Wednesday, 3 December 2014

As the East Coast Main Line shows, the public sector is just so much better at delivering essential services

What made me want to write this post was an item I heard on the BBC Radio 4 lunchtime consumer programme You and Yours. I heard about mobile phone customers complaining that they were paying £40 for nothing - no service at all. Some, but not all, of these people lived in the countryside and could never get a mobile signal in their home. I live in mid Cheshire and the mobile signal in my house is poor to say the least, sometimes I get cut off in mid call because the signal drops. The reality is that mobile phone reception varies wildly around the country and there just isn't a good universal service. 

So why is this? The answer is simple - privatisation. This is what you get in terms of service from private sector corporations. A couple of months earlier I caught part of a conversation on The World at One, again on Radio 4. This was also an argument about mobile reception and someone was saying that if the service was run by the public sector it would be universal - everyone in the UK would get good reception, regardless of where they lived. That was when he could get a word in edgeways because he was being shouted down by a representative of the private sector who ranted about how much better it was, how private was more efficient, blah blah etc.

More recently I heard someone from Stagecoach being interviewed on BBC Radio 4PM about why they and Virgin could run East Coast Main Line better than the successful public sector company that's run it for five years. The guy couldn't give a good answer to the question, he blustered and floundered and talked about new trains, which are being paid for by the government anyway.
 
East Coast Main Line

I'm sure you have heard that kind of stuff before. The reality is that the public sector can do many things much better than the private sector can, like running services we all depend upon,  and still make a profit which goes to help the taxpayer instead of going into the pockets of foreign shareholders. No wonder these private sector advocates bluster and flounder and have to shout their opponents down. Its because they know damn well they can't compete with a good public sector alternative on efficiency or price, and they know that they are riding the fat privatisation gravy train out our expense. So what we need to do is boot out the profiteers and bring essential services like railways, mobile phone networks, energy distribution and broadband supply back where they belong - into a sector we own and control - the public sector.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

The Green Party is the workers party

What do Greens know about workers and workers' rights? Aren't we just a bunch of tree-huggers and middle class do-gooders? That's what some of our political enemies would like to have you believe but the reality is quite different. Green Party members, along with most of the population, are workers themselves and face the same daily struggles that all workers do in austerity Britain. The Green Party has demonstrated its commitment to supporting and working with workers organisations by creating the post of Trade Union Liaison Officer on the national executive, and The Green Party Trade Union Group has existed for many years.

Our relations with trade unions are improving all the time and its hardly surprising that this is the case when our MP Caroline Lucas and our Leader Natalie Bennett, along with many of our members have shown solidarity with striking workers on the picket line. But what really matters is the Party's approach to workers rights and work itself. If you want to look at all of our policies on Workers rights and employment follow the link to our policy website

For this post I've picked out three policy sections which I think will interest most workers because they cover the fact that we recognise that work doesn't just take place in the formal economy, support the right to join a trade union and the right to take industrial action - "without the threat of dismissal and discrimination':
WR101 We define work in the full sense, not the traditional limited definition as employment in the formal economy. Green thinking recognises the latter as one part of the whole - a large part, but not the only one. Work exists in a variety of forms, each related to and often affecting others, like species in an ecosystem. Work covers all the activities people undertake to support themselves, their families and communities.
WR410 We support the right to join a trade union, and condemn discrimination by employers against union members. We shall enact a statutory right to join a union, which shall apply to all workers of any occupation or profession; this will include members of the police, security and armed services. We support unions taking the unwaged and unemployed into membership. Discrimination against union members, and in particular refusal of employment or dismissal on grounds of union membership, shall be illegal.
WR432 The Green Party recognises the right to take industrial action without being in breach of contract and without the threat of dismissal or discrimination, in accordance with ILO Convention 87 and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. We will ensure this right is protected in UK legislation.

Green Party members supporting striking workers

But that's not all, because the Green Party believes in economic democracy - the right of workers to own and democratically control the businesses they work in - and what's more we intend to provide workers with the means to own those businesses:
WR610 We will grant employees the legal right to buy out their companies and turn them into workers co-operatives. Buy outs would be funded by a Green National Investment Bank and contingent on the co-ops following green and ethical policies. These co-operatives would localise economic decision-making and give employees incentives for greater productivity.
A Green Party government would aim to make a fundamental shift in the way our economy works, to empower workers and ensure that the economy is embedded in local communities and not at the mercy of remote 'investors' simply seeking to profit from their labour. There's lots more, so why not take a look at our policy website and help us make these changes a reality? - join.greenparty.org.uk.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Capitalism vs the climate


Better late than never! -  I'm posting my video of the climate march in Manchester on 21st September, which I attended with friends from the Green Party. The Green Party had a really good turnout on a demo which was disappointingly small in numbers. The march, which was part of a global protest, coincided with the publication of one of the most important books of the year, if not the century so far. "This Changes Everything" by Naomi Klein puts across a powerful but simple message - it's turbo-charged, deregulated capitalism which is driving global warming and if we're going to prevent catastrophic climate change we have to stop extractivism - end of. And that means moving to a new, post-capitalist economy which will inevitably be more locally based with de-centralised energy production.



This is a message which a lot of people don't want to hear, and strangely, as Naomi Klein points out, many of those people are on the left of politics and in the green movement. What's more, those on the right, the capitalists and their cheerleaders, have a much better grasp of the connection between dangerous climate change and the economic activities which they promote, which is why they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars funding climate change denial, something which Naomi Klein documents very well in her book.

I've posted about the climate change deniers before, and although its easy to understand their motives its harder to understand why so many who want to fight climate change are reluctant to point the finger at capitalism. It could be something to do with the fact that in our western culture the idea that mankind has the right to dominate and control nature runs very deep, coming as it does from a Judeo-Christian tradition which pre-dates capitalism by a thousand years and more. That means we can cut down forests, extract all the ores and fossil fuels on the planet, and empty the seas of fish if we want to. Add to that the fact that we are addicted to consumption, and that the mainstream left has been weak on real economic alternatives and you may go some way towards explaining this conundrum.

I started this blog around the time of the Great Economic Crash of 2008. Much of the reason behind it was to try and understand what was happening, and to talk about it. Blogging as therapy for me, but also as a way of finding solutions to the ongoing economic and environmental crises we are in. In many of the posts on this blog I've written about ideas which point the way towards dealing with capitalism and climate change, from Transition to the growth of renewable energy, to the Green New Deal, to the growth of locally owned and controlled co-operatives, we do have the means of living and building prosperity in ways that are much less destructive environmentally, economically, and socially than capitalism. 

