Anticapitalists.org interview Owen Jones, author of Chavs

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Anticapitalists.org interview Owen Jones, author of Chavs

Published on Feb 16, 2013

Anticapitalists.org spoke to Owen Jones about austerity, class, ideology, and the socialist alternative in the 21st century.

Anticapitalist Initiative is a network of activists working towards a realignment of the radical left, to discuss and debate the big questions, and make politics left wing ideas more accessible to wide layers of people who are left wing but don’t realise it yet.

For more info check out www.anticapitalists.org

If… The Clegg Version (with apologies to Rudyard Kipling)

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by Jim Grundy

If you can keep your job when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men hate you,
But make allowance for their loathing too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
And being a liar, don’t deal in ‘whys’,
Or being hated, don’t give way to baiting,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make principles your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the shite you’ve spoken
Exposed by knaves as a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you sold your soul for, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one referendum for an alternative vote,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word of anything of note;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve yourself long after the voters are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hang on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep a straight face,
Or walk with Tories — having lost the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can stand you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving electorate
With sixty seconds’ worth of coverage in the Sun,
Yours is the Coalition (or the fag end of it),
And—which is more—you’ll be a Clegg, my son!

Related posts:

One little word so powerful it lost the Tories the last election (and probably the next)  (Tom Pride)

Nick Clegg Hails 2012 ‘Breakthrough Year’ As Party Skates On Thin Ice (Tom Pride)

Why do the Lib Dems stay in the coalition?

The contradictions of Liberal Democrat opportunism

Senior Tory accused of abusing millions of children

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(satire)

A senior member of the Conservative Party is facing accusations of abusing millions of children after it was revealed he was secretly cutting child benefits, maternity leave and tax credits for families on the lowest incomes under the cover of running the economy.

Police sources say the senior Tory – who we cannot identify for legal reasons – works in central London as a Chancellor of the Exchequer and looks like a bit of a twat.

The accusations come amidst speculation that a ring of sadistic degenerates may be occupying senior positions of government – including number 10.

George Osborne delivers autumn statement

senior Tories react to allegations of child abuse

The allegations are said to include evidence that another senior Tory – known only as “Uncle Duncan” –  regularly satisfies his most depraved and perverse proclivities by abusing the most vulnerable people such as the young, the sick and the disabled for his own pleasure.

The revelations come just weeks after another senior Tory, Lord McAlpine, decided not to sue North Wales Police for mistakenly naming him as a paedophile, but made the decision to sue the BBC and ITV instead – who didn’t.

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Foster parents will have to pay bedroom tax but not parents of pupils at Eton

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Sometimes I despair.

According to the DWP, foster parents who have a ‘spare’ bedroom they use for foster children will be hit by the government’s bedroom tax – but not parents of pupils at Eton.

The bedroom tax, which is being introduced in April 2013 as part of the government’s ‘reforms’ of housing benefits, will mean that a household that has an extra room for a current or potential foster child will be treated as ‘under-occupying’  (see here on page 8).

However, a household with children at a boarding school – such as Eton for example – will not have to pay any bedroom tax at all.

Why is seemingly nobody up in arms about this?

I always thought British people, regardless of our political differences, prided ourselves on our keen sense of fairness. Obviously I was wrong.

Just when exactly did we as a nation stop being outraged by such clear and open inequality and injustice?

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Here’s a petition against the bedroom tax:

Stop the Housing Benefit attack (commonly known as the ‘Bedroom Tax’)

And for more general information about the bedroom tax, see here:

antibedroomtax.webs.com

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Cameron and Osborne dwell on Bullshit Mountain, UK

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Bullshit Mountain, UK

by 

First posted on October 8, 2012 

The title of this post is an allusion to Jon Stewart’s recent debate with Bill O’Reilly (watch it here – it’s very entertaining). Stewart’s argument was that many Republicans dwell on “Bullshit Mountain”. Their view of the world is completely skewed and this prevents the nation’s problems from being solved, as complex issues are turned into simple (but false) choices. Many Tories also seem to live on Bullshit Mountain, and today was George Osborne’s turn to appeal to this demographic. This post will provide some commentary on Osborne’s speech and point out some of its logical flaws. I won’t deconstruct the whole speech, just pick out a few gems.

“The deficit is down by a quarter. There are one million more private sector jobs. The economy is healing.”

Three sentences, three misleading statements. When Osborne says the deficit is down by a quarter, he means the deficit in 2011/12 was a quarter less than in 2009/10. This is true, but what he doesn’t say is that the deficit for the first 5 months of 2012/13 is up on the first 5 months of 2011/12. So it is more accurate to say that the deficit is going up.

