There are *Infinite* Government Funds For Anything we Need. So what’s stopping us?

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Austerity is a political choice, and with political will we can have a fair and just society for the many.

This is why the right wing parties, and the UK media owned by ultra-rich, reviles Jeremy Corbyn and Labour’s superb manifesto. They know it is the truth, that there are infinite funds, and that tax is not required for funds, but as a tool for redistribution and to control inflation. Money can never just ‘run out’.

We can invest and build anything we want, as long we have resources and people to do the work. We have plenty of both, so what are we waiting for? Let’s build a society which prioritises people before privilege.

Most voters accept that the Tories are the party of privilege, and when presented with a manifesto, often refer to it as a ‘wish’ list promised just to achieve power, and feel it is  unaffordable and therefore the Labour Party has unrealistic aspirations. What is true, is that there does need to be a government with the political choice to oppose austerity, and to invest in people’s lives. What is untrue, however, is that we are limited by affordability.

Few people would disagree that we need homes, health, education, a good standard of living, and to protect our planet in a Green New Deal. The Labour Party has the political will to deliver this, but needs to have an overall majority in parliament to oppose those who act in self interest and to challenge those whose politics are designed to benefit for a few ultra wealthy individuals and not the vast majority of ordinary people.

ACCEPTING THE TRUTH:

The first thing in achieving a fair and just society is to realise two shocking facts:

    Firstly, we have been sold the greatest and most effective political lie ever told. It was been repeated relentlessly for as long as most of us can remember and in reality for even longer.
    1. And secondly, the fact that the

UK Government’s supply of  money is **LIMITLESS!**

** NB ** INFINITE  as long as there is a sovereign currency, as we do in the UK. Countries like poor Greece, in the €uroZone do not.

Yes, we have an unlimited supply of funds to achieve our aim, but unbridled spending does depend on adequate resources and inflation control.

1) Resources: Trained personnel, natural resources and energy

There needs to be adequate planning of training and natural resources in order to invest. This is not limited by funds, but still limits what can be achieved. Boris Johnson’s ill fated claim that he would build 40 hospitals may have been affordable, but it would be pointless without sufficiently skilled medical personnel to staff them. In simplistic terms, there is no point in building a diamond mine without any diamonds. Or to promise every citizen a diamond when limited by availability of diamonds.

2) Inflation is caused by too much cash in the system, and allowing those with the cash to bid higher and higher for resources, hence prices rise.  The solution to avoidance of inflation this is either:

a) Austerity- put less cash into the system or

b) To tax more cash out of the system hence it’s called a “tax return”.

Austerity is a political choice. It makes a horrible mess of society. It destroys lives, decimates public services, and the estimated unnecessary deaths from the Tory/Lib austerity programme is 130,000 lives, and most likely is many more.

Austerity is not and never was necessary. It was never designed to ‘fix the economy in the national interest’. After WW2, so many homes were destroyed, yet even when there was a shortage of resources, the Labour government set about building the 750,000 homes needed.

The Tories’ concern is not about the economy, but a cynical diversion of cash in the system to the billionaires in their tax-free-islands who already have more wealth than they can ever use.

Tax

The alternative way of limiting inflation is to reduce the cash in the system by taxation, by retrieving some of it, but not by taxing the poor. So many of the rich and wealthy are avoiding paying any or little tax.

Taxes have three functions:

✅ control inflation

✅ redistribute wealth (progressive/ regressive)

✅ Influence public behaviour (i.e. reduce smoking, fines for speeding etc.)

❌ Taxes ARE NOT required to fund public expenditure. We can print infinite cash.

 

Dispelling the Myth

So we need to break free of this crazy “household budget” analogy; it’s a falsehood. Margaret Thatcher justified her economics by putting government expenditure on the same footing as household budgets. This idea is accessible because it’s something we all need to do if we are to survive. But the idea that governments depend on some kind of biscuit tin full of cash, hidden at the back of some gigantic larder is ludicrous. In the past there was a limiting factor when currency was tied to Gold Reserves. Since the link was broken, ( MMT), cash is infinite and created by fingers on keyboards instantly. So the idea that the government is spending the taxpayers’ money and needs them to pay for it is absurd, and framing language in this way is a deceptive politically device.

