Opinionomics | 2 May 2012

Must-read comment and analysis. Featuring a sweary Stephen King, and burgers in Buenos Aires.

1. A European macro-question for Paul Krugman (Kantoos Economics)

Kantoos suggests that "the optimal policy – taking ECB policy as given – is to add monetary and fiscal stimulus to the periphery (only), as far as that’s possible, such that the period of adjustment is less painful, and limit the overheating of the German economy".

2. Why Big Macs Are Cheap In Argentina (Slate | Moneybox)

He's addressed it a couple of times before, but here Matt Yglesias lays out the full history behind the quirk that is Argentine burger prices.

3. Dear Bank of Japan: So you tried the easing thing a gazillion times… (FT alphaville)

David Keohane suggests that maybe Japan might like to consider a currency floor.

4. If Hollande takes victory he will need to win Merkel over too (Independent)

Margareta Pagano writes that Hollande's first visit as president should be to Berlin to persuade Merkel that austerity alone is not enough.

5. Tax Me, for F@%&’s Sake! (The Daily Beast)

Stephen King scolds the superrich (including himself—and Mitt Romney) for not giving back, and warns of a Kingsian apocalyptic scenario if inequality is not addressed in America.

Cheaper in Argentina: A Big Mac. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Photo: Getty
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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.