Is Time up for “The Big Lie”?

Is Time up for ‘The Big Lie’?

Jim Grundy
Big Lie
The ‘Big Lie’ theory is best summed up by the well-known phrase that if you’re going to tell a lie, tell a big one, repeat it often enough and you’ll be believed. It works and, ironically, it relies upon the basic honesty of most people to make it work.
Everybody lies. Of course we do but those lies are the small things that make life easier. You do like the meal that’s been cooked for you; yes, that new shirt, suit looks great, etc., etc. Lying is normally a harmless social lubricant, with no malice involved. And so most people think others operate on basically the same level.
But they don’t.

Over the past five years the Tories and their Lib Dem supporters have lied on an epic scale. Orwellian double-think and newspeak has nothing on them. They damn Labour for borrowing, whilst borrowing more than Labour has done, not only during the previous Labour administration but in history; boast of growth whilst overseeing the slowest economic recovery since the South Sea Bubble 300 years ago; and a rate of growth that still doesn’t match the one they inherited – and let no-one mention that the national debt Labour was bequeathed in 1997 (as a % of GDP) was larger than was passed on to the Tories in 2010.

The Tories know this perfectly well. But the credit crunch was a Tory wet dream, offering undreamed-of opportunities to implement a huge shift of wealth away from the public to a tiny ruling elite. It is no coincidence that the U.K. now has the largest number of billionaires per head of population than any other country. When the Tories ask where the money has gone – referencing ‘that’ note – the answer is clear.

From the privatisation of the Royal Mail for £1bn less than its market value – at a conservative estimate – to the handing out of NHS contracts to the private sector, the evidence of how this asset-stripping is playing out is there for all to see.

But what is in plain sight is not always what is most visible.

I give you, for your distraction, the ever-changing galaxy of scapegoats presented by our friends in the media and their Tory chums: foreigners; gay men and women; black people; asylum-seekers; refugees; gypsies; benefit scroungers; and, the current favourite – Muslims. There are many, many more, of course.

The crowding around the political centre ground left many working class people feeling abandoned, disenfranchised, bemused by what has happened and angry at the impact the undermining of their lives, homes and jobs has had upon them. UKIP, the ultra-Tories, have simply taken the next step, exploiting those fears to argue, for example, that raising the Minimum Wage would attract more lazy foreigners to the country, to take our jobs whilst living on benefits – let’s not dwell on that contradiction too long. The lie remains, only it’s even larger and even more dangerous.

Yes, only an idiot would argue that strategy hasn’t worked to an extent. A bigger idiot, though, would argue that everyone attracted by UKIP’s rhetoric is, therefore, racist, a hopeless, mindless bigot to be dismissed. Of course they’re not.

In their private lives when people go through the ups and downs of life they often grasp at small, almost insignificant issues and obsess about them. An argument about a partner not remembering to do the shopping, to put the bin out, to sort the gas bill, all these become mountainous problems because they feel themselves to still have an element of control over them – the ‘small stuff’. The underlying problems are too big, too difficult to face and are put to one side but forgetting to hang out the washing, now that sums up what’s wrong with your life…..

As in private, so it follows that the big public issues of the day can seem unfathomable, so far beyond their control that they don’t bear thinking about, let alone understanding, because there is no point. An earnest discussion of globalisation, the free movement of capital but not labour or the operation of City trading houses will leave many people completely cold. So, back to the ‘small stuff’: now, that bloke at no. 26 who’s never done a day’s work in his life, who claims benefits…., he’s the one. He is what is wrong with society. And those they read about in the press, now if we sort them….

And, returning to the theme, why would anyone tell such blatant lies about Romanians, Muslims, etc.? There must be some truth in it because they wouldn’t print such stuff if it wasn’t basically true, give or take the odd exaggeration…. Surely. Surely, people don’t tell such outrageous lies….

The last General Election saw an unpopular Labour Government, dealing with the biggest financial crisis in modern times, still suffering from the hangover of ‘New Labour’ – just how toxic that had become – and it hit rock bottom. But the Tories didn’t win. Despite everything, they had to be propped up by the Lib Dems (when ‘propping up’ was fine – it’s a crime now, it seems.). Was this the first sign of the weakening of the ‘Big Lie’? People were clearly fed up with Labour but not enough bought into the Tory message.

Cameron and Osborne have perfected their straight faces whilst telling the biggest lies possible but still not enough people have fallen for them. And as the election has approached, the lies have gotten larger and, abandoning all pretence of reporting news, their allies in the traditional media have joined in making a huge noise about how a man eats a bacon sarnie. There can never have been a worse, more negative, down-right vicious campaign in modern British political history.

But the louder they shout, the clearer it is becoming that not enough people are listening to them. Today’s headlines [6th May 2015] go beyond hysterical. The plebs, it seems, aren’t paying enough attention.

