Pensions: Thatcher’s vision is coming to fruition

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Society is indeed a contract. It is a partnership…. not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born”  Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France 1790

Pensions: Thatcher’s vision is coming to fruition by Prue Plumridge

At the end of last year the Institute for Public Policy Research published its ‘Future Proof report’. It painted a bleak picture for British citizens by 2030.  It suggested that, unless solutions were sought, an ageing population would place a huge and unsustainable burden on the public coffers.

In 2013, The Intergenerational Foundation published the results of a survey of 50 of the UK’s leading thinkers on economics which was entitled ‘Can the UK afford to pay Pensions?

The growing national debt and pension liabilities either to public sector pension schemes and the state pension were cited as reasons to seek solutions to the so called ‘demographic burden’ of an ageing baby boomer population.  The report suggested that these liabilities would be a considerable financial burden which future generations would have to pay off through their taxes.

In 2014, the Institute of Economic affairs also added its warning by claiming that future generations could be ‘short-changed’ and the public finances put in jeopardy unless the UK takes serious measures to reform the state pension system.  Clearly there is no shortage of organisations and politicians ready to pitch in to reinforce this message.  To that end, Sir John Cridland, former CBI Director General, is due to publish an interim report early this year aimed at ‘ensuring the state pension remains affordable’.

In response to these fears, changes to the pension retirement age are already in progress and, whilst it is currently set at 66, it has been suggested that the Department of Work and Pensions may have plans to increase it further to the age of 70.  Furthermore, the Chancellor Philip Hammond has hinted that after 2020 state pensions may no longer be ring-fenced from spending cuts.

Added to these messages of unaffordability there is also something far more insidious going on.  In Australia, a crossbench senator recently said that ‘taking the pension shouldn’t be something you aspire to, it should be something you try to avoid because it signifies you’re in a low-income group’.  He suggested that payments be viewed as welfare not an entitlement.  Right wing ideologies which promote the primacy of the individual over that of the well-being of a wider community have led to an emphasis on individual responsibility which has, in turn, led to the shaming of those who find themselves on the wrong end of the economic stick.  The inference is that if you’re poor, unemployed or sick then you only have yourself to blame.

The political discourse is making it clear now that pensioners are not only about to be added to this list but also perhaps even condemned for not having saved sufficiently to pay for a decent retirement.  Even the prospect of retiring is no longer sacrosanct.  The Tory peer, Baroness Altmann, tweeted last year that “private pension/health will drive retirement age” thus suggesting that unless you’ve got a big fat private pension or health insurance you can forget retiring on a state pension because it simply will not pay enough to cover your costs.  Clearly retirement is intended to become the privilege of the rich and well heeled.

Citizens face the prospect not only of a two-tier health and social care service but also a two-tier pension entitlement – one for those who can afford to save for one and one for those who can’t which may condemn people to working beyond retirement just to survive.

As Peter Fleming recently wrote in an article in the Guardian:

“We can trace the untimely demise of retirement to a number of assumptions about how society ought to be organised.  At no other time since its inception has the welfare state been so hated by the governing elite.  Social care.  Unemployment assistance.  Health.  Local councils and libraries.  Municipal parks.  Anything relating to what used to be called “the public good” is attacked at the roots.  Austerity redefines these things as fiscal liabilities or deficits rather than shared investments in common decency.  It was only a matter of time before pensions too were put on the chopping block”.

Of course, it might also be said that things are not looking favourable either for those who are paying into private pensions.  Not only have many defined benefit pension schemes been closed and replaced with pensions linked to the uncertainties of the stock and bond market but also in a new development the government has recently announced a consultation paper which could take thousands of pounds of income away from 11 million retirees.  This means basing annual increases on the consumer price index rather than the retail price index.  The paper also suggests that where a company is facing significant financial pressures it could suspend increases altogether.  In the heady days of market superiority private pensions might have been all the rage but in these cash strapped times and market uncertainty the gloss may be rubbing off.

Whilst clearly the mainstream and ideologically inspired experts view this demographic transition as a ticking time bomb of the financial kind, I want to investigate in this article how this view has arisen and show that, because we misunderstand how our money system actually works, the argument is far from an affordability issue.

Since the post war settlement which led to the creation of social welfare provision including a state pension and free healthcare and education citizens have been bound together by a social contract based on mutual support across the generations.  That social contract is now under threat.  Young people quite rightly compare their impoverished lives with those of their post war parents and grandparents.  Lack of adequate, affordable housing, debt ridden higher education, poorer employment opportunities, low pay and lack of job security not to mention the prospect of working longer and a poverty stricken old age are all a cause for anxiety among young people who fear for their future prosperity.

Quite predictably it stirs up resentment as they perceive the older generation having very nice, comfortable lives thank you with their own homes and decent pensions!  These are advantages that the young can scarcely dream of unless they are lucky enough to have a helping financial hand from parents or grandparents. The inference is that the social contract is no longer sustainable because in the future there will not be enough young people generating tax receipts and income to fund all those things which we have come to rely on to make society decent and civilised.

At the Conservative Conference last October the current Chancellor, Philip Hammond, warned of the dangers of piling up debt for our children and grandchildren promising he would restore fiscal discipline and get Britain back to living within its means.  Georgia Gould, a Labour Councillor in North London, has even suggested that we may have to reconsider the principle of universal pension benefits in the light of the supposed financial ‘black hole’ they represent.

What should be the right ‘balance’ of public spending between the generations to ensure a fair distribution of wealth and resources is the mainstream question and is there even a future for state paid pensions?

The message that our pensions along with our social security system is too costly and unsustainable is constantly drummed into the public consciousness.  Austerity, cutting public spending and privatisation have been presented by all the main parties (until recently) as necessary to get our public finances ‘under control’.  And yet, despite the growing evidence that cutting government expenditure on public and social infrastructure has had catastrophic consequences for the nation’s overall economic well-being – fiscal discipline and paying down debt is the re-occurring mantra of mainstream economists and politicians (even if the timescale for such plans has slipped somewhat in the face of an uncertain economy).

We need urgently to challenge these claims.

It might first be worthwhile spending some time on explaining from where this narrative arose.  The Keynsian inspired post war consensus started to break down in the 1970s with the two oil shocks and resultant rising inflation and unemployment.  This also coincided with the infiltration of neoliberal/monetarist ideas into the political mindset which was to have increasingly destructive consequences on economic policy for the next 40 years.

This decade saw the death knell for post war Keynsian policies and initiated a shift away from full employment.  Labour eventually paid a high price for its management of the economic crisis and lost the election to the Tories in 1979.  Margaret Thatcher brought to the table an economic vision inspired by Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman and her policies reflected her belief in the superiority of the market, less government involvement and the importance of the individual.  The idea implicit in this dogma was that the welfare state deprived people of the opportunity to make their own arrangements for pensions, health and housing.

As a result, the merits of home ownership were promoted and our stock of social housing sold off, along with the opening up of the market for private pensions in an attempt to weaken the state’s own pension provision, both of which continue today.  Treasury documents released last year revealed that Thatcher also supported a plan to dismantle the welfare state and introduce private health insurance to end the NHS.

By the time Labour finally returned to power, market driven ideology was firmly entrenched in the political narrative.  Under Tony Blair’s leadership the party, with its ‘third way’ credentials, rejected its socialist roots and fostered a laissez-faire capitalism of globalised markets and increasing corporate power.

Philip Bobbitt in his book ‘The Shield of Achilles’ published in 2002 suggested that power of the nation state would, over time, lose its authority to the ‘market state’.  The ‘nation state’ he said ‘derives its power through its promise to improve its citizen’s material wellbeing, while the market state is legitimised through its promise to maximise its citizens’ opportunities.’ To put it simply the centralised state has indeed been replaced by a market state orthodoxy which is fragmented and outsourced. In short, public money is being poured into the coffers of global companies to run public services for profit.  It is a place where, it would seem, the term ‘public purpose’ has its narrowest meaning.