There is much cause for hope, we can still keep warming below 2C, but we need to engage and energise the majority who can't see an alternative to capitalism and the endless 'growth' we hear about every time politicians talk about the economy in the media. We need to convince that majority that a socially just, collective response to climate change is viable and can provide the jobs, houses, education and healthcare that they need. People want change but they have yet to be persuaded that its possible. That is a huge task but its one which we can carry through successfully if we continue to campaign and push for political change through the Green Party.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Emperor's clothes

It's been happening slowly but surely for quite some time but I think we have finally arrived. A combination of twenty four hour rolling news, and all pervading social media, have brought us to the point where the frailties of our politicians are regularly and painfully exposed. There is nowhere to hide. The idols have all been shown to have feet of clay. Any and every error, no matter how small, is seized upon by the rapacious media machine. One of the most recent examples of this was Ed Miliband's failure to mention the deficit in his recent conference speech.

As recently as the noughties politicians were still relatively remote figures, people with private lives, who could expect some time away from the glare of the cameras, but no longer. We know now that they are all just mere humans like the rest of us. And its not just Ed who's been the subject of media attention focusing on errors. In the summer Cameron was criticised for his many holidays, and followed up recently with a gaffe when he was overhead saying the the Queen was 'purring' about the Scottish independence result. And the Scottish referendum itself brutally exposed the shameful weakness and and mendacity of all three party leaders as they rushed up to Scotland at the eleventh hour vowing to give the Scots more power, in order to save the Union.
Ed Miliband forgot to mention the deficit in his conference speech
Social media has also been a great leveller. Party leaders use it to communicate with millions of followers and have used it to signal policy changes. But the use of media such as Twitter is fraught with risk.
If you are going to use it, or have someone do so on your behalf make sure they are social media savvy. Make a mistake, put something across in a cack-handed fashion, and you can be sure you'll be the butt of a million sarcastic tweets and retweets.

There is a genuine problem here though. Who would want to be a politician under such circumstances? Is there a danger that good candidates would be deterred from standing? Being in the spotlight would certainly put me off, but then I think its time that politicians stopped trying to be popular and started trying to be more effective, and that means spending more time behind closed doors, stopping courting the media and social media, and telling it like it really is - because that is what people really want.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

So project fear has won.....for now

In the final days of the Scottish referendum campaign the 'No' camp expended a fair amount of energy complaining on social media about 'intimidation' from supporters of the Yes campaign. But the bits of graffiti I saw, in photos, sprayed on polling station walls, whilst reprehensible, were trivial compared to the sustained programme of dire threats delivered by what was dubbed the 'Project Fear' approach of the Better Together campaign - vote yes and you'll loose your jobs, pensions and homes.

After the polls had closed, on Sky TV, Peter Kellner of YouGov, who produced what turned out to be a pretty accurate exit poll on the night, said that he thought there had been a late swing to No from people not wanting to 'take the risk' of independence. In the end the bankers, politicians and the market got what they wanted - the 'correct result' - which I referred to in my last post, a result which was intended to retain 'business as usual' and prevent Scotland developing a progressive alternative to neoliberal austerity - not to mention keeping the oil and Trident.

So in the end 'Project Fear' delivered a 'no' vote by 55% to 45%. This was presented as a 10 point gap and a veritable landslide. Whilst that might hold true for a general election, the fact is that Yes failed by 5% + 1 vote to make Scotland an independent country. What's more Yes turned out to be much more heavily skewed towards the younger voter, which means that independence is more or less inevitable in the not too distant future unless those who want to keep the union can come up with some much more compelling and positive messages. 

Where did Yes go wrong? Maybe Salmond and the SNP were too careful for their own good. The biggest single mistake was the currency. Although currency union was possible, despite what the No side said, it was never desirable. To be independent a country needs its own currency and central bank, and that is the option they should have gone for. As it was Alastair Darling used 'currency union' and 'lack of a plan B' as an effective club to beat Salmond with in the first televised debate, something that Salmond should have handled much better, and never quite recovered from. Despite the failure of the Yes campaign, Salmond has had a remarkable political career and has achieved far more than most politicians. His will be a lasting legacy.

For those who saw the Yes campaign for what it was, a fight for democracy, not nationalism, it's not all doom and gloom though. The Yes campaign energised and radicalised thousands of Scots, many of whom are determined to remain politically active and punish the 'No' parties. Membership of the SNP has soared as has that of the Scottish Greens. This bodes ill for Labour, who are seen as the main culprits for defeat by the Yes voters. If they can maintain momentum up to the general election, Labour will have a real fight on its hands and could loose seats.

Not only that, but there is a big shake up coming South of the border, where it's recognised that more powers for Scotland must lead to constitutional reform in England, because of the 'West Lothian question' - Scottish MPs voting on legislation which affects England only. But the effect of the 'West Lothian question' has been exaggerated, there are relatively few laws in Parliament which affect only England and there is no real reason why Scottish MPs elected to a UK parliament shouldn't be able to vote on all bills. And, according to Will Hutton in the Observer:
'... mySociety finds that of 5,000 votes in the House of Commons since 1997, only 21 depended on the votes of Scottish MPs'
Its much more difficult to disentangle 'English' legislation from that affecting other parts of the UK than you might think. Despite that, after the referendum result, the Tories and UKIP immediately jumped on the 'EVEL' bandwagon and sought to bounce the other parties into a settlement that suited them alone by making more powers for Scotland conditional on Scottish MPs becoming second-class members of the House of Commons.

As far as constitutional change is concerned there is still all to play for. It couldn't realistically happen without a constitutional convention being set up, and that takes time, making it something that will have to happen beyond the next general election. As someone who lives in the North of England it could only work for me if there were regional devolution for the Northwest, and I'm sure the same is true for many others in the North and West of England. An English parliament offers us next to nothing. And so, despite the victory for Project Fear UK politics is having a good shake up and will never be quite the same again. The 45% have ensured there can be no return to 'business as usual'. Real change has to happen.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

A Yes vote in Scotland will be a massive boost for democracy

Have you noticed how politicians in the West like Barack Obama and David Cameron are always banging on about how good democracy is? There's a problem though. In the West the 'powers that be' - the establishment or ruling class if you prefer - like democracy when it serves their purposes, and that means getting the result they want.

One of the classic examples in recent times was the Irish referendum on the EU constitution. The Irish had the good sense to vote against. Was the constitution killed off?... er no ..  but twelve months later they were made to vote again - and this time they delivered the 'correct result'. It was a travesty of the democratic process but it suited the purposes of the Euro-ruling class. So, democracy is OK as long as the voters get it right. In neoliberal Europe and the USA it hardly matters which party you vote for because you will always get the same result - neoliberalism.

