Thursday, June 15, 2017

Tales from the plutocracy

Public subsidies to the rail network, and rising ticket prices, whilst shareholders are paid hundreds of millions of pounds in dividends.

A tower block burns down whilst Conservative MPs vote against tighter regulations of building safety standards.

Private companies are paid to cut benefits being paid to poor people. Their shortfall of money is met by charitable donations and volunteers manning food banks.

Shortfalls in school funding are being met by donations from parents.

The cost of nurse training to be met by the nurses themselves, rather than society as a whole.

Uncapped rises in rent met (or not) by housing and other benefits, which effectively transfer wealth from the taxpayer to the wealthy. Incidentally, my definition of "the wealthy" here is people who have homes that they can afford not to live in. That's a bit of a simplification, but it's not a bad starting point.

Every policy, every policy, designed to transfer money from "normal" people to "the rich", or limit the amount of money "the rich" have to pay to participate in society.

The opposition party argues over how left wing it should be whilst the party in power presses ahead unchallenged.

The media, largely owned by the plutocracy, draws attention to the weakness of the opposition rather than exposing the money grab of the people in power.

Friday, June 09, 2017

The "trickle-up" effect

The Conservatives promote the idea of the "trickle-down" effect - the idea that if people at "the top" get richer, the money trickles down through the economy and spreads to "the bottom" - the poorest. However, in my mind, this system has broken down. It would be better to describe it these days as a "trickle-up" effect - through high rent, housing benefit, dividends to shareholders, high charges for credit, and so on, as much of the spare money of the poor as possible is soaked up and passed up the chain to the wealthy. It doesn't trickle down any more - the net wealth of the richest 1000 people increased by 14% last year. That £83 billion pounds that just 1000 people increased in wealth by could have had a major impact on the economy were it "trickling down". Understand that I am not being anti-rich here. I consider myself one of the lucky ones, in wealth terms. But the whole foundation for how Conservative economics is sold to the population is on this basis. And if in actual fact, the money is simply being tied up in billionaires' assets, then this is not working. Note that even if the same amount was being transferred back to the economy at the same time as their wealth was increasing (though how quickly can a billionaire spend money?!) this would still represent a ridiculously inefficient process of getting money into the economy.

The point about this money is that it has to come from somewhere. And if the money is available to increase the net wealth of individuals, it could be available to reduce the deficit, or pay for hospitals, or .... whatever. The government is enthusiastically chasing something like £1 billion fraudulently obtained benefits - and rightly so. But that billion pounds is spread across far more people than 1000, and they are far more likely to be spending it in the local economy ("trickle-out?") - and the casualties of this are the people who are seeing their benefits cut when they are actually dependent upon them. This is why foodbank use is at record highs.

Similarly, quantitative easement could have passed money into the economy for the benefit of the population - but those billions of pounds were never seen by "normal" people, whilst high earners in the banking sector continued to see huge bonuses.

The world has changed, in this area as well as others (see my post on privatisation below). The Conservatives continue to pretend that things are the same as they were thirty years ago, in regard to these things, which is why people uncritically continue to vote for them, and believe that they represent a better way than the dangerous lefties with their strikes and their unions and their closed shops ("Corbyn will take us back to the 70s"). But these people owe it to the rest of society to understand how the tories are taking them and everybody else for a ride.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Tomorrow's election

Basically, the only thing the conservatives are offering is the "best Brexit deal" - a statement so vague as to have no substantive content whatsoever, and one which seems pretty unachievable given the team that are likely to be involved in the negotiations. There is literally not one other thing they have said in this election campaign that offers anything good for the country ... unless you happen to already be very rich (as, of course, all of the key players in the last government are). There is no let up to the threat to human rights, education, health, transport, international relationships that we have already seen from the tories. The rest of their campaign has been spent, with the collusion of key sections of the media, trying to say that Corbyn and his team would be bad for the country - as a means of distracting people from the appalling impact that their own manifesto will have.
Despite this, Corbyn has presented himself as measured, thoughtful, polite and a much more convincing figure for PM than May. I have several issues with Labour. One is that their manifesto promises are financially unachievable. Another is that whilst I would be happy to see Corbyn in 10 Downing Street, I don't believe the left wing of the party has the necessary competence to attempt to deliver anything close to what they have been talking about. And the third is that I still have not forgotten what Labour did from 1997-2010 - the misguided foreign adventurism and the laxity regarding the City of London which permitted them to wreck the economy. Note that I don't believe that this was fundamentally Labour's fault - this was the financial hard right wing, a sector of the economy that is happy to bypass political process altogether, and actually deserved the Icelandic solution of failure and prosecution, were that not to have had such an appalling impact on millions of innocent people. But it was on Labour's watch.
The fact that the electorate can apparently forget holds out hope in the long term for the party I still prefer, the Libdems. Some are still punishing them for (in effect) not being the biggest party in the coalition from 2010-2015, despite the fact that they managed to hold back the appalling right wing programme that the tories have since embarked upon. "Liberal" (that is, anti-liberal) secularists worked hard to damage Farron and undermine him from the start of the campaign, which is particularly daft as the libdem agenda is much closer to their mindset and more authentic than either of the two main parties. It was similar to what happened to Orson Scott Card with the film Ender's Game - it had a profound and overt anti-war message, but "liberals" could not see beyond Scott Card's attitude to other issues, so chucked the baby out with the bathwater.
With a big drop in Labour's polling position, and the largest party continuing to oppose Brexit, the Libdems might have hoped to have seen an increase in their share of the vote. This has not happened, and this is also despite their manifesto being generally well regarded and thought of as the most honest and realistic. It's not going to make a difference, and I can't imagine that the Libdems are going to advance significantly, if at all, in this election, but do at least check that you're voting for a party where you believe in the policies, not one that the media are telling you is the best one.