The Throne of King Cantor: How House Republicans changed the rules.

October 11, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Mjw23.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Mjw23.

It seems democracy isn’t an obstacle, the Constitution isn’t an obstacle, the judiciary isn’t an obstacle, and now House rules aren’t an obstacle to the Tea Party juggernaut steaming its way across the American political landscape, flattening everything its path.

As we’re all aware, the Bill for a Continuing Resolution complete with defunding Obamacare attached to it passed the House, and was subsequently rejected by the Senate, thus ending up back at the House on the evening of September 30th. At this point, under House procedures, any member of the House can bring forward a vote on the Senate’s amended Bill in order to end the impasse:

“When the stage of disagreement has been reached on a bill or resolution with House or Senate amendments, a motion to dispose of any amendment shall be privileged.”

– This exists to prevent the minority extorting the majority with threat of shutdown, for policy they weren’t able to achieve through regular democratic process.

But that rule was soon to change. Late on September 30th – with only two hours remaining until the government shut down began – an Amendment was quickly passed – H.J. Res. 59: Continuing Appropriations Resolution – by House Republicans, to the procedural rules of the House. The Amendment ensures:

“Section 2 of the rule provides that any motion pursuant to clause 4 of rule XXII relating to H.J. Res. 59 may be offered only by the majority Leader or his designee.”

– Meaning that the only person who can now bring a vote to the House floor on a clean resolution during an impasse in Congress, is Eric Cantor. Eric Cantor has assumed powers traditionally assigned to all members of the House. They have all lost a right that has guaranteed to them, and transferred to the Republican Minority Leader. This not only disenfranchises House Democrats, it does so for moderate House Republicans too. It is as if Tea Party House Republicans have voted to bestow ’emergency’ powers on the Majority leader, to ensure continued shutdown.

When pressed on this in the House by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD 8th District), the Speaker pro tempore didn’t seem to want to answer:

Van Hollen: “Mr. Speaker, under the regular order of the House, would any Member of the House, including myself, be able to call up a motion to immediately send the CR to fund the government to the President of the United States, to immediately call up and have a vote on that?”
Speaker: “The Chair will not respond to a hypothetical.”

Van Hollen: “Mr. Speaker, the rule that has now been placed over the House in substitute for the standing rules of the House gives only the majority leader or his designee the ability to move up and ask for a vote on the clean Senate bill that would go to the White House; is that correct?
Speaker: “The Chair will not respond to a political characterization and will state again: Under section 2 of House Resolution 368, that motion may be offered only by the majority leader or his designee.”

Van Hollen: “Mr. Speaker, it seems pretty clear that we have taken the normal rules of the House, Mr. Speaker, and substitute in its place a provision that says, ‘only the Republican leader can make a decision’…”
Speaker: “The gentleman has not stated a proper parliamentary inquiry.”

– Van Hollen is quite right, House Republicans have wilfully rigged House rules to prevent anyone from opening the government, other than the Majority Leader. House Republicans have vested more power over the running of the US Government in Eric Cantor, than the President, the public, the entire legislature, and the judiciary.

So, since 2010 Republicans have been beating the drum of shutdown to win major policy concessions that they were not able to win electorally. Since early 2013 at the very least, a memo circulates from Freedom Works, signed by major Tea Party donors that reads:

“Conservatives should not approve a CR unless it defunds Obamacare. This includes Obamacare’s unworkable exchanges, unsustainable Medicaid expansion, and attack on life and religious liberty.”

– And when that plot was doomed to fail due to the lack of moderate Republican support in the House for such a dangerous tactic, the extreme wing of the Republican Party resorted to changing the rules of the democracy that they live, in order to force a shutdown that would have been prevented under regular House rules.

It is quite horrifying the lengths the far right of the Republican Party are willing to go to circumvent the democratic process when it provides results that they don’t like. For Republicans, the American people, the ballot box, and the law of the land, are simply obstacles that the Elephant has every right to trample.


Planet Clegg

September 22, 2011

I am not sure where Planet Clegg is located in the Universe. It is certainly light years away from Earth. They say the laws of physics are the same anywhere in the Universe; from a little town in Gloucester, to the edge of a black hole. Well, Planet Clegg seems to have physical properties that differ somewhat from the rest of the Universe, because whilst we can choose to talk shit, Clegg seems compelled by nature itself, as if it is a natural instinct, to talk shit. It really is amazing.

His speech at Conference is available everywhere, so I thought i’d take what I consider to be the most significant parts of the speech, and try to dissect them. To sift through the bullshit, and look at the substance:

“Our first big decision was to clear the structural deficit this parliament. To wipe the slate clean by 2015. This has meant painful cuts. Agonisingly difficult decisions. Not easy, but right.”

– As the £12bn black hole in the public finances was revealed earlier this week, it became clear that the “painful cuts” (less painful if you’re as rich as the Cabinet, and not painful enough to consider cancelling the five day boring yet incredibly expensive tax payer funded Conference) have achieved the opposite of what they were intended to do. Borrowing has stayed higher this year, because growth has stalled at 0.2%. According to the Financial Times:

The Financial Times has replicated the model of government borrowing used by the independent Office for Budget Responsibility, which suggests the structural deficit in 2011-12 is now £12bn higher than thought, a rise of 25 per cent.

– To fill this black hole, VAT would have to rise again to 22.5% and further, deeper cuts (if we stick to the path of extreme austerity). For Clegg to claim it is “right” to do what he has been doing, to cut the structural deficit by 2015, he is simply deluded and vastly ignorant. A Lib Dem turned Tory.

A new economy where the lowest-paid get to keep the money they earn. That’s why a Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury has put two hundred pounds into the pocket of every basic rate taxpayer and taken almost a million workers – most of them women – out of income tax altogether.

– The Bank of England warned that inflation was set to rise to over 5% by the end of the year. Average wages rose 2.8% in 2010. So actually, average wages, when taking inflation into account, fell. People are not better off now. Inflation, caused by strangling demand out of the economy is what keeps investment out of poor areas, and a few small changes to the tax system, regardless of how Clegg sugarcoats it, means nothing.
Do the lowest paid get to keep the money they earn? Or is it going to be spent on extortionately high energy bills?

And within one city, two nations: In Hammersmith and Fulham in West London, more than half the children leaving state schools head to a good university. Just thirty minutes east – down the district line to Tower Hamlets – and just 4 percent do. Odds stacked against too many of our children. A deep injustice, when birth is destiny. That’s why I’ve been leading the charge for social mobility – for fairer chances, for real freedom.

– One City, two Nations is a nice little tag line. The suggestion that the Lib Dems are dedicated to improving the lives of the poorest kids through education, is overwhelmingly delusional. According the Institute for Fiscal Studies, for each year up until the end of the report (2014), child poverty is set to rise. 90% of children on free school meals then go on to receive EMA to the tune of around £1,170. This is what I received, otherwise I certainly would not have been able to afford to go to college, and then onto University. Due to the cut in EMA and the replacement with the new bursary scheme, those who would have received the full £1,170 EMA, now stand to receive just £370.
The IFS stated of EMA:

“The EMA significantly increased participation rates in post-16 education among young adults who were eligible to receive it. In particular, it increased the proportion of eligible 16-year-olds staying in education from 65% to 69%, and increased the proportion of eligible 17-year-olds in education from 54% to 61%. The simple cost-benefit analysis mentioned above suggests that even taking into account the level of deadweight that was found, the costs of EMA are completely offset.”

– Getting rid of EMA is an ideological attack on social mobility. As stated above, overwhemingly delusional for the Lib Dem leader to suggest he has been ‘leading the charge’ on social mobility. Education is the key to social mobility. Taking away EMA, whilst at the same time back tracking entirely on Tuition Fees to the point where he agreed to triple the debt of the Nation’s 18 year olds, does not represent ‘leading the charge’ on social mobility. Does he really believe cutting EMA for the poorest, offering them a piss poor replacement bursary, whilst inflation continues to spiral out of control effectively cancelling out any perceived benefit, whilst benefits are slashed, and whilst wages stagnate and poverty rates rise – is a good thing for the cause of social mobility?

After being hit hard, we picked ourselves up and we came out fighting. Fighting to keep the NHS safe. Fighting to protect human rights. Fighting to create jobs. Fighting for every family. Not doing the easy thing, but doing the right thing. Not easy, but right.

– I think by ‘right’ he means right winged. How can one of the men responsible for the destruction of over 100,000 jobs in less than a year, a man partly responsible for a working NHS considered to be one of the best in the World succumbing to the terror of the private sector; a private sector that certainly did not provide improvements to the railways or the utilities, a man partly responsible as shown above, for poverty rates set to rise and families set to lose more and more due to high inflation and stagnating wages; how can this man claim he is fighting to create jobs and fighting for every family?
From April 2011, to July 2011, those three months alone saw unemployment rise a further 80,000 to 2.51 million. A huge amount of job losses in just three months. It was the largest increase in unemployment since 2009 – the midst of a recession. What about disability? Lib Dem Steve Webb said that the £12.3bn for DLA at the beginning of this Parliament, would be exactly the same by the end of the Parliament with the Personal Indepedent Payment. Clearly Webb doesn’t understand inflation over a five year period. Wheelchairs, travel, care will cost over 20% more in 2015 due to inflation. So, that £12.3bn is worth far less than Webb would have you believe. 20% of those claiming DLA will lose it, not because it is better targeted, but because it has been cut by 22%. Clegg started the house fire, the fire is still raging, and he claims he’s brilliantly putting it out, as more of the house burns.