Of course all was going smoothly in the Scottish referendum on independence until The YouGov poll put the Yes campaign in the lead, then all hell let loose with a barrage of threats about pensions and mortgages and doom from banks such as Deutsche Bank, followed by the cancelling of PMQs and a dash to Scotland by Clegg, Cameron and Miliband, and resolute pro-union bias from the BBC. The Scots were in danger of doing the unthinkable - voting for something they wanted rather than the 'correct result'. And a 'correct result' has to be obtained so that any danger of a progressive alternative to neoliberal austerity emerging in Scotland can be squashed.
A Yes vote in Scotland will be a massive boost for democracy
In less than two days time Scots will be going to the polls to vote in the independence referendum. The outcome, despite the fear-mongering and bullying of  British capital and their tame politicians, is too close to call. Whatever the result, it will cause an earthquake in British politics. A yes vote will tear asunder the UK, and even a narrow win for no will shatter the political set-up in the UK. But how did we get here? You've guessed it - New Labour. If the Labour Party hadn't betrayed everything it ever stood for and embraced Thatcherism there never would have been an SNP government in Scotland or a referendum on independence.

What's done is done. The purpose of this post isn't to put the boot into Labour, only to explain why I think we are where we are. But the behaviour of Labour should act as a warning. The UK needs a political party of the progressive left which will act in the interests of the 99%. Without that people will look for alternatives and often those alternatives will be distasteful. The rise of both the BNP, and now UKIP in England are due to anger and disillusionment with a system that acts only in the interests of corporations and the rich.

I wish the Scots well. I don't believe a yes vote is about nationalism, I think its about the triumph of hope over fear and I support the Yes campaign because I think the Scots have a perfectly good chance of building a successful economy and a progressive society which works for the benefit of the many not the few. I also believe the rest of the UK will have a better chance of doing the same once people can see that democracy can work and overcome the interests of the ruling class. Whatever the result, the complacency, arrogance and incompetence of our so-called leaders and their friends in business has been painfully exposed. Hopefully things will never be quite the same again.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Privatisation of public services is a racket

More and more people are wising up to the fact that privatisation of public services is a racket. You may not have read this blog before but if you have you'd know that I've been attacking privatisation ever since I started posting in 2008. That's because I witnessed the scam of privatisation as it happened under Thatcher and I know that the Tory party never do anything for the public good.They exist to further private gain.


In the 1980s privatisation was presented to the British public as being a new and shiny bonanza. Allegedly 'inefficient' public services such as the utilities were flogged off by the Thatcher government to the British people, and this was going to be a bright new future, a share owning democracy in which we could all participate. None of the small investors - 'Sids' - attracted by the promise of an instant profit, seemed not to notice that they were being asked to pay for something that they already owned. Of course if Thatcher had been serious about spreading share ownership the shares would have been dished out free to all British citizens. But it was all a con designed to allow the 'market' to get its hands on a cheap bargain. Very soon the most of the 'Sids' had sold their shares to build a new patio and our utilities ended up in the hands of the usual suspects - foreign shareholders. Even Harold Macmillan, the former Tory Prime Minister, complained that Thatcher 'had sold off the family silver'. And so she had. Privatisation is nothing more than asset stripping the public sector for the benefit of the market and to the detriment of the public. It results in the creation of private monopolies. After corporations have bought the assets on the cheap, we end up paying more to get less.

So it's hardly surprising that we're seeing some really good articles appearing which expose the collusion between government and corporations to rip off the taxpayer. A good piece by Aditya Chakraborrty in today's Guardian exposes how the privatised railways are set up to provide handsome profits for Richard Branson and co whilst we pick up the bill. In any other sphere this would be called corruption - politicians working with private interests to shaft the taxpayer. It's a nice little earner, so why bother to get involved in organised crime when you can make millions by taking the taxpayer for a ride in a perfectly legal racket? The sooner we can bring the railways and utilities back into public hands the better.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

David Cameron offers UK families his biggest insult yet

David Cameron is completely out of touch with reality - the reality of life for ordinary families in Britain. How could it be any other way? Cameron was brought up in a wealthy family. His father was a tax dodger. Cameron went to Eton - the college of the ruling class.

So when he talks about his government only pursuing family friendly policies he must be taking the piss, or is it that he is really unable to  understand how families live? In his statement he even talked about -  'all the amazing work families do on our behalf' - by 'our' of course he must have meant the capitalist class which he represents. Yes David, families do do amazing work reproducing and creating cheap labour to work for you and your corporate chums - work that they do for very little reward on ever decreasing incomes - thanks to your government. 

So here is my message to David Cameron:
 "if you want to be family friendly end austerity, restore child benefit, stop the privatisation of the NHS, introduce a universal basic income, implement rent controls, build more houses, introduce a Green New Deal .... and when you have done that - do the decent thing - apologise for all the harm you've caused and ... resign!"

Now that is putting UK families first.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

The 'Free' market is damaging our economy and well-being

About 18 months ago I was listening to one of those capitalist puff piece programmes which have become so commonplace on BBC Radio 4. A presenter, probably Evan Davies, was busy sucking up to group of 'captains of industry', who were telling the listeners what a great bunch of wealth creators they were. Amidst the general congratulatory backslapping they were talking about India and one of them, clearly a fully paid up 'free' market fundamentalist, said that  the reason why there was so much poverty in India was due to the fact that there weren't enough entrepreneurs. Well obviously... not! I can remember thinking that the problem that lay behind massive poverty in India was in fact the capitalist 'free' market economy so enamored of the speaker.

In India there are millions of people who live a hand-to-mouth existence and survive only because they have created jobs for themselves.  If they could I'm sure most would take a decent paid job. They can't because there aren't any. They have to create their own jobs because the capitalist 'free' market economic system is a failure. It has failed them. Its a system which creates massive fortunes for a few, loots the natural resources of the country, exports vast wealth, and leaves poverty and deprivation for the many, and environmental degradation, behind in its wake.

We are used to the idea that capitalism creates jobs because it used to but it doesn't have to. In the 21st Century arguably the most important sector of the capitalist economy - the financial sector - makes billions in profits yet does nothing which is socially useful and creates relatively few jobs. It is by far the largest part of the global economy. Since the crash in 2008 - 80% of net new jobs created in the UK have been through self employment by people who have had to create jobs because capitalism has failed them also. As Larry Elliot says in the article:

"A feature of the labour market is the increasing role played by the self-employed, who account for more than 80% of the net rise in employment since 2008. A large number of the self-employed may be former full-time staff in well-paid jobs in, say, the public sector or construction, who are now scratching a living where they can"
Note the 'scratching a living'. Sound familiar? The UK is becoming more like India with fewer jobs and increasing poverty. Much of this is thanks to the Coalition government with its class-war austerity attack on the public sector, low-paid, poor and disabled. Real wages have fallen 8.4% in real terms since 2008. As more of the public sector is asset stripped - i.e. privatised - and the market insinuates itself further into our lives and our economy we can expect the trend to accelerate. 

