It’s a Rotten Parliament … We can’t get the staff these days…..

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It’s a Rotten Parliament

We can’t get the staff these days. – They think they’re in charge

If Call-me-Dave and his cronies shut up for long enough they’d hear the raucous laughter reverberating around the isles. Followed by outrage and sighs of deep, deep despair.

‘They’ just don’t get it, do they?

Or do they? Either way: I’m not sure which reality is the scariest.

It’s not just the economy, dire as it is; inept as politicians are. It’s not just social policy, backward and insidious as it is. It’s not just moralising, obsessive and faulty as it is. It’s neo-theocracy dressed up as concern; power and control hiding under benevolence.

That old and now rarely expressed phrase comes to mind: One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. The spying on and curbing of civil liberties is in direct proportion to a government’s lack of trust in its electorate. This government, like the one before, would seem to both fear and despise us.

When Authority has to micro-manage its environment and scrutinise the lives of its citizens like this, it has already demonstrated a loss of faith in the collective.

Protesters in other countries are freedom fighters and seekers of democracy while here, in the Dis-United Kingdom of not-so Great Britain, the dissenting voices are accused of talking and bringing the country down; of being rioters, anarchists, even. You wait – we’ll be told we’re unpatriotic next. Then they’ll really be able to define us as terrorists.

“If you’ve done nothing wrong…” What complete and utter bollocky balderdash! You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it. Besides, judging by the divisive manner in which this government publicly categorises and scapegoats its own citizens, I really wouldn’t put any faith in its ability to discern the ‘good’ from the ‘enemy’, would you? Especially when you think of how most of our ‘enemies’ have been deliberately induced or even conjured from thin air in the service of imperialism, colonialism, capitalism, feudalism ism ism ism…

It’s a bit disingenuous to call all this invading, dividing and conquering of selected fashionable spots around the world ‘defending’ the UK. Nope. Rather it’s the usual suspects stirring shit, starting wars, invading governed and ‘ungoverned spaces’, enabling profiteering: having the audacity to call it ‘help’.

Do we vote and pay taxes for government to decide what is and isn’t ‘wrong’ behaviour? Do we pay the wages of those elected ‘representatives’ for it to make those definitions? Surely not?!

Whatever ‘they’ do get, they don’t get this:

We, The People – WE are the ‘Big House’; THEY are the staff.

They are just the staff…

Austerity still won’t work in 2020: Stop the madness now

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Austerity isn’t Working – and it still won’t in 2020

If austerity isn’t working, why is George Osborne setting budgets until 2020, way beyond the term of parliament, and without an overall majority. By what democratic right does he seek to do this. It is about time politicians started listening to the People. It is, after all, the people who are EMPLOYING them, not the other way around.

All around the country, people are protesting about cuts which are destroying the very structure of society. Thatcher may be now be dead, but this echoes of the ominous words “No such thing as society”. People are organising, people are actively opposing these policies, on the streets, on the internet, in print. The time is right, for the people to reclaim the agenda. How much of this is being reported by the BBC and in the mainstream media.? More and more people are standing up against this mad, reactionary, undemocratic, deceptive government.

On Wednesday 26th June, George Osborne will announce he wants to continue the failing austerity agenda, with the spending review setting budgets from 2015 – 2020. Nationally, Labour have already said they will follow these plans if they win in 2015 so change come only come from outside of parliament. Expect more cuts as Osborne desperately tries to defy economic history by trying to expand the economy through contractionary measures. Join us for a demonstration calling for an alternative economic strategy:

5pm
Wednesday 26th June

Outside Waterstones, High St/Bullring

We are currently living through the worst recovery from recession in over 100 years. The financial collapse, the recession that followed and the bailing out of the banks caused mass unemployment and the government deficit and debt to rise hugely, and giving the excuse for austerity, which is rampant neo-liberalism.

Graph comparing current recession with historical recessions, showing we are living through the worst recovery in 100 yearsSource: NIESR

Politicians will be cutting government spending, especially on benefits, whilst shifting as much as possible of what’s left into the private sector, giving ordinary taxpayers worse services at a higher cost. PFI is possibly the biggest example of the outcomes of this kind of thinking producing a far more expensive system of building public infrastructure than paying for it ourselves, closely followed by the Work Programme which actually reduces peoples chances of finding a job.