It is difficult to accept that truth because of that great effective lie which has kept the obscene wealth owned off-shore by the ultra rich untouchable for generations.

That cynical Tory lie is unravelling as they come unstuck by their own sudden alarming availability of funds for dubious reasons, while denying the affordability for projects which most people would find admirable.

The Tory lie is coming unstuck when they:

  • Bribe DUP £1bn
  • Can’t explain where cash is coming from for spending promises (because it will undermine the lie)
  • Can pay £600m to repatriate Thomas Cook customers but …
  • Won’t pay £450m to save Thomas Cook and save people’s jobs (saving £600m)

We should not think of money being “spent” or “wasted”.  All are  transactions, so money (much like energy in physics) cannot be destroyed, just transferred. It then becomes a simple matter of analysing the transfer:

* from rich to poor people

* or from poor to rich people?

Households have to earn cash and if they spend more than they earn they go bankrupt but governments (with sovereign currency) can never go bankrupt; that is an impossibility.

The unhelpfully named ‘National Debt’ is not a debt owed by Government or by the nation but it is cash lent by Central Bank, to society, to facilitate exchange of resources.

INSTANT MONEY

Ever since August 15th 1971, states have created money out of thin air by typing on keyboards at the Central Banks. Those keystrokes make the balance of accounts in private banks go up when a person or company receives a payment, and they make those balances go down when a person or company pays taxes to the state. Therefore, the state can’t run out of its own money and the idea of it saving its own currency becomes nonsensical. Companies and families do need to save because they are users, not issuers, of money, but the state doesn’t save in its own currency because it can always issue as much as it wants and it can never run out of it. In this way, money stops being a commodity and becomes a mere accounting entry (Wray 2012). Furthermore, the capacity of the state to spend stops being dependent on the collection of taxes or on the issuing of debt (Mosler 2010). However, taxes keep on being necessary, but not to finance the current spending of the state, but to accomplish a double function: they give value to money and they control aggregate demand (consumption capacity). Through the first function, they assure that state money will be accepted as a payment means , and through the second, they control inflation.

IMMIGRATION

In terms of resources, there is a link between economics and current politics  which concerns immigration. It is not an issue about whether immigration is good or bad. There has always been a movement of people since time began; in fact it is necessary in evolutionary terms.

But the issue is how people are being utilised. If wages are undercut and held back, if there is not an investment in training and in education in local populations, then the labour resources are unsustainable, and so is the standard of living.

The government has kept wages low. There is inadequate work for people to enable them to afford homes and food for their families. Short term employment – often of an hour  a week – falsifies employment levels, and people on short-term or zero-hours contracts have little or no employment rights and protection. In reality there is unemployment and underemployment which is intentional, artificial and political,  and so wages become more and more depressed.

In contrast, while there is insufficient well-paid work, skilled staff are in short supply because of a failure of the government to invest in education and training. For example, there has been a cut to bursaries for nursing staff to train, and to provide adequate childcare for workers.

There will be a shortage of staff beneficial to society such as trained nurses and doctors because of under-investment in training and education, and therefore without  further immigration those skills are unavailable.

It is no way anti-immigrant to argue that human resources and skills are underdeveloped and underused in the local population, people who are unable to afford tuition fees for training, and who cannot live and support themselves or a family without maintenance grants. However, it is understandable when people are living in poverty and are paid less than it costs for housing and food become resentful and that  they feel the cause is immigration, when in fact the cause is economics and utilisation of people. It is arguable that there should be greater  investment for training more local people who are otherwise unemployed or underemployed rather than draining skills and labour from other countries.

Objections are not anti-immigrant but anti-exploitation and it is questionable (if all things were equal) whether there would be mass immigration of people from their homelands and whether freedom of movement is a true liberty, or that it is simply driven by economic and sociological conflict factors.