In the week in which Robin Williams died there has been a lot of talk about people suffering from depression and the inadequacy of support and treatment in the UK has been highlighted. How much of this depression is due to the desperation and anxiety of poverty and the lack of a future in the UK's failing 'free' market economy? Capitalism doesn't just cause poverty it causes alienation and despair. The triumph of the 'free' market is that it is making the UK daily more like India, a society with massive inequality, mass poverty with a vast reservoir of low-paid workers available to churn out ever greater profits for foreign shareholders. A society run for the benefit of the few rather than the majority. There is only one solution, to turn away from the marketisation and commodification of our lives to the commons and the mutualisation of wealth creation.

Monday, 4 August 2014

So our 'meritocracy' is really just jobs for the boys .....and girls?

Really good episode of Thinking Allowed last week. Its a great programme, consistently thought provoking and always well worth listening to. What caught my attention was a discussion on 'networking' by the Middle Classes. I use a capital 'M' because I'm talking about proper middle class people, not just people who think they are middle class because they have a white collar job, and by 'proper' I mean professionals - doctors, lawyers etc. You can't just become middle class overnight by simply going to university and getting a half decent job, Middle class people tend to come from families that have been been Middle class for several generations and they usually have money, property and importantly for this discussion - connections.

In the programme Laurie Taylor discussed a paper called 'Staying Classy' with the author Jessica Abrahams based on research carried out on working class and Middle class students at university. What she found was that while Middle class graduating students were more than happy to use family connections to get on the job ladder, gain experience and further their careers, working class students were prevented by feeling of 'honour' i.e. they didn't feel it was the right thing to do. As you can imagine this put them at a disadvantage in a very difficult and competitive job market.

But its interesting to also think about how employers relate to all this. Given the choice between someone who had started out with a 'good' job - e.g. some sort of internship with a high powered company arranged through family connections - or someone who had acquired a less glamorous post through their own hard work and efforts - who would you choose?  Well I'm supposing many employers would choose the former rather than the latter candidate, and that's how the job market largely works.

I can imagine people thinking not to use connections is daft and if you don't bother you deserve what you get, but what about nepotism? Do we really want a society built on class privilege with the 'best jobs' being monopolised by the sons and daughters of the better off? What does this say about the kind of society we live in? So much for meritocracy. There's no merit in gaining advantage through who you know. 

Finally, its worth defining 'meritocracy' because most people misunderstand it. The word was coined by George Young in1958 to mean:
'merit is equated with intelligence-plus-effort, its possessors are identified at an early age and selected for appropriate intensive education, and there is an obsession with quantification, test-scoring, and qualifications.

Young was describing a meritocratic 'class' groomed for success. Meritocracy is now taken to mean something very different - success based on ability and talent. But perhaps it needs a new meaning in 21st century Coalition Britain - success based on who you know not what ability you have - or maybe we should just call it 'Nepotocracy'?

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Welcome to Western Neoliberal Totalitarian 'Democracy'

I am old enough to remember the Soviet Union. I grew up with it and I'm glad I did. Why? because it meant that I lived in a time when there was an alternative to capitalism and it was an alternative that was taken very seriously. It was taken particularly seriously by American capitalism, to the extent that there were show trials of communists  and 'communist sympathisers' in the USA in the 1950s, and there was a relentless tide of ant-Soviet propaganda both in the USA and the other 'Western Liberal Democracies' (known then as 'the West') in Europe and Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

We were told that while the West was free, the Soviet Union was a totalitarian one-party state, characterised by a rigid ideology, an all-pervasive propaganda machine, the brutal suppression of dissent, that people were imprisoned on trumped-up charges in terrible conditions and you couldn't fart in your own toilet without the authorities knowing about it because the KGB had an all pervasive system of spies and snoopers recording everything you did - and heaven help you if it was the wrong kind of fart.

Of course there was more than a grain of truth in the anti-Soviet propaganda though it was no doubt played up as far as possible by the capitalist propagandists. But anyway this isn't a post about the Soviet Union, neither is it a defence of the Soviet Union, its a post about those 'Western liberal democracies' I referred to earlier and what has become of them since the demise of the USSR.

The fact that I've had direct experience of living at a time when the Soviet Union existed enables me to put the current situation we find ourselves in here in the 'West' in perspective. Because as far as I can see in 'the West' we are now living in a one-party state with a regime of rigid ideology, an all pervasive propaganda machine and the brutal suppression of dissent, where people are imprisoned on trumped-up charges in terrible conditions and you can't fart in your own toilet without the regime knowing about it. Now where does that remind you of?

"Imprisoned on trumped-up charges in terrible conditions"

Every major party in the 'West' is now a neoliberal party following the same rigid 'free' market ideology. In the UK, Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are simply the left, right, and centre wings of the UK 'neoliberal party'. The same is true in the USA with the Republicans and Democrats and the pattern is repeated in all the other 'Western' democracies. The result is that whoever you vote for in Western democracies you get more of the same, and whichever major media outlet you use you get the same narrow ideological view of the world. 

A classic example of the way this stitch-up works is austerity. Since the 2008 global economic crash, every 'Western' government has had its own version of austerity, dumping the costs of the crash onto workers, the poor and the unemployed. When voters have rejected those governments at the ballot box and voted for the opposition, wanting real economic change, they have been faced with more of the same - yet more austerity. So what used to be called 'Western Liberal Democracy' could perhaps now be more accurately described as 'Western Totalitarian Democracy', or since our 'democracy' is now largely controlled by corporations and the rich perhaps simply fascism would be a more accurate description. 

It may well be that things in the 'West' are not yet as 'bad' as they were in the Soviet Union. But a quarter of a century after its demise the parallels between what happened there and what is happening here must be taken seriously. All who want a genuinely open, democratic and plural society, and want to bring about real change and sweep away the growing threat to our prosperity and freedom that is being driven by the corporations and neoliberal 'free' market right, need to organise, protest and vote for parties that oppose the corporate takeover of our lives. 