The results of austerity are pretty stark – mass unemployment and underemployment: in the West Midlands unemployment figures have consistently risen, and in the rest of the country they have started falling only because of a huge rise in part time working, self-employment and workfare. Anyone who is fortunate enough to have a steady job will have seen their wages falling in value as inflation outsrips raises. The result is that wages have fallen back to the levels they were in 2003. Anyone on benefits faces rises of just 1%, whilst inflation on essentials like food and fuel is the highest in Europe. For anyone except the richest people, CEOs (FTSE 100 CEO average payrise, 12%. FTSE 100 average fall in value, 5%. FTSE 100 average employee payrise, 1%) and millionaires, living standards are falling as the economy stagnates.

jcp-sign

Those unable to find work face an increasingly fierce regime at the job centre with sanctions being handed out for ridiculous reasons, including having found a job that started in two weeks and not doing any jobsearch in those two weeks, and being unable to be in two places at once. Targets at the job centre combine with language at the top telling people that sanctions are a useful way to help people into work, and should be used as much as possible, and of talking of claimants as shirkers, lazy scum, undeserving undesirables. Advisors at a local job centre were offered an easter egg as a prize for meeting sanctions targets. All the programmes to “help” unemployed people have failed because they do not create jobs or build real skills, too often just being CV writing courses over and over again.

Growth has stuttered, just 0.2% in 2012 with a triple dip recession avoided by moving in and out of growth each quarter. Without growth, if the richest are getting richer (and they are), then it stands to reason that everyone else must be getting poorer. Half a million people are now using foodbanks to stave off hunger, homelessness has risen by 23% in two years.

And the deficit? Well in 2012/13, Osborne managed to reduce it by just £300m, and only that because he delayed a load of payments from March into April. On finding that cutting government spending in a recession hasn’t produced a significant drop in the deficit, Osborne will decide the only possibly way to continue is to cut even more. Instead we should be talking about a change in strategy.

Every crisis is an opportunity. We are at a point in history where we need to make huge investments in infrastructure projects if we are to move past the linked problems of peak oil and climate change. We need to replace our housing stock with zero energy houses. We need to replace our energy supply with renewable, carbon free energy sources – of which we have some excellent ones available to us. We need to do all this, and doing this produces growth and creates jobs. Which is exactly what we need to do right now because of the recession. We are able to borrow at historically low rates of interest, just 0.5%, far lower than the private sector can borrow at.

The government also has lower debt than the private sector, leaving it best placed to borrow the money to build the infrastructure we need to take a huge step towards moving past our environmental and energy problems, and at the same time help our immediate economic problems.

The Tories say that you cannot borrow your way out of a debt crisis, but if you borrow and invest in profitable infrastructure then you can pay back your borrowing out of the future revenues. You also save money by stimulating the economy and the private sector. You can pay living wages to the public sector employees and put pressure on private sector wages to increase. All of this increases demand, most of which will be for private sector services and products, helping to produce more growth. This means more tax income and less spending on benefits which offsets some or all of the borrowing costs, with future income more than covering the rest.

In the case of housing this is doubly true because you would cut the cost of housing benefit hugely by increasing the supply of relatively cheap social housing, creating both a direct cut in the cost of rent and putting pressure on private rents to be cut. Council housing provides a small surplus to the taxpayer each year, imagine how much more this would be if we built millions of houses. But don’t expect Pickles to respond positively to Birmingham Labour’s call to be allowed to borrow more money to build the houses we need for a growing city.

The core of an alternative economic strategy is to make growth and jobs the short term goal, and produce that in a way that designed to reduce carbon emissions and energy use. We make reducing the deficit and debt the long term aims. It is the strategy that has worked since the great depression. It is the strategy that takes advantage of the crisis we face and uses it to help ordinary people, not impoverish them in order to make the rich richer. This is the reverse of the austerity strategy. This strategy will not come from the main parties. It can only come from outside of parliament.

Too Many People? Or Too Much Greed?

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Too Many People or Too Much Greed?

Peak oil is the Crisis we must face.

I hear UKIP supported saying, “There are too many people”.They’re taking all the jobs. No, the truth is there is plenty of room for all. there is plenty of food for all. Oxfam presented the evidence that we can feed the world four times over. But exponential population growth by any species cannot be sustained. In truth population growth, economic growth are the Earth’s resource are linked. There is no sense, little responsibility, but there is Greed The race to the bottom for the cheapest labour is driven by greed. Wars are fought for greed for oil. One day the oil will run out.

As a species, we are nothing special. We think we are so much cleverer than any other which ever evolved on Earth. We do not have super powers. Superman does not exist. Neither are we built in “God’s own image”.