Labour says: the Government is going too far, too fast. I say, Labour would have offered too little, too late. Imagine if Ed Miliband and Ed Balls had still been in power. Gordon Brown’s backroom boys when Labour was failing to balance the books, failing to regulate the financial markets, and failing to take on the banks. The two Eds, behind the scenes, lurking in the shadows, always plotting, always scheming, never taking responsibility. At this time of crisis what Britain needs is real leadership. This is no time for the back room boys

– What a waste of a paragraph. The charge of plotting and scheming from a man who signed a pledge, and gained much support and votes from the student movement in 2010, only to piss all over that pledge when he came to power and use “Well, you have to compromise in Coalition” as an excuse, is unbelievably hypocritical. In their 2010 manifesto, in bold font, on the first page, the letter from the leader, we see:

Don’t settle for low politics and broken promises; be more demanding.

– I voted Lib Dem in 2010. I want my vote back. That is me being more demanding. I want a vote on a joint Lib/Tory manifesto that includes a VAT rise, the dismantling of the NHS, closures to youth centres, and libraries and the loss of 100,000 jobs VS a Labour manifesto. If he is going to use “have to compromise in coalition government” I want to vote on that coalition compromise, rather than having to deal with the outcome of behind the scenes, lurking in the shadows, always plotting, always scheming Lib Dem politicians trying to worm their way out of their commitments that allowed them this taste of power in the first place.

On the first point, that Labour say the government is cutting too far, too fast; The IMF this week pointed out that with growth having to be downgraded for (i’ve lost count) yet another time, the government may have to slow down its austerity measures. At the beginning of 2011, the IMF, fully supportive of austerity joyfully claimed the UK economy would grow by 2% this year. That was downgraded to 1.7%. That was downgraded to 1.5%. That was downgraded to just 1.1%. We’ll be lucky to hit that mark. So, the IMF’s support for austerity, and the fact that they may be coming to the conclusion that deep, fast cuts do not work appears to echo not only Labour’s stance, but also pre-election Clegg’s stance. Clegg in 2010 of the Tory plans for fast and far cuts:


“Self evidently I think, we think, that merrily slashing now is an act of economic masochism.”

– It isn’t just Labour who say the Coalition is cutting too far, too fast. It was also pre-2010 Clegg.

I don’t think the unions should be able to buy themselves a political party. Ed Miliband says he wants to loosen the ties between Labour and the union barons who helped him beat his brother. Let’s see him put his money where his mouth is. Let’s see if he’ll support radical reform of party funding. Every previous attempt has been blocked by the vested interests in the other two parties.

– Perhaps he should convey the same message to his master in Downing Street. Islington Council severed their links with John Nash’s Care UK because the private health provider has an awful track record, and racks up mountains of complaints. John Nash of Care UK donated £21,000 to the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley’s private office. Unsurprisingly, at the beginning of the year, a £53,000,000 contract to provide health services to prisons went to Care UK, even though the NHS was deemed to be:

better than the successful bidder on quality, delivery and risk.

– I ask, being the pockets of unions – that represent thousands, if not millions of year, is now considered worse for ‘centre-left’ Clegg, than being the pockets of one businessman and his desire for profit at the behest of patient care. The policies that he will ensure his backbenchers vote for, are drawn up by a Party in the pockets of big business. He is therefore complicit. Brilliant.

Probably the most important lesson I have learned is this: No matter how hard you work on the details of a policy, it’s no good if the perception is wrong. We can say until we’re blue in the face that no one will have to pay any fees as a student, but still people don’t believe it. That once you’ve left university you’ll pay less, week in week out, than under the current system, but still people don’t believe it. That the support given to students from poorer families will increase dramatically, but still people don’t believe it.

– It isn’t that we don’t understand. Or that we don’t believe it. It is simply that we don’t believe education should be open to market forces. Education is the right of everyone. For families who are struggling to pay increasingly inflated gas and electricity bills, whose benefits are slashed, the prospect of their 18 year old being charged £9000 a year is a step too far. With this policy also came the policy of pay-nothing-back until you earn over £21,000 a year, compared to the £15,000 limit in place now. Most Universities will rise tuition fees to above £6000, and many to the £9000 limit. The £21,000 is meaningless. I don’t care if i’m paying back £1 a year, the fact that I would leave university with well over £40,000 of debt, when you include living costs, before i’d even reached my 21st birthday, is ludicrous. If I have three children, and they want to go to University, that is going to amount £110,000+ worth of debt that my children end up with. Couple this, with the fact that England’s University budget has been cut by £449m, the teaching budget cut by £215mn, and Educational Maintenence Allowance (which I relied on to get me through college) scrapped, this does not represent a progressive plan for students. If the unique selling point is pay nothing back until you earn over £21,000, why have a top £9000 limit at all? Why not £50,000 a year? Or more? The universities can speculate that they will be richer than ever, and the debt, which Clegg seems to think is not a deterrent at all, will be irrelevant. Their policy is a disaster.

My main issue with the tuition fee debacle, is the principle. Saddling the Nation’s 18 year olds with the burden of the National debt, whilst not one banker has been prosecuted, and big businesses receiving Corporate tax cuts, and whilst the Government has allowed Vodaphone to get away with not paying the £4.8bn they allegedly avoided paying in tax, is shameful. It is certainly not progressive.

The Clegg speech at the end of the Lib Dem Conference had eroded any last glimpse of hope I had in a Liberal Democrat Party. They are, and will forever be, in the eyes of we on the Progressive Left; Tory-lite. Even Clegg’s tie, is slowly turning blue.

If you look through a particularly powerful telescope, you may be able to see Planet Clegg. I hear it was formed by the coming together of the concepts of dishonesty, u-turns, and delusion.


#realbrokensociety

August 18, 2011

Police_asbo_notice_Richmond

A Vulture Fund is a hedge fund that buys up National debt at a tiny price because the debt is about to be defaulted, and pursues it vigorously through the courts. Liberia, a Nation in deep poverty, one of the World’s poorest Countries, had debt that was bought up by a Vulture Fund owned by Hedge Fund manager Eric Hermann. He took war torn, poverty stricken Liberia to court, in which his Vulture Fund won £12m from Liberia – 5% of their annual budget, for debts from 1978, before his Vulture fund was even set up. The debt, plus interest earned the Vulture Fund a nice profit, that would otherwise be used to build half a million homes in Liberia. The funds thrive on poverty. In 2010 a bill came through Parliament aimed at stopping these Vulture Funds. It took up a lot of time, and right at the last minute looked likely to pass. Tory MP Philip Davies then penned an amendment to try and stop the bill passing. It didn’t stop the Bill. But suddenly, a Tory MP on the front bench shouted “object” (a silly Private Members bill rule), and so the bill failed to pass. All the Tory front bench sat with their hands over their mouths so no one would know who made the bill fail. #realbrokensociety

According to the Telegraph:

Six-year-old Abdullah Qadoos was hit by cluster bombs fired by the British Army as they took the Iraqi city of Basra in March 2003. Shrapnel smashed through the window of his home, cut off his arm and tore open his abdomen.

– The UK government banned clusterbombs years ago. But a loophole in the law means banking institutions can invest in companies that manufacture clusterbombs. Royal Bank of Scotland, which is pretty much owned by the taxpayer, has invested more than £115m in Alliant Techsystems and Lockheed Martin – two clusterbomb manufacturers. Given that Cameron deplored a “culture that glorifies violence“, will he be closing this loophole? Well, no. Of course not. Mainly because when a kid suggests looting a Footlocker on Facebook it’s a great evil, but when rich companies fund violence, it’s fine. Number 10 said:

The issue of indirect financing is for individual institutions to consider. We as a government have made it very clear that direct financing of cluster munitions is illegal. We would encourage NGOs to come together and engage with the banks to find a mutually agreeable approach to indirect financing.

