Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Welfare? That is only for corporations and the rich

Welcome to the new welfare state - Coalition government style. Despite the fact that we are supposed to be struggling with a massive structural deficit and our economy is stagnant, the Chancellor, George Osborne, found plenty to give away in last weeks budget in terms of  welfare - for the 1%. We certainly ain't in it all together but what we do know is that this is a government which punishes the needy and rewards those who have much, much more than they need

From 1st April we will see yet more cuts in welfare, the punitive bedroom tax and further massive cuts in public services. Add to that an ongoing clamp down on public sector pay which is reducing the standard of living of hundreds of thousands of workers, many of whom are low paid. In contrast the richest in the UK will receive a massive tax cut and corporations will see further cuts in corporation tax. George Osborne is also doing his best to create another house price boom by allowing for £130 billion to back house buyers, a move which can only make it more difficult for people who want to buy houses.

As I've posted before the government's austerity cuts programme has nothing to do with reducing the deficit and everything to do with the demolition of the welfare state and privatisation of public services. The truth is that the main recipients of welfare in the UK are the 1%, the corporations and the rich. Whilst the 99% see their living standards cut further in order to pay for a crisis caused by neoliberal capitalism, corporations like Starbuck's benefit from not paying taxes and tax dodgers avoid £120 billion in tax. It may be hard for some people to accept but we are all under attack - from our own government. There is only one option - organise and fight back to protect our living standards. Groups like UK Uncut have lead the way but there is much more work to be done. Its time to get involved. Come and help us defend our communities!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Stop this war on the poor - fight back against the bedroom tax!

Yesterday thousands of people in a hundred UK towns and cities came together to protest against the bedroom tax. This pernicious piece of Coalition legislation will cause harm to the 660,000 poor, unemployed and disabled people who will be affected when it is introduced on April 1st. Families who have a 'spare' bedroom will be expected to move into accommodation with less bedrooms or face a financial penalty. There are a series of draconian rules which mean the children will be expected to share a room rather than having separate bedrooms. This is a quote from the National Housing Federation website:
"The size criteria in the social rented sector will restrict housing benefit to allow for one bedroom for each person or couple living as part of the household, with the following exceptions:
  • Children under 16 of same gender expected to share
  • Children under 10 expected to share regardless of gender
  • Disabled tenant or partner who needs non resident overnight carer will be allowed an extra bedroom,
 "The cut will be a fixed percentage of the Housing Benefit eligible rent. The Government has said that this will be set at 14% for one extra bedroom and 25% for two or more extra bedrooms."

The Green Party believes we should tackle bankers bonuses and tax dodgers rather than attacking the poor and disabled

The government claims this will save £500 million pounds in housing benefit but this is nonsense. If people do move and downsize they are likely to have to move to the more expensive private rented sector thus increasing the amount of housing benefit they claim. That is assuming they can find suitable accommodation in their local area, and many cannot. The reality is that many of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the UK will take a further financial hit at a time when millionaires are getting a tax cut courtesy of George Osborne. 

Bedroom tax demo at the Cross in Chester
That sums up the Coalition government; benefit cuts for the poor and tax cuts for the rich. There will be many more protests about the bedroom tax, I hope you will get involved and join the fightback against this rotten government.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Why we must all bow down to "The Market"

Sometime ago I posted on here about the people of the remote Lambayeque Valley in Peru who were threatened by a series of environmental crises, and who sacrificed some of their number and destroyed pyramids they had built to appease the gods in an attempt to save themselves. You see, they believed that the gods were angry and must be appeased if they were to be saved from catastrophe. Needless to say they were wrong and after lasting for 450 years their civilisation was destroyed.

I was reminded of this when I watched Question Time last week. In fact I am reminded of it almost every time I open a newspaper or switch on a radio or television these days. On Question Time the redoubtable Melanie Phillips was one of the pundits telling anyone who could be bothered to listen that there was only one answer to the economic crisis we are in - we must appease "The Market". Like so many others she believes that "The Market" can only be appeased by a few selected actions, the favourite of which appears to be "tax cuts". Cut taxes and all will be well. The crisis will come to an end. There are of course other things which appease "The Market"; they include "privatisation", "flexibility of labour" and another important cut known as "cutting red tape". In fact there are lots of cuts which appease the market. Cutting benefits and cutting public expenditure also keep "The Market" happy.