Like any other species, we succumb to the cyclical powers of nature, whether it is an earthquake, volcano, tsunami or tornado, whether a freak plague of insects, or drought, flood or famine; all of these disasters were written about in ancient times.

Like any other species there are limiting factors on our population, but we can maintain a sustainable population by “living within our means” or maintaining a balanced population size (carrying capacity) which is in equilibrium, living within a world able to supply all our needs for survival.

Yet it is our own activities which increase the risk of extinction. We have knowledge, but we do not use it, share it or act on it. Why not? I’m talking about common sense. The danger is staring us in the face, while we choose to ignore it time and time again. The price of ignoring the evidence will be extinction of mankind. This can be avoided, but we must act, and we need to start now. It’s time we grew up and stopped pretending.

In an interview Professor Hawking spoke to BBC’s Radio 4 Today Programme and answered questions put to him by listeners.

He said: “It is possible that the human race could become extinct but it is not inevitable. I think it is almost certain that a disaster, such as nuclear war or global warming will befall the earth within a thousand years.”

He also said it was essential humans colonise space to allow them to spread across the universe.

Very simply, we need to consider:

  1. Population growth is unsustainable.
  2. That 95% of oil already has been discovered.
  3. It is perfectly feasible for use to energy needs without using fossil fuels or nuclear power.
  4. Why evidence presented by Scientists is not being acted upon.
  5. Why governments appear to be ignoring all of the above.

POPULATION

Warren S Thompson (1887-1973) on population change spoke of the transition from a world dominated by high mortality, autocracy and subsistence to a ‘new’ world of low mortality, democracy and an ever globalising economy. This period (DTM4) of slow but steady population growth he saw earthly paradise in which mortality, fertility were low. His prediction was that population growth would eventually lead to a slow decline in population (DTM5) due to a very low birth rate, a low death rate and a slow decrease of the total population.

There are already signs that we are rapidly moving towards a decline due to limiting factors on population. Current global problems such as water, soil and food depletion are signs that human population is growing beyond that sustainable on a planet with finite resources. To survive a species needs to be sustainable and to maintain our carrying capacity (sustainable population) such that the resources are maintained for subsequent and future generations.

“The most startling example of the exhaustion of stage 4 is Russia’s recent demographic performance. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia has lost 5.7 million people through higher death rates and lower birth rates. This is equivalent to the emptying of Scotland and the city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.”

Paul Chefurka in Population: The Elephant in the Room sees things quite differently than Thompson did, primarily because of oil usage.

“At the root of all the converging crises in today’s world is the issue of human overpopulation. Each of the global problems we face today is the result of too many people using too much of our planet’s finite, non-renewable resources and filling its waste repositories of land, water and air to overflowing. The true danger posed by our exploding population is not our absolute numbers but the inability of our environment to cope with so many of us doing what we do.”

OIL

There is no doubt that the discovery of oil and the introduction of its general use is closely linked to the rapid increase in world population and industrialisation. Over the last 2000 years there has been a steady increase in world population, but a very sudden and dramatic increase in population can be seen to coincide with the introduction of oil into general use in around 1900.

The correlation between oil production and human population is very clear

Oil allowed the rapid explosion of population because of industrialisation. Farms could be ploughed by machinery rather than being pulled by the horse, so food production became more efficient. Transport across the globe became a reality. Distribution of food and medicine and other resources became possible over wide geographical areas. It might seem like a dream, like a paradise. But all this is unsustainable. OIl production has peaked, and therefore so has population, and we are set for a decline. The real test of man’s intellect will be how we deal the crisis of Peak Oil.

Peak oil does not mean that the world is about it run out of oil. It refers to the point at which the supply of oil can no longer increase. There is lots of the stuff left; it’s just getting much more difficult to find and extract, which means it is getting very hard, and perhaps impossible, to increase the overall ”flow” of oil out of the ground.

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY

The good news is that it is perfectly possible to produce energy sufficient to maintain balanced population without oil and without other earth damaging fossil fuels or uranium.

HVDC Power Grids distributing power from the world’s deserts via high-voltage, direct-current cables can sustain the energy needs of the population as long as our Sun continues to shine. Add to this hydro-electric power, wind energy, geothermal energy, wave energy and tidal power.

Overshoot

In ecology, overshoot is said to have occurred when a population’s consumption exceeds the carrying capacity of its environment, as illustrated in this graphic.