– Encouraging banks to self regulate? Really?
#realbrokensociety

Ex Chief Exec. of RBS presides over bank that loses £24.1bn of other peoples money. The biggest loss in Corproate history. Described by the Guardian as one of the 25 people at the heart of the financial meltdown Worldwide, and is punished, by having his pension reduced to £342,500 a year from £555,000 a year. Meanwhile, a man in Manchester is about to face jail for “looting” an ice cream cone and two scopes of ice cream. #realbrokensociety

Jeremy Isaacs, donated £190,000 in the past five years to the Tories, and who happened to be the boss of the Asia/Europe branches of Lehmann when it collapsed and engulfed the World. #realbrokensociety

Npower just announced profits of 130% larger than last year. Still, they think raising gas prices by 15.7% is “necessary“. Elsewhere, Bolton County Council have had to sell a painting by the great English painter Sir John Everett Millais to an American art collector, meaning the painting will probably never be in this country again, just to help fund its arts and culture sector which has been needlessly slashed. #realbrokensociety

If you are old enough to commit these crimes you are old enough to face the punishment” bleated David Cameron, in response to the rioting across England two weeks ago. In the 1980s, Cameron was a member of the notorious Bullingdon Club Elite, who ritualistically smashed restaurants and pubs up. New members only become aware that they have been accepted, when they find their rooms trashed and smashed. After rioting, the Bullingdon Club chant: “Buller, Buller, Buller! Buller, Buller, Buller! We are the famous Bullingdon Club, and we don’t give a fuck!“. When the Bullingdon club were out one night, a plant pot was thrown through the window of an Oxford restaurant. Eye witnesses say they saw a bunch of men including David Cameron run away. This week, two men imprisoned for 4 years for inciting riots on facebook which didn’t actually lead to any trouble. #realbrokensociety

Sir Philip Green was asked in 2010, to write a report into Government spending and procurement. He reported that there were mass failings in Government procurement. The entire procurement professional dismissed the report as nonsense. Philip Green’s Arcadia Group business has thus far avoided £25bn in taxes. In 2005, his dividend on 92% of the shares in Arcadia, gave him £1.2bn. My home city of Leicester was found to be home of a sweatshop factory in a basement, where workers were paid less than minimum wage, providing clothes for Top Shop. Top Shop is owned by Sir Philip Green. Meanwhile, a rioter is imprisoned for 6 months for stealing a water bottle worth £3.50. #realbrokensociety

Clive Goodman, jailed in 2007 for hacking the phone of Prince William, had penned a letter to the News of the World, which stated that Coulson among others, had regularly discussed phone hacking, and told Goodman that if he didn’t implicate the News of the World in the scandal in 2007, he would be given his job back when he got out of prison. The letter was sent from the solicitors Harbottle and Lewis who are investigating internal N.O.T.W emails, to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee two days ago. Hacking into the voicemail of dead schoolgirls, and then covering it up, and then becoming the Prime Ministers chief of communications. #realbrokensociety

The Minister in charge of deciding whether Murdoch should be allowed to buy BSkyB, and decided in favour of take over, is Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. In 2009 a ‘sleaze watchdog’ found that he had allowed his friend to stay rent free in his tax payer funded house, whilst claiming expenses for both of them. Fraud, I believe it is known as. Will he face jail for looting the public purse? “If you are old enough to commit these crimes you are old enough to face the punishment” according to Cameron. Well, no. He said sorry. So he only have to repay half of the £20k he fraudulently claimed. Whilst claiming for that house, he was also fraudulently claiming for mortgage payments on another house. But it’s okay. He said sorry. #realbrokensociety

One in four UK households are now classed as fuel poor. Fuel poor means when the cost of heating your home exceeds 10% of annual income. Roger Carr, the Chairman of Centrica which owns British Gas and has just announced a 25% increase since December 2010, is also the President of the CBI. The CBI have called for deeper spending cuts than have been so far imposed, and have opposed any tax rise on Capital Gains tax. Effectively, meaning they wish to see Winter Fuel Allowance for the neediest cut drastically, but the taxes on their huge profits lowered. #realbrokensociety

The maximum tax credit of £54 a week for families with a disabled child will now be cut to £27 a week. Thousands will be plunged into poverty due to this cut. Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond, who is worth £7.5million, pays himself in dividends rather than a salary from his company Castlemead, saving him money on tax. Also, to avoid the 50p top rate of tax, he moved his shares into his wive’s name, who pays a smaller rate of tax, allegedly saving the Transport Secretary £25,000 a year. On Question Time, he called it “rearranging my affairs“. #realbrokensociety

I think it’s about time the Prime Minister instilled a sense of humanity and moral decency in his own household before he continues this ironic moral crusade.


The Osborne Delusion

August 17, 2011

I am not going to comment on the Clive Goodman letter, needless to say, Cameron’s decision to bring Coulson into the heart of government, is just another example of the blatant hypocrisy the Prime Minister is exhibiting recently, in his new self appointed role as guardian of all morality.

So I will focus my attention on the Chancellor instead.

Every couple of years a mad American Christian will insist that the end of the World is fast approaching. They will it, because their religious delusions, they believe, could not possibly fail them. Logic and evidence are shunned for dogmatic religious doctrine that they refuse to give up on, despite the failure time and again of their religion to provide any substantial justification for its existence and its claims. George Osborne is a Tory whose doctrine is about as far right economically as one could possibly get. He will insist his doctrine is the only one that works, despite its massive failures time and time again. Neoliberalism is a religion, George Osborne is a manic preacher who cannot let go.

It was more than obvious before the general election, to most free thinking Englanders, that George Osborne’s assessment that the UK was on the brink of bankruptcy was entirely false. The 6th largest economy in the World, with a triple A credit rating coupled with low inflation and falling unemployment, after the deepest recession in living memory, is not on the brink of bankruptcy. It was a nice little phrase to use in order to attempt to win an election….. which they didn’t.

We knew that England wasn’t Greece. We knew that 80% of our debts matured in 14 years as opposed to Greece’s 3 years. We knew that Greece is in the Euro zone and so has no exchange rate flexibility. We knew Greece is ranked 109th in the World for ease of doing business, with the UK ranked 4th. We knew that Greek public debt is 142% of GDP whilst the UKs was 76%. We knew that Greece was a CCC rated country according to credit rating agency Fitch, whilst the UK was AAA rated. We knew that what George Osborne was saying, his comparison of the UK to Greece, was simply the case of the Tory machine trying to win an election.

But it didn’t stop there. He’s still at it. Either he knows he’s very very misleading, or he’s genuinely insane. Osborne has been insisting recently that he has apparently saved the economy from total collapse. He claimed recently, in an article in the Telegraph, that:

In retrospect, the use of political capital to implement immediate efficiency savings, pass the emergency Budget, agree the most difficult Spending Review for generations and put in place long-term fiscal reforms to pensions was an excellent investment in our country’s economic stability. Thanks to these decisions, the credit rating agency Standard & Poors took the UK off negative outlook and reaffirmed our AAA rating.

– The problem with that statement is, Standard and Poors reputation as a credible source for credit ratings, is rather inadequate. Ezra Klein writing in the Washington Post, said of Standard and Poors and the bursting of the credit bubble:

Standard Poor’s didn’t just miss the bubble. They helped cause it

– They did this, by assigning Triple A credit ratings, to collaterised Debt Obligations, that were risky enough to cause the entire system to crash. Investors bought up the CDOs thinking they were safe, when in fact they were standing on the edge of a cliff, with a hurricane behind them.
Just this month, the US Treasury found that the downgrading of the USA’s Triple A credit rating by Standard & Poors was based on a $2tn mistake in their calculations. The US Treasury said:

The magnitude of this mistake – and the haste with which S&P changed its principal rationale for action when presented with this error – raise fundamental questions about the credibility and integrity of S&P’s ratings action.

– To use Standard and Poors as a sign that our credit rating was saved by the Tories, Osborne is quoting a woefully incompetent source.

So how well is “Plan A” working?
Osborne claimed that Britain was leading the way in growth. He also claimed the latest 0.2% growth figures for the second quarter were a good sign. Here is how that “good sign” looks on a graph:

– Do you see the blue line edging ever so slightly downward? How in the first quarter of 2011, growth was at 0.5%? How it fell 0.3% and how Osborne thinks that’s a “good sign”?
0.2% is apparently great news, for Osborne, yet when growth in January 2010, under Labour, was 0.1% following the recession, Osborne said this:

If you’re looking for the reason why the British economy couldn’t have weaker growth at the moment, literally statistically, it’s only 0.1%, the reasons for that is that businesses are uncertain about the future, there’s no government plan for the recovery, there’s no government plan that is credible when it comes to dealing with the deficit and answering those things would help job creation.

– So the difference between terrible economic growth, and fantastic news, is +0.1%? Fickle Osborne. What about his insistence that the UK is leading the way out of the mess in Europe? Well, whilst the UKs second quarter growth figures were 0.2%, the second quarter growth figures for Italy were 0.3%. Spain was 0.2%. Poland was 1%. Ireland was 1.3%. Finland was 0.8%. Estonia was 2.4%. Sweden (with its large tax rates and well funded public sector) was 1%. In fact, the entire Euro zone growth was 0.2%. Suddenly, Osborne acting as if he is Superman is a little bit more comical than when he blamed the snow.

The inflation rate – the Consumer Prices Index – rose by 0.2% in July from June. It is now at 4.4%. Clothing and footwear measured for CPI saw the biggest rise on record.

