Think of Chancellor Rishi Sunak as a smiling salesman of payday loans, and you will begin to get the picture.
‘Yes, of course you can have the money. Happy to help!’ he says as he hands over the wads of notes.
But it will not be the cheery face of Mr Sunak that you see when the time comes for repayment, but the hard and relentless agents of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
And don’t think that the repayment boys will only be going after those who have accepted the various forms of government handout during the throttling of the economy.
Even if you have yourself kept working and stayed above water, they’ll still be after you.
It is time the media began to ask Mr Sunak exactly when he plans to announce his first emergency budget (the first of many, I fancy) to a stunned nation…
In 1914-18 our huge spending cost us our standing as a great power. And we never repaid our First World War debts (now worth about $225billion) to the USA, and never will. We suspended repayment and interest on June 15, 1934 and never started again. And this is why we have been Washington’s poodle ever since.
In the Second World War, the entire life savings of the British Empire – from ancient gold doubloons, moidores and pieces of eight captured from Spanish treasure galleons to modern negotiable securities – were shipped to the USA in secret high-speed convoys to pay for weapons. Most of this wealth never came back. But it was still not enough…
So aid came, but at a huge price. When Lend-Lease, the programme under which the US sent supplies to Britain, was cancelled in 1945, Britain was stripped bare.
To survive, we took out a giant loan from the US worth $53billion in today’s money. Even at very low interest rates the loan (eventually paid off in December 2006) was a crippling load on our economy for half a century.
It was one of the main reasons why the post-war years in this country were for so long, grey, stripped, mean and second-rate, with high taxes for poor public services, and low real pay, as those who lived through them will recall.
This is not fairy gold we are spending now on Mr Sunak’s furloughs and emergency loans. It is our future for many years to come.