Movement as a choice, rather than movement resulting from having no alternative, is a different issue and separating families as we have seen as result of recent anti immigration policies is appalling and must be rejected.

EUROZONE

** In the UK, we have the ability to turn our economy around to benefit the people, and not the billionaires, because we still have our own currency. Because of the Euro, the Greek government could absolutely go bankrupt, as per the household budget analogy as they had no sovereign currency, i.e.) they couldn’t print the cash to meet obligations to the EU.

It was a false comparison to scaremonger the UK electorate with Greece, and it is false scaremongering in the news that the expectation of the EU is for UK to join the Euro. Those states who signed up to the Eurozone are trapped within it.

Fiat socialism is a name for an open and prosperous society ruled by the principles of the modern monetary theory and functional finance. It is a society without unemployment or poverty, in which everybody has a decent job (either in the private sector, or in the public sector) which allows him or her to fulfil all basic needs and coordinate working and private life because of reasonable time schedules. A society in which public services, education and health access are of the highest quality, and in which the level of prices remains stable.

Further Reading

From Think Left:

Published Books:

  • NHS plc The Privatisation of Our Health Care: Allyson M Pollock
  • The Courageous State: Richard Murphy
  • Treasure Islands Tax Havens and the Men who stole the World:  Nicholas Shaxson
  • Tax Havens How Globalization Really Works:  Palan, Murphy and Chavgneux
  • School Wars The Battle for Britain’s Education : Melissa Benn
  • The Plot Against the NHS:  Colin Leys and Stewart Player
  • Bad Pharma: Ben Goldacre

References

 

@Dave Gillian Twitter https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1178436669789356033.html 

https://braveneweurope.com/carlos-garcia-fiat-socialism

Mad Friday reveals last year 900,000 ambulance calls answered without paramedics

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GMB investigation on ‘Mad Friday’ reveals 900,000 ambulance emergency calls were answered without paramedics last year.

Information from GMB has exposed the critical shortage of ambulance staff as a result of government policy has resulted in almost one million ambiance calls responded to without trained  paramedics. As a result of austerity, lack of investment in public services, stress to public sector employees, pay-caps, and moves to privatise the NHS, evidence shows service levels are unsafe and wholly inadequate.

Police forced to take patients to hospital due to shortages in more than 1,000 incidents of 999 ambulance calls

On the day dubbed ‘Mad Friday’, an investigation by GMB, the union for ambulance staff, reveals at least 900,000 emergency calls for ambulances were not attended by a paramedic in England last year.

And in more than 1,000 confirmed cases trusts were forced to ask the police to take injured patients to hospital due to ambulance shortages. The real figure is likely to be as high as 5,000.

‘Mad Friday’ – the last Friday before Christmas – is one of the busiest days of the year for amulance staff as many people celebrate finishing work for the festive period.

GMB submitted a freedom of information (FoI) request to all 10 ambulance trusts in England asking: ‘How many 999 calls to your trust were attended only by emergency care assistants, or other non-fully qualified paramedics rather than with a fully-qualified paramedic in the financial year 2016/17?’

The nine responding trusts disclosed that there were a total of 882,465 incidents last year.

However, the true figure is likely to be significantly higher as East of England Ambulance Services refused to respond, claiming it would take them too long to find the information.

South East Coast Ambulance Service had the highest number of non-paramedic responses with 190,813 incidents.

North East ambulance service’s response revealed 155,902 incidents, of which 650 were in response to the most life-threatening ‘Red One’ calls.

The trust also revealed 887 incidents where the police took patients to hospital due to a shortage of ambulance staff.

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, said:

“It will send shockwaves through the country that hundreds of thousands of patients, some of them involved in life-threatening incidents, are not being attended by a trained paramedic.

“Proper support for our overstretched ambulance services is literally a matter of life and death.

“GMB members are performing miracles every day but the system is failing because funding just hasn’t kept pace with demand.