The BBC reported today that rail users will see prices increase by 8% next year due to the inflation statistics. A great example of the “efficiency” of the privatisation project over the railways.

The Office For National Statistics revealed that manufacturing in the UK fell by 0.4% in June, and the trade deficit in goods and services grew from £4bn in May to £4.4bn in June. The ONS also point out that overall production output in June 2011 was 0.3 per cent lower than in June 2010. Mining took a hit, at 13% lower production levels than June 2010.

Imports are down. Exports, due to austerity across the World, is down. So to base a Nation’s recovery on manufacturing (Osborne insisted on an export led recovery), whilst exports are down – leading to the fall in production, is walking a very very thin tight rope. We will be relying on the service sector, because the manufacturing base of the UK was absolutely destroyed under the previous Tory administration.

According to today’s figures, unemployment rose to 2.49 million, a rise of 38,000 in the three months to June. Soon to hit the 3 million mark? Unemployment among 16-24 year olds rose to 949,000, up 15,000. Welcome to the 1980s.

The Council of Mortgage lenders said that repossessions had dropped by 24% to 36,300 in 2010. That figure is now rising, and is expected to reach 40,000 by the end of 2010.

Doingbusiness.org ranks countries by their ease of doing business. In 2010, under Labour we were ranked 4th in the World. In 2011, we are ranked 4th in the World. Absolutely no change. Despite drastic cuts, tax breaks, the desirability to do business in the UK has stayed the same. Yet, ease of starting up a business in 2010, we were ranked 16th. Now, in 2011, after the Chancellor saved us…. we are ranked 17th. Brilliant. We dropped a place.

The big six energy companies have announced plans to increase prices. Npower stated it would increase electricity prices by 7.2% and gas by 15.7% by October. This increase comes after they announced first quarter profits, up by 130%. The rise will add an average £140 onto bills. And Npower’s hike, is the lowest of the big six (other than EDF, who haven’t announced yet).

The Office of Budget Responsibility, created by Osborne in May 2010, said that the target of 1.7% growth this year, was highly unlikely, and that growth would be relatively weak. The Chancellor announced a target of 1.7%…. the Chief of the OBR said there there “aren’t many people” expecting that to happen. To hit 1.7% growth rates, the UK needs 1% growth rates over the third and fourth quarter. Given that it was 0.2% in the second quarter, it would appear that the Chancellor was so miserably wrong, it actually hurts to think of how we managed to be stuck with such a person in charge of the Nations finances.

According to BBC Panorama, when adjusted for inflation, the average UK employee takes home £1,088 a year less than two years ago.

So, to sum up, inflation is rising; if it hits 5% the increase in earnings compared to the increasing in prices will reach 3%, exports are down, unemployment is getting worse, manufacturing is falling, train prices are beyond ridiculous, wages are stagnant, disabled children in poor areas are suffering more, people ARE losing their homes, growth is all but flat lining, and energy and gas prices are going to bankrupt most of us. Is this what leading the way to recovery is like? Can we swap it please?

With stagnating wages, rising inflation, rising unemployment and harsh austerity, is it any wonder that growth figures are so low? Where does the demand come from, when people have no money, no help, and are constantly afraid of losing their jobs and their homes? Is it any wonder that imports are down? There is no demand. When the Government “saves” money, so does the public. Under the atmosphere of stagnating wages, rising energy and gas prices, high inflation and harsh austerity, it is indescribably insane of the Chancellor to have expected growth of 1.7%.

Phrases like “difficult decisions” for millionaires like Osborne, who watch the poorest, riot in London from his holiday home in California, are beginning to sound very tiresome. It is impossible to justify taking vast amounts of money from disabled children, from EMA, and at the same time back the bail out of Portugal and invest in a war in Libya that has achieved absolutely nothing. To continue to allow the very wealthiest to get away with tax avoidance, by changing the rules on profit brought back to the UK so those profits are now not taxed at all, whilst keeping VAT high, is not a plan to deal with the economic woes of the Country, it is simply Tories being Tories. We’re in safe hands, as long as George “I avoid paying £1.6m tax on my trust fund…we’re all in this together” Osborne is in control.

Is there any good news? YES!!!…….. oh wait, no, no there isn’t.


The Headlines:

August 10, 2011

There are a number of worrying headlines doing the rounds across Media land today.


– The incessant need by Tory bloggers to point out that opportunism is at the heart of these riots, is not only hopelessly narrow minded, reflecting their narrow minded approach to economic policy; it is not only a defence mechanism to try to persuade us that their economic violence and public service looting is actually quite wonderful and couldn’t possibly cause social tension; it is also disastrously hypocritical. Diane Abbott, in her article for the Telegraph, said:

As was the case 26 years ago, nothing excuses violence. There is no doubt that all types of mindless thugs latched on to the disturbances. There were also hours of looting at Wood Green and Tottenham Hale, both shopping centres I know well.

Angie Bray, Tory MP, then released a statement in which she said:

For senior Labour politicians to use cuts as an excuse for the kind of criminality we have seen over the last few days is unacceptable, irresponsible, and completely wrong. Londoners who have seen their homes and businesses destroyed expect more from local leaders.

– Another massive bout of ignorance, and refusal to accept that economic shock will always lead to social violence. It is a far more eloquent way to say: “Look, why would you riot? You don’t need Sure Start or any Youth Services……hold on, I just need to finish my Cocktail by the pool in the Caribbean……anyway, yeah, what is your problem? So you can’t afford to live in London any more. Stop your complaining and just fall further into deprivation with a sense of uselessness in silence, peasants, and come and clean my moat.” To this day, I am aghast as to why people think voting Tory is a good idea. They are dangerous. It is that simple.

Bray in her statement refused to print the piece of Abbots article that I just printed above, and only chose to include this part of Abbotts article:

Just as with the original riots, parts of the community seem to have been a tinder box waiting to explode. Haringey Council has lost £41m from its budget and has cut youth services by 75 per cent. The abolition of the education maintenance allowance hit Haringey hard, and thousands of young people at college depended on it. Again none of these things are reasons for rioting and looting. But with these and other cuts in jobs and services, it is difficult to see how areas like Tottenham can become less flammable soon.

– As far as I can see this is a fantastic point and absolutely relevant. Pretty much identical to argument I set out in my blog yesterday. Instead of Bray simply saying it’s “irresponsible and wrong“, she should refute the argument Abbot is making, with reason. Making empty statements as Bray did, simply highlights the weakness of the Tory argument.

The Tories then went on to say that Abbot was trying to have it both ways. That claiming violence is wrong, whilst suggesting cuts provoked violence, is opportunistic in itself. In this, they fail to understand Abbots argument, or the argument I tried to make yesterday. The point is, the deep austerity and the lack of opportunity coupled with fear that one is not secure in a job or a home, and the fact that we’ve had it pelted into our skulls for decades that owning shit that we do not need is the measure of what makes a person “somebody”, all adds to an atmosphere that makes rioting inevitable. The rioters may be opportunistic, and they may have absolutely no idea of the inner political and economic workings that have lead them down that violent and dangerous path, but the atmosphere that they have grown up under and live under every day is very much the underlying political issue, and it has been exaggerated a hundred fold by this current Government. The rioters are years away from the level of destruction forced on the UK by our financial sector. But if the Government’s handling of that can be anything to go by, I expect the rioters will be given massive pay offs and an over inflated bonus for the destructive nature. The Tories failure to comprehend the deeper social context of the rioting, is their downfall, and one of the many many reasons I would rather throw myself in front of a speeding train, than vote Tory. Labour’s refusal to acknowledge a growing discontented and disenfranchised lower class who see no future and are politically unrepresented because their traditional Labour Party is trying to constantly appeal to a Middle Class, caused the lower class to become easy prey for the BNP and EDL. The economic and social climate, lack of opportunity, crap low paid jobs that were never secure, caused a climate in which the Far Right thrived, a Far Right that organised violence rather than the disorganised violence we see with the rioting, but essentially the economic factors are the same. It is absolutely a class issue.

How many times must we have to sit and take the Tory Party line that everyone else is to blame but them. That it’s ludicrous to blame them. That their policies of slash everything could not possibly have a detrimental affect on the social fabric of England. The Miners were to blame. The Unions were to blame. Labour were to blame. Gay people were to blame. Immigrants were to blame. The EU was to blame. Students were to blame. And in the case of Oliver Letwin, anyone from Sheffield who wants a holiday is to blame. Must we wait until the next Tory Government causes the exact same social unrest due to economic violence and public sector looting, as this lot have done? Or like the Thatcher lot before them had done? How many times are we going to accept that it might just all be a coincidence? There has to be a strong resistance to the Right Winged narrative, because it’s becoming so absurd as to almost be laughable now. The are the nasty Party of Eton, that rules for Eton, by Eton, deflecting the blame onto everything and anyone else other than themselves.

