austerity

Landmark Study Links Tory Austerity To 120,000 Deaths

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 19/11/2017 - 3:00am in

Above Photo: Labour has called on Theresa May to match £6m pledged by Labour for health (Getty) Google is blocking our site. Please use the social media sharing buttons (upper left) to share this on your social media and help us break through. Government is accused of ‘economic murder’ The Conservatives have been accused of “economic murder” for austerity policies which a new study suggests have caused 120,000 deaths. The paper found that there were 45,000 more deaths in the first four years of Tory-led efficiencies than would have been expected if funding had stayed at pre-election levels. On this trajectory that could rise to nearly 200,000 excess deaths by the end of 2020, even with the extra funding that has been earmarked for public sector services this year. Real terms funding for health and social care fell under the Conservative-led Coalition Government in 2010, and the researchers conclude this “may have produced” the substantial increase in deaths. Is austerity really to blame for stalling life expectancy in England? The paper identified that mortality rates in the UK had declined steadily from 2001 to 2010, but this reversed sharply with the death rate growing again after austerity came in. From this reversal the authors identified that 45,368 extra deaths occurred between 2010 and 2014, than would have been expected, although it stops short of calling them “avoidable”. Based on those trends it predicted the next five years – from 2015 to 2020 – would account for 152,141 deaths – 100 a day – findings which one of the authors likened to “economic murder”. The Government began relaxing austerity measures this year announcing the end of its cap on public sector pay rises and announcing an extra £1.3bn for social care in the Spring Budget. Over three years the additional funding for social care is expected to reach £2bn, which Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said was “patching up a small part of the damage” wrought by £4.6bn cuts. The study, published in BMJ Open today, estimated that to return death rates to their pre-2010 levels spending would need to increase by £25.3bn. The Department of Health said “firm conclusions” cannot be drawn from this work, and independent academics warned the funding figures were “speculative”. However local councils who have been struggling to fund care with slashed budgets urged the Government to consider the research seriously. Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the Government must match Labour’s spending pledges in the Autumn Budget. Per capita public health spending between 2001 and 2010 increased by 3.8 percent a year, but in the first four years of the Coalition, increases were just 0.41 per cent, researchers from University College London found. In social care the annual budget increase collapsed from 2.20 percent annually, to a decrease of 1.57 percent. The researchers found this coincided with death rates which had decreased by around 0.77 percent a year to 2010, beginning to increase again by 0.87 percent a year. And the majority of those were people reliant on social care, the paper says: “This is most likely because social care experienced greater relative spending constraints than healthcare.” It also notes that a drop in nurse numbers may have accounted for 10 percent of deaths, concluding: “We have found that spending constraints since 2010, especially public expenditure on social care, may have produced a substantial mortality gap in England.” The papers’ senior author and a researcher at UCL, Dr Ben Maruthappu, said that while the paper “can’t prove cause and effect” it shows an association. And he added this trend is seen elsewhere. “When you look at Portugal and other countries that have gone through austerity measures, they have found that health care provision gets worse and health care outcomes get worse,” he told The Independent. One of his co-author’s, Professor Lawrence King of the Applied Health Research Unit at Cambridge University, said it showed the damage caused by austerity “It is now very clear that austerity does not promote growth or reduce deficits – it is bad economics, but good class politics,” he said. “This study shows it is also a public health disaster. It is not an exaggeration to call it economic murder.” The Department of Health stressed that no such conclusion could be drawn. A spokesperson said: “As the researchers themselves note, this study cannot be used to draw any firm conclusions about the cause of excess deaths. “The NHS is treating more people than ever before and funding is at record levels with an £8bn increase by 2020-21. We’ve also backed adult social care with £2bn investment and have 12,700 more doctors and 10,600 more nurses on our wards since May 2010.” And independent academics added that it is hard to prove cause and effect with this kind of study even if the underlying assumptions may be correct. Professor Martin Roland Emeritus Professor of Health Services Research, University of Cambridge said: “This study suggests that a change happened to cause deaths to stop declining around 2014. This is likely to be a correct finding. However, the link to health and social care spending is speculative as observational studies of this type can never prove cause and effect.” Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “We would urge government to review the evidence behind this analysis. If correct, it would clearly reinforce the desperate and urgent need to properly fund social care Mr Ashworth, responding to the study, said: “This shocking mortality gap is a damning indictment of the dire impact which sustained Tory cuts to our NHS and social care services have had on health outcomes across the nation. “Ahead of the Budget, this appalling news must serve as an urgent wake up call to the Prime Minister. She must match Labour’s pledge to deliver an extra £6 billion for our NHS across the next financial year to ensure the best possible quality of care is sustained for years to come.”