As for the million extra private sector jobs, that may be true, but Osborne doesn’t mention the half a millionless public sector jobs, or that a significant number of these jobs have been part time or temporary. Or that there are still less jobs in the economy than before the beginning of 2008. Or that the employment rate is still significantly below its pre-crisis level.

Osborne says the economy is healing, but we are in recession. To many people that doesn’t feel like healing.

“Our country would have been all-but ungovernable if we had not been straight with the public before asking them to cast their vote.”

If they had really been straight with the public, our country would have been ungovernable – by the Conservative Party, because they would not have won enough seats in the election.

“We’re not going to get through this as a country if we set one group against another, if we divide, denounce and demonise.”

Let’s not forget he had spent the whole morning doing just that when talking about further cuts to welfare!

“Each one of my Budgets has increased taxes overall on the very richest.

And we’ve achieved that while getting rid of a cripplingly uncompetitive 50p rate that raised no money and cost jobs.”

If the first statement is true, it kind of undermines the second. If the 50p rate is so uncompetitive, so wealth destroying, why aren’t the other supposed tax hikes on the rich equally as damaging?

“But just as we should never balance the budget on the backs of the poor; So it’s an economic delusion to think you can balance it only on the wallets of the rich.”

This plays to two of the key beliefs of the residents of Bullshit Mountain. The first is that Government is like a giant household and should try to balance its budget at all times. This is nonsense. You only have to look at the Government’s budget outcome over the last 40 years to see this. A deficit is the natural state for the UK economy. This is a neutral fact. It is neither good nor bad.

The second belief is that if you hike taxes on the poor, they will work harder, but if you hike them on the rich, they will work less!

“Where is the fairness, we ask, for the shift-worker, leaving home in the dark hours of the early morning, who looks up at the closed blinds of their next door neighbour sleeping off a life on benefits?”

Ignoring the fact that they might be sleeping off the night shift they’ve just arrived home from, this plays up to another Bullshit Mountain belief – that there are millions of people living the Life of Riley off the backs of the hardworking ‘strivers’ out there. If only there would get off their arses and find a job, we wouldn’t be in this mess. The poor are to blame! This viewpoint demonstrates an inability to reason correctly. Are we really to believe that sometime in 2008, millions of people independently from each other suddenly decided to quit their jobs and sign on the dole. Of course not! The problem is a macroeconomic one of not enough jobs. Repeatedly beating the unemployed with a stick will not help them find jobs if no jobs are available.

“Some of the biggest issues in British politics, so big people thought them too controversial to fix, we have been prepared to tackle. A state that had become too expensive to pay for. Public sector pensions we couldn’t afford. People earning low incomes but still paying income tax. Business fleeing Britain because our taxes were too high. ”

These are all pure Bullshit Mountain. A state that had become too expensive to pay for? What does he mean? We can afford any size state the people in our democracy decide we want. Public sector pensions are always affordable. Their size is a political decision. It has nothing to do with affordability. People earning low incomes are still paying income tax. Which businesses are fleeing because of excessive taxation? Certainly not ones whose loss we should mourn.

“They think that extra borrowing could pay for spending, or indeed tax cuts, in an attempt to put money in the pockets of consumers. But the extra borrowing would come at the cost of higher interest rates and everyone would know there would be higher taxes to pay for it, coming down the track. The higher interest rates would pick the very pockets of the working people you are trying to help and the fear of extra taxes would undermine their confidence.”

TINA is back! This is the only argument Osborne has left now. Even though the deficit is going up, because he is not doing it on purpose, the markets have confidence in him, but if he were to increase the deficit on purpose, they would turn against him. Not very convincing is it? Our low interest rates have nothing to do with austerity. They are low because we have our own currency so the markets know there is no default risk on UK bonds. Even if the markets did start to lose faith, they can’t hold us hostage. All the BoE need do is announce a target interest rate and commit to buying and bonds that go unsold at this rate. End of the problem of the markets.

“Now, as well as those critics saying we’re cutting too fast, there are those who say we’re cutting too slow.”

The only people saying that are those living at the very top of Bullshit Mountain. No serious person would say that.

“Our published plans already require us to find £16 billion of further savings. As I have said, the broadest shoulders will continue to bear the greatest burden.”

Apparently £10 billion is to be cut from the welfare budget. Not sure welfare recipient’s shoulders are all that broad.