Following the Global Financial Crash when Labour with some success flirted for a short period with Keynes, the Tories returned to power in 2010 to reinforce the corporate dominated, revolving door politics of the past decades.  And, on the basis of an incorrect accusation of Labour’s overspending, began their attack on public services, the NHS and social security peddling the cruel mantra of ‘we must live within our means’ in justification.

However, the increased poverty, inequality and insecurity can be attributed not to previous governments overspending or living beyond their financial means but rather a pernicious ideology which has put increasing the wealth of the few above the well-being of society and raised the status of the corporations to gods.

Politicians aided by a self-interested press, corporations and the wealthy have convinced the public that the state finances are like their own household budgets and that the national debt and deficit are dirty words.  We have to cut expenditure to get our public finances in order to prevent burdening future generations with debt and higher taxes is an oft repeated message in the media.

So, is it true that by borrowing now we are burdening future generations?  The short answer is NO and is indeed illogical.  We should be challenging such a distortion and indeed presenting the real facts about how our money system works in practice.

The economist, Professor Bill Mitchell rightly points out that past and current policy decisions do affect young people today and will also affect future, yet to be born, generations.  However, as we have seen this has been presented by politicians and think tanks in terms of financial affordability – whether there is enough money in the public pot to continue paying for social security, the NHS, public services and education both now and in the future.

Deficits and public debt have become society’s bogeyman which has proved a very useful myth to justify continued public sector cuts and privatisation thus serving the pursuit of a political ideology rather than any sort of economic reality.

We are regaled endlessly with the message that fiscal discipline is vital if we are to maintain a healthy ‘bank’ balance, save for a rainy day or avoid bankruptcy.  Of course, that would be true if the State’s finances ran like our own household budgets where our expenditure is limited by our income.  However, this may come as a shock to some but in a post gold standard world government spending is not constrained by the taxes we pay.

For an explanation, we must look at how a sovereign, currency issuing government like ours actually operates.  As Professor Bill Mitchell points out:

“The fact is that the current government has as much ‘money’ now as it had yesterday and the same amount, it will have tomorrow.  That is, it has whatever it wants to spend.  It always has that.  It has no more or less capacity to spend today because there were surpluses in the past than it would have if there have been deficits in the past.“

“Borrowing” doesn’t take any money at all from the pockets of future taxpayers and baby boomers (like myself) have never been asked to pay back a single penny of the public ‘debt’ accumulated by their parents’ generation.  Indeed, those fiscal deficits created public assets and infrastructure from which we have all benefited. Those terms debt and borrowing are loaded words which fit very nicely with our understanding of how our personal finances operate in practice in a Wilkins Micawber sort of way.  However, in terms of a sovereign state issuing its own currency it bears no relationship to our own household budgets.  The funds that pay for bonds or what is called ‘borrowing’ began life in government spending.  So, when economic experts and politicians refer to debt clocks claiming that we are sinking under its weight and we cannot afford to burden future generations we need to take a step back and look at it rationally.

If the government is the currency issuer then as Professor Mitchell points out, it is in fact, only ‘borrowing’ its own spending back.  So how on earth can we be said to be ‘borrowing’ from the future?

As Paul Segal, a senior lecturer in economics noted, the debt is ‘the money the government owes us, not money that we owe to anyone else. […..] What is called the ‘national debt’ is our own savings, looked at the from other side of the balance sheet”.  And how does it get there?  We put our savings into banks and pension funds which are then invested by those same banks and pension funds when they buy interest bearing government bonds, which include premium bonds by the way,from which investors and retirees then enjoy a return as income which is either saved or spent into the economy. In short, if you’re worried about the national debt then you should do the decent thing and stop enjoying the proceeds of your investment savings.

Furthermore, and fundamentally, as Bill Mitchell highlights ‘Every generation chooses its own tax rates. That is, the mix of public and private sector involvement in the economy is a political choice’  The key word here is choice.  Governments make policy choices related to the particular politico/economic ideology they espouse and for the last forty years and more that choice across the political spectrum has been neoliberal and market driven.

The result has been more about redistribution of wealth upwards than ‘trickle down’ and this has been at the expense of ordinary working people.  As the economist, Ellis Winningham recently noted: ‘The rich have been robbing us’.

Oxfam reported in January that runaway inequality has created a world where 62 people own as much as the poorest half of the world’s population.

The idea that government policy should serve public purpose aims as it did during the post war years for the economic well-being of a nation has largely been abandoned in favourof the rise of a deregulated corporate driven state whose hallmark has been excessive greed.

When those on opposition benches take the government of the day to task for rising debt and increasing deficits as if these were signs of poor economic management, the public are quite understandably horrified at government’s apparent wastefulness – how that suits the orthodox agenda!  The debt and deficit are, however, largely misunderstood by the public, and politicians either take advantage of that confusion to be better able to justify ideological austerity, cuts and privatisation or simply don’t understand that their own knowledge is flawed.

In short, deficits (i.e. the difference between what is received in taxation and actual government spending) are neither good nor bad in themselves – they are more of an economic indicator of whether a government is doing its job effectively or not.  Thus, the success or failure of an economy will depend on whether there is an appropriate level of government spending to ensure full and productive employment.  Historically, fiscal deficits have in fact been an enduring feature of post war economies and are, in the words of the economist Dr Steven Hail, ‘normal and necessary’.

Indeed in 1982 Gardner Ackley wrote:

“My own position on deficits has always been, and remains, that deficits, per se, are neither good nor bad.  There are times when they are not only appropriate but even highly desirable, and there are times when they are inappropriate and dangerous.  During a recession or a period of “stagflation”, deficits are nearly unavoidable, and are likely to be constructive rather than harmful.”

…It is not the government’s role to run deficits or surpluses. We want governments to make policy choices that will maximise the potential of the people to enjoy their lives and contribute the best they can, given their own circumstances to the well-being of society and the planet.

We might call this goal one of public purpose.  An essential element of that goal, given current cultural mores in most nations, will be to ensure that everyone who wants to work has a job and for those that are unable to work, for whatever reason, have adequate income support so they are not alienated and socially-excluded.

When Labour came to power after the second world war the aim of Clement Atlee’s government was to create a more stable, fair and less exploitative society than had been the case before the war.  Fiscal deficits were an enabling factor in achieving this.  Our parents and grandparents didn’t whisper in corners about government wasting money or talk about how governments should be fiscally sound they understood its role in making their lives better.  We have all benefited from that wisdom and foresight even if we have increasingly forgotten that, over the last few decades, as market and monetarist orthodoxy has replaced a public purpose vision which benefited citizens through access to publicly paid for health and education, decent housing, public services, social security (including pensions), redistribution of wealth and a focus on full employment.  We neither went bankrupt then creating a fairer society and nor can we do so today no matter what those that claim to know try to tell us.

The idea that we can no longer afford such a vision because we can’t afford it is one of the biggest inventions of our time and one that will continue to impoverish society if we let it.  So, in the same way as our parents and grandparents understood the importance of government’s role in investing in better lives for themselves and for their children we must embrace that same understanding and reject the paltry arguments of orthodox economists which has led to increasing poverty and inequality through a casualised labour market, wage suppression and attacks on trade unions all to support global trade, an emphasis on a largely unproductive finance sector and the politics of austerity.  There is an alternative to this miserable economic narrative which wants us to believe that governments are financially constrained and all it requires, is for us to challenge those who tell us there isn’t one.

