regulations.

In November this year, as part of Osborne’s spending review, local authority spending on flood defences was cut by a third. The Environment Agency has to cut staff as fast as the flood risk increases, and then through gritted teeth deny this matters. This report says the Environment Agency had 800 fewer flood risk management staff in March 2014 than in September 2010.
The independent, government established Committee on Climate Change has issued repeated warnings to government that spending needed to be increased, not decreased. They have all been ignored.

As Carrington says, Cameron and Osborne have ignored red flag after red flag. Cuts that make no sense in economic terms have been made with costs that probably now run in the order of a billion and counting, with plenty of human misery attached. Cameron has calculated that an appearance in wellies at each flood sight will be enough to assuage public concern. As Steve Richards notes, after each crisis when no cost is too great, Osborne goes back to playing the responsible one as he cuts regardless.

After the 2013/14 floods I wondered if this would be Cameron’s and Osborne’s Katrina. That was a mistake. For all its faults, and Fox News, the US has a more open media than the UK, particularly when the BBC is cowed by government threats. The Guardian, Independent and Mirror will complain (and the Morning Star will channel my blog!), but the large majority that never read these papers will remain ignorant of what has gone on. A chaotic Labour Party will be unable to coordinate any attack, and fail to effectively voice justifiable rage, and that will give the BBC an excuse to ignore them.

But forget austerity and partisan politics. This is fundamentally about incompetence: about ignoring repeated warnings for no good reason and causing huge costs and heartache as a result. Is no one on the right prepared to call the government to account for its failures on this issue? Will no one at the BBC confront politicians with what they have done? If they do not, I fear all we will get are fine words, one-off emergency cash, and the existing policy of effectively ignoring the threat will continue once again.
http://mainlymacro.blogspot.co.uk/20...ed-crisis.html
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Captain Haddock
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Any mod who wants to add an 'H' to the start of the title should totally go for it.
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A Serious Man
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Corbyn would probably blame it on UKIP or something.
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viddy9
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Great piece by Prof. Wren-Lewis.

The severity of these floods - if not their incidence - was entirely avoidable. The Conservative government's intentional misunderstanding of economics to justify shrinking the state, its subsidies for poor farming and housing practices, and its failure to listen to its expert climate advisers, is now causing thousands of people to suffer.
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MatureStudent36
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(Original post by viddy9)
Great piece by Prof. Wren-Lewis.

The severity of these floods - if not their incidence - was entirely avoidable. The Conservative government's intentional misunderstanding of economics to justify shrinking the state, its subsidies for poor farming and housing practices, and its failure to listen to its expert climate advisers, is now causing thousands of people to suffer.
Or alternatively, people could stop building on flood planes.

What percentage of the public have been impacted by floods?
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sleepysnooze
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how many economists agree with this one?
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MatureStudent36
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(Original post by sleepysnooze)
how many economists agree with this one?
Probably less than agree with it.

Interestingly enough, people will often select which 'expert' shares their view.

There's nunerous economists who disagree.
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Gears265
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And Corbyn would have done a marvelous job
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MatureStudent36
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(Original post by sleepysnooze)
how many economists agree with this one?
Probably less than agree with it.

Interestingly enough, people will often select which 'expert' shares their view.

There's numerous economists who disagree.
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balanced
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(Original post by Captain Haddock)
Enlightening article by economist Sion Wren-Lewis on the recent floods and the devastating incompetence of this Government. Incredible what they can get away with.



http://mainlymacro.blogspot.co.uk/20...ed-crisis.html
I can't believe how we waste £1Bn on foreign aid (to corrupt countries) abroad when we could spend it on, well I don't know, British people? We pay for it.
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domlang123
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(Original post by viddy9)
Great piece by Prof. Wren-Lewis.

The severity of these floods - if not their incidence - was entirely avoidable. The Conservative government's intentional misunderstanding of economics to justify shrinking the state, its subsidies for poor farming and housing practices, and its failure to listen to its expert climate advisers, is now causing thousands of people to suffer.
I think you're absolutely spot on with this. But the sad thing is that neither Osborne or Cameron (or, for that matter, any of the other ministers) give one toss about ordinary people, as long as they're getting richer. It's the whole 'we're all in this together' all over again, except we aren't all in this together. People are left to fend for themselves with a government that simply doesn't care.
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Captain Haddock
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(Original post by sleepysnooze)
how many economists agree with this one?
As per the last paragraph, this isn't even really about economic policy, as such. It's more about mismanagement and incompetence. The science told us that flooding would be getting worse, yet the government did worse than nothing about it - scrapping regulations designed to limit flood damage, heavily cutting spending on flood defenses and practicing active denialism of the issue.
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whorace
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Yep. Ideology is toxic isn't it.
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djh2208
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I don't think anyone can really defend the government on how they've handled the floods. I largely agree with what Cameron and Osborne are doing with regards to austerity but they got warnings weeks ago from experts that floods were likely and did nothing to address it. There are plenty of other places the government could save money (cut foreign aid, more efficient welfare system, pensions etc.).
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Plagioclase
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Very good article and it's worth highlighting how insane it is that this government has essentially gutted the Environment Agency.

This is fundamentally about incompetence: about ignoring repeated warnings for no good reason
Well, the reason is that they know they can get away with it, just like they've gotten away with their many other crimes over the past five years. Why invest money in sustainable solutions to natural disasters when your public doesn't care?
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