“Nor am I going to introduce a new tax on people’s homes. It would be sold as a Mansion Tax. But once the tax inspector had his foot in the door you’d soon find most homes in the country labelled a “mansion”. Homes people have worked hard to afford and already paid taxes on. It’s not a Mansion Tax it’s a Homes Tax and this Party of home ownership will have no truck with it.”

What does Osborne think council tax is? All he need do is introduce a couple of extra council tax bands to ensure someone living in a £10m house doesn’t pay the same as someone in a £500k house.

“We have never argued that you stop what economists call the automatic stabilisers operating – the lower tax receipts and extra government payments that follow if, for example, the global economy turns down.”

What does he think welfare payments are? The are automatic stabilisers designed to prevent the economy from sinking into the abyss when it is hit by a shock like the financial crisis. He is already weakening them and is proposing to weaken them further. This will unsure the next crisis will be much worse.

Osborne finished his speech with some supply side bullshit. This is music to the ears of the residents of Bullshit Mountain. Business taxes are too high, regulations to tough, we want people to aspire blah blah blah. Osborne even thanked Adrian Beecroft for his piss-poor report! Our problems are absolutely not due to business taxes or regulation. These are ideological demands from people whose interests differ dramatically from the vast majority of the population.

So to end then, here are a few facts for the residents of Bullshit Mountain:

1. Government is nothing like a household. A balanced budget should never be a policy goal;

2. The reason the deficit is so high, is not because Government is recklessly spending too much, it’s because the private sector is not spending. So we can either tax the excess savings of those who are hoarding money, or we the Government can spend more. Those are the only two choices if we want a swift recovery.

3. The vast majority of benefit claimants are not out of work because they are lazy, or ‘scroungers’. They are out of work because there are not enough jobs. Repeat after me “We demand aggregate demand!”

4. Our business regulations and taxes are already some of the lowest in the developed world. Don’t believe me? Check out the stats for yourself on the OECD website. Cutting them further will not strengthen our economy. Quite the opposite. It will only speed up the transfer of resources from the bottom to the top, and hasten the arrival of the next crisis.

We should never pander to Bullshit Mountain, as Labour currently seem to be trying to do (Liam Byrne anyone?). If we could all agree on these four things, we can start to talk about actual solutions to the problems we face. I’ve outlined some approaches we could take here:

There’s No Money Left?

The Work Programme. Is this the best we can do?

Reframing the welfare debate -Winning the Argument

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Re-framing the welfare debate

Winning the Argument

By Darrell Goodliffe, previously published here

An awful lot of the welfare debate gets lost in the irrational discourse promoted by the media and politicians alike. The left is falsely portrayed as favouring large and lavish welfare spending while the right pretends it is all about cutting the welfare bill when in fact its economic policies drive it through the roof. As a left-winger, a socialist, I do not want to see a large welfare bill; a large welfare bill means many people are out of work, working for poverty pay, paying extortionate rent for sub-standard housing, etc, etc, all things that I am actually against and I want to see eradicated. I want to cut the welfare bill because I want to see jobs for the people that can take them, people being paid a decent, living wage and everybody having a basic entitlement to being housed in liveable conditions. The fact that the state is forced to step-in on so many occasions is not, for me, a comment on peoples inherent fecklessness or a ‘dependency culture’ but in actual fact a sad commentary on the failings of capitalism as a social system.

Welfare is going to be a big issue in the next Parliament due to George Osborne’s much-touted plan to cut £10 billion more from the welfare budget. No doubt this is as much politically as fiscally motivated because it is one area where the general thrust of government policy is actually quite popular. Polls have been published which showed opposition to welfare cuts for the disabled but the attitude towards those who are unemployed is actually dramatically hardening. The pronounced opposition to cuts for the disabled and the governments harrying of those on disability benefits in general is pretty unsurprising, especially as these surveys were conducted in close proximity to the successful Paralympic Games. What we are actually seeing is a growing division in the public hive-mind between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor – with something similar happening with their view of the rich incidentally – support for those viewed as ‘deserving’ remains strong but woe betide the undeserving.

So, how does the left respond? Firstly, it has to make the point that the welfare system does not exist to make a moral judgement as such. Its purpose is to ensure that no citizen falls below a certain, bare minimum standard of living.

It should perhaps be noted however, that the current construction of the welfare state does lend itself to implying a moral judgement is there to be made, rather than being geared towards that general goal, its stated purpose is actually to intervene only in narrow, rather tightly-defined circumstances, ie, those of dire need. Obviously, then whether you support it can become a matter of how dire you think somebodies need is and indeed if you think they are doing everything they possibly can to steer themselves out of that position. Secondly, it needs to be making the point I made at the very top, that a high welfare bill is not actually what we want at all, I would much rather have a sustainable economy that provides enough well-paid jobs to go round than a billions of pounds welfare bill. Thirdly, and finally, it needs to develop policies that address the real causes of high welfare spending and indeed ‘welfare dependency’ at root-cause.