Archer’s books are still pretty popular. Over here in Australia, I see them everywhere. Ash and I stayed in a lovely little boat house in Tasmania last year, in the middle of nowhere overlooking a beautiful lake with Mount Wellington rising above the horizon. In the little bookshelf underneath the TV, was an Archer book. Yet I think I speak not just for Londoners, but the entire Country, when I say that London got off lightly with Boris. If things had been a little bit different, Jeffrey Archer could now be Mayor London. That is a scary thought. I doubt he’d win if he ran again, the way Boris has not handled the riots shows his complete disinterest in the plight of those who don’t live and work in Canary Wharf. Today in fact, giving a speech in London, whilst being the victim of constant heckling from people who had to remain in their homes scared to death, whilst the Mayor was on holiday refusing to come home, Boris said that people shouldn’t listen to those claiming there are sociological and economical reasons for these riots. The typical Tory attitude. Employ economic violence on those less fortunate, and then wash your hands of the consequences. One can only imagine how much worse that particular speech would have been had the pathological liar, Jeffrey Archer been giving it.


– Roger Helmer MEP is an idiot. He has been an idiot for a very long time. He is a throw back to the Euro sceptic Tories of the 1980s, who not only dislike the idea of joining a single currency, but want us absolutely out of Europe in every way. People like Helmer has this odd sense of British superiority as nostalgia from the days of Empire, whilst the rest of the World has moved on. With China, Brazil and India growing every second of every day, how he expects a tiny nation like Britain to compete, without being integrated in Europe is something he doesn’t elaborate on.
As well as calling for people to be shot, Helmer has also said that women who are date raped:

“surely shares a part of the responsibility”.

That homophobia is a propaganda tool used by the “militant gay lobby”, that the UK would benefit from American style healthcare, and that clubbing “dumb cub” seals over the head was humane because they were pests for eating too many fish. In short, the man is categorically insane.


– This is absolutely not a parody. I kid you not. An Iranian man with a desperately funny wig has issued a statement urging police restraint. A Country who, according to Human Rights Watch:

“Respect for basic human rights in Iran, especially freedom of expression and assembly, deteriorated in 2006. The government routinely tortures and mistreats detained dissidents, including through prolonged solitary confinement.”

– has urged caution in the UK. On this issue, I am absolutely speechless.

The Chancellor is appearing ever more insane. Blaming the snow for poor growth was one thing, but his ability to just make shit up is almost an art form now.

Last Monday the IMF said this:

On Saturday the Bank of England said this:

Last Thursday, his own office said this:

On Sunday the Business Secretary said this:

Later that day, this happened:

Today, it was reported that:

But it’s okay, the Chancellor is ignoring it all and making up his own news.

– I am not sure incompetency is the word. Charlie Brooker labelled Osborne as an 11 year old novelty Chancellor. I think that’s pretty much spot on. He is refusing to back from Neoliberal Tory doctrine, no matter how dangerous and wrong it is proving to be. It is isolating massive amounts of the UK community, everyone fears for their jobs and their homes.

Never trust a Tory.


The wisdom of Philip Davies, MP

June 22, 2011

Twitter Philip Davies MP

A couple of nights ago, Twitter was alive with the news that Tory MP for Shipley, Philip Davies had stood up in the House of Commons and said this:

“If an employer is looking at two candidates, one who has got disabilities and one who hasn’t, and they have got to pay them both the same rate, I invite you to guess which one the employer is more likely to take on.

“Given that some of those people with a learning disability clearly, by definition, cannot be as productive in their work as somebody who has not got a disability of that nature, then it was inevitable that, given the employer was going to have to pay them both the same, they were going to take on the person who was going to be more productive, less of a risk.

“My view is that for some people the national minimum wage may be more of a hindrance than a help.

“If those people who consider it is being a hindrance to them, and in my view that’s some of the most vulnerable people in society, if they feel that for a short period of time, taking a lower rate of pay to help them get on their first rung of the jobs ladder, if they judge that that is a good thing, I don’t see why we should be standing in their way.”

Philip Davies ideal England is one in which sweatshops, full of people with disabilities create cheap goods for the overly privileged Tory benches to feed from, whilst the sweatshop bosses drive up to the gates of Downing Street in their brand new Mercs, accompanied by a lovely big donation for the Tory Party.

Perhaps we could use the £161,300 in expenses he claimed rather dubiously in 2009, on top of his £65,000 a year salary, to pay people a better salary? On the subject of his expense claims, he claimed the most of all Bradford MPs, and claimed £10,000 more on his second home allowance than Bradford North MP Terry Rooney. I am not entirely sure how that’s warranted, or helps him does his job to a greater degree. Incidentally, claimed for more in second home allowances than my dad makes in a year. Unsurprisingly, he clings onto this gravy train by opposing much needed Parliamentary reform. The lobby for Parliamentary reform, Power 10 label Philip Davies as one of the six MPs who will happily block reform of Parliament. This isn’t surprising, given just how much he has financially benefited from the current corrupt nature of Parliament.

Nevertheless, there is an unnerving essence to a member of our national legislature, insinuating that a person’s worth should be based solely on their physical or mental capability, and then using defensive rhetoric, heartfelt sentiment, to sound as if he only wishes to help disabled people, rather than line the pockets of his Party’s donors, and make it easy for employers to exploit without worry. It is equally as unnerving for a politician to tacitly suggest that wage discrimination is not only acceptable, but entirely the fault of those who are being discriminated against. His words sound as if he is suggesting being disabled is a lifestyle choice, that requires a bit of a punishment. That punishment should apparently be an agreement to work for less money that one needs in order to live, along with the added expense that comes with certain disabilities.

It would be right to point out that those with disabilities, who Davies wants to be paid less, did not cause the financial problems we’re now in. Ironically, for Davies, it was the private sector’s excessive greed (of which he clearly has no problem in promoting) that caused the mess, through unproductive excess profit being used – not to pay people better even when it had accumulated enough to easily manage paying more – but on dodgy asset deals. The problem in 2007 wasn’t that there appeared to be a lack of capital caused by the need to pay disabled people, or anybody a national minimum wage, but by the fact that there was an abundance of concentrated excess capital that wasn’t being put to good and productive use. Wages were stagnating for the majority of people, whilst wages at the very top climbed higher and higher. That, is entirely the fault of the private sector. Is Davies saying that if we dropped the minimum wage, wages would flourish, failed Tory economics would be proven right, and disabled people would be working shorter hours, for a loyal boss, who paid wonderfully? Because I foresee a bunch of employers driving even bigger Porsche’s whilst their £2 an hour disabled employees can no longer afford adequate care. Davies certainly didn’t offer any added benefits that some disabled people may require due to being paid below minimum wage. Grants for specialised equipment? Incomes and the ability to pay for necessary care and equipment cannot always be planned for even on a week to week basis, for those suffering certain disabilities. To promote the idea of wage discrimination against those with disabilities, at the same time as cuts to Disability Living Allowance take hold

It is a minimum wage for a reason. Do we really believe employers wouldn’t use an “opt-out” for their own advantage? Wages at the top are already obscenely high in the private sector. In 2009, for example, the chief executive of the Anchor Trust, which provides home for the elderly, took home £391,000. Anchor Trust is a charity! Whilst donations are down and employees are facing redundancy it is ludicrous for a CEO of an organisation that so many people rely on, to take home almost £400,000 a year.

I continue to be of the opinion that if an employer cannot afford to pay somebody a decent enough wage to live on, he/she shouldn’t be running a business. They are a danger to the public. £5.89 is not a lot of money, and to suggest that the rest of us are entitled to at least that, whilst a disabled person is entitled to less, purely because of a natural affliction is sensationally regressive.

The far right narrative is the problem, not minimum wage legislation. Philip Davis is attempting to remove responsibility for fair pay away from the employer, and onto the employee. Citizens UK found that of the companies in London willing to sign up to paying their lowest paid members of staff a “National living wage” rather than a “National minimum wage”, of £8.30 an hour, they managed to lift 3500 families out of poverty in 2009. It didn’t have an adverse affect on prices, in the same way as the minimum wage introduction in the late 1990s didn’t have an adverse affect as many Tories claimed it would. Campaigners for a National Living Wage are screaming out at Tesco, who have failed to ensure their cleaning staff are paid a fair living wage, despite the company making £3.8bn profit last year. Employers do not, ever, take paying their staff a respectable wage seriously. Ever. Surely if they were made to pay more, of which they can definitely afford, the money would be divided among a workforce who would pay more tax, and use the added disposable income on goods and services from businesses across the Country, rather than wasting it on the very very small band of wealthy elites?

A study in America called “Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination.” , found that job applicants with a white sounding name are 50% more likely to be asked back than an applicant with a white sounding name. The researches sent out 5000 applications in sales, marketing, clerical and customer service positions. The names they used were a mix of white sounding names, and black sounding names. The report showed that white applicants with stronger resumes than other white applicants received 30% more callbacks, whereas black applicants with stronger resumes than other black applicants received just 9% more callbacks. It proved that regardless of credentials, black applicants were 50% less likely to get a callback than a white applicant. I wonder if Philip Davis thinks black Americans should agree to work for less money than their white counterparts, purely because they are black? What about a black person with a disability? Back to slavery?