Postscript: today (20/08/14) I came across an interesting passage in David Harvey's latest book Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism:
 " ....in other words, and intensification of the totalitarian police-state surveillance and and militarised control system and the totalitarian democracy we are now largely experiencing" [p220 -my italics].

Friday, 30 May 2014

RIP Labour: The day the Labour Party finally died

I'm not the only one who noticed but today marks the end of any useful life that the Labour Party had left in it. I've posted about the impending demise of the Labour Party before but now its finally arrived. The Party's had its problems for a long time but the rot really set in with the advent of Tony Blair and New Labour in the 1990s, followed by the black farce of the premiership of Gordon 'end of boom and bust' Brown. Since then the Party has been on life support and it looks like the feeble efforts of Ed Miliband to resuscitate it have finally failed, for today Chris Leslie, who is apparently the shadow chief secretary to the treasury, will announce that:
"We won't be able to undo the cuts that have been felt in recent years, and I know that this will be disappointing for many people. A more limited pot of money will have to be spent on a smaller number of priorities. Lower priorities will get less."
f this is what Labour has to offer no wonder so many people do not vote. Labour is offering the politics of despair and not hope. It is the politics and economics of reckless irresponsibility. And it is the economics  of those without the courage to deliver change, most especially for those who are dependent upon that change happening in this country. - See more at: http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2014/05/30/why-vote-labour-when-their-economic-policy-is-based-on-cuts-and-appeasing-bankers/#sthash.pSmFECAZ.U3EKrhD4.dpuf
So that's it. Labour has completely capitulated to the 'free' market. It is the party of the corporations and bankers. Labour can no longer make even the vaguest claim to be a party of labour and the people. Many of us knew that but this statement makes it official. Labour are finally committed to permanent austerity and even a "budget surplus". 

RIP Labour: The rot set in long ago with New Labour
Whats really sad about this is not just the end of a once great party but that its demise is through its own doing - its suicide because there is absolutely no need to do this - its political and economic nonsense. The cuts can be undone and spending can be raised. As Richard Murphy has pointed out on his blog today there is no need for a budget surplus and, as a nation, we can afford debt. Murphy hits the nail on the head when he says:

"If this is what Labour have to offer no wonder so many people do not vote. Labour is offering the politics of despair and not hope. It is the politics and economics of reckless irresponsibility."

If this is what Labour has to offer no wonder so many people do not vote. Labour is offering the politics of despair and not hope. - See more at: http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2014/05/30/why-vote-labour-when-their-economic-policy-is-based-on-cuts-and-appeasing-bankers/#sthash.pSmFECAZ.U3EKrhD4.dpuft as Richard Murphy has pointed out on his blog there is no need for a budget surplus and, as a nation, we can afford debt. Murphy hit the nail on the head when he said:
 I agree with every word of that but there's more - it is the politics of a party which no longer has a useful purpose or anything to offer the British people and has reached the end of the line.

If this is what Labour has to offer no wonder so many people do not vote. Labour is offering the politics of despair and not hope. It is the politics and economics of reckless irresponsibility. And it is the economics  of those without the courage to deliver change, most especially for those who are dependent upon that change happening in this country. - See more at: http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2014/05/30/why-vote-labour-when-their-economic-policy-is-based-on-cuts-and-appeasing-bankers/#sthash.pSmFECAZ.U3EKrhD4.dpuf
f this is what Labour has to offer no wonder so many people do not vote. Labour is offering the politics of despair and not hope. It is the politics and economics of reckless irresponsibility. And it is the economics  of those without the courage to deliver change, most especially for those who are dependent upon that change happening in this country. - See more at: http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2014/05/30/why-vote-labour-when-their-economic-policy-is-based-on-cuts-and-appeasing-bankers/#sthash.pSmFECAZ.U3EKrhD4.dpuf
If this is what Labour has to offer no wonder so many people do not vote. Labour is offering the politics of despair and not hope. It is the politics and economics of reckless irresponsibility. And it is the economics  of those without the courage to deliver change, most especially for those who are dependent upon that change happening in this country. - See more at: http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2014/05/30/why-vote-labour-when-their-economic-policy-is-based-on-cuts-and-appeasing-bankers/#sthash.pSmFECAZ.U3EKrhD4.dpuf
If this is what Labour has to offer no wonder so many people do not vote. Labour is offering the politics of despair and not hope. It is the politics and economics of reckless irresponsibility. And it is the economics  of those without the courage to deliver change, most especially for those who are dependent upon that change happening in this country. - See more at: http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2014/05/30/why-vote-labour-when-their-economic-policy-is-based-on-cuts-and-appeasing-bankers/#sthash.pSmFECAZ.U3EKrhD4.dpuf
If this is what Labour has to offer no wonder so many people do not vote. Labour is offering the politics of despair and not hope. It is the politics and economics of reckless irresponsibility. And it is the economics  of those without the courage to deliver change, most especially for those who are dependent upon that change happening in this country. - See more at: http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2014/05/30/why-vote-labour-when-their-economic-policy-is-based-on-cuts-and-appeasing-bankers/#sthash.pSmFECAZ.U3EKrhD4.dpu

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Roosevelt was right; it seems that what we have to fear is fear itself

Despite Cameron and Osborne's best attempts to convince us that we are in recovery, and that we are all getting better off and heading back to the sunny uplands of endless growth, its clear that the crisis hasn't been worked through yet and we still have major problems. Lets consider unemployment; the figures are falling and have been for some time but its obvious that they are being massaged. 'Jobseekers' are being sanctioned for the feeblest of reasons, and no reason at all - like failing to attend a meeting you weren't invited to. There has also been a massive rise in the numbers of 'self employed' people and there are now 1.4 million people on zero hours contracts. Self employment is a convenient way of getting people off the books but it is also a sign that the economy is failing to provide proper jobs for people. So, despite a fall in unemployment to 2.24 million its clear that the real figure is way higher and if you consider underemployment, which has been estimated to be as high as 6 million people, you can see an economy that is failing.

Of course its not just unemployment that concerns people, there are also severe problems with falling living standards, poor housing, growing personal debt and shrinking pensions. This is the result of 30 years of neoliberalism, or Thatcherism as it is better known in the UK. The bright shiny future we were all promised in the 1980s just turned out to be a bonanza for casino capitalism and the super rich. And the super rich are really just a kleptocracy who have made massive gains by asset stripping the public sector and stealing our pensions, making the rest of us poorer in the process. 

Those who caused the great crash of 2008 have escaped without any sanction, banks have been bailed out, and lots of ordinary people have suddenly found themselves much worse off. Children have found they have less prospects than their parents. Not surprisingly governments and politicians have become unpopular and there is real anger about these changes. So who to blame? Well anyone it seems apart from 'ourselves' - in the sense that 'we' voted repeatedly for people who screwed 'us' because 'we' are politically naive - and the people, the capitalist corporations and their tame politicians, who are really to blame for the mess we are in. 