Of course there is never any acknowledgement by supporters of "The Market" that the great economic crisis we are in might have been caused by "The Market", or even that it is in fact just the latest and greatest in a series of crises caused by "The Market", because "The Market" can never be blamed for anything. We can though, blame everything else, the government, trade unions, public sector, regulators, benefit scroungers, or even the weather. If anything goes wrong the inevitable answer that we get is that we need more of "The Market", not less. Because "The Market" is there to be admired and worshipped by the devout. Its not difficult to imagine Melanie as a Lambayeque priestess administering cuts to the unfortunate sacrificial victims on a Peruvian pyramid. But have no doubt; faith in "The Market" is just that; faith. Its not economics or policy or even ideology, it is a belief system as strong and irrational as the beliefs of the high priests of the Lambayeque Valley. On the day that a new Pope was elected let us not forget that the believers in the true faith are people who believe in "The Market".
Antibiotics - another failure of "The Market"
At the moment, millions of people are being sacrificed on the altar of austerity because that is what "The Market" wants. Not only that but the planet and the people that depend upon it are in danger of being destroyed like the Lambayeque people to suit the needs of "The Market". Yesterday we heard of another failure of "The Market". We are facing a crisis in healthcare due to a lack of effective new antibiotics. This is because "The Market" deems it is not profitable to produce them so they aren't going to be made. Could this be the same "Market" which is feeding antibiotics to farmed animals to make them fatter, rendering the antibiotics we need less effective in the process? Or is it the same "Market" that can't provide us with houses to live in, or vaguely ethical financial services or fairly priced utilities, or was responsible for BSE, or can't provide two billion people with an income of more than $2 a day? The list goes on and on, and so does the madness of  "The Market" and its disciples. But let's make no mistake, if we don't end the tyranny of this mad belief system the fate that befell the people of Lambayeque awaits all of us too.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

There is a real alternative plan for the economy and RBS

Today I came across two news items which struck me as absurd. In the first David Cameron was making a speech in which he defended the government's economic 'policy of deficit reduction', which is better known as austerity. In his speech he came out with all the usual stuff, including the fact that reducing government spending was the only way to cut the deficit, and that there was no alternative. But clearly he is wrong. As others, including even Vince Cable have stated, there are very real alternatives. In a shrinking or stagnant economy its more difficult to reduce a deficit, and that, after three years of austerity is where we are now. 

The problem in our economy is lack of demand caused by high levels of unemployment, and falling living standards for the 99%. In those conditions people can't afford to buy, and tax revenues fall, especially when commodity prices are rising. If governments increase spending on much needed infrastructure projects such as social housing that stimulus creates jobs, raises tax revenues and revives the economy. You don't have to be a Keynesian to subscribe to this view. The key point though, is that it has never been cheaper to borrow money, so this is the time for governments to spend. Furthermore, there is really no need for our government to borrow, it can create money through quantitative easing (QE). The Bank of England (BoE) has created £375 billion of dosh through QE without any beneficial outcome because it has been wasted on buying bonds. In effect all this has done is benefit the very banks which caused the crisis in the first place by increasing their profits! What we really need is green QE, which means spending money created by the BoE on building environmentally friendly homes, investing in renewables and creating a million green jobs. This will revive our economy, help end the misery of unemployment, create the renewable energy we so desperately need, and move us towards  a green economy for the future.

The second bit of news was as priceless as Cameron's failed analysis of the 'need' for austerity; Mervyn King who is still governor of the BoE today put forward a cunning plan to sell off the infamous Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). This consisted of splitting RBS into a 'good bank', with all the profitable bits, and a 'bad bank' containing loads of nasty debt. There is a huge problem with this plan because the private sector gets the good bits and we, i.e. muggins the taxpayer, gets to pick up the bill for all the nasty stuff, which we will no doubt be paying off for the next generation or so. But there is a much better plan. Split RBS and give the 'good' parts to the taxpayer to create a green national investment bank, and give the 'bad' bits back to the people who created the problem in the first place the bankers and their shareholders.

These two news items speak volumes about the people who run our country. They live in the past. They have no idea of what is good for the UK and the people who live here. They serve the interests of a narrow and privileged elite. These are the real benefit scroungers - to use their own terminology. They leach off the state to the tune of £billions whilst seeking to deny the poorest and most disadvantaged people in our country the tiny amounts of money needed to keep them going. They also haven't a clue about the restructuring our economy needs to undergo if we are going to create a green economy to deal with climate change. We deserve much better than his, and the only way to achieve real change is to campaign, agitate, and ultimately vote for a positive alternative. That alternative is the Green Party. Join us and help make that change happen. There is no time to lose.