We should though, not be surprised by the ignorance that Philip Davis displayed. Here is an MP who voted against the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, which state that it is unlawful to discriminate when selling goods or services, education or facilities based on sexuality. Davies therefore thinks it is acceptable for a school to expel a gay student. Or for a shop to ban a lesbian lady purely for her sexuality. He also voted against removing hereditary peers from the House of Lords. So, he wants more freedom for shop owners to ban people based on sexual orientation (individualism and all that Libertarian bollocks) yet that same individualism, he doesn’t extend to the most privileged of people passing that privilege onto their children, who may or may not have worked or produced anything worthwhile in their entire lives? Oh the hypocrisy.

In 2011 he even invented his own logic based on a lie, when it comes to making cigarette packaging plain:

“I believe that the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes is gesture politics of the worst kind. It would not have any basis in evidence and it would simply be a triumph for the nanny state and an absurd one at that.”

– The objection I have with the line “it would not have any basis in evidence” is that it does have basis in evidence. Cigarette companies spend millions on their packaging, and over the last couple of decades, they have used the idea of “light” packaging to sell products to people who believe smoking “light” fags, means less danger. A 2004 British Medical Journal research article found that:

The increase in lung cancer risk is similar in people who smoke medium tar cigarettes (15-21 mg), low tar cigarettes (8-14 mg), or very low tar cigarettes (≤ 7 mg)

– So smoking a cigarette from a package that claims to be “ultra light” means nothing. But do people really believe “ultra light” means they are at less of a risk of developing lung cancer? Does the advertisement on the packaging work? If it does, then Davis is either a liar, or a massive idiot. Well, surprisingly……. he’s a liar or a massive idiot. A University of Toronto research paper, titled “‘Light’ and ‘mild’ cigarettes: who smokes them? Are they being misled?” published in 2002 found that:

In 1996 and 2000, respectively, 44% and 27% smoked L/M (light and mild cigarettes) to reduce health risks, 41% and 40% smoked them as a step toward quitting, and 41% in both years said they would be more likely to quit if they learned L/M could provide the same tar and nicotine as regular cigarettes. These data provide empirical support for banning ‘light’ and ‘mild’ on cigarette packaging.

– The policy of plain packaging is absolutely based on evidence. It is time we started to ignore the “nanny state” hysterical screams from manic, misinformed, ignorant right wingers.

Not only that, but in 2006, after an act of vandalism was initially blamed on a group of Muslim men, Davies said:

“if there’s anybody who should fuck off it’s the Muslims who do this sort of thing.”

– It later turned out that the act of vandalism was caused by white men. Davies did not apologise, nor did he take the same tough far-right, BNP-esque line with the white vandals as he had done when he imagined the vandals were all muslim.

You might think the incessant stupidity stops there. You’d be wrong. In 2009 Davies asked:

“Is it offensive to black up or not, particularly if you are impersonating a black person? Why it is so offensive to black up your face, as I have never understood this?

Maybe he would be happy for black people to take a pay cut after all.


The Pig Society Part II

February 16, 2011

The Big Society grows ever stronger, and support grows ever wider, charity bosses and workers applaud it and sing its praises, because it is a wonderful plan that is definitely not a cover for a mass of Corporate tax cuts.

That is what delusional Conservatives believe.
Except, it’s bullshit.
The voluntary sector is being absolutely gutted of funding.
As the previous post pointed out. But to make it clear, the Guardian today featured a story of a lady named Denise Marshall. She is Director of Eaves and also the Poppy Project. These charities work with victims of domestic abuse and sex trafficking. She has dedicated her life to this cause. She has fought some pretty high powered members of the criminal underworld across Europe. Eaves provides housing and counselling for victims of abuse. They offer up to 35% savings on gas and electricity and other necessities for vulnerable women. In short, Denise Marshall is a heroine. She was recognised for this in 2008 by being given an OBE. She is one of the very few who actually deserve the honour.

Denise is now handing back the OBE, to David Cameron personally, because she has said that the extreme and needless cuts to funding for charities and organisations like Eaves, means she will no longer be able to support and fight criminal gangs who traffic women for the sex trade. She feels that she would be hypocritical and unworthy of an OBE when she can no longer protect the women she has the award for protecting.

Marshall said:

“I received the OBE in 2007 specifically for providing services to disadvantaged women. It was great to get it; it felt like recognition for the work the organisation has done.

But recently it has been keeping me awake at night. I feel like it would be dishonourable and wrong to keep it. I’m facing a future where I can’t give women who come to my organisation the services they deserve – I won’t be able to provide the services for which I got the OBE.”

“If you run a refuge where you don’t have the support staff it just becomes a production line, where you move people on as quickly as possible to meet the targets. You’re not helping women to escape the broader problems they face. They may get a bed, but no help with changing their lives and moving out of situations of danger.”

“I’ve worked in this sector for almost 30 years. I don’t want to sound melodramatic but I don’t think I have ever felt as depressed and desperate as I do now,”

How then, do the Big Society advocates justify the fact that on the same day as a true heroine feels she can no longer protect very very vulnerable women in her care, the Tories are trying to stop an EU law on the banning of naked short selling (which I shall try to explain as much as possible shortly)? The EU law, if the Tories get their way, will not affect the UK on naked short selling. Germany have banned it, the U.S have banned it, Australia have banned it, Hong Kong have banned it, Japan have banned it. We have kept it. It makes a very small elite group of speculators very rich, whilst risking money that is not theirs. How are these people protected, yet the vulnerable women like those that Denise Marshall represents have their funds slashed. The Government and its banking friends and business associates are sitting sipping champagne, whilst Rome burns. Nero would be in awe.

Short Selling (not naked short selling) is a little confusing, and utterly absurd. It has no social use. It is not to the benefit of any of us. It is dangerous and it should be banned. When you buy shares, you buy them in the hope that the price will rise and you can sell them some time in the future, to make a nice bit of money. It is all to do with how you obtain shares. You and I would buy shares. Naked short sellers borrow shares in the hope that the price will fall. So, if for instance I was to borrow 5000 shares from Broker A. I will then sell them at £1 a share, so £5000, hoping the price falls. Say the price falls by half. I now buy back all the shares, at £2500. I have netted myself a nice little £2500 and I give the 5000 shares back to the Broker A.

Naked Short Selling is different, because you don’t even borrow the shares you’re selling. You don’t have them. You’re selling a promise that you will obtain the shares that you’ve just sold, at some point in the future. You may as well walk into a bank, take all of their money, and promise to give it back at some point in the future. There is then an incentive for short sellers to wreck companies, because the share price has to fall for them to meet their promise. On a grand scale, this can lead to massive crashes.

This little practice lead necessarily to the 1997 Asian Financial Crises, that left millions in poverty. This wasn’t the fault of too much Government interference in people’s lives, or too many people on the dole. It was a direct result of unproductive short sellers and a massively deregulated financial sector.

The law looks to ban naked short selling in the EU. The UK will be trying to exempt itself from that banning.

This of course comes days after the announcement that there would be vast changes to the offshore tax laws, which mean that large and medium sized businesses who offshore their profits and then move them back to the UK, no longer have to pay the difference between the tax they paid in their tax haven and the tax they pay in the UK. They no longer have to pay any tax on profits that are made outside the country and brought back to the UK. Not only that, but they can claim expenses against tax they pay in the UK, to fund their overseas departments. That represents one of the biggest changes to Corporate tax law, and a massive shift of wealth from the poorest due to cuts, to the very wealthiest on a level far beyond anything Margaret Thatcher could have dreamed of. Suddenly the veil of an omni-benevolent Tory government is falling off, to be replaced by a face stamped with the logos of Diageo and Barclays.

On the 9th February, George Osborne told the House of Commons:

Those entrusted by us to regulate those bankers and run our economy washed their hands.
Meanwhile the rest of the country is left paying every day for their failures.
The government has to pick up the pieces.

It would seem that what Osborne believes is “picking up the pieces” entails giving away massive tax cuts, destroying the voluntary sector, and inviting the World’s naked short sellers to come and set up home in Britain.

Welcome to the Pig Society.


I hate to say I told you so, but…..

August 5, 2010

“My eight-year-old ought to be able to work this out – you shouldn’t start slamming on the brakes when the economy is barely growing. If you do that you create more joblessness, you create heavier costs on the state, the deficit goes up even further and the pain with dealing with it is even greater. So it is completely irrational.”

– Nick Clegg, April 2010.

There is a small protest taking place at Hove Town Hall today, where David Cameron is speaking. The protest is over Government plans already set in place, to cut Government spending drastically this year. The ideological warfare lead by the Tories, and their tag along, principle-less friends in the Liberal Democrats is supposedly the result of the need to do something quick about the debt crises in the UK.

