Even the IFS is at it now

One of the things which puzzles people - we know this because people ask us - is how come there is all this shouting about austerity? Cash spending is up, spending as a portion of GDP is still, just, up over what Gordon Brown was spending pre-crash. So, err, what austerity?

The answer being that those complaining about it all are using a different measure. Well, obviously, they must be, if their measure is not according with reality. Even the IFS is in on this now:

Carl Emmerson, deputy director of the IFS, said: “An ‘end to austerity’ – as defined by no further net tax rises, benefit cuts or cuts to spending on public services – would require a very sharp change of direction. 

The point being that that's not the entire budget. A notable lack there is the interest bill for the public debt. Something which has risen rather a lot in recent years and which, as interest rates rise again is going to become ever more important. We don't in fact predict that this will be true but it is certainly possible that said interest will become an expense to rival that of the NHS (debt of 90% of GDP, interest rates up to say 5%? Could happen). And we do tend to think that when we talk about a budget then we should be talking about a budget, not just the nice stuff that people like, the spending upon themselves.

We've also seen a rather more economist's definition of austerity, whatever level of spending is below what would ensure full employment. That meaning that anything less than near infinite spending in 2008/9 being austere given the depth of that recession.

The answer to the basic question is that by our measure, total spending, there has been no austerity. You can indeed cook up measures by which there has been some. But the rest of us don't have to agree with the recipe you've used to do that cooking.