Fundamentally a healthy economy is dependent on a healthy and educated population which is not driven by fear of want.  The social security system including state pensions, the NHS, public services and transport networks are all necessary to the good working of society and a nation cannot function properly without the vital infrastructure which underpins a strong economy.

So, if a sovereign state like ours which issues its own currency, is not constrained by taxation, cannot run out of money, go bankrupt or burden future generations, are there any real constraints to government spending?  There are certainly caveats which relate to resource availability whether that’s raw materials, goods, services or human labour.  Money is not finite but resources are whether they are human or otherwise.  To quote again Gardner Ackley:

“That goal is constrained by the availability of real resources that the nation commands – labour, capital, land, etc – but not by the financial capacity of the currency-issuing government.”

Whilst this generation cannot burden future generations with higher taxes or debt burden we have to recognise that there are limitations related to consumption of finite resources and that the resulting damage to the environment will diminish the prospects for our children’s children and beyond.  This is perhaps the most pressing problem of our times which we must reflect on urgently.  Therefore, the onus on this generation and its elected governments is to do two things: firstly to commit to investing in our young people over the long term to ensure that they can be employed in productive well paid jobs to serve the needs of future generations including the retired; and secondly but more importantly we have a responsibility to ensure that we actually have an environmentally sound planet to bequeath to our grandchildren and their children.

We should be clear that the current government has made an ideological choice instead to impoverish future generations by cutting spending and all for ideological reasons that have nothing to do with the well-being of society today or in the future.

References

http://www.ippr.org/publications/future-proof- britain-in- the-2020s

http://www.if.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Can- the-UK- Afford-to- Pay-

Pensions.pdf

https://iea.org.uk/publications/research/the-government- debt-iceberg

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/john-cridland- cbe-launches- consultation-on-

the-state- pension-age

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b086t0mb

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/24/young-bear- burden-of-

pensioner-prosperity

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01- 02/david-leyonhjelm- calls-to- restrict-pension-

assets-test/8157924

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/14/wealthy-retire- austerity-

pensioners-work

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/03/philip-hammond- budget-surplus-

conservative-conference- live/

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2017/02/goodbye-liberal- era

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2009/may/19/philip-bobbitt- kissinger-cuba

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/jun/17/fiscal-deficit- threat

http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=28597

https://alittleecon.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/government-debt- is-not- a-burden- on-

future-generations/

http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=3891

http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=23673

Cameron’s ‘Predator State’ vs Junior Doctors

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RK on social media wrote (with a little editing):

An item on the news, said that teacher assistants were increasingly being used to teach full classes, some up to 30+ hours. PCSO staff are taking over much more of the standard police work and someone I know has just left a job taking bloods on wards, after little training, left alone to do the job on her own… and paid the same wage as a hospital porter.

I believe that by stealth, fully trained, higher waged professionals and semi professionals are being weeded out of many working environments.

Perhaps (just as nurses are taking over some doctor tasks) we will eventually only find the fully qualified in executive positions and barely trained, poorly paid staff will be undertaking most of the work.

Is this part of Hunt’s plans for the NHS, with doctors supervising a collection of underpaid individuals to deliver our health service?

We are fast heading to a worker bee situation, where cost cutting determines a very basic Health Care, Education and security for the masses except for those that can afford to pay. The rich will have the very best of care, education and security… further dividing an already horrendously divided nation.

This constant undermining of skills has been happening in industry for decades, where apprenticeships have ended and Mickey Mouse schemes qualify someone in a trade, after a six week course in a tech college.

It’s the bottom line that always matters most under capitalism. Skill, pride in workmanship, ethical standards of delivery, knowledge of the tasks, are all obstacles in the way of maximising profit. Perhaps that’s why we have so little of our industrial base left.

The argument is always: ” If we can’t be competitive, then we will take our manufacturing abroad to the third world”.

They can’t do that with health, welfare and education, so it has to be de-skilled to make it competitive. It’s also an attack on organised Labour, good pension schemes and secure employment. We all have to live in fear of the sack, or a wage freeze or as Public sector workers have long known, the gradual drip of outside tendering, ripping up of service agreements and eventual wage cuts and overtime payments.

While the working population is under increasing attack, there is a mirror image… one of unbridled growth in profits, bonuses and executive pay, for those that are ruining our nation.

 

I fully recognize the point RK is making and I think most of us could add even more examples of de-skilling of the workforce, whether in the public or private sector. However, he specifically puts the question:

Is this part of Hunt’s plans for the NHS, with doctors supervising a collection of underpaid individuals to deliver our health service?

Dr Bob Gill provides an answer:

The reality is that more qualified staff are being driven out in preparation for the de-skilling that is always part of healthcare privatisation and corporate takeover. For the UK, this is mapped out in the Five Year Forward View by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England. Stevens used to be an executive of the US based private health care company, UnitedHealth.

http://koshh.org/the-connection-between-the-junior-doctors-contract-and-the-american-corporate-takeover-of-the-nhs

Motions at the BMA conference raised similar concerns that the future training plans could reduce the standards of patient care and safety; that by de-skilling doctors, de facto ‘sub-consultants’ would be introduced who could be paid less, and be subject to more rigid terms and conditions of service; that unacceptable power would be given to local hospital managers to determine training and workforce planning; and limit the career aspirations of many hospital doctors to a sub-consultant grade.

So how does this fit with ‘The Predator State’ of the title?

It is the term used by economist James Galbraith (2008 book) to describe this phase of capitalism in which politicians have colluded with the corporate and financial sectors to privatize public services, using …

‘The state as monopoly collector of taxes and corrupt distributor of the spoils to the private sector.’

This is certainly what is happening to the NHS. Only this week, Richard Branson took over the NHS Children’s Services in Wiltshire. He will be paid by the state for that provision and will doubtless introduce the usual cost-cutting measures to increase its profitability ie reducing the wages bill, weakening union representation and paring the service back as much as possible. Using under or unskilled labour to do the work of a highly trained professional is the obvious way to reduce the wages bill – wages will be the biggest drain on his profits. The UK government will pay Branson for taking on the service (probably with a huge subsidy) and in return, we will get an impoverished service.

So what, where, why?

Aren’t we told that the Tories are all about ‘free-markets’ and competition … but that sounds just like a rigged ‘market’.  How can Richard Branson possibly lose? Just as with the banks and care homes for the elderly, if the private company goes bust or gets fed up, the government will have to step in to pick up the pieces.  In other words, it is yet again …

‘Privatisation of profits and socialization of losses.’

 As Max Keiser pointed out, privatizing health, education and other public services provide great investment opportunities to hedge against more risky speculative ventures. And with another banking crisis predicted for the near future….

So why are the politicians going along with this rip-off of the nation?

Historically, we need to go back to Margaret Thatcher’s election in 1979, and even further back to Hayek on Mount Perelin in 1947.  Put simply, Margaret Thatcher couldn’t bear the Welfare State and wanted Britain to resemble Churchill’s wartime fantasy of pre-WW2…   The Austrian economist Hayek and his book ‘The Road to Serfdom’, offered her a political philosophy and economics that was an intellectual vehicle for her dreams.  The fact that his ideas were so diametrically the opposite of the Welfare State and a mixed economy meant that there were limits to how fast radical dismantling/restructuring could occur without provoking riots.  The ‘Boiling frogs’ strategy was adopted (put frogs in saucepan of cold water and gradually increase the heat – the frogs don’t notice until it’s too late).

The annual release of Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet papers after the 30y rule confirms all this, and it is notable that this year, Cameron has stopped the release of a majority of the minutes from 1986.

But Margaret Thatcher was egged on and undoubtably manipulated by much bigger vested interests than her dreams of an England fit for Miss Marples and Agatha Christie. The City of London provided experts and consultants who saw the opportunity to return wealth and power to its ‘rightful heirs’ (and themselves) – those who we now call the 1% but more properly should be called the 0.1% or even the 0.001%.