The evidence for Climate Change shows the environmental damage caused by burning fossil fuels. To continue do so without any doubt will lead to disaster, a population overshoot just as yeast in a vat of wine will cease to thrive and eventually die, because of the toxic alcohol levels which the yeast itself produced, so chemicals resulting from our continued use of fossil fuels, or uranium use will take its toll on us, the planet and if we are not careful life itself. Climate Change and Peak Oil must be taken seriously. The Science is very clear. If no action is taken we look at a future without doubt with massive levels of human suffering. Starvation, disease, flooding and war can be avoided.

DENIAL OF SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE

The population explosion was predicted eighty years ago by Warren Thomson. The prediction has been shown to be broadly accurate. Forty years ago, Limits to Growth reported on a human population model World 3 warning that we had to curb growth or risk global meltdown.

It was highly controversial, and not what many wanted to hear. Perhaps it was fear that led to denial. Maybe they were hoping for a Superman.

As Paul Chefurka points out:

“The human cost of such an involuntary population rebalancing is, of course, horrific. Based on this model we would experience an average excess death rate of 100 million per year every year for the next 75 years to achieve our target population of one billion by 2082. The peak excess death rate would happen in about 20 years, and would be about 200 million that year. To put this in perspective, WWII caused an excess death rate of only 10 million per year for only six years. not hard to see why population control is the untouchable elephant in the room – the problem we’re in is simply too big for humane or even rational solutions. It’s also not hard to see why some people are beginning to grasp the inevitability of a human die-off.”

  • It was reported that Scientists didn’t like Limits because the authors, anxious to publicise their findings, put it out before it was peer-reviewed.
  • The political right rejected its warning about the dangers of growth.
  • The left rejected it for betraying the aspirations of workers.
  • The Catholic Church rejected its plea for birth control.
  • The economists, who claimed human technological inventions would surely solve it all.

But, ominously, as New Scientist reports on 10th January 2012

The common perception is that the work was discredited scientifically. It wasn’t.”

It wasn’t just confusion. “Misunderstanding was enhanced by a media campaign very similar to the one that has been recently directed against climate science.”

Most journalists and BBC presenters do not have a background in Science, most having alternative degrees such as history or linguistics. But it is not all about knowledge, it is about political will. Much is spoken about ignorance of Science. Much is spoken about neo-liberalism too. Margaret Thatcher must take some responsibility for the neoliberalism which has resulted in the excessive wealth of a few. But Margaret Thatcher understood Science. She held a degree in Chemistry and worked as a Research Chemist. So Thatcher should have known better.

It is not just the reporting of scientific evidence that journalists avoid. It seems that purpose of the media is not to inform at all. Articles are carefully chosen by editors. Censored newspapers print what suits the rich and powerful.

GOVERNMENTS’ LEGACIES

If globalisation means anything it should mean that we act as One World. Communication today is possible without jet travel. The time has come for our governments to work together. It is time for the truth to be heard. Governments serve the people. Their legacies will depend on how they act now. There must be an end to lies and manipulation of the media. It is time governments stopped treating the people as children and give us the facts we need to know.

Global poverty results from the plutonomy which now controls the earth. In Greece people are already abandoning their children. Can you imagine that? The human suffering which will result from population overshoot is unimaginable. We would expect starvation, poverty, and mass deaths. It is a nightmare, not the dream of paradise.

We can avert it. This world must act as One World.

Let’s spread the word.

References and Further Reading:

From Think Left:

Banks Don’t Lend Money .. Do They?

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Banks don’t lend money

Do They?

Previously published here from Mickanomics

Hat-tip – CJ Stone:

Professor Hyman Minsky once wrote “Banking is not money lending; to lend, a money lender must have money. The fundamental banking activity is accepting, that is, guaranteeing that some party is creditworthy. A bank, by accepting a debt instrument, agrees to make specified payments if the debtor will not or cannot”.

“Banking is not money lending”? Surely some mistake! Why would an economist as famous as Professor Minsky make such an outrageous sounding statement?… Well the answer is that its perfectly true. Crazy though it sounds, banks don’t lend money at all. To understand why this is the case we must understand some technicalities about money.

Most people imagine that money is simply a system of government-created
tokens (physical or electronic) that get passed form person to person as trade is carried out. Money of this kind does indeed exist, so called “central bank money” is of this type. However the vast majority of the money we spend day today is a second type, technically known as “broad money” or “cheque book money” which can best be described as “spendable bank IOUs”. The concept of a spendable IOU may sound rather strange, and in order to explain it, we must first consider some characteristics of an ordinary IOU, the kind you or I might use…

Say that Mick wanted to borrow £10 from Jim. Jim could give Mick a £10 note in return for a piece of paper with “I.O.U. £10, signed.. Mick” written on it. The IOU would then have some value to Jim as a legal record of the loan. At some later time Mick would repay the loan. At this point Jim should no longer keep the IOU because Mick would no longer owe Jim any money. The IOU has now done its job and may be disposed of. To summarise, the lifecycle of an ordinary IOU is as follows:

 

  • Creation (out of nothing. It did not exist previously)
  • It now has value as a legal record of the loan.
  • It expires (back out of existence) when the loan is repaid.