And there we have it. Lots of angry people, fearful for the future, feeling they have been left behind in a time of austerity, and wanting change. And how do you control those people and deflect them from the real culprits and the real solutions to their problems? You play on the their fears and you offer them simplistic solutions which feed their prejudices. You divide them to rule them, and you use the well worn but effective tactic of scapegoating. "Blame the immigrants, they are taking your jobs. Blame the unemployed, they are benefit scroungers soaking up your hard earned taxes". 
Franklin D. Roosevelt; well aware of the dangers of fear
Which brings us to UKIP which is the vehicle that people are using to vent their anger in the UK because they have been screwed. UKIP, the anti-establishment blokish party of common sense. Except that UKIP is neither anti-establishment nor does it speak any sense. What it does do very effectively is feed on people's fear and and discontent and its clear that if we ever had a UKIP government the very people who voted for it would be screwed even harder by the capitalist class. All of which shows us that Roosevelt was right, what we have to fear is fear itself because it is fear which can be exploited by political demagogues like Nigel Farage for their own ends and fear which blinds people to the truth and makes them act against their own best interests. Make people insecure and it is much easier to control them.

So what is the answer? Hope has to be the antidote to fear and we have to expose the real establishment nature of UKIP, and its policies, such as privatisation of the NHS. We have to promote positive alternatives which will result in the restoration of security for all the people through Social Security and a publicly run public sector. The only political Party which offers this hope is the Green Party. So vote Green in 2014.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Now an economist proves what we already knew - capitalism doesn't work!

I was really interested to read about Thomas Piketty's new book 'Capital in the Twenty-First Century' which is being hailed as a 'groundbreaking'  work and, apparently, is making a real impact on economists. What Piketty has done is to 'prove' what many of us long thought was true - capitalism creates inequality, and left unchecked, ever increasing inequality. Piketty has done this by sifting through masses of economic data from the past couple of hundred years and he has written about his findings in a book which is accessible to the general reader.

All of this is good news - if it has a real impact on economics - and we can only hope now that it does. One hundred and fifty years or so ago Marx showed how capitalists expropriate wealth from working people through the mechanism of surplus value, and despite the fact that Marx had a huge influence politically, much of his work was ignored by mainstream economists, who were wedded to the capitalist economic system. Lets hope that Piketty doesn't suffer the same fate as Marx because economists whose ideas run counter to the prevailing order tend to have little impact in the end. This is because 'economics' is less an academic discipline and more a political justification of the current structures of economic power. 
David Harvey's new thought provoking book

I look forward to reading Piketty's book when I've finished a book I suspect will prove to be a much more interesting and thought provoking read - this is David Harvey's 'Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism'.  Harvey is a renowned Marxist who has lectured on Capital for many years. I'm only six contradictions into this book but Harvey has already nailed the iniquities and inefficiencies of capitalism and is well on the way to explaining what we must do to build an economy for the 99%. Its a book that I can thoroughly recommend. I'll get round to reading Piketty as soon as I can but I guess I owe him thanks already for proving what I have been saying on this blog for years - capitalism creates poverty.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

The French Socialist Party is repeating the failures of the mainstream left

Another day, another election drubbing for the left. The French Socialist party got a kicking in the recent local elections. Much of this has to do with the unpopularity of the French President Francoise Hollande. In May 2012, I posted optimistically on this blog about Hollande's success in becoming the President of France. And why not? Hollande offered some hope of an alternative to the austerity programme which has proved so devastating for millions of people in the EU. But that optimism proved false. Hollande may have started out with tax increase for the rich at a rate of 75% but he quickly succumbed to the austerity agenda announcing £50 billion of cuts. And here's the irony, the beneficiaries of this have been the French National Front headed by Marie Le Pen.

Once again, a party of the left has failed in Europe by following a neoliberal agenda, and by conceding ground to a right-wing political agenda, has encouraged the right. There are parallels between France and the UK, where UKIP has benefited by assuming the mantle of being the champions of the working class just as the Front National has in France. So when is the mainstream left going to begin to learn some lessons from this debacle? When is it going to reject the austerity agenda and promote a positive alternative which shows its support for the 99% with jobs, housing and support for public services, publicly delivered?
Hollande: repeating the same mistake and expecting a different result

Since the crash of 2008, wherever parties of the left have implemented austerity they have been decisively rejected by voters at the ballot box and the right have been the beneficiaries. There is a serious lesson for Ed Milliband and the Labour Party here. Recently Len Mckluskey, General Secretary of UNITE threatened to withdraw support from the Labour Party if they fail to win the next general election. Who can blame UNITE for talking this stance? Labour ceased to be a party of working people and the trade unions about twenty years ago. Until left mainstream parties can begin to articulate a positive alternative to neoliberlaism they will continue to fail. They are like Einstein's  madman endlessly repeating the same mistake and each time expecting a different result.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

The NHS is a massive national asset that we must invest in

Today I am hearing the usual crap about pay rises for NHS staff, and this from a government which has increased the pay of top NHS managers by 11% in the past few years. I also had to put up with Peter Allen on BBC Radio 5Live launching a tirade of Tory propaganda against the leader of the Midwives union - " How can we pay for these pay rises - increase taxes?" Well yes, if necessary increase taxes if it means a better NHS! - but make sure those tax rises are paid for not by genuinely hardworking people - like public sector workers such as nurses - but the tax-dodging rich and the bankers who have had their snouts firmly in the trough for the past 30 years and more.

If it hadn't been for the economic mismanagement of this Tory-led government and near on five years of austerity our economy would now be in much better shape to deal with the economic difficulties we face, and we'd have a stronger NHS. This coalition government is  entirely responsible for the mess we are in.

The NHS was created at a time of austerity, now we are much wealthier - is it unaffordable? NO!

Most importantly, we must reject the government's neoliberal political agenda with its mania about 'balancing the budget' and 'tax cuts' which is beamed out every minute as propaganda by the BBC and corporate media. The 'story' they tell us about the economy is a false and misleading one. The NHS is a perfect example of this. Far from being a drain on resources that we 'can't afford' the NHS is a massive national asset which creates wealth for the UK. How? By maintaining the health and well-being of more than 60 million people, not to mention the money it puts into our economy by creating useful employment and ensuring that we are a more productive nation. Where would we be without it? We'd all be an awful lot poorer. The truth is we can't not afford the NHS.