It is highly significant that after the Great Depression, and in that short window of 1945-1979, the rich were not so rich and that has now been reversed back to ‘normal’.

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 01.49.36

http://gabriel-zucman.eu/files/SaezZucman2014Slides.pdf

 

Sadly, the LP lost its way in the 80s and bought into the idea that there was no alternative (TINA). Many actually believed in The Third Way. However as Tony Blair said recently, he had seen his role as to build on Margaret Thatcher’s achievements, and ironically, it seems that New Labour politicians continue to believe in ‘the wisdom of the markets’ when it is quite clear that George Osborne and the Republicans in the US do not.

James Galbraith insists that the original Monetarists like Milton Friedman were serious economists but after deregulation, market solutions were abandoned in favour of Crony Capitalism ‘in all important areas of policy-making’.

 For them, [a market solution] now serves as nothing more than an enabling myth, used to hide the true nature of our world. Ironically, only the progressive still takes the call for “market solutions”

http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2008/05/the-predator-st.html

In other words, we’re being spun a load of economic lies (like austerity, the deficit drama and competitive efficiency) which are intended to persuade us that the impoverishment of the next generation, to benefit the global over-class of super-rich, is unavoidable. And as it happens, we have a government of Old Etonians and aristocrats who belong to that over-class, as do their cronies, friends, relatives and future employers.

‘Cameron himself went to Eton, and the many Old Etonians in his inner circle include Oliver Letwin, minister for government policy; Jo Johnson, head of his policy unit; Ed Llewellyn, chief of staff; and Rupert Harrison, George Osborne’s chief economic adviser.’

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/mar/14/gove-attacks-preposterous-number-old-etonians-cameron-cabinet

“What did the new class… set out to do in political terms? The experience of the past decade permits a very simple summary explanation: they set out to take over the state and to run it — not for any ideological project but simply in the way that would bring to them, individually and as a group, the most money, the least disturbed power, and the greatest chance of rescue should something go wrong. That is, they set out to prey on the existing institutions of the [ ] regulatory and welfare system.”

http://forensicstatistician.wordpress.com/2011/05/23/a-predator-state-the-worst-bits-of-capitalism-communism-and-feudalism/

So where does this leads us with regards to the junior doctors’ contract and Jeremy Hunt?

Jeremy Hunt’s behaviour really doesn’t make any sense if he wants a ‘seven day’ NHS. No-one can imagine that it is feasible, not without more doctors, more hospital porters, nurses, radiographers etc… and expecting 20bn worth of cuts to the NHS budget at the same time? The old adage is that if something doesn’t make sense, ‘Follow the Money’.

After the last 5y of Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill reorganization and cuts, it is no surprise that hospital doctors feel demoralized, undervalued, over worked and now they are being threatened with a substantial pay cut. Hunt’s imposition of the new contract on the Junior doctors is particularly criticized for driving doctors to work abroad.

Thousands are set to quit the NHS in protest over plans to shake up hours… more than 6,000 requests have been made for the paperwork needed to practise medicine outside the UK.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/junior-doctors-fleeing-country-after-7367186#ICID=sharebar_facebook

 

Well, the resulting shortage from a mass exodus of doctors would be a perfect reason for using under-skilled staff … and it could be even be spun as unreasonable doctors, disloyally abandoning the NHS.  Hence, the conditions of the NHS could be harmonized with the expectations of private health care providers.  And all who could afford it, would be tempted to go for private treatment… as in the two tier system of the US.

Hunt has good reason to want to upset and alienate the Junior doctors.  It seems all too likely that he would love the awkward squad to go.  Then he can move on to the consultants…

As James Galbraith writes:

There is no common good, no public purpose, no shareholder’s interest; we are the prey and governments as well as corporations are run by and for predators. The “failures” enrich the proper beneficiaries even as they “prove” government is no solution.

 

Fortunately, we’re not told the truth about how the economy really works… and there is no economic reason why a new courageous state could not (in time) restore the NHS to being an improved, truly nationalised service….  And it just so happens that Jeremy Corbyn supports full re-instatement of the NHS.  Fingers crossed.

http://www.nhsbill2015.org/jeremy-corbyn-supports-the-nhs-reinstatement-bill/

 

 

 

https://think-left.org/2012/02/16/the-nhs-and-tina-mrs-thatchers-ideological-anti-democratic-political-legacy/

http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2014/05/23/this-mornings-political-landscape-is-a-victory-for-the-cowardly-state/

 

Margaret Thatcher’s Biscuit Tin – and Austerity

Margaret Thatcher’s Biscuit Tin and the Austerity Scare

From Pam Field and Syzygysue

The Austerity Scare is the greatest myth, by which the rich have deprived others of their basic needs of survival (Maslow), by some argument that those are unaffordable. How can it be justified to deny anyone these basic human rights, while others have vast resources far beyond their own personal needs? This wealth, and hence power was gained  by the systematic acquisition of resources by unjust means, much as the barons claimed land to be their own.  (Primary accumulation – dispossession of low income people from their high value land). By what right can anyone claim to have a right to own earth when others cannot?

Benn EstablishmentHaving power of the law permits reinforcement of privilege so that attempt to brainwash the public  through whatever means is available – education, press, advertisements, commercialisation  – or force. So the very rich have the means to control all the sources of food and sustenance, the media, the security and defence. Fear of destitution leads to social division, and of course with disunity no resistance can be effective. What needs to be done to redress the imbalance?

There are sufficient resources on this planet for everyone.  Oxfam  believes there can be enough food for everyone…

IF we give enough aid to stop children dying from hunger and help the poorest families feed themselves

IF governments stop big companies dodging tax in poor countries, so that millions of people can free themselves from hunger

IF we stop poor farmers being forced off their land and we grow crops to feed people not fuel cars

IF governments and big companies are honest and open about their actions that stop people getting enough food.

It is shameful that in Britain, the seventh richest nation, has 25% of children living in poverty, many people are homeless and one million people are relying on food-banks. It is a scandal created by gross mismanagement, or by wilful neglect. The Tories recall the Victorian days of Empire, like the cheering and flag waving Falkland task force, without addressing the fundamental truth.

 Any society can only measure its wealth by the poorest, and its strength as the weakest.

Having seen the horrors man can inflict on man in WW2, there was a united resolve which followed that it should never be repeated, and a determination to build a fair society fit for everyone. Rationing was accepted after the war to ensure a fairer distribution of scarce resources. Meanwhile Attlee’s Labour government invested in full employment, massive house building, a welfare state and National Health Service. There was a growth in the economy, despite the ravages left by war.

“The psychology of competition and love of Peace are uneasy bedfellows” Aneurin Bevan

One of the saddest legacies of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership must have been the destruction of optimism in society, the killing of compassion, and comradeship, and communities.  It was replaced with isolation, resentment and fear engendered by soaring unemployment, caused by destruction of manufacturing industries while attacking on trade unions, so making the working class further malleable by the ruling elite.

The idea that the nation’s wealth was somehow like the family budget, pennies hidden away in a biscuit tin in the larder, just to be taken out and spent on a trip to Margate when the factory shuts down for a fortnight in August, can be understood as people prioritise their needs by similar means.

So, unbelievably, Margaret Thatcher sold the idea to the nation, that the money which the government has to spend on schools and hospitals, is like the microeconomics of a family budget, or the ins and outs of her parents’ grocers shop. And since that time the biscuit tin idea comes into play, “There’s no money left” as Cameron carried that piece of paper to hustings in May. “The nation can’t afford it, we’ve all got to tighten our belts.”  “We’re all in it together!”