Note that even though the IOU has value during stage 2, it is not easily spendable. If Jim went into a grocery shop and said “I’d like to have £10 worth of food, here’s an IOU from Mick, he’ll pay you back later”, the shopkeeper would almost certainly refuse. This is because the shopkeeper has no idea if Mick is creditworthy, the shopkeeper would be worried he may never receive £10 from Mick. Now imagine for a moment that it could somehow be arranged to have a guarantee from a famous high street bank, that Mick would indeed pay £10 to the holder of the IOU. Then the shopkeepers fears would be allayed and he would have no reason not to accept Mick’s IOU as payment for food. To summarise, a bank guarantee could convert a non-spendable IOU into a spendable IOU.

 

So far this has all been hypothetical, but to see a non-spendable IOU get converted into a spendable one in the real world, look no further than the process of getting a “bank loan”. The term “bank loan” is in fact highly misleading. What is actually going on is not lending at all, it is in fact an IOU swapping arrangement. If Mick went to borrow £1000 from a bank, the first thing that would happen is that the bank would asses Mick’s creditworthiness. Assuming it was good enough, then the bank would ask Mick to sign a “loan agreement” which is essentially an IOU from Mick to the bank. What the bank would give Mick would generally not be “central bank money”, but instead its own IOUs (i.e. cheque book money). And just like ordinary IOUs, bank IOUs do not have to be obtained from anybody else. They are just created on the spot. No “lending” is going on. In order to “lend”, the bank would have had to have been in possession of the money beforehand, and they were not.

So there you have the layman’s explanation. But some people are still not convinced. Many people have heard a different explanation of the money creation process at university or from textbooks and so assume that this explanation is somehow wrong. But let me assure you that it is the textbook explanation that is wrong. I do realise that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. So here goes…

The first thing to say is that the explanation given here is indeed a simplification of the money creation process as it occurs in the real world. The full details of which are so complex and so frequently changing that they are not taught to undergraduate students as part of economics degrees. What students are often taught instead is a toy model of reality. A not-actually-true teaching aid. The idea of using a not-actually-true teaching aid is not unique to economics, in the field of chemistry a similar thing occurs with regard the behaviour of electrons around atomic nuclei. The real world behaviour is too complex for undergraduate students, so they are taught a not-actually-true story of “electron shells”. Its in virtually all the textbooks.

The standard not-actually-true method for teaching students about the workings of our monetary system is an explanation called the “money multiplier model” in which banks appear to lend out money that has been deposited with them. When some economists finish their degrees and subsequently go on to specialise in the monetary system and finally learn the full details of the process, they occasionally have some choice words to say about the undergraduate textbook model:

  • “The way monetary economics and banking is taught in many, maybe most, universities is very misleading”. Professor David Miles, Monetary Policy Committee, Bank of England.
  • “It amounts to misinstruction”. Professor Charles Goodhart CBE, FBA, ex Monetary Policy Committee, Bank of England.
  • “The textbook treatment of money in the transmission mechanism can be rejected”. Michael Kumhof, Deputy Division Chief, Modelling Unit, Research Department, International Monetary Fund.
  • “Textbooks assume that money is exogenous.” … “In the United Kingdom, money is endogenous” Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England.

Notice the extremely high calibre of the economists being quoted. These are all economists that specialise in the workings of our monetary system.

Is this issue controversial? Well yes and no (but mainly no)… let me explain. the issue is only controversial in as much as non-experts (that have just learned the textbook story) may say things that contradict the experts that have a detailed knowledge of the system in reality. But amongst the experts, it is not controversial at all.

I shall finish with a quote form Professor Victoria Chick, Emeritus Professor of Economics, University College London: “Banks do not lend money. It may feel like it when you get a ‘loan’, but that’s not what they are doing. They don’t have a pot of money which they are passing on. What they are doing is accepting your IOU… they simply write up your account”.

So there you have it, banks do not lend money. And if you want to argue against this on academic grounds, please only quote economists that specialise in the monetary system.