A big cause of a dependency is out of control rents so we need to look at rent controls. The big plus is a policy of rent control, for example, does not just benefit those right at the bottom but those in work as well, those at the bottom, middle and even middle-top, so it will have broad appeal and by addressing a real social issue for many householders avoids the charge of only about helping the public, mistakenly, view as ‘scroungers’. It also makes the position of benefit claimants relative to those who aren’t claiming and thus will undercut the right’s infamous ‘divide and rule’ stratagem by giving people a focus on a problem they have in common.

Welfare is one of the issues that the left has to recognise it is losing the argument on and the only way to win it back again is to take the best of our values and frame them in a way which intersects with the public mood, not by adapting to it, but listening to it and seeking to change it. If we don’t do this then the outcome is simple, the right will win the day, and our most neediest citizens will suffer for our inability to both adapt and be principled (something that is possible in politics) all at the same time.

See also:

Making Rights for the Disabled a Reality : Think Left

https://think-left.org/2012/10/01/making-rights-a-reality-think-lefts-response-2/

Austerity, the Paradox of Thrift and a great graph.

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Definition of ‘Paradox Of Thrift ‘

The notion that individual savings rather than spending can worsen a recession, or that individual saving is collectively harmful. This idea is generally attributed to John Maynard Keynes, who said that consumer spending contributes to the collective good, because one person’s spending is another person’s income. Thus, when individuals save rather than spend, they cause collective harm because businesses don’t earn as much and have to lay off employees who are then unable to save. Therefore, an increase in individual savings rates is believed to create a flattening or diminishing of the total savings rate.

Clearly, the ‘paradox of thrift’ applies equally whether individuals are saving, paying off their debts or having their wages are undercut… in all these situations, spending contracts, demand falls, and businesses lay off workers and/or stop investing.  The effect is a positive feedback loop which deepens the recession.

George Osborne of course would argue the non-Keynesian viewpoint explained by

Investopedia explains ‘Paradox Of Thrift ‘

It is important to note that the paradox of thrift is a theory, not a fact, and is widely disputed by non-Keynesian economists. One of the main arguments against the paradox of thrift is that when people increase savings in a bank, the bank has more money to lend, which will generally decrease the interest rate and spur lending and spending.

So that’s worked well hasn’t it … Big businesses are estimated to be holding back £700+billion, whilst SMEs continue to struggle to obtain finance from the banks, for day to day cash flow, or expansion.  Furthermore, individuals are not saving.  Where possible, they are cutting back and trying to pay off their debts which again reduces demand.  The ‘crowding out’ of the private sector by the public sector has been well and truly shown to be mythology.

Osborne’s austerity measures dramatically exacerbate the effect by creating even more unemployment, further reducing demand, reducing tax revenue, increasing the benefit’s bill.. and cutting the benefits of people at the bottom of the ladder has a profound effect, not only personally but unlike tax cuts to the wealthy, the ‘poor’ spend all their money because they need to…

False economy have added to their impressive collection of posts and factsheets, two of  which are re-posted here.  The first is ‘5 things you need to know about welfare cuts and the economy’, and the second is a piece by Brendan Barber, the outgoing Trades Union Congress leader ‘The great wages grab: how the share of the economy going into wages has shrunk’.  Together, with the ‘great graph’, they show how George Osborne is helping the stoke up the recession with his policies.

 

5 things you need to know about welfare cuts and the economy – new factsheet

1. Welfare payments can stabilise the economy

In a recession people lose their jobs, businesses stop investing and the economy risks a downward spiral.But social security, benefits and tax credits kick in, propping up incomes and acting as ‘automatic stabilisers’. Government spending increases temporarily to ensure people still have money to spend on basic needs. This means businesses have customers,keeping the economy stable and preventing a terminal spiral of decline. 

2. Countries that increased welfare payments 
had the strongest economic recoveries

Families on low incomes are most likely to spend extra money quickly in their local shops and services, boosting demand and helping businesses. The International Institute for Labour Studies found: ‘Social and cash transfers [following the credit crunch] not only assisted those in need, but by putting cash in the hands of those most likely to spend it, helped to shore up household consumption. For this reason, countries that strengthened the policies towards income transfers managed to recover faster than others.’