I’ve always wondered why Tory supporters suggest that National debt is a lot like personal debt. They suggest that if we run up a large debt, it’s best for us to pay it off straight the way and so therefore it is the same for Nations. It isn’t the same for Nations. It is completely different. It just happens to use the same word ‘debt’. To follow their logic through, we should do what the Coalition is doing and only spend money on bare essentials. Bread, the very cheapest and fewest clothes possible, shelter and water. Personal austerity. But, then wouldn’t that risk an even deeper recession as demand falls, jobs are lost, and businesses close? The government in one breath are telling us that National debt and personal debt are identical, yet in the next are telling us that whilst they cut spending, we should be encouraged to spend.

Now, putting aside the fact that there isn’t a debt crises, and putting aside that fact that only 20% of our debt matures in the next three years, and putting aside the fact that millions of people were dumb enough to believe the scare tactics employed, that voting Tory was some righteous move because they keep mentioning the words “omg debt!!!! Naughty Labour” despite the fact that those voters are somewhat economically illiterate to the problems that they personally would encounter under a Tory government. The same Tory government whose millionaire members kept spouting the same “we’re all in this together” nonsense, whilst refusing to answer what it is that will effect them the most from the spending cuts. When will ordinary people learn that voting Tory, is never going to benefit them.

Maybe now.

It has emerged today that the UK’s service sector, which is the key ingredient in our economy, stalled last month in its output. So much so, that growth in the sector, fell to a 13 month low. The vast majority of companies who were asked what has caused the stalling of growth, said that cancelled government projects, that were propping up their business, whilst recovery from recession was underway, were the cause of the stalled growth. The government projects, were all cancelled, by the Tory government. Consumer spending, which was strong in January, February and March under Labour, has now started to slow down massively, under the Tories.

Labour’s Ed Balls rightly says:

“These warnings show why it is so risky for the government to be cutting public sector contracts now when the recovery in Britain is so fragile and people around the world are worried about a double-dip recession. David Cameron is misguided and wrong to say the most urgent priority for Britain is to slash the deficit. The most urgent priority should be to secure Britain’s economic recovery by boosting jobs and growth.”

The chief economist for the surveying company, Markit said:

This has hugely increased the risks of a double-dip recession, perhaps even by the end of the year.

Julian Le Grand, professor of social policy at the London School of Economics, stressed recently that massive cuts risked a return to recession, and possibly worse than before. Economist Paul Krugman continues to argue against such swift cuts. David Blanchflower, a former member of the Bank of England monetary policy committee says that we need more stimulus and more spending in the short term, and definitely not cuts. Nobel Prize Winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has said that more government investment in high return ventures like education and investing in infrastructure and promoting investment is the way to go, and that cutting spending risks a prolonged return to recession. The Tories, are wrong. Very very wrong.

Every day, Sky News would interview some irrelevant business man in an expensive suit, and spin it to appear that he knew exactly what he was talking about when he demanded spending cuts immediately. BBC News would do much the same. We’d keep hearing from the same type of people. Never from those who would suffer the most. And so the idea that any suffering would take place, was largely ignored, and the rose tinted business men specs were continuously worn, and presented as fact, that this was the only way. We’d see Willie Walsh of B.A tell the UK that the cabin crew on strike were threatening to destroy a great company, pretty much daily. Sky and BBC didn’t question it. They didn’t suggest that we were only ever hearing one side of the story. They’d then back in up, by interviewing a child at an airport trying to get home but couldn’t because of the strikes, crying on his own, and we’d all (when I say ‘we all’, I exclude myself from that, because i’m not an idiot) suddenly demonise the cabin crew as greedy and evil, yet Willie Walsh, the CEO who had brought BA to it’s knees, by forcing it to pay $25mn over a price fixing scandal and a further £121.5m in the UK by the Office of Fair Trading. Why weren’t we told that perhaps if management wasn’t so appalling, that 98% of the workforce wouldn’t have to agree to strike action?

We were then told, constantly by the Tories that they have to do this, because Labour have had thirteen years of creating a massive debt. We have not been told that in the first five years, the Labour Government reduced the debt by £34bn. The biggest debt reduction than any government accumulatively, over the past fifty years. Massive actually. Public spending then fell from 40% when the Tories were last in power, to 38.1% by 2001. In fact, the debt by 2005, had fallen from 44% of GDP to 34% of GDP. Spending only started to build, after recession hit, because there were suddenly no jobs, and because of the nature of the crash, spending was needed to protect homes and jobs. The Tories opposed it. Half the people who voted Tory, would have lost their jobs, and their homes, had the Tories been in power between 2007-2010. Contrary to the constantly projected bullshit, Labour had not spent 13 years wrecklessly spending. They had actually followed the Tories lead, and embraced Neoliberal economics.

We were then all told that we must cut public spending, because to attack the bankers who actually caused the mess, would mean the bankers would all leave the Country and go somewhere in which they could be as corrupt as they wished without being brought up on it. It’s like saying “Look, we know he’s a murderer, but he’s a good football player, so we wont tell the police, otherwise he’ll leave the club”. We are made to believe that the best thing for all of us, is to become servants to the financial sector. We do what we’re told, by business. It becomes our fault, that the economy is screwed. There is something fundamentally wrong with the entire system, and the philosophy behind it. The philosophy being, we are all self centred egotists who could not possibly be interested in advancing the public good and humanity in general, and we we should leave it to the private sector because the private sector appeals to our vanity. The philosophy is wrong. The philosophy is something that has been embedded into our minds consciously, not naturally.

The idea that we are taking away from the public sector, and giving to the private sector is sold to us, as an act of democracy. That democracy is linked to capitalism. It isn’t. Surely the opposite is true. We are taking power away from the democratically elected officials, who are accountable to the people who vote for them, and giving the power to unelected, self interested businessmen who we never see the faces of, let alone vote for. The political sphere may be in the hands of democracy, but the economic sphere is firmly in the hands of a new age nobility.

When the Tories spent half of the election campaign complaining that raising National Insurance was essentially a tax on jobs, they failed to point out to anyone that their ‘austerity’ measures would not just mean a massive loss of jobs in the public sector, but also, and as a direct result of the cuts, a massive loss of jobs in the Private sector. This is not in any way Labour’s fault. This is entirely the fault of the Tories. I can guarantee as the situation gets worse, which it will, the Tories will justify it constantly by telling us all that they had to do it because of Labour. The latest estimates that put unemployment up by a further 1.5 million by this time next year, which of course means consumer spending falling even further, is not the fault of Labour. Labour had a deficit reduction plan, that was careful and meant as few job losses as possible, and then when business started to pick up, the idea was that new revenue streams would open up and the deficit could be reduced slowly. The Tories plan, is an absolute disaster. Labour, it turns out, were right.

Spending, as a percentage of GDP was raised under Labour, as a result of the faults of Neoliberal/Tory policy across the World. As a result of mass deregulation of the banking sector primarily. That was Tory policy. They were wrong. The Tory idea that introducing a minimum wage would result in mass unemployment turned out to be false. With National Insurance, they were wrong. And now, with these new spending cuts, they are massively wrong. They said they would protect front line services. According to the Norfolk Firefighters, £1.5mn will be cut from front line fire services in Norfolk in 2010/11, these cuts include cuts to vital appliances, cutting employment of firefighters, and cutting coverage.

Let’s still not forget that whilst the major banking institutions that essentially caused the problems in the first place were licking their wounds, out of nowhere suddenly we were made to forget that aspect and start blaming public spending and Welfare programs for the problems we face. Public spending did not cause this problem, the private sector caused the problem, and now David Cameron is proposing that we should rely on the private sector to fix the Nation. Business cannot be trusted to do the right thing for the good of humanity, without regulation. Voting Tory, means voting away that regulation.

Over the next few months, we are likely to see just how much Labour did to prop up the economy, as the Tories continue to knock out the pillars that hold it up.

The problem Labour has now, is that they are still pandering to the Right. They keep mentioning a clear deficit reduction plan, as if there is no alternative. They keep suggesting cuts have to come. Blyth Valley Labour MP Ronnie Campbell noticed just how little a difference Labour offered in their dedication to needless public sector cuts, by saying:

We’ll cut your throat slowly, the others will cut your head off.

The UK has the fifth largest economy in the World, we are AAA rated credit wise, and the third largest reserve currency in the World. We are still able to spend £6bn replacing an out of date, out of touch nuclear deterrent, and almost £1bn subsidising the arms trade, yet the Con Lib Coalition insists that we need to cut spending to help people whilst jobs continually wither away. This is purely ideological, and it is dangerous. And we on the Left, were right.


The USA & Greece

May 13, 2010

The above, shows (if you can make out the words, i know it looks ridiculously small) that the US is not going to be the next major economic casualty, after Greece. It just isn’t going to happen.

My knowledge on economics is supremely limited. So please bare that in mind!

Even the UK, which is in a far worse position than the US, is not even slightly as bad as Greece. We here in the UK have had two quarters of positive growth. I accept that given the bail out, and fiscal stimulus package, the growth figures are ridiculously low, but we are in a period of economic recovery. It is going to take a while to see the benefit.