We need to change the terms of political and economic debate in this country and reject the false world view which we are being told we must believe. Until we do that we will continue to be subjected to a regime of 'economic necessity' which is calculated to make us all poorer whist a tiny and undeserving minority benefits at our expense.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

What we can all learn from Bob Crow

I was really shocked when I heard that Bob Crow had died this morning. He was only 52 years old and his sudden death will be a real blow to members of the RMT and trade unionists and workers everywhere. In his twelve years as leader of the union he increased its membership by 20,000, no mean feat in difficult times. He also did his best to ensure that his members were properly rewarded for their work and wasn't afraid to use industrial action to achieve better terms and conditions for them. That, of course, is how it should be and that is why he earned so much respect, even from his political enemies.

Bob Crow - a fighter for social justice who will be missed
The oft forgotten reality is that the wealth in our economy is created by workers. The trains and the infrastructure Bob Crow's members used in their daily work were built by workers, and the vital task of transporting millions is daily carried out by workers. What would happen without any of this? Capitalists, who are credited with creating wealth, are really the expropriators of the wealth that workers create. Since when has a shareholder or banker ever done any useful or essential work?

There will be more Bob Crows in the future and some of them will have been directly inspired by his example of shrewd tactics and tireless struggle for social justice. What can we learn from Bob Crow? The value of workers and the necessity of struggle by workers to achieve a better world for all. Every poorly paid worker can learn to join a union and to fight for a better standard of living. When Bob Crow was elected he was invited to Newsnight for an interview. He didn't go because he was celebrating with his mates in the pub. Tonight I will be raising a glass to the memory of Bob Crow and all the good things he achieved. RIP Bob.

Friday, 7 March 2014

What is democracy and how can we make it work for us?

Everybody knows what democracy is don't they? Citizens of a state, who are eligible, get to vote every 4 to 5 years for representatives to an elected chamber, which is the seat of government. Wikipedia defines democracy as:
"Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally—either directly or indirectly through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws."
Then there is a whole lot of other stuff about the mechanisms of democracy such as voting systems and the structure of elected chambers which turns out to be pretty important because if that doesn't work, democracy doesn't work either.

In the West we have a system which has come to be known as 'liberal democracy' which many of us like to think is the best available. We know that because our leaders, including David Cameron and Barack Obama, are always lecturing the rest of the world that they should be using our 'democratic' system. But its clear that something is very wrong with Western liberal democracy, both here, in Europe, and in the USA. Fewer and fewer people want to vote and there is widespread disillusionment with the system. In 1950 83.9% of registered voters voted in the UK and in 2001 the number was 59.4%. Since then there has been an increase in the turnout but less than two thirds of registered voters voted in 2010, and the overall trend is downward. I believe that the disillusionment stems from the fact that democracy seems to work much better for some i.e. bankers, than others i.e. the rest of us.

So maybe its time we should go back to thinking about what democracy really is and how it could work better for all of us. That is why I recently read David Graeber's book The Democracy Project. Graeber starts by talking about Occupy Wall Street but the meat of his book is about democracy and decision making. It provides plenty of food for thought and is well worth reading. It also contains a few eye-openers for people who haven't studied the origins and development of democracy. And I like Graeber's ideas about consensus, something which is commonly poo-poohed by people who like adversarial democracy and seem to prefer there to be 'winners' and 'losers'. Consensus, far from being the shoddy compromise that some would have us believe, can be very powerful because its positive and inclusive.

If we go back to the origins of democracy in ancient Greece it was a very different setup to the one we are used to, one that we now call direct democracy. There were no representatives, and all citizens participated in decision making. Of course not everyone was a citizen, and women and slaves did not get to vote. In contrast, representative democracy is a relatively modern concept, and one which was intended, when the American Republic was founded, to prevent direct democracy from happening. You see the founding fathers of the USA feared direct democracy, which they saw as mob rule, and were determined that decision making was going to remain in the hands of men they could trust - themselves, and people like them. According to Graeber they agreed with the 'Puritan preacher John Winthrop who wrote':
"a democracy is, among most civil nations, accounted the meanest and worst of all forms of government."
So it follows that nowhere does the American constitution mention that the USA is a democracy. In fact the word 'democracy' had negative connotations for a long time and only became a popular term in the 19th century when politicians in the USA began to identify themselves as 'democrats'.  
Direct democracy in action in Switzerland
Given the current state of democracy in the West, in which a political class, divorced from the rest of society, has allied with corporate power to dominate our democratic institutions and control law making, its not difficult to see our current democratic system as anything other than government for the 1%. 

If we want to take back that democracy for the 99%, perhaps electing representatives is not the answer. We definitely need to empower citizens and undertake root and branch reform of our democratic institutions, starting from the lowest level of local government. So maybe we can learn something from the ancient Greeks by cutting out the 'middle man' and establishing what the American founding fathers feared most -  a form of direct democracy that allows all citizens a voice in decision making. Think it can't be done? Well it happens in Switzerland which has a form of direct democracy, and if it can happen there it can happen in the UK and other parts of the West. Democracy is much too important to be left in it's current state, in the hands of the political class and corporate lobbyists and it's something we should be having a national debate about. We need bring about real democratic change to make democracy work for us.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Rejoice! Cameron has found the 'magic money tree'!

Just in case you hadn't noticed we are still in the grip of austerity with Conservative Chancellor George Osborne and Ed Milliband both promising yet more cuts in government spending. In fact, there is no end in sight to austerity, with years of cuts to come. But what Ed and George don't appear to understand, and what I and many others have been arguing is that austerity cuts don't help our economy or make our finances stronger. If we hadn't had Osborne's cuts over the past 4 years our economy would be in a much better position now. Osborne has complained about the fact that we are borrowing too much money but his cuts have lead to greater borrowing. He has now borrowed as much in 3 years as the last government did in 13 years. He has failed.

Of course Cameron has staunchly supported his Chancellor through the years of austerity and he one famously said "there is no magic money tree". What he said was:
"It’s as if they think there’s some magic money tree.  Well let me tell you a plain truth: there isn’t.”
Of course he was talking about borrowing, something which Osborne has been doing rather a lot of, but let me tell you the real truth - there is a magic money tree. In fact, there are at least two magic money trees. One is called quantitative easing and the government used that to produce £375 billion worth of cash from thin air. Another is the way in which governments can suddenly find more money when they come under political pressure. 
 