3. Cutting welfare can damage growth

When deep cuts to welfare dramatically reduce the incomes of families who are already on low incomes, the opposite of fiscal stimulus happens: fiscal hindrance. Billions of pounds are removed from the active economy, so struggling businesses lose customers and lay off more staff. A vicious cycle is created.

4.  Welfare cuts are shrinking the UK economy

Economists say that in a recession, increased welfare spending 
has a strong multiplier effect of around 1.6. This means every £1 is worth £1.60 to national income once it has worked its way around the economy through shop tills and pay cheques. When welfare is cut, the multiplier works in reverse. So £20bn of welfare cuts could depress the economy by as much as £32bn – more than 2% of GDP.

5.  The Chancellor wants even deeper cuts

Despite the damage the cuts are causing, George Osborne wants
to cutanother £10bn from welfare. This will not just be a social disaster, it could cut a further 1% off the economy, meaning a longer depression, a larger deficit and more debt for Britain.

 

The great wages grab: how the share of the economy going into wages has shrunk  by Brendan Barber

As people struggle to pay rent and bills, new research by the TUC shows how the share of the economy going into wages has continued to shrink.

Despite the crash, the economy has almost doubled in size over the last thirty years.

But most people at work have been cheated out of their fair share of that growth.

Since the start of the 1980s, the share of the economy going to wages has shrunk. And those with the highest salaries have done better than those below them. The result is that average workers now get a smaller section of a smaller pie.

New research by the TUC reveals that the wage grab is now running at £7,000 a year.

The average full-time worker is now paid around £26,000 a year. But if wages had grown in line with economic growth, and if the gap between those right at the top and the rest had not increased, the average worker would now be getting £33,000 a year – a £7,000 pay rise.

This is not just unfair, but bad for the economy as it holds back growth.

Companies need customers with cash in their pockets. That is why the UK economy is scraping along the bottom. Employees are cutting back as their living standards are squeezed. And the public sector, far from making up the gap, is slashing spending too.

But this wages squeeze was a prime – or should we say sub-prime – cause of the crash. Excess profits and bonuses went into the finance system rather than new investment. Workers deprived of proper pay borrowed to make up the difference. And when bankers stopped considering risk before lending, we had started the inevitable slide to the global crash.

Of course the wage share of the economy will change from year to year. But for 30 years after the Second World War, it was relatively constant. In the 1970s, during the oil shock and high inflation, it was arguably too high, but then fell back. That is why we have taken 1980 as our starting point.

That is also when we started the three decades of deregulation, growing inequality and letting the market rip that led to the crash. It was when governments stopped caring about industrial policy or balancing the economy. And when the cult of the ‘private sector knows best’ began.

The austerity economics of this government fails to learn why the economy crashed. Ministers want to go back to business as usual, continuing to hold down the wages of ordinary employees.

Of course we cannot close that wage gap overnight, nor deny the difficult challenges economies face after the crash. But current policies fail to understand the causes of our problems or to set out how to build an economy that delivers decent jobs, wages and prospects for all our citizens.

That is why on 20 October we will bring hundreds of thousands of people to London to argue for an alternative to austerity.

From Touchstone

See also:

Foodbank: our biggest client group now is people in work on low incomes

A future that works: march against austerity 20 October 2012

The great Graph produced by the TUC shows how much the average worker has lost because wages have not kept up with growth over the last thirty years… the last thirty years being the years of TINA, Mrs Thatcher’s ‘There is no alternative’.

 

Hat tip Richard Murphy who adds:

The “missing income” went to profits and investment returns, of course.

The trouble was with profits concentrated in very few hands and wages widely spread people couldn’t afford to buy the products that were being made without borrowing back the wages they’d lost from the people who’s taken them from them with the result that debt skyrocketed and recession followed.

And the tax take fell too as profits are taxed less than wages.

In other words, government ‘thrift’ (austerity policies), banking ‘thrift’ (not lending) and corporate ‘thrift’ (squeezing wages to increase profitability) are the causes of the current economic failure.  

Therefore, increasing government spending, a nationalised bank(s), a debt jubilee, closing of tax haven loopholes and a redistribution of wealth are the way forward.  

In fact, everything that is the very opposite of what George Osborne is actually doing… so what is he playing at?  Austerity is justified by the dubious structural deficit but he is actively increasing it .. so it seems that there is a very different agenda from the one with which we are presented.

http://falseeconomy.org.uk/blog/5-things-you-need-to-know-about-welfare-cuts-and-the-economy

http://falseeconomy.org.uk/blog/the-great-wages-grab

http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2012/09/11/the-recession-its-causes-and-how-to-solve-it-in-one-blog/