Younger people have tended to vote differently to the older sections in society but is that gap widening? Some of the polls suggest there is a growing and significant difference between the levels of support for UKIP by age-group. Society has changed and UKIP focuses upon older people, relying on a twisted version of nostalgia to spread its appeal, so that’s understandable. But what else is going on? At the same time the amount of time spent by people reading print news media is seemingly in terminal decline, likewise the time spent watching network TV news is suffering too. By contrast, the numbers accessing their information from the internet, and social media, has grown and grown. And internet polls are now beginning to highlight different outcomes to those carried out by telephone. (But that’s all Russell Brand’s fault, isn’t it?)

There is always the issue of causation against correlation but is the increasing use of the internet with the access it provides to a bewildering array of information (yes, not all good), information that is not controlled by peddlers of the ‘Big Lie’ changing how people think? If the messages given to people by the Tories can’t rely upon their massive reinforcement by the Murdochs and Mails of this world, is it the beginning of the end for the very tool that has been so useful to them up to now?

Well, probably not. Not yet. But, to paraphrase Winston Churchill – a man who knew the power of words if nothing else – whilst this isn’t the end; it isn’t even the beginning of the end; but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning for the growing challenge to the ‘Big Lie’.

And aren’t they terrified of that?

State finances are not like a household or a maxed out credit card

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 Prue Plumridge patiently explains to a Conservative MP the true nature of Osborneomics and their devastating impact on the UK’s economy and people.

 

Dear Mr Whittingdale

I would like to take up where we left off at Sunday’s hustings on the subject of the national debt/ deficit, since not being a quick witted politician, I was unable to reply in the way I would have liked.  Let’s start with the Tory pledge that they’d balance the books by 2015.  Clearly this has not happened and, not only is the government on course to break this promise with the deficit set to be £75 billion next year, but is also set to borrow £207 billion more than planned. George Osborne’s plans to make more cuts (whilst not saying, unsurprisingly, where these cuts will fall) will take Britain back to 1930s levels of public spending, and that’s without the planned £7 billion of unfunded tax cuts. The effect on our economy and our people don’t bear thinking about.

Now, unlike you and David Cameron, I have not studied economics.  However, I do know that people have been deceived by a lie which compares our State finances to a household budget or a maxed out credit card.  In our ignorance this is the analogy which people can most identify with, but it is simply untrue.  Furthermore Britain was neither bust nor bankrupt – this sadly was used by coalition ministers to justify their ideologically inspired cuts to public expenditure. What was a genuine private debt crisis caused by reckless banks and absolute greed became a supposed sovereign debt crisis in order to justify austerity and the sale of public assets to the private sector.

As the economist David Blanchflower commented about the oft repeated lie about maxed out credit cards ‘Cameron is an economic simpleton who shows no understanding of basic accounting’. Furthermore the idea that future generations will pay for so called Labour government profligacy is yet another of those lies which the coalition has used to deceive the people of this country.    George Osborne’s statement in 2010 that ‘we have taken our country back from the brink of bankruptcy’ and that spending cuts were vital to avoid ending up like Greece was another of those misleading statements. We have full monetary sovereignty i.e. control over our own currency (unlike Greece) and we are the sixth biggest economy in the world whilst Greece the 32nd[1].  When Chuka Umunna asked Lord Turnbull who was testifying to the Treasury Select Committee in October 2010 whether he thought that the UK had been on the brink of bankruptcy he replied quite simply ‘No I don’t.’[2]

As Johann Hari wrote in the Independent ‘If we are bust today, as George Osborne has claimed, then we have almost always been bust. We were bust when we pioneered the Industrial Revolution.  We were bust when we ruled a quarter of the world. We were bust when we beat the Nazis.  We were bust when we built the NHS.’[3]

You pointed out quite rightly that my own party is planning to reduce the deficit and balance the books, albeit more slowly.  I cannot pretend that I approve of such a move but as a member of a democratic party I am entitled to disagree with it. However, my support for Labour is given on the basis that it wants to create a fairer and more socially just society – something the Tories have been working to dismantle over the last five years. It has created myths and lies about the state of our economy in 2010 and pointed the finger at every one other than those who are the real authors of our economic collapse, in order to justify disabling the welfare state, selling off our public assets, not to mention privatising our NHS.