David 'money no object' Cameron

This brings us to the recent terrible flooding events in the Somerset Levels, and on the Thames and Severn. The Somerset floods went on for weeks before the government showed some concern but the Thames flooding was a different matter. The latter is a Tory heartland and Cameron realised he had to be seen to be doing something - and fast. So he did an about-face reached for the 'magic money tree' and stated that "money is no object". According to the Telegraph Cameron 'promises to spend whatever is necessary as flooding worsens across southern England'


If the government hadn't been so busy cutting public spending including on flood defence, the Environment Agency, and fire services we might have be in a better position to cope with the current crisis. The message is clear, the austerity cuts were always political and a false economy. The reality is that a cut in one area often increases spending in another, and that is what is happening now.  Add to that the government's climate change denial credentials, Cameron's 'green crap', and the promotion of fossil fuel fracking and you have a government which is not only class-war driven but short-sighted and incompetent. More and more people will suffer from the multiple failings of the stupidest government ever but don't expect Cameron to be fazed by any of this, he has one of the biggest brass necks in political history.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Three whopping great Tory lies

I've been saying all along on this blog that Labour will win the next general election and I still subscribe to that view, although its beginning to look like Labour's majority could be quite small. If the Tories do win - or do a lot better than I expect - it will be in no small part due to the successful misleading propaganda that they have been churning out since May 2010. This is a government built on misleading statements and the chief protagonists have been David Cameron and George Osborne. Cameron is a perfect front man for a hard-right party like the Conservatives, and he effortlessly projects a sort of common-sense-bloke-next-door persona which seems to chime with a large section of the electorate. However, David Cameron has almost nothing in common with the overwhelming majority of the electorate, he is definitely not the bloke next door. He is a millionaire who inherited wealth from his tax dodging father and has never done a proper job in his life - I mean that in the sense of having had to go out and get a job in a competitive job market like the rest of us - see my previous post on him. The same is true of Gideon 'George' Osborne, though Osborne is much less smooth than Cameron and not much liked by the electorate.

There are the three great Tory whoppers that I would like to feature in this post because they are likely to have a significant impact on the election:

1. Labour was responsible for the economic crisis: the Tories were quick off the mark with this one. They used it during the election campaign and almost as soon as the Coalition was formed the mantra of Labour's economic incompetence and responsibility for the crisis was repeated endlessly while Labour, shell-shocked by the election result, footled around with its leadership campaign. By the time Milliband was elected the electorate had largely bought it. Of course its not true. How could even Labour be responsible for what was a global economic crisis? Of course they had some culpability in crawling to the banks with 'light-touch' regulation but responsible - no. In fact, under Labour's response to the global economic crisis the UK's economy was doing better than when Osborne subsequently got his hands on it.


2. Austerity is necessary: this is George Osborne's specialty. After the election Osborne tore out of the starting blocks to embed austerity as quickly as possible - for political reasons. His 'emergency budget' in June 2010 cut £81 billion from public spending, doing real harm to the poorest and most vulnerable people in the UK. Osborne's great claim was that the UK had 'maxed out its credit card' but he knows that UK debt is not the same as credit card debt. Analogies about government borrowing and household budgets and people's debt and spending on credit cards are misleading as economists know quite well. Nonetheless, a combination of relentless repetition about UK debt and the 'structural deficit' and Labour's spineless non-response have embedded this idea in the minds of many in the electorate. Austerity isn't a necessity its a political choice, undertaken to make the 99% pay for the failures of the 1%. It is classwar. The 2010 Green Party manifesto showed how the UK could re-vitalise our economy and pay down the deficit without austerity

3. The NHS is safe with us: the 2010 Tory manifesto claimed there would be 'no top down reorganisation of the NHS' and Cameron claimed it would be 'safe' with them. And what did the Coalition do as soon as it got into power? It introduced the Health and Social Care Bill which was intended to break-up and privatise the NHS. Lets be clear a privatised NHS is no longer the NHS. The NHS has not been protected from cuts as has been claimed by the government and now the NHS is in crisis, just like it was when the Tories were last in power in the 1980s and 1990s.


Of the three whoppers it seems the last one is the least likely to be believed by voters, but the first two are likely to have the greatest impact overall. Could this be the most dishonest government ever?

Sunday, 12 January 2014

George Osborne's economic failures

Getting on for four years of 'Tory' coalition government and it already seems like a lifetime. Earlier this week Chancellor George Osborne was once again talking about yet more cuts, a mere £25 billion this time. And where will the heaviest cuts fall? You've guessed it - welfare. The Tory assault in the poorest and most vulnerable shows no sign of letting up with talk of the state being reduced the 1948 levels. Austerity is still very much the agenda. These cuts will happen, conveniently for Osborne, after the Tories have won the next election, or so he thinks. So the good news is that the cuts could be prevented if Labour have the guts to stop the rot. Unfortunately, given Labour's timidity and slavish devotion to corporate power this is very unlikely.

If middle of the road commentators like Will Hutton are getting their knickers in a twist about this we can be sure there is more trouble ahead. In the '1948 levels' Guardian post linked above he said:
"The IMF, after assessing the experience of 107 countries between 1980 and 2012, recommends that, after a credit-crunch deficit, there should be a balance between tax increases and spending reductions. In Osborne-land over the next five years more than 95% is to come from spending cuts – a global first in self-harm."[my italics]
Now I'm not a fan of the IMF and I take its remedies with a large pinch of salt but its obvious that globally too many corporations are paying far too little tax. So are the rich. The 'excuse' for this is that it 'boosts growth' and 'creates jobs' but this is merely self-serving 'free' market propaganda. Tax cuts take money out of our economy - more often than not that money goes overseas or is spent by the rich on things like expensive houses, pushing up the housing market. In any case these tax cuts aren't invested in the productive economy and don't benefit the 99% in any way.

Osborne's strategy is supposed to be about getting rid of the 'structural deficit' which is the difference between the amount governments spend and the amount they get in income.  But as in all things economic there is nothing 'scientific' about the structural deficit concept. It's all about how government's choose to run the economy. The point is that dealing with a structural deficit by austerity cuts is a political choice not an economic necessity. There are clearly better alternatives. The obvious problem that we have in the UK at the moment is that corporations are paying too little in tax and there is too much tax avoidance. If Osborne's deficit reduction plan was working the government would be borrowing less -  but borrowing has increased because of a shrunken economy and falling incomes and taxes. The fact that Osborne has borrowed more in 3 years than the last Labour government did in 13 years shows the complete failure of his economic policies.

But then Osborne's 'economic policy' is not really an economic policy at all it's a political one. His aim is to complete the work that New Labour started in 1997, to finally destroy the post-war WWII settlement by privatising the public sector and ending the welfare state, thus returning us to the 1930s, with all the attendant poverty and misery that characterised those times.