Prosperity Through Keystrokes: Understanding Federal Spending

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 19/11/2017 - 2:00am in

Above photo: From CNN Money. Google is blocking our site. Please use the social media sharing buttons (upper left) to share this on your social media and help us break through. Progressives Trigger warning: Compassion required. When is the last time you heard Greens, Berniecrats or Indie voters not acknowledge the distinct and pressing need for election reform, campaign finance reform, voting reform? More to the point, when haven’t they mentioned unleashing third parties from the fringe of irrelevancy and up on to the debate stage? That is mostly what is talked about, simply because it is low hanging fruit. It has long been known that our electoral system and methods of voting are corrupt, untrustworthy, and easily manipulated by less than savvy politicians, state actors, and hackers alike. The answers to many of these issues is the same answer that we would need to push for any progressive reforms to take place in the United States: namely, we need enlightened, fiery, peaceful, and committed activists to propel a movement and ensure that the people rise, face their oppressors, and unify to demand that their needs be met. What is not as well-known, however, is how a movement, the government, and taxes work together to bring about massive changes in programs, new spending, and the always scary “National Debt” (should be “National Assets”, but I will speak to that later). In fact, this subject is so poorly understood by many well-meaning people on all sides of the aisle that these issues are the most important we face as a nation. Until we understand them and have the confidence and precision necessary to destroy the myths and legends we have substituted in the absence of truth and knowledge, it must remain front and center to the movement. Progressives, like most people in the U.S., are almost religiously attached to the terms “the tax payer dollar,” and the idea that their “hard earned tax dollars” are being misappropriated. Often, the most difficult pill for people to swallow is the concept that our Federal Government is self-funding and creates the very money it “spends”. It isn’t spending your tax dollars at all. To demonstrate this, consider this simplified flow chart: These truths bring on even more hand wringing, because to the average voter they raise the issue of where taxes, tax revenue, government borrowing, and the misleading idea of the “National Debt” (which is nothing more than the sum of every single not yet taxed federal high-powered dollar in existence) fit into the federal spending picture. The answer is that they really don’t. A terrible deception has been perpetrated on the people. We have been led to believe that the U.S. borrows its own currency from foreign nations, that the money gathered from borrowing and collected from taxing funds federal spending. We have also been led to believe that gold is somehow the only real currency, that somehow our nation is broke because we don’t own much gold compared to the money we create, and that we are on the precipice of some massive collapse, etc. because of that shortage of gold. People in the United States have been taught single entry accounting instead of Generally Accepted Accounting Practices, or GAAP-approved double entry accounting, where every single asset has a corresponding liability; which means that every single dollar has a corresponding legal commitment. Every single dollar by accounting identity is nothing more than a tax credit waiting to be extinguished.  Sadly, many only see the government, the actual dollar creator, as having debt; that it has liabilities, not that we the people have assets; assets that we need more and more of as time goes on, to achieve any semblance of personal freedom and relative security from harm. In other words, at the Federal level it is neither your tax dollars nor the dollars collected from sales of Treasury debt instruments that are spent. Every single dollar the Federal Government spends is new money. Every dollar is keystroked into existence. Every single one of them. Which brings up the next question: “Where do our hard-earned tax dollars and borrowed dollars go if, in fact, they do not pay for spending on roads, schools, bombs and propaganda?” We already know the answer. They are destroyed by the Federal Reserve when they mark down the Treasury’s accounts. In Professor Stephanie Kelton’s article in the LA Times “Congress can give every American a pony (if it breeds enough ponies).” She states quite plainly: “Whoa, cowboy! Are you telling me that the government can just make money appear out of nowhere, like magic? Absolutely. Congress has special powers: It’s the patent-holder on the U.S. dollar. No one else is legally allowed to create it. This means that Congress can always afford the pony because it can always create the money to pay for it.” That alone should raise eye brows and cause you to reconsider a great many things you may have once thought. It will possibly cause you to fall back to old, neoclassical text book understandings as well, which she deftly anticipates and answers with: “Now, that doesn’t mean the government can buy absolutely anything it wants in absolutely any quantity at absolutely any speed. (Say, a pony for each of the 320 million men, women and children in the United States, by tomorrow.) That’s because our economy has internal limits. If the government tries to buy too much of something, it will drive up prices as the economy struggles to keep up with the demand. Inflation can spiral out of control. There are plenty of ways for the government to get a handle on inflation, though. For example, it can take money out of the economy through taxation.” And there it is. The limitation everyone is wondering about. Where is the spending limit? When we run out of real resources. Not pieces of paper or keystrokes. Real resources. To compound your bewilderment, would it stretch your credulity too much to say that the birth of a dollar...

Abby Martin on the Jimmy Dore Show Talks about US Crimes of Empire: Part 3

This is the third part and final part of my article on the interview with Abby Martin on the Jimmy Dore Show. She’s a tireless critic of American imperialism, and the presenter of the Empire Files on TeleSur English, and before that, on RT.

