Opinionomics: must-read analysis and comment

Featuring inequality, iPads, and ignorant Republicans

1. Robin van Persie & the cost of inequality (Stumbling and Mumbling)

Chris Dillow addresses the two great issues of our age: what impact does inequality have upon economic performance? and: should Arsenal give Robin van Persie a massive pay rise to hold onto him?

2. Ignorance, Hatred, and the Agency Problem In Representative Politics (Slate Moneybox)

Matt Yglesias suggests that the terrible pool of Republican candidates is an ingenious, accidental, response to the principal-agent problem.

3. The worst of all worlds (Economist)

Free Exchange examine America's growthless recovery.

4. Buy new iPad. Flip over. Understand U.S.-China economics (Bloomberg)

The new iPad provides a one-item example of comparative advantage.

5. Budget 2012: Osborne must help the squeezed middle and tax the top (Guardian)

David Laws and Tim Farron make their push for what the Lib Dems want to see in the budget.

Robin van Persie does some football. Credit: 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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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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