“Paramedics and other ambulance staff regularly work 12-hour shifts or longer. They have no more to give.

“This must be a wake-up call for Jeremy Hunt.

“It is vital that our ambulance services are given the additional resources they desperately need.”

Kevin Brandstatter, GMB National Officer for Ambulance Staff, said:

“How many people will die this Christmas because the Chancellor refuses to properly fund our ambulance services?

“Is anyone in this Government prepared to apologise to the patients given inadequate care by over stretched and under-trained staff?

“Is anyone in this Government prepared to apologise to the families of those who die because of staff shortages? I bet not.”

[1] Results of GMB Freedom of Information Request to NHS Ambulance Trusts in England:

[2] The National Audit Office found in January 2017 that in the 2010 – 2015 Parliament funding for ambulance services rose by 16 per cent but demand rose by 30 per cent:“Increased funding for urgent and emergency activity has not matched rising demand, and future settlements are likely to be tougher. Between 2011-12 and 2015-16, income for ambulance trusts’ urgent and emergency care activity increased by 16% from £1.53 billion to £1.78 billion. Over this period, activity (ambulance calls and NHS 111 transfers) rose by 30%. Commissioners have warned that, given current financial challenges in the wider health service, future funding settlements are likely to be tighter (paragraph 1.12).”National Audit Office, NHS Ambulance Services, 26 January 2017, page 7: https://www.nao.org.uk/report/nhs-ambulance-services/

 

What happened before the Abortion Act 1967?

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For the twelve years before the Act, abortion was the leading cause of maternal mortality in England and Wales.

Fifty one years ago, M, a 14y old schoolgirl was told that she was 8 weeks pregnant.  The woman consultant at the hospital declared that M would make a wonderful little mother and sent her home to tell her parents that they were about to become grandparents.

But, M had no intention of continuing with a pregnancy at 14y old … and like women all over the world, throughout the generations, she set about finding an illegal termination.  It wasn’t difficult.  She sourced pills from the bloke down the road who knew someone who could get them.  I don’t think he even charged her for them because like most people with any common, he didn’t think that 14y olds should be having babies that they didn’t want or feel ready to look after.

That night, she went to her friend’s house…. another 14y old… and took the pills.  Neither of them had the faintest idea what the pills were or what to expect next.  The friend’s parents went to bed … and then the pains started.

M tried not to make too much noise, moaning as quietly as she could.  The friend made hot water bottles and hot milk.  Both were terrified.

Now at this point, I could say that everything went wrong.  That M haemorrhaged and was rushed to hospital too late to save her …. But the truth is that after a few frightening hours she miscarried.  The friend’s parents accepted that M had just vomited when they questioned her being in the bath at 3am … and eventually life returned to normal for M.  None of the grown-ups ever knew.

I always think of this story when I read about pro-lifers picketing abortion clinics or the far right in the US defunding charities.  No-one can be in favour of abortion but we should all be in favour of every child being a wanted child.

M was lucky.  But the point, is that like it or not, there will always be women prepared to stop a pregnancy, regardless of risk.  Making abortion legal was, and is, the only way to keep those women safe from physical harm.

So we should celebrate that 50 years on, 14y olds in England, Wales and Scotland don’t have to make the same choice between motherhood or a potentially fatal illegal abortion.  It’s about time that women in Northern Ireland had the same choice.

Hard facts about abortion in Britain before 1967 are few. Estimates of annual numbers varied from 14,600 (the figure given by the RCOG) to 100,000 (the Home Office estimate). In 1969, the first full year of the new law, 49,829 abortions were performed on residents of England and Wales, the total rising to 108,565 in 1972.

For the twelve years before the Act, abortion was the leading cause of maternal mortality in England and Wales. The first Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths in 1952–54 reported 153 deaths from abortion, which was “procured … by the woman herself in 58 instances.” The terminal event in 50% of illegal cases was sepsis but in 25% it was air embolus from “the injection under pressure of some fluid, nearly always soapy water, into the cervix or into the vagina.” The Report commented that most of the women were “mothers of families”. After 1968 maternal deaths from illegal abortion fell slowly but did not disappear until 1982.

