So many people are talking about what they make of the budget. Normally nobody seems very bothered and it’s forgotten by Thursday. This week is different. Sentiment seems to have shifted from mild economic optimism in the days leading up to the Chancellor's statement to outright gloom once it came out. The discussion rages on. Why?
Well, could it be because the stark reality of the recession is finally catching up with politicians and the public sector? Here in the private sector we have now had the best part of a year to get used to the idea that the decade long boom is well and truly over. We have seen large scale redundancies, pay cuts, very significant falls in profits and widespread bankruptcies.
Structural imbalances such as the death of private sector pensions, overbearing government red tape and frivolous expenditure have been forced out from under the carpet. Everyone knows the problems are there even if we don't yet know how to deal with them.
Yet this very week I can still read articles in my local paper claiming that the public sector is being underpaid with unions seeking 10% annual awards for professional groups such as teachers and Local Authority managers demanding pay parity with business leaders.
Don't get me wrong...I wish we could all have 10% and more but the reality is that the severe austerity measures of the last twelve months in the private sector are only just beginning to trickle in to the public sector. This trickle has to turn into a flood because our government is extremely short of money. It’s wake up time!
At the higher political level reality is catching up with the sometimes astronomical impact of government spending. The eventual outcome is going to be extremely unpleasant for millions of public sector employees who are presently still far better sheltered from the downturn than their private sector counterparts.
The upshot of all this, I fear, is likely to be very high unemployment...bad news whatever your political persuasion or economic philosophy. Some are already well on the way to readjusting for the new era. I fear that the budget is the first stark prod for the rest that harder times are upon us. Hence the feelbad.
One bright spot...CO2 emissions will be right down so the environment can breath a sigh of relief.