George Osborne in 2010 said ‘reducing the deficit is a necessary precondition for sustained economic growth’.  This is the biggest deception of all. Deficit reduction, book balancing and surpluses simply remove money from the economy and make the situation worse.  Patently you have never studied Keynes or the conditions which led to the Great Depression in the 1920s. The economists Ann Pettifor and Victoria Chick studied data from 1918 to 2009 and concluded that the evidence runs counter to conventional economic wisdom and such policies have not improved the public finances – instead they increase rather than reduce the level of public debt associated with prevailing economic conditions[4]. In terms of people they destroy lives.  Indeed Keynes wrote in 1937 that ‘The boom not the slump, is the right time for austerity at the Treasury’.  Austerity can never be a solution but then this has been an ideological choice by the Tories rather than a necessity. I should point out that on seven occasions in US history when the government balanced the budget it was followed by recession/depression.

Mr Whittingdale – it doesn’t have to be like this.  There are alternative economic models which, over decades, have been airbrushed out of the mainstream in favour of this destructive neoliberal dogma which has brought many people to their knees whilst enriching a few. We are paying now for the dominance of the ideas of Hayek and Friedman which posit that the individual can best determine his needs and that free markets will always find their equilibrium, not to mention trickle down wealth.    Keynes’ ideas obviously spring to mind along with John Kenneth Galbraith and his son James, Wynne Godley, Mary Mellor, Bill Mitchell and Warren Mosler.  The thing seems to be that we have lost sight of the idea that money should be a public resource and not for private gain. The debt based society of the past decades is crushing us, indeed enslaving us.

We should see our monetary system as a public utility which is employed to finance the production and exchange of goods and services, not an opportunity for greedy speculation. It is our monetary system and it should be used to achieve the full potential of society and improve the lives of our citizens.

To finish where I started whilst there are always limits in terms of, for example, environment and resources there can be no such thing as an economic limit due solely to our society being ‘out of money’.  Government deficits do not take away from savings; government revenues are not constrained i.e it does not need to tax or borrow in order to spend – indeed logically government must spend first before it can tax or borrow; our children will get to consume what they produce and it has nothing to do with the deficit; tax is a mechanism to balance budgets and distribute wealth more fairly; and finally as the issuer of its own currency governments cannot be forced to go bankrupt[5]. The push for privatisation of public sector services and decimation of our social security system, on the basis that we can’t afford it, has been ideological and simply a way to destroy the foundations of a fair society and generate more profits for the private sector, as you most certainly know.

The emphasis on the national debt, deficit reduction and book balancing, hides the real issues that should be of concern to all – the trillions of pounds of private debt and the worst trade balance in history. But I notice Mr Osborne says nothing of that – he is relying on debt based consumption and a housing bubble to keep the economy afloat.

Yours sincerely

 

[1] Summer of Unrest: The Debt Delusion Medhi Hasan

[2] Summer of Unrest: The Debt Delusion Medhi Hasan

[3] The Paradox of Thrift: Johann Hari

[4] The Economic Consequences of Mr Osborne: Ann Pettifor and Victoria Chick

[5] The Seven Deadly Innocent Frauds: Warren Mosler

Antidote to Osborne’s fairytale economics

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Panel of leading economists discuss and debate the true state of the economy and the lies underpinning the Government’s austerity programme.

The panel includes:
Owen Jones, Journalist
James Meadway, Senior Economist, New Economics Foundation
Ann Pettifor, Prime Economics
Micheal Burke, Economist
Chaired by:
Christine Blower, General Secretary, NUT

This economic briefing was recorded just a few days ahead of George Osborne’s Autumn Statement… but none of the panellists came close to anticipating the level of hubris, triumphalism and double-dealing that accompanied the Osborne Autumn Statement.  It was a truly breath-taking performance!

Find out the real effects and intent of austerity that George Osborne and the Government don’t want you to know…

 

The People’s Assembly Against Austerity – Economic Briefing – 27.11.14

Owen Jones attacks the BBC’s pro-establishment bias

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Owen Jones on the BBC’s pro-establishment bias – Newsnight

A Very Public Sociologist writes – ‘Why the BBC news ignored the People’s Assembly March’

Content analysis shows its current affairs coverage dresses to the right.  My own number crunching of Question Time found there was a bias toward rightwing guests.  In this instance, is the BBC’s reportage, or lack, underscoring a straightforward Tory bias?  Well, it does speak of pronounced lean to, but the reasons aren’t as simple as one might suppose.  We’re going to have to grub around in the political economy of BBC news production once more.

Read the whole piece for a review of the BBC’s cognitive bias, what the establishment considers newsworthy and its institutional long term interests.  However, Phil concludes on this positive note:

…..That’s what it comes back to, the web of institutions, interests, and habits of mind the BBC are a constitutive part of.  Getting a feature is not the be all and end all of protesting.  Anti-austerity campaigns have been carrying on regardless since the Tories’ first round of cuts.  There’s no reason to believe that’s going to change.  However, the only way the BBC will report the anti-austerity message is by making it, if you pardon the ugly word, unignorable.  And come the TUC-backed march against austerity in the Autumn, we have every chance of making that happen.