Now, where does wealth come from? It comes from the labour, skills, arts, and talents of people, from research, technology and from the natural  resources of the planet. Did Margaret Thatcher expect the nation to believe that they can be parceled up and saved in the biscuit tin?

Biscuit tin

As the cuts to basic provisions became chipped away, so fear sets in, the law of the jungle, competition, scrambling to get to the top, developing addictions to more and more material goods to satisfy a lack of something fundamental – happiness. It might seem a cliché, but this is the background to the shallow, inadequate shells we are becoming, soulless commodities suspicious of some others and hatefully despising the rest.

“The successful as well as the unsuccessful are unemancipated in the competitive society” (Bevan)

It doesn’t have to be like this. Of course money is not hidden away in some virtual biscuit tin, no longer gold hidden in vaults to be hauled from place to place. Austerity is totally unnecessary and we can change it at will once we accept what is wrong.

Money is a tool by which goods can be shared around ensuring management of resources, rewards for labour and supply, and trade.  Money doesn’t originate  from the taxpayer. It comes from the government spending.  The US dollar and the UK pound are sovereign monetary systems under control of their respective nations.

Neoliberal economics have led to the greatest inequalities in human history, based on the mystique, that market forces will adjust to give the best possible outcomes.

Considering the unhappiness, poverty, and isolation, in what sense is the current state of the UK, the best of all possible worlds?

We are told that there is no money left so that public services must be privatized and government spending cut but the actual problem is that corporations are hoarding their profits, not investing in well-paid jobs in the real economy and instead are chasing fictitious capital.

Real wages have not increased since the 1970s and consequently there is insufficient demand in the economy, and increasing levels of personal indebtedness.  Forget the national debt, it is household debt that is the real danger!

This is the slowest recovery of GDP per head on record. See graph (Touchstone Blog)

As Simon Wren-Lewis writes:

Anyone who continues to describe what is happening in the UK as a ‘strong recovery’ either has not bothered to look at the data, or is being deliberately deceptive.’

What is desperately needed is not ‘Austerity’, but a fiscal stimulus and if the banks and the corporations will not invest in the real economy, then the government should act as ‘lender of last resort’.  In other words, a stimulus such as that proposed by Jeremy Corbyn, with investment in jobs, the NHS, education and mitigating climate change.

The allegorical Frank Baum story “The Wizard of Oz” reflects clearly how the pursuit of the yellow brick road “gold”, leading to the “Emerald City” revealed merely that there was no magician, just a helpless, powerless man who admitted the capitalist ideal was a fallacy. The main characters had lacked belief in their own limitations, lack of courage, brain or heart, and believing therefore that others had power. And in that idea, we can see that economy needs to be run for the benefit of the people, not according to the vagaries of the so-called ‘wisdom of the markets’.

So what is necessary is that

… First we need to accept that economy is something which sovereign governments have the power to organise.

… The financial system has been abused for too long.  It needs to be under democratic regulation and control.

…The economy needs to be balanced and controlled to allow people and societies to function sufficiently so that all members can afford the essentials of Maslow, live comfortably, with a little bit extra for everyone to enjoy their leisure.

…There needs to be a commitment to full employment.

… Basic needs such as food, water, energy, transport, health and education need to be under democratic control.

IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF GOVERNMENT to ensure adequate distribution of these services. Therefore nationalisation, and/or transparent democratic control is necessary.  To treat food, water, and medical supplies as commodities to be gambled with is an obscene and unacceptable concession to the very rich.

Cutting spending during recession/depression only delays or forestalls a recovery.  The allegory of Alice in Wonderland describes falling down a rabbit hole, and seeing the world differently, and that is what is needed – the opposite of austerity. Jeremy Corbyn’s Peoples’ Quantitative Easing is about the government producing money, as we have our currency, the government can do that,  but instead of this going to private banks, this money goes directly to the people wherever it is needed – for building, homes, schools, hospitals – and creating jobs. In other words, a responsible state in which everyone would have access to needs being met, and poverty eradicated.

We are told that the deficit is too big but the reality is that it is still too small.  Inflation is only a risk once the last unemployed/underemployed person who wants or needs a job is employed.

Since private companies are not providing sufficient employment, we need government to invest in a job’s guarantee, a buffer stock.  This would have the advantage of underpinning a living wage that the private sector would have to match in order to attract workers.  It would also allow individuals to maintain or upgrade their skills.  It would decrease the mental health problems associated with unemployment, and finally, it would mean that all sorts of worthwhile activity, which would not be undertaken by the private sector, could occur.

The anger and  resentment has been smouldering for a long time. The lack of opposition to neoliberalism and austerity has disillusioned the electorate, so many no longer see any point in even voting.  In August 2010, riots broke out in English cities, in London, and Birmingham. This August, Jeremy Corbyn has reached the ordinary people,  and has channelled that anger in such a way that people are united, and we are a witnessing the greatest political force in 64 years, a tidal wave which can sweep away neoliberalism and bring our communities back. The Labour Movement is reborn. At last, there is hope.

The politics of divide and rule, of resentment and ” benefit scroungers ” is where we have lost our way.  It is not about politics of envy.  It is about the politics of justice. We need brave political leaders to reunite our communities, put away the law of the jungle, and bring back the Spirit of ’45, the sort of social cohesion which followed WW2.

The biscuit tin myth has to be tackled,

and the sooner , the better.

First Thoughts on the EU elections

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By Prue Plumridge

The UKIP campaigned on an anti-europe ticket.

My question is:

If they are anti-europe why have they not declared their position on the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership currently being negotiated behind closed doors?

They have been surprisingly quiet on the issue.  Now why could this be?  It would have been a powerful weapon in their campaign against the EU.

Let’s remember that Nigel Farage’s great hero is Thatcher.

Her pursuit of the neoliberal ideologies of deregulation, privatisation and trade liberalisation have left behind a destructive legacy which we are now more than ever reaping the consequences of.  Time will prove (I am certain) Farage’s hypocrisy and deception.

We should be clear that the UKIP are libertarians who believe in free market economics and this is the economic model currently being promoted by an unelected, undemocratic cabal of EU commissioners who are negotiating a trade deal with the US that will favour globalisation and the continuing ascendancy and undemocratic power of the big corporations.  

Clearly there is a dissonance between what Ukip supporters believe the party stands for and reality.

Whether they are in denial or their support is a protest against the established parties it matters not.  There will be tears before bed-time if we continue to think of this party as a group of fruitcakes or loonies or purely a focus for protest.  They are cleverly dissimulating their real agenda and the next few months will be interesting as surely they will have to nail their colours to the wall.

It may seem to some that I am expressing anti-EU sentiment.  I hasten to add that I am not.  I believe that our future lies within the EU.  Not the current austerity imposing neoliberal juggernaut which is bringing Europe to its knees but a properly democratic EU which is socially just, acts for the benefit of its citizens and ultimately remembers its history. 

I wrote an article, in May last year, for Think Left. ( https://think-left.org/2013/05/04/on-fascism-and-facts-ukip-the-strategic-adversary/).  A year on I stand by it.  The rise of the right throughout Europe is, whether we like it or not, an articulation of the fear being expressed by its citizens over continuing uncertainty and fear for the future.  Citizens, however have not woken up yet, to the fact that the Right including UKIP are only offering more of the same.

The Left need now to rise to the challenge and show there is another fairer and more socially just way.

Boris Johnson and ‘Survival of the Fittest’

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The Manners and Morals of High Capitalism

The only two things that were actually surprising about Boris Johnson’s Centre of Policy Research speech were:

i)  That anyone should think that Boris’ avowal of 19th Century Social Darwinism is   surprising because it is patently obvious that his speech also represents the views of Cameron, Osborne, Tory Ministers and much of the wider Conservative Party.

ii)  That Boris would have talked openly about his views in public.