RCOG opinion: The Abortion Act, 40 years on

 

Can we please drop the nonsense of ‘tax payer’s money’?

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Can we please drop the nonsense of ‘tax payer’s money’?  The phrase is just political advertising, intended to manipulate us in to accepting cuts and constraints which are not good for us or the economy.   (Christopher Bacon explains why it’s a nonsense in his article ‘The Myth of Tax Payer’s money’ which is copied below.)

However, like all successful advertising slogans, the phrase ‘tax-payer’s money’ invokes what psychologists call a schema…. a whole body of emotions, experiences and knowledge which mediate our response.

Hence, ‘Tax payer’s money’ is intended to create a direct link between government spending and the individual.  You are invited to visualise your hard-earned pennies being frittered away unwisely ……. which is hugely convenient for a politician intent on running down public services, so that they can be privatised.  Also implicit in the schema is the threat that if the government spends more, you’ll have to pay out, depleting even more of your income.

And like so much of neoliberal-speak, it is contaminated by deliberately confusing government spending with household spending.  The phrase ‘tax-payer’s money’ comes from the same stable as ‘maxing out the credit card’ or ‘mending the roof when the sun is shining’. It is bunkum.  Government is not like a household.

And of course, you know that really, when you actually think about it …. Government spending is nothing like our own.  But as Drew Weston wrote in ‘The Political Brain:  The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation’, …..‘the nature of political campaigns are where “rational minds collide with irrational thinking”

Drawing from the fields of psychology and cognitive neuroscience, Weston, a clinical psychologist and political strategist, demonstrated the extent to which candidates’ speeches and political ads, are emotionally laden with words and images designed to provoke strong feelings…. And by re-writing the actual speeches using alternative wording, he was able to illicit a very different set of responses.

Weston explains that these messages activate networks in the brain and become the avenues down which true or false political messages travel, connecting to the unconscious emotions of the voter in a nano-second and involuntarily triggering us to react emotionally and without ‘thinking’.

So let’s keep ‘thinking’ and not allow the Right to infect our minds with their manipulative false analogies….  and can we please drop the nonsense of ‘tax payer’s money’.

 

The Myth of tax payer money Christopher Bacon

We are told, time and time again, that the government should spend taxpayer money wisely, efficiently, and sustainably.  Often these pronouncements are followed by promises to use taxpayer money well by cutting government spending and making efficiency improvements.  There is an assumption behind these statements that is utterly inaccurate and dishonest, however.  Namely, that there is such a thing as “taxpayer money.”

Not only is there no such thing as taxpayer money, it is not the case – ipso facto – that the government spends taxpayer money.  To see how this is so, assume that taxpayer money exists and assume that the government spends it.  As we shall see, these assumptions actually lead to a paradox.

In this world, where the government spends taxpayer money, the following situation holds. The government invokes a tax on the population – say, an income tax.  This income tax takes money from the people who qualify and adds it to the Treasury account.  The Treasury, then, takes that money and spends it on whatever the government wants to buy: a new hospital, school, submarine, or whatever.

Where does this money come from, assuming God does not randomly drop it from the sky?  Well, it is “taxpayer” money.  So the money, presumably, belongs to the taxpayers – so it must come from them (i.e. the taxpayers must issue/print it).  Well, that is all well and good, but it does not represent this world.  Taxpayers, in the UK, do not print pound sterling. That would, of course, be a criminal offense.

In order to tax someone, there must be something there to tax.  Since taxpayers do not print their own money, there is nothing there to tax.  And in order for the government to spend, the government must first tax.  But since there is nothing there to tax, the government will never collect tax and so will never spend.

Clearly, this description is not one of our world.  In this world, the government does spend, and taxpayers do pay their taxes.  Something has to give – our initial assumptions must be wrong:  there is no such thing as taxpayer money and/or governments do not require taxes to spend.

