The Chancellor has promised no gimmicky giveaways when he delivers the budget this week. But this government is still postponing eliminating the deficit. That's a big mistake.
And those are just the official figures. Take into account the government's off-balance-sheet liabilities, and the government's true debt could be over five times greater – almost £9 trillion, according to the Taxpayers' Alliance.
Those who think we can keep borrowing forever should consider that the government is paying £36 billion a year in debt interest – even excluding interest paid to the Bank of England. That's more than we spend on defence.
If debt interest costs that much at the peak of a bond bull market with interest rates at record lows, what will that bill look like when the price of borrowing rises?
We often think of countries collapsing because of war or conquest. What's often overlooked is that many great nations and even empires were brought down by bondholders. (For more on the history, see my forthcoming book.)
Public debt is a huge economic risk. The more we borrow now, the worse the government's position when the next financial crisis occurs. A responsible Chancellor wouldn't put off balancing the books.
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