However, Andrew Rawnsley was surprised on both counts:

Where on earth do we start? Let’s begin with his view of what drives human nature in general and capitalist economies in particular. The speech was highly illuminating – not about what really makes society tick, but about what goes on inside the whirling head of mayor Johnson. It is his contention that “greed” and “the spirit of envy” are not vices to be regretted, but virtues to be lauded because they are “a valuable spur to economic activity”. This was not a throwaway line, a light aside, just another one of those provocative Johnsonian sallies designed to wind up lefties and stimulate the erogenous zones of the right wing of the Tory party. It was central to his argument. He hailed greed and envy as emotions to be celebrated because that was at the heart of his contention that inequality is not only inevitable, it is desirable and necessary as an engine of economic growth.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/01/boris-johnsons-views-like-brave-new-world-dystopia

Clearly, Andrew Rawnsley has never heard of Herbert Spencer, 19th century philosopher beloved by the wealthy and powerful American Robber Barons, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and the rest?

(See below – J. K. Galbraith’s video clip from the 1977 ‘The Age of Uncertainty’ series)

It was Herbert Spencer, not Darwin, who coined the phrase ‘Survival of the Fittest’, drawing parallels between his political classical economic theories and natural selection.

Spencer’s theories of laissez-faire, survival-of-the-fittest and minimal human interference in the processes of natural law had an enduring and even increasing appeal in the social science fields of economics and political science. 20th century thinkers such as Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand expanded on and popularized Spencer’s ideas, while politicians such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher enacted them into law. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Spencer

‘Laissez-faire, survival-of-the-fittest and minimal human interference’ as advocated by Ayn Rand, is the pedigree of Boris’ incongruous suggestion that the largest cornflakes rise to the top of the shaken packet.

And also his even more controversial assertion:

‘… Johnson mocked the 16% “of our species” with an IQ below 85 as he called for more to be done to help the 2% of the population who have an IQ above 130.’

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/nov/27/boris-johnson-thatcher-greed-good?CMP=twt_gu

(Well, perhaps not so controversial given that those percentages are inherent to the IQ test methodology… but let’s not get bogged down in dissecting Boris’s faulty understanding and ignorance. Let’s go with the implicit message.)

 

American follower John Fiske observed, that Spencer’s ideas were to be found “running like the weft through all the warp” of Victorian thought .. and are clearly still running like a weft through the upper echelons of the Conservative Party.  The silence from Cameron et al immediately following Boris’ speech was deafening.

Essentially, the tenets are those of the American Dream:

i)   Rich people are rich because they have fought their way to the top and are more intelligent.

ii)   Poor people are poor because they have not tried hard enough and are stupid.

iii)   Government and the benefits system prevent the cornflake packet being shaken hard enough.  Hence, the need to remove the ‘safety net’ of the welfare state and shrink the role of government.

(Frankly, I can’t believe that I’m writing this extremely unpleasant garbage which owes nothing to any informed understanding of genetics, cognitive psychology, sociology or economics.)

As a commentators on Cif wrote in response to Boris’speech:

‘They’re not even trying to pretend anymore, are they?

Perhaps that’s a good thing, because it shows that the end is near. Hubris is the best indicator for that…’

‘Spot on, it’s the new eugenics. The conservative hierarchy genuinely believes that there is no further need for social mobility, that the social hierarchy with its grotesque inequalities is some kind of perfect order. The rest of us simply live to serve the new banking aristocracy.’

Boris may well have overestimated the readiness of the UK for his ‘eugenic’ message.  Another putative Tory leader, Sir Keith Josephs, certainly scuppered his chance of being Prime Minister when he attributed the cycle of social deprivation to a combination of the young and poor in a climate of sexual freedom perpetuating a deprived class with little effective hope of self-improvement – adding that “the balance of our human stock is threatened”.

After some days, Cameron and Osborne finally felt the need to distance themselves from the Boris speech but it is noteworthy that their disclaimers were somewhat ambiguous and not entirely inconsistent with Boris’ views …

Asked on his flight to China whether the London mayor spoke for the Conservative party about IQ levels and inequality, the prime minister said: “I let Boris speak for himself. I think it is very important that we make sure we do everything so that we maximise people’s opportunities to make the most of their talents.”

.. which could mean ‘maximise cornflakes’ opportunities’ so that they can greedily and enviously fight their way up the packet unimpeded by big government.

George Osborne similarly distanced himself:

“I wouldn’t have put it like that and I don’t agree with everything he said.”

.. so which bit didn’t you agree with George?

However… How can Cameron and Osborne possibly say that they reject Boris’ philosophical assumptions when we can all see in their policies that they are doing their utmost to create the ruthless laissez–faire society advocated by Hayek, Friedman, Rand, Regan and Thatcher?

Postscript:

It is a bit hazy as to how Boris explains inherited wealth as being the result of individual struggle… Did Cameron, Osborne and the other cabinet millionaires all start at the bottom of the cornflake packet?

The Age of Uncertainty Episode 2 – The Manners and Morals of High Capitalism

The Age of Uncertainty is a 1977 television series about economics, history and politics, co-produced by the BBC, CBC, KCET and OECA, and written and presented by Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith.

Galbraith acknowledges the successes of the market system in economics but associated it with instability, inefficiency and social inequity. He advocates government policies and interventions to remedy these perceived faults

The content of the series was determined by Galbraith, with the presentation style directed by his colleagues in the BBC. Galbraith began by writing a series of essays from which the scripts were derived and from these a book by the same name, emerged which in many places goes beyond the material covered in the relevant television episode.

Coalition helps Foreign Companies’ Great Rip-Off

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Tory Led Coalition Helps Foreign Companies to Rip Us Off!

By Gracie Samuels @GracieSamuels

Thames Water

Thames Water (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If Thames Water get their way and Ofwat agree as from 2014 millions of households will have an £29 surcharge added to their water bills. This will be on top of  any planned increases on water bills. A spokesman for Australia’s Macquarie Group the company which owns Thames Water said:

 “We have had a tough time financially as a company because of increased costs”

Haven’t most people had a hard time financially these past three years, why should we be forced to bail them out when they have made huge profits already at our expense?

The company give a number of reasons why they want this extra money from their customers and the company quotes the biggest reason is because they want £273 million extra to acquire land for the construction of the Thames Tideway Tunnel, (which is a major new sewer development) and also:

  1. They want to purchase the land now before the cost of land in London rises still further.

  2. The cost of operating private sewers transferred to Thames water by the Government in 2011.

  3. To subsidise the company for other customers who fail to pay their water bills.

Water privatisation was undertaken by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government in 1989, when she partly privatised the ten previously publicly owned Regional Water Authorities (RWAs) in England and Wales through the sales of publicly owned assets to foreign investors.
Brass_water_tap
When the Australian owned Macquarie Group purchased Thames Water, it didn’t just come up with a plan overnight to build the new Thames Tideway Tunnel, this would have been in the original purchase agreement and have been many years in the planning, so they should have costed for it, not suddenly force the consumer to pay  for their profit making ventures because the price of property and land in London has risen!
It beggars belief that the company are applying for this £29 surcharge when Thames Water revenues in the last financial year rose to £1.8bn! Putting it in context still further, the Tory chancellor George Osborne at the Treasury has allowed Thames Water to avoid paying corporation tax! Meanwhile giving permission to Thames Water to increase their bills to consumers by an inflation busting 6.7 per cent!
This isn’t all Osborne has allowed this company to get away with either!
Thames Water has been allowed to offset loans they took out outside of this country in order to purchase one of Britain’s publicly owned companies against tax bills accrued inside this country! So not only does this foreign owned company, the Macquarie Group, pay no corporation tax, they also pay hardly any UK tax!
On 1st October 2011, water and sewerage companies in England and Wales became responsible for private sewers which were previously the responsibility of property owners. This was meant to be a good thing, but all the company has done is pass on this cost to the consumer. For all their talk about helping the public to keep the cost of utilities down, once again we plainly see that this snidy Tory-led coalition government is firmly on the side of the multinational companies and is helping them while driving down our standard of living.
A breakdown of the £29 surcharge shows that £16 of it is accounted for by increases in bad debt – fuelled, of course, by the economic turndown. So it is not really for their so-called “super-sewer” the vast majority of this £29 is because the company wants all the gain and profit without taking any of the risks, they are passing on the risk to the customer forcing them to underwrite the companies bad debts!
Thames Water has recently paid their shareholders £1.4bn in bonuses and have also raised their customers water bills by £100 per year, this has allowed them to collect an extra £1.4bn – exactly the amount Thames Water have paid out to their shareholders in bonuses!
 