If we jettison the second assumption, then it turns out that the government must spend before it collects taxes.  This is because if it does not spend, then there will be nothing to collect – remember, taxpayers do not print their own money and it does not magically fall from the sky.  Spending precedes taxation, by necessity.  Now that we can see the money in circulation is government money – money issued by the government – it follows that taxpayers do not own it; so the first assumption is jettisoned.  Therefore, the notion “taxpayer money” ceases to have any content.

Dear Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer

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A letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer from Prue Plumridge

I feel I must write to you in response to your speech at the Conservative Conference in which you referred to the medium-term challenge of dealing with the public finances so as not to burden future generations.

Aside from the fact that your government has been promising to deal with the public finances for the past seven years whilst regularly moving the goal posts for achieving it, failed Tory promises show astonishing ignorance about how the state finances work in practice.

Or, is it, perhaps, that you do know but prefer to keep the public in the dark with fake messages about household budgets, living within our financial means, paying down our debts and saving for a rainy day.

You (and George Osborne before you) have abused the trust of the public with your myths and lies about maxing out the credit card and going broke.  Neither of which can happen in a sovereign currency issuing state.  I’m sure you know that really.  In truth, this has suited the pernicious ideology of the Tory government which claimed that Labour overspent and austerity was unavoidable.  Neither was true.  But, as a result, seven years of cuts to public spending have led to rising poverty and inequality through the redrawing of welfare provision and the decimation of public services not to mention the on-going attacks on employment rights and the rise of insecure working and the gig economy.

And, all the time, while you tell us that there is no money for those services upon which we all depend from the NHS, to public infrastructure and services and local government we are witnessing the ongoing transfer of wealth into ever fewer hands and public money being poured into corporate pockets.

Admit it, Chancellor, this exercise has never been about necessity.  It has always been about ideology which can be best expressed in the words of the former head of John Lewis who said recently ‘the only way to provide good public services is to ensure a vibrant business economy’ …… which is not only neoliberal bunkum trading on the lie of discredited ‘trickle down’ but shows how this false narrative dominates the mainstream and infects public understanding.  To quote Richard Murphy from Tax Research on the NHS  (and whilst he doesn’t mention it, public services too)

there is no reason why we should not have health care in thirty years’ time, whatever that care might be…… All we have to do is decide we want it. Then we can pay for it. It will not be a matter of not affording it. It’s just a matter of setting priorities. “

Moving on to your claim that borrowing takes money from the pockets of future tax payers is plain wrong to put it bluntly.

As the economist Professor Bill Mitchell notes “Each generation chooses its own tax rates and that means that the mix of public and private sector involvement in the economy is a political choice”

In this case yours.  Government spending in the form of deficits (assuming of course a government that takes seriously its responsibility for the well-being of the nation) can work on behalf of citizens to create a healthy economy and a fairer distribution of wealth.  This not only helps today’s citizens but also creates investment in public education, public health and other infrastructure which benefits both current and future generations.  Or, of course, it can, as in the case of the Tories and already noted, represent wealth transfer to the already rich and public money leaching into private corporate pockets.  And just to be clear as I can hear you whispering but what about the printing presses, inflation and Zimbabwe I am not suggesting that deficits don’t matter – they do but not in the way you tell us they do.  The fact is that whilst governments are never revenue constrained spending will always be limited by available productive capacity and resources.  And that is what has to be managed.  It should never be about balanced budgets rather it should be about creating a balanced economy.

So, Chancellor, in conclusion, I will finish by saying that a time is coming when you will no longer be able to fool the public into believing your household budget version of the state finances which has claimed that we can’t afford public services, the NHS and the welfare safety net.  They will then understand that you made a choice to deny them the public infrastructure that ensures a healthy economy and the well-being of their families.  They will understand that you played with their lives and their survival.

It is to be hoped that in the near future you will indeed have plenty of time as a shadow minister in her majesty’s government to reflect on where the Tory party went wrong but then again you probably won’t.

