Both the Labour government and the Tories are holding out the carrot of tax cuts, and promising these will be targeted at those most in need.
The Financial Times predicted tax cuts of £15 billion, or 1 percent of national income.
They are turning to these measures because they recognise that a programme of public works will not provide a short-term economic stimulus.
Labour will borrow to fund the tax cuts while the Tories have pledged to reduce public spending. Either way, we will pick up the eventual bill.
Cuts in taxes or interest rates cannot overcome the fact that people are scared they will lose their jobs. That is why they are not spending any money they do have.
The amount ordinary people will gain from tax cuts will be modest.
But the slashing or removal of VAT on essential products and services would give immediate benefit to working people, who spend a greater percentage of their budget on essentials than the rich.
Meanwhile, neither Gordon Brown nor David Cameron can bring themselves to countenance reversing three decades of tax cuts for the very rich.
They will not increase income tax for top earners, nor will they take the more modest step of making energy corporations pay a windfall tax on their obscene profits.