Water companies literally have people over a waterbutt and unlike gas and electric, customers cannot change their water supplier, so they are hostage to anything these foreign owned companies can get away with charging them and they seem to always get what they want as OfWat is toothless!
In 1988 Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative Government covered up the Camelford water pollution Incident because they feared that prosecution would “render the whole water industry unattractive to the City” and because Thatcher may have been unable to sell off our water industry to foreign investors.
Since Margaret Thatcher privatised and flogged off the country’s water supplies, a 2001 study carried out by the Public Services International Research Unit revealed:
  • Tariffs increased by 46% in real terms during the first nine years.

  • Operating profits have more than doubled (plus 142%) in eight years.

  • Investments were reduced

  • Public health was been jeopardised through water cut-offs for non-payment (this was made illegal in 1998 by the Labour government along with repayment meters and ‘trickle valves’.)

Margaret Thatcher claimed that privatising water would produce greater efficiency and reduce prices, she was wrong. Thatcher and her Conservative government also claimed that privatising gas and electricity would produce greater efficiency and reduce prices – wrong again!

Conservative PM, John Major privatised the Railways claiming greater efficiency and reduced fares, totally wrong! In fact this Tory -led coalition government are currently allowing a rail fares hike of at least 4.1 per cent and on some lines the price hike could be as much as 9.1 per cent as other costs are factored in. There has not been greater efficiency, trains are packed, people cannot get seats, amid cancellations and delays.

  • Food prices have risen by 6% and will rise a further 4%;

  • Rail fares will rise by at least 4.1%;

  • Despite making huge profits, gas and electricity companies prices rose by between 7% and 10.8% in 2012-13 and set to rise again in 2014.

  • Companies are blaming the Government’s ne ECO energy efficiency scheme and as usual the privatised companies are passing on the costs to the consumer. So this is an indirect stealth tax imposed on us by the Tory-led government.

Companies like Thames water, Centrica, British Gas, Eon etc are milking the lifeblood out of us, they are draining every last penny from our pockets.

I wonder, does Thames Water also makes use of the government’s ‘Workfare’ placements scheme? If they do this would also give them free labour and considerably reduce their payroll costs, so they win again, because not only are they not paying corporation tax, or UK tax on profits, their payrolls would be subsidised by the British taxpayer as slave labour workfare placements do not receive a wage from the company, they are just forced to work for £52 per week JSA!
Does Thames Water use zero hour contracts and short time contracts?

David Cameron, George Osborne and Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg are stealthily privatising what Thatcher and Major couldn’t do and they are aiding and abetting companies like Thames Water to make vast profits off of our backs and pay hardly anything into the British tax system.

Study closely the effects of privatisation on your standard of living and quality of life, because the Conservatives are now privatising the NHS, education and the police service. Ask yourselves, can you really afford  a Tory government?

With Tory privatisation whether it is in the utilities, the NHS, education or the police service, will result in poor quality service at increased costs. Do you really want our NHS to end up in foreign private health companies hands? Companies like this who have already been given NHS contracts by this government and private companies that are not legally bound to show us their accounts, despite being given billions of pounds of NHS contracts?

Foreign companies have already bought up our rail, gas, electricity and water companies and look how we are being forced to pay the price, and now this current crop of Tories aided and abetted by the Liberal Democrats, are selling off the rest of our public services to foreign investors. They have already awarded UnitedHealth Europe contracts to take over your GP surgeries, how long do you think it will be before we are being charged for our healthcare? Already there are mutterings about how we should be charged to see our GPs! These private companies that the the Conservative government are bringing to buy and run our public services are not doing this for altruistic reasons, they are doing it to make a profit out of our NHS, education police service, prison service and probably fire service too etc etc and it is Cameron, Osborne and Clegg who are doing this, just like previous Conservative Governments under Thatcher and Major before them.

We are now almost at the situation where all our utilities and public services  are going to be owned and run by foreign Equity Groups.

This is what happens when we have a PR man for a prime minister running the country, he can talk the talk, but cannot walk the walk, he can flog everything off, but he has absolutely no idea of the consequences or the harm he is doing to this country for future generations and what is more he doesn’t care.

The Conservatives promised us that our bills/fares etc would go down under their privatisation, they haven’t they rocketed, we are paying more for our gas and electricity and water in this country so France, Germany and Russia etc can all enjoy cheaper bills at our expense!

As Osborne is poised with his foot on the pump and is furiously over inflating the housing and credit bubble, artificially bucking the market with taxpayers money and  using our money for Tory re election purposes, he is priming us all for another “Tory boom and bust” and when the bust comes as we all know it will, how will we sustain ourselves when this government have sold off every last piece of our industry and public services to foreign investors?

The Conservative party is not a proper political party, it is just the political wing of big business, banks and multinational companies, it is the  party of the City establishment. It is NOT for us ordinary folk, it is about making money and milking us for every last penny it can get out of us and giving us absolutely nothing in return. If that means taking benefits away from our poor, sick, disabled and vulnerable to achieve this, then so-be-it! If that means keeping people barely existing on low wages, forcing our unemployed to work full-time for about £65 per week and driving down the living standards of the “squeezed middle” too just to make these huge companies even richer and forcing people to use food banks and pushing children and whole families into poverty having to make a choice between heating their homes or eating, then that’s OK too. If the Tories whole ideological agendas’ success depends upon driving a wedge between friends and neighbours and turning the public against one another until everyone hates and loathes the very sight of  their neighbours, or even strangers as well as each other, then this is what the Conservatives will do. In fact they are already doing it! They are doing under our very noses, while PR man Dave lies to your face like a snake oil salesman!  This Tory government is turning this country into a cesspit of steaming hatred and resentment of each other. Sending vans into areas with high immigrant population telling them to “go home”.  Such hideous situations can only end in tears – ours!

And never forget – the Tory led coalition government could NOT do any of this if they were not being enabled to do so by the Liberal Democrats! 

See also: Watered down morality, has the penny finally dropped on water privatisation

Imagine all the People – and an Alternative World

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How can we challenge the myths of Margaret Thatcher’s “There is No Alternative”? We need to awaken from an inhibiting stifling slumber, like a coma, when belief in a world of fairness in justice seems as unattainable as ascending Mount Everest on roller skates. We have become so entrenched in consumerism, so brainwashed by the media, that our imaginations need to be reclaimed. John Lennon’s “Imagine” asked us to:

“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…”

-and-
“Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world..”  

See lyrics

If musicians can write songs we all believe in, I wonder – shouldn’t we hear this from our politicians? Andrea Brower appeals to our imaginations.