Regards

Prue Plumridge

What does Inequality Look Like? 

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Bryan Gould, was a Labour  MP, and now lives in New Zealand.

What does inequality look like? In a society where the gap between rich and poor has widened significantly, what evidence of that gap would one expect to see?
A dramatic and painful answer to that question was provided to us this week with the shocking image of the burning London tower block. If we ever wanted evidence of how – even in a society that is relatively affluent – the poor can be disregarded while the rich pursue their own interests, this was it.
The “towering inferno” occurred in one of London’s most affluent boroughs. While around 120 poor families were crammed into Grenfell Tower, a 24-storey tower block, most of the borough comprises leafy suburbs and million-pound houses.
The borough’s elected local authority apparently saw it as its first priority to lift property values in the borough and, as a necessary step to that end, to corral the poor into limited locations, getting them off the streets, out of sight and out of mind. The residents of Grenfell Tower, it seems, sensed that this was the case – a perception borne out when the concerns they repeatedly expressed about the safety of the tower block were ignored.
We all saw the consequence of that neglect. It is already clear, even before the necessary inquiries into the tragedy have been set up, that the building was unsafe and had been from the moment that the first tenants had taken up residence.
There were, it seems, no fires sprinklers. The fire alarms were inadequate. The building design made no attempt to inhibit an outbreak of fire and on the contrary ensured that flames would spread rapidly. Worst of all, it seems that the cladding attached to the building when it was refurbished a little time ago was of “limited combustibility” – and we now know that any degree of combustibility was too much.
These manifestations – literally of “care-lessness” – reflect an order of priorities that should have no place in a civilised society. The local authority seems to have been more concerned with saving the ratepayers money, avoiding “unnecessary” regulation, and promoting the interest of the wealthy in seeing property values rise, rather than in providing a safe living environment for those who could not afford to buy their own homes.
We might have hoped that the democratic process would have ensured that the interests of the poor could not have been so easily swept under the carpet. But, sadly, the western world offers many instances of how democracy can be diverted to serve the interests of the already powerful. In Donald Trump’s America, for example, the President is celebrating his “achievement” in denying health care to 23 million Americans so that he can deliver billions of dollars in tax relief to big corporates.
In New Zealand, we like to think that we are spared such excesses. We know, because we read about it, that there are people who are homeless – living in cars and garages – and that there are many children growing up in poverty, suffering ill-health and inadequate education as a result.
We read about it, but it fails to make an impact on us, because our own lives are relatively comfortable. It is someone else’s problem – the government’s – and when we cast our votes to elect a government, we are more concerned with how much tax we pay than about the cold, damp rooms, the overcrowding, the wheezing lungs and the empty tummies.
Thankfully, these attitudes do not produce by way of consequence – or have not done so far – anything remotely as dramatic as a flaming tower block. We do not, after all, have many tower blocks available to test out degrees of combustibility – or culpability.
But the damage we do to ourselves – as a society and to its individual members – can be just as serious as the fire at Grenfell Tower. The flames that engulfed so many were a demonstration – cinematic in its power and intensity – of what inequality can mean. We have persuaded ourselves that we can live with the less dramatic but no less lasting penalties that we choose in effect to impose on our fellow citizens.
We may not force them to jump out of burning windows. We simply condemn them to a lifetime of disadvantage.
Bryan Gould 16 June 2017

#Grenfell – Negligence beyond Belief

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The shock and grief, the outpouring of emotions from anger, sadness and depair is what we are all experiencing. The full scale of this appalling tragedy at the #Grenfell fire leaves us numb. Those responsible are trying to shift opinion in order to avoid blame. Some criticise people by saying they are politicisng this tragic event. But the cause of this event was indeed political – austerity. For that reason it is inherently politicised. It was only this week when Theresa May admitted that austerity was unnecessary, avoidable, a political choice. In that, they are culpable and their actions inexcusable. They will not avoid blame; justice will be done.