The Office of National Statistics report revised their original estimate for growth in the fourth quarter, to a much higher figure. We are actually in a much stronger economic position in the UK, than we first assumed. Government spending was needed to prop up the economy during recession. But, given that we are still only in recovery, I believe it’d be a massive mistake to withdraw that support as the new Conservative government plans to do shortly. In fact, i’m not entirely sure where the benefit of withdrawing support now, actually is? I accept in the future, we need to cut spending. I think though, forcing tax evading corporations to pay what they owe, should be the prime target. But cutting now, seems dangerous. Surely, when we are a growing economy, and the World itself is growing economically, that then would be a good time to cut. Not when people are struggling the most. I fear that it is just Tories being Tories. Cut spending, give people the option “Work where ever we say, or lose your home and starve to death…… and work twice as hard, for minimum wage…lower if we had our way!!! Whilst we give your boss a tax cut, so he can enjoy another game of golf a week“, and eventually the Nation’s money pot may improve, at the expense of social cohesion and morale.

Fox News today asked if it were possible, that the U.S could become Greece economically. They all answered “yes“. Scare tactics.
So I did some research, on the fundamental differences between the economy of Greece and the economy of the US.

To fill the hole in the budget, both Greece and the US need to find around 6% of GDP, according to a report by economists Auerbach and Gale. My limited understanding of economics tells me that just because that number is true for both Nations, the measures needed to fill the gap, are nothing like one another.

Greece’s budget deficit is 14% of it’s GDP. America’s is 9.3%. They are both pretty harsh figures, I accept.

National debt in the US is apparently likely to hit 140% of GDP in the next twenty years. That doesn’t take into account policy changes, technology advancements, or any other sort of externality. It does not take into account growth as a result of investment in infrastructure etc. That figure simply goes by what it would be, if twenty years from now, were the same in every way, as today.

Spending cuts, tax raises are obvious. But they do not need to be harsh as they do in Greece. Greece is in a far worse position. The US’s economy is growing, whilst Greece’s economy is shrinking. In order to protect itself from bankruptcy, by appealing to the IMF for a loan, Greece is being forced to reduce spending. Reducing spending during such a huge recession, is only likely to make that recession far worse. America is not in recession. It does not have to appeal to the IMF for a loan, it is not likely to fall back into recession any time soon. The growth will eventually provide the revenue to fill that 6% gap. When the US economy picks up, then spending cuts and higher taxation will further help the US bring down its cyclical deficit.

The US dollar is still strong. Despite growing deficit and debt levels, the US is in a prime position to deal with its problems, because the dollar will be the leading currency for many many years. America is the largest economy in the World. Greece, is the 27the largest economy in the World. And whilst China is growing, it is not in a position to catch up to, or overtake America for quite some time. Investors simply do not trust the Chinese all that much, whilst at the same time, investors flee Greece. Whilst reserve currency status is not guaranteed to last, it certainly provides protection for the US, which provides 60% of the World’s reserve currency.

Greece has to fill that gap within the next year. If they don’t, they risk pushing Greece into an even greater recession, which will inevitably lead to even greater structural deficits. Greece is in a mess. They ran up huge budget deficits during the good economic times. They inevitably ran up even larger budget deficits during the bad times. Greece’s structural deficit is horrendous. America’s, is not. The structural deficit in the USA is not perfect, true. And it is going to take some harsh measures over the next few years to help. But, the US can fill that 6% gap, over two entire decades. Greece has two years at the very most. It is also worth pointing out, that it was the Republican Party, the party of fiscal responsibility that spent away their budget surplus during the good times. And not in a positive way either. It was not Obama. America needs to simply slow down a little, not drastically cut.

America obviously has to change over the long term, whereas Greece has to change immediately. The problem America has, is its particular brand of Capitalism; irresponsible consumerism. Growth for the benefit of growth. Wall Street offering no real social good. They simply exist to fatten their pockets. Your money, placed in banks, being used in dodgy dealings, rather than productive investments. Responsible Capitalism, in which the success of a Nation is in measuring how low the inequality gap and how low the poverty rate is, rather than the accumulated riches of the very wealthy. That is the only way the entire World will escape another preventable Global recession.


The nature of “Change”

May 9, 2010

It amazes me that people actually consider any party; Labour, Tory, or Lib Dem of being the “party of change”. Absolutely unreal to believe that. I voted Liberal Democrat, almost in a moment of madness. I suppose I got caught up in the excitement of the election. It amuses me how many fellow students actually believe they were voting for “change” for the Liberal Democrats. It makes me feel like banging my head against a wall. The same feeling I get when people say “Well Gordon Brown caused this mess, so the Tories have to fix it!!!“. I am actually quite ashamed of myself for voting. I agree with the Lib Dem policy on Trident, and I agree with them on laying the foundations for a Greener economy. I disagree, profoundly with them and the Tories and Labour, on pretty much everything else. But my main issue with them, and my main issue with why they offer no real change, is because they still seem to believe that democracy is only acceptable in the Political sphere, and that the economic sphere is best left to faceless businessmen, as if they know what’s best for the World and the rest of us should just accept it.

Why was financial reform not at the top of the agenda? Why did centre-left and left wing parties allow the political discourse to become one of the necessity of savage public spending cuts? Why did centre-left and left wing parties allow the discourse to suggest that it is the public sector that is to blame, that government spending is to blame for the deficit? It is because they are not centre-left or left wing parties, they are parties for the rich, by the rich. The Lib Dems offer no real change. They offer the status quo, and the status quo is centre-right.

Financial deregulation was started by the Conservatives in the 1980s. It continued under Labour. The Liberal Democrats did not oppose it. The Liberal Democrats have no plans to reverse it. What they have basically been telling us for thirty years, is that government spending distorts the market by artificially affecting the demand side of the economy, whereas a bank offering easy imaginary money to stimulate our obsession with debt fuelled consumerism, is perfectly acceptable. They decided that it’s okay for a bank to use our money and our savings, not to invest in productive enterprises that progress mankind, but in totally non-productive speculative gambling and massive monopolising corporate take overs and mergers.

The very people who got us into the mess over in the private financial sector, are the same people who finance the parties across the World who are now not offering any kind of financial reform to stop them doing it again. A global banking transaction tax is surely only going to end up being passed onto consumers? The financial industry holds us all to ransom. When we hear them say that capital will flow out of the country, and cause investment to drop, if tax is put up……. they’re right. A lot of people dispute it. But they are correct. You almost have to bribe them to try and get them to stay in the Country. Bribing with political power, is usually the way it’s done. If you look at Latin America, what tends to happen when a Latin American government tries to invest in social justice, and attempts to help it’s people through a better standard of schooling and health, is that either America funds a right winged coup (see Nicaragua), or capital flows out of the country, which is then brought to it’s knees, and the Western World blames the evils of Socialism. When in reality, what is happening, is that slowly, politicians have less and less power, they have to give in to the owners of great wealth, otherwise capital flows out, and investment falls. The economic sphere, has the most power, and we have no say over that. Financial speculation has absolutely no social good. It is a cancer on the fabric of society. The financial industry, holds the World to ransom. And until the public have some control over the economic sphere, it is never going to change. The Lib Dems, certainly aren’t going to change it.

If you think through the logic of this, you’ll see that so long as economic power remains privately concentrated, everybody...everybody…….. has to be committed to the one overriding goal: and that’s to make sure that the rich folks are happy.
Whenever a reform measure does come along somewhere, they have a big propaganda campaign against it saying ‘it’s going to hurt jobs, it’s going to hurt investment, it’s going to hurt business confidence and so on. That’s just a complicated way of saying unless you keep business happy, the population isn’t going to have anything.

– Professor Noam Chomsky

There are no left wing intellectuals left within the political system any more. Politics demands leaders of Parties who pander to the public mood, which is artificially created and implanted, by the media. Immigration is a great example. Migration is caused by global inequality, nothing else. When capital and goods are free to flow across the World, so will human beings. It is our survival instinct at work. And so the only real way you deal with immigration, is to deal with global inequality. Stop the IMF destroying poorer countries with ideological warfare. A global initiative to tackle exploitation. A Global bill of rights ensuring a minimal standard of living for all human beings. In the 21st Century, where it’s considered morally acceptable to allow someone to amass a fortune worth billions of pounds, it seems abhorrent that it is considered morally acceptable to allow another to starve to death as a result of nothing more than this nightmare of an economic system. A Global financial sector regulator that is fully independent of any private interest. To sum up, a Global initiative to create a socially responsible form of Capitalism, rather than a regressive Darwinian form of Capitalism we’ve all had forced down our throats. Global solutions, to Global problems. Politicians across the UK and the World, especially in the developed Nations, pander to idiots, bigots, and xenophobes who do not understand the World, and offer easy and quick Colonian-esque solutions to complex problems. The Lib Dems do not offer any change here either.

So, who do we vote for, for real change?