I get a regular newsletter from Mbendi Information Services. I ‘liked this’ one:
“I really must stop reading the financial papers just before I go to bed. Because just lately two recurring nightmares have been disturbing my sleep.
In the first, I’m just an ordinary British bloke, feet up, lukewarm ale at hand, all ready to watch the politicos debating on telly when there’s a ring of the doorbell. There stands a smartly suited gent who announces “Six grand, please guv, to pay off your household’s share of the budget deficit!” I’m aghast. My lovely house is mortgaged to the hilt and I’ve just arranged an overdraft to pay for a trip with the lads to a mystery tournament in a very dangerous country (though not nearly as dangerous as Germany according to the UK government). As I write out the cheque, he pipes up again “Never worry, guv, I’ll be back for another twenty five grand in the next couple of years!”.
I wake in a sweat and have no sooner dropped off again than the second nightmare starts.
This time I’m a French housewife frying up aubergines with garlic for the family watching sport on the TV in the room next door (this is a French tradition aimed at bringing luck to the national team playing a sport where you shouldn’t touch the ball with your hands). Suddenly there is a knock at the window. Outside stands a woman smartly dressed in a raincoat and black beret. “Voulez-vous d’abord la bonne ou la mauvaise nouvelle ?” she demands (translation: “I vill say this only once – do you want to hear the good news or the bad news first?”). “La mauvaise” I mutter and she leans forward and confidentially reveals that my pension is to be halved so the government pension deficit will not balloon to Euro 40 billion by 2015. I gasp. “Et la bonne?” I croak. “The pension contributions of your children are to be tripled and their retirement age deferred to 85 so we don’t need to cut your pension ever again!”
I think my dreams must be deficient because I don’t dream the great American dream in which I find on my doorsteps not only the taxman and the pension madam, but also the local doctor, a Chinese banker and a dishevelled man with a gun, all with their hands outstretched. The US Congressional Budget Office projects that the cumulative US budget deficit alone could increase to US$ 9,700 billion by 2020 taking the federal debt to US$ 20,000 billion, 90% of GDP and more than US$ 100,000 per household. The discredited credit ratings agencies, headquartered as they are in the USA, seem unperturbed by this state of affairs which would lead to lesser nations receiving a major ratings downgrade under similar circumstances.
Now that I’m wide awake, I really must start saving in case a real demand arrives in my mailbox that I’m unable to meet. I must also put pressure on the various levels of government around me so they cut costs to the bone and don’t have to make demands at all. The only trouble is the officials and politicians might not take kindly to losing sleep worrying about their salaries being cut or maybe even losing their jobs – salary, pension, perks, prestige and all – just so us taxpayers can sleep easy knowing our governments have a zero deficit or, better still, surpluses all round. Oh, yes, and we’d like to have government continue to provide all the services they already do plus a whole lot more. Vastly improved government productivity is the only answer I can dream up to solve this conundrum!”
The picture? Cesc Fabregas – soon to be a Barcelona player