There needs to be a full inquest regarding these deaths, not merely an enquiry, where in years to come evidence goes missing or locked away for 80 years

Ten shocking facts about #Grenfell

From leftfutures.org

Britain was shocked yesterday at the sight of Grenfell Tower, a block of flats that housed as many as 600 people in West London, engulfed by flames in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Since the fire, a number of shocking facts have become apparent, and Theresa May has called for a public enquiry:

  1. * Tower lies in the wealthiest locality in the country, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The average income is over £100,000 and the average property is sold for close to £2,000,000. David Cameron and Roman Abramovich both own a house there. The residents of Grenfell Tower are mainly working-class and ethnic minority, living in the cheapest accommodation in the borough, provided through the borough’s council, which pays KCTMO public money to manage the building. Senior managers at KCTMO earned £650,000 between them last year.
  2. *The residents formed an association, the Grenfell Action Group “to record our struggle and… remain as evidence for future generations of how our community has been mistreated by RBKC [the borough’s council] and its social housing management agents the Kensington & Chelsea TMO (KCTMO).” The Group raised serious concerns about fire risk following near catastrophes at other KCTMO properties but were ignored, causing them to write “[we] firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO, and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders.” 90% of residents signed a petition for an investigation into KCTMO’s handling of safety concerns.
  3. *The residents sought legal support to force KCTMO to improve safety in Grenfell Tower, but could not afford it due to cuts in legal aid. In 2009, under Labour, England and Wales had the highest per capita spending on legal aid in the world, before Conservative austerity measures cut it.
  4. *£10m was spent refurbishing Grenfell Tower from 2014-16, without addressing residents’ safety concerns or installing sprinklers. Instead, cladding was added to make the building look more attractive from the outside (presumably, to richer people who lived elsewhere in Kensington). Residents were told that the building was designed in such a way that a fire in one flat would not spread to others, and therefore advised to stay in their homes in case of a fire. This proved not to be the case,possibly because the cladding was flammable.
  5. *In 2009, a coroner’s report into another fatal tower block fire in London recommended that the government ensure sprinklers are installed during refurbishments. In 2014, given the lack of response from government, Labour MP and former firefighter Jim Fitzpatrick, pressed this in a parliamentary debate. Conservative minister Brandon Lewis said: “Sprinklers work. We know that. No one can deny it… They are an effective way of protecting lives and property.” But he rejected the idea that the government should enforce the fitting of sprinklers, citing the need to reduce the burden of regulation. Gavin Barwell, his successor as Housing Minister, and now Theresa May’s Chief of Staff, pledged a review of building regulations in this area, but never carried it out.
  6. *312 Conservative MPs voted against a Labour bill last year which required landlords to make homes “fit for human habitation”. 72 of those are themselves private landlords.
  7. *Ten fire stations and 500 firefighters’ jobs have been cut since 2009. Boris Johnson, then Mayor of London and now Foreign Secretary, told an assembly member objecting to these cuts to “get stuffed”. The new mayor, Labour’s Sadiq Khan, will review the cuts.
  8. *Thousands of ordinary people have donated money, supplies and time to help the victims of the fire, including many Islamic groups. According to witnesses and survivors, the Muslims who were awake for Ramadan prayers, having fasted all day, were crucial to raising the alarm and helping neighbours from the building.
  9. *As of Thursday, after decades of Conservative rule, Kensington is represented by a Labour MP (Emma Dent Coad) who has a strong record of campaigning against gentrification, for housing rights and writes a blogendorsed by the Grenfell Action Group.
  10. *Theresa May visited Grenfell today, but refused to speak to a single resident.
    To sum up: in the richest borough in the country, poor people died in their homes, despite repeatedly warning the authorities of safety concerns and possibly as a direct result of actions taken by KCTMO. The government knew what should be done to avert such tragedies and did nothing. Cuts stopped the tragedy from being prevented through legal action or mitigated by the fire service. Those responsible remain in power. But the people are fighting back.