Reclaiming Our Imaginations from ‘There Is No Alternative’

Previously published on Common Dreams, by Andrea Brower

We live in a time of heavy fog. A time when, though many of us dissent and resist, humanity seems committed to a course of collective suicide in the name of preserving an economic system that generates scarcity no matter how much is actually produced. To demand that all have enough to eat on a planet that grows enough food, that absurd numbers of people do not die from preventable disease, that utter human deprivation amongst plenty is not tolerated, or that we put the natural laws of the biosphere above socially constructed economic “laws” — is presented as unrealistic, as the fantasy of idealists or those who are naive to the “complexity” of the world’s problems. If we create and recreate the world everyday, then how has it become so supposedly absurd to believe we might actually create a world that is honestly making the possibilities of egalitarianism, justice and democracy?(Source: Flickr / jimkang)

Capitalism — the logic of subordinating every aspect of life to the accumulation of profit (i.e. the “rules of the market”) — has become today’s “common sense.” It has become almost unthinkable to imagine coherent alternatives to this logic, even when considering the most basic of human needs — food, water, healthcare, education. Though many have an understanding of capitalism’s failings, there is a resignation towards its inevitability. Margaret Thatcher’s famous words, “There Is No Alternative,” no longer need to be spoken, they are simply accepted as normal, non-ideological, neutral.

What sustains the tragic myth that There Is No Alternative? Those committed to building a more just future must begin re-thinking and revealing the taken-for-granted assumptions that make capitalism “common sense,” and bring these into the realm of mainstream public debate in order to widen horizons of possibility. We can’t leave this task to the pages of peer-reviewed journals and classrooms of social theory — these conversations must enter also into the family dining rooms and TV screens. Here are some thoughts on conversation starters:

  • Alternatives could never work. Does capitalism “work”? Even by its own indicators, as we’ve become more capitalist (i.e. neoliberalism), economic growth and productivity has actually declined.

  • Today’s globalized world is too complex to organize things any differently. Of course the world is complex — each of us is a bundle of contradictions and we need look no further than the dynamics of a single relationship to make a case for social complexity. But things are also quite simple — we live in a world where one billion people go hungry while we literally dump half of all food produced. Can we not come up with a productive socio-economic system that also meets people’s most basic needs? The gift of today is that we have the ability to reflect and draw-upon many forms, past and present, of non-capitalist social organization, and to creatively experiment with blending the best of these possibilities. The fact that we are more connected than ever before and have advanced so far technologically gives us more possibilities, not less.

  • Because of our “human nature,” we can only create economic systems based on competition, greed and self-interest. This is not only utterly pessimistic, but plain wrong. Again, we can start by remembering all sorts of societies that have existed through history. Then just look around and ask the question, what motivates you and the people you know? Fields as diverse as neuroscience and anthropology have mounted evidence showing humans’ incredible capacity for cooperation and sensitivity to fairness. We are actually all quite capable of anything; but it is up to us to decide how to use our capabilities, and of course that will be dictated by what our social systems encourage and teach us to value. If there is one thing that can be said about “human nature,” it is that we construct ourselves from within our societies and we are incredibly malleable.

  • Freedom is only realizable through a free-market. Attaching our values of freedom to the market is not only de-humanizing, but it also fails to recognize how one person’s “freedom” to economic choice is another’s imprisonment in a life of exploitation and deprivation. There is no possibility for freedom and emancipation until we are all free, and this will only come through a much richer and deeper conception of human freedom than one that is premised upon going to a grocery store and “choosing” between 5,000 variations of processed corn.

  • Capitalism is the only system that encourages innovation and progress. Progress towards what? And how does enclosing common knowledge through intellectual property rights, or excluding most of the world from quality education, or depriving half of humanity from the basic life-sustaining goods needed to function healthily, lead to greater innovation? Just begin to imagine the innovative possibilities of a world where all people had access to everything they needed to live, to think, and to contribute to the common good.

  • Things could be worse. Of course they could, but they could also be better. Does the fact that we’ve lived through bloody dictatorships mean that we should settle for a representative democracy where the main thing being represented is money?

  • Things are getting better. Can we really say that things are getting better as we head towards the annihilation of our own species? Sure, we may have our first black president and be making small gains in LGBT rights or in women’s representation in the workforce; but let’s not neglect the fact that capital is more concentrated and centralized than it has ever been and that its logic now penetrates into the most basic building blocks of life. I think we should give ourselves more credit than to settle for this “better.”

  • Change is slow. Slow is not in the vocabulary of the corporations who are stealing our common genetic heritage, or their buddies who are getting rich playing virtual money games that legally rob us all. The enclosure of our commons and the concentration of capital is not happening slowly. Whether we acknowledge it or not, change is happening — what is up for grabs is the direction of that change.

  • The best we can hope for is “green” and “ethical” capitalism. The logic of this belief is fundamentally flawed because it assumes that within capitalism, businesses can prioritize anything above the bottom-line. In actuality, businesses that commit themselves first and foremost to being truly and fully ethical and green will find it very difficult to stay in business. Of course there are great models of ethical business — worker-owned organic farms, for instance — but these cannot thrive and become the dominant norm when they are functioning within an economic structure that concentrates wealth and power in the hands of Monsanto. And while we should support these alternatives that exist within capitalism, we need to recognize that it’s way too little, way too late — structural change must (and will) happen, one way or another.

  • Getting rid of capitalism means abandoning markets as a tool of social organization.This is not necessarily true, although perhaps we would do best without markets anyways. Societies have existed that have used markets but restrained oligopoly capitalism, and many brilliant thinkers have envisioned a transition to a society structured by norms of equality and sharing where markets do play a role. I’m not advocating for or against any specific proposals here, but the point is that this assumption is historically inaccurate and we have barely begun to give serious thought to other possibilities.

  • People don’t care. People may be distracted by consumerism, may only have enough energy to struggle to pay their bills, may be fearful, may lack access to good information… but none of these things mean that they don’t care. Show anybody an image of a starving child who works in the cacao fields but can’t afford to eat (much less taste chocolate), and they will feel disgust. The charity industry is thriving precisely because so many people do feel implicated in the revolting manifestations of capitalism. But people’s sense of outrage has been channeled away from collective political action and towards ethical buying and holiday-time charitable donations. Without an honest and sophisticated society-wide conversation about the structural issues we are facing, people’s care is reduced to individual guilt and disempowerment.

  • People won’t stop consuming, plus all the poor people want what the rich people have. Of course they do! Doing away with capitalism doesn’t mean resorting to primitivism, or abandoning all of our washing machines, or leaving the poor destitute. While of course there are limits to the earth’s resources (fossil-fuels in particular), this doesn’t mean that we can’t organize a productive, equitable and sustainable social order that includes many of the comforts of modern life and excitements of technology. We need not abandon desire with capitalism. In fact, getting rid of capitalism gives us the best chance of having time to organize a sustainable system of consumption before it is too late — staying hooked into capitalism may actually be the quickest route to primitivism.

Capital’s enclosure of our commons — our common resources, genes and even intellect — has been accompanied by an enclosure of our imaginations. We need to re-claim and re-orient what it is to be “realistic” from the falsehoods of There Is No Alternative. This is not a call for pure imaginations of some future utopia. It is not a fantastic plea for a sudden and complete dissolving of all the social structures that currently pattern our lives. Instead, it is a call to take what is already going on all around us, all the time — cooperation, sharing, empathy — and let these aspects of our humanity that we most cherish guide our future. To begin to re-direct and re-structure our social systems towards the things we most desire and value — caring for and cooperating with one another, true participation and democracy, human freedom and free time, peace and co-existence — and in doing so, to watch these things begin to flourish.

If it is naive to believe that we can structure society to reward goodness instead of greed and prioritize people instead of profit, then I’m fighting until the bitter end to maintain my naiveté! Things become possible when we believe they are possible; so let’s start believing.