"We're out of money!", appears to be the constant refrain of Coalition spokesmen when called to account for the latest 'unfortunate' consequence of its policy decisions. And yes, they have a valid point - if you're an economist or a market trader. The problem is, most of us aren't. Worse still, the public aren't either.
Let's be honest for a minute. If you're going to cut a structural deficit on the scale created by the Labour Party, someone, somewhere, is going to get hurt. Actually, make that quite a lot of someones, virtually everywhere. The key question, and one that is going to have to be answered if the Coalition is to survive is, "what is the cost of making that cut?". It isn't just an economic question, but a social one too. And given the number of my friends and colleagues who are so deeply troubled by the actions of the Coalition, people whose emotional intelligence I trust, the answer needs to be more than just a rhetorical one.
This week, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has concluded that the June budget will be regressive in its effects from 2012. As I'm not an economist, I'm not in a position to judge the accuracy of their claim although, as a credible commentator, their comments should be treated seriously. And whilst it has been suggested that their analysis is partial (perhaps incomplete is a better word to use here), it is probably better not to get into an argument about datasets and predictions based thereon.
It is all about perception, and if people are convinced that the Coalition are bent on evicting widows from their homes and taking the bread from the mouths of infants, then that is what we will be judged upon.
And that's why I have to be critical of some of the elementary mistakes that have been made so far. Failing to undertake an equalities audit of the budget proposals was foolhardy in the extreme. All right, they may fail, in which case, why not go back to the drawing board once you know what the issues are? Proposals to cut housing benefit to those on Jobseekers Allowance for more than one year smack of token victimisation rather than a meaningful strategy (and yes, I'm not blind to the logic - there are some who will respond to a stick rather than a carrot).
There is more to my concern than just these two aspects, although these two do come to mind most readily. Others might choose to feature reports from elsewhere in government. However, most of us entered politics to make things a bit better, not to manage increased levels of hardship, and if only the Coalition could express itself better in terms of what steps it is taking to ameliorate the impact of spending cuts for those in most need, we might be rather more enthusiastic in our defence of, and support for, it.