The Guardian view on election economics: there is an alternative | Editorial

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Economics dominates public debate while being seen as an abstract authority over which people have little control. That must change

On BBC Question Time on Thursday there was an exchange between an audience member and a Labour politician – Richard Burgon – that revealed how poor economic literacy deepens the democratic deficit. The audience member, a man who said he earned more than £80,000, rounded on Mr Burgon and called him a liar for claiming that Labour’s manifesto pledge of raising income taxes for those with salaries like his and larger would only affect the top 5% of the population.

Yet Mr Burgon did not lie and the Labour party is right: 95% of workers earn less than £81,000. The man was undeterred, with a heartfelt plea that he was “not even in the top 50%” of earners. In fact, anyone with an annual salary of more than £25,500 would be in the top half of UK wage earners. Plenty of heads nodded along with the questioner’s falsehoods, underlining perhaps the post-truth nature of our times that many consider it better to be sincere than to be correct. The back-and-forth also exposed how mainstream economic stories have been successful in convincing people that there is no alternative to help the country.

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