Dore and Martin discuss how the Empire and the Deep State loathes Trump because he ain’t good for the Empire’s image. After Bush had nearly pushed Americans towards revolution, Obama managed to placate people, and win them back to the Empire. But Trump is worse for the Empire because he’s such an a**hole and psychopath. There are people, who are just as psychotic. Paul Ryan, another Republican, hates the poor. But Trump is ramping up the Empire to colossal levels. There are now troop surges in Afghanistan, and the formation of Africom to deal with Somalia. Everybody’s heard of a horrific massacre committed by one of the warlords, and blamed on al-Shabaab. But what you aren’t being told is that week before his village was subject to a bombing raid which killed a load of kids. Martin talks about Trump’s hypocrisy and cynicism. He attacked Killary for the way she sold arms to the Saudis, but has been more than willing to sell them arms himself so they can kill civilians in Yemen. Under Trump, there has been a 400 per cent increase in drone strikes, and a 75 per cent increase in civilian deaths. Under Bush and Obama, the US military just killed every military-age male in a given locality. Now they’re carpet-bombing whole villages. Just like the Israelis kill Palestinians. Well, Trump said he would kill not only the terrorists, but also their families, in direct violation of the Geneva Convention. Unfortunately, he has not honoured the promises Martin hoped he would, like normalising relations with Russia.

And then they get on to MOAB – the Mother Of All Bombs. This ‘mini-nuke’ – actually a conventional bomb that approached some of the destructive power of a nuclear device – was dropped on a cave system in Afghanistan. They said it only killed terrorists, but there were people in that area, and we won’t know if it only killed terrorists, because nobody’s allowed in there. Martin describes ISIS as a barbaric death cult – which is true – but states that this doesn’t give us the right to kill the people, who live in these countries. She makes the point that the applause which greeted the MOAB attack was a dehumanisation of the Afghan people and the victims of this weapon.

They then discuss whether some of the people on the Right, who supported Trump, may now be disillusioned with the orange buffoon. Many people probably voted for him because they thought he was anti-interventionist. But he hasn’t been. This might be because the military-industrial complex and the warfare state are beyond his control. Martin hoped that this part of the Republican based would speak out, but she was disappointed. The base is just interested in having a more efficient War On Terror. They aren’t speaking out about Venezuela, nor about the push for war with North Korea, they just don’t want us to fund al-Qaeda. As for Trump himself, he was never anti-interventionist. He just appeared so as it was a useful stance against Killary. He doesn’t have to surround himself with generals, who just want war because with every new invasion they launch, they get another star on their jacket. They two then discuss how nobody knows why America was in Niger.

I realise that this is an American programme, discussing American issues. But it also directly and acutely affects us. A number of our politicos have attended Republican conventions, and one of Trump’s British buddies was Nigel Farage. The Tories have been copying and utilising Republican policies since Maggie Thatcher took over as premier in the 1970s. And New Labour did the same with the Clintonite wing of the Democrats, adopting their stance against the welfare state, and introducing neoliberalism, deregulation and privatisation, including the privatisation of the NHS, into the Labour Party.

The situation is rather different over here in Blighty, as we are now lucky enough to have a real Socialist as leader in the shape of Jeremy Corbyn. But New Labour is desperately trying to hang on in the shape of Progress, Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement. And they have been using the smearing of decent anti-racists, the majority of whom are Jewish, as anti-Semites and their expulsion from the party as a weapon to purge their left-wing opponents.

As for imperialism, we are still riding on the back of America’s coat-tails, trying to be a world power by exploiting the ‘Special Relationship’. And so we support their wars in the Middle East, and the looting of these countries’ state industries and the brutalisation and impoverishment of their peoples.

Our media isn’t quite as bad as the Americans’ just yet. The news over here does accept that climate change is real at least, and there are still news reports about the poverty caused by austerity and Tory cuts to the welfare state and health service.

But it is heavily biased towards the Tories. The Beeb is full of public school, very middle class White guys, and its news and editorial staff have contained a number of high profile Tories, several of whom have left their posts to work for the party under Cameron and May. ‘Goebbels’ Robinson and ‘Arnalda Mussolini’ Kuenssberg are members of the Tory party. Robinson led a whole series of Tory groups, while Kuenssberg spoke at a fringe meeting in the Tory party this year.

The Kushners noted in their book, Who Needs the Cuts, that the Beeb does not allow anyone to question austerity, and it is just assumed, entirely falsely, as true and necessary by the rest of the media. And academics from Cardiff, Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities have noted that the Beeb is far more likely to talk to Tory politicians and managing directors about the economy, than Labour politicos and trade unionists.

And the war on alternative media is happening in this country as well. The Tories would love to close down RT. We’ve already seen them join in the baying mob accusing it of being Putin’s propaganda arm interfering with British democracy over here. All the while being very silent about how the Israelis were caught trying to get the people they don’t like removed from May’s cabinet. We’ve seen them criticise Labour MPs for appearing on the network, while ignoring their own people, who also have. And May got on her high horse to write a letter to Alex Salmond telling him not to take up a job as presenter with the Network.

And the bots and algorithms cooked up by Google and Facebook to protect us all from ‘fake news’ are having an effect on ‘controversial’ read: left-wing bloggers and vloggers. They direct potential readers away from the sites the corporations have decided are a threat to democracy. Mike’s suffered an inexplicable fall in the readership of some of his articles, and some of his posts have had to be reposted after mysteriously vanishing from Facebook. Even before then, there was an attempt to censor Tom Pride over at Pride’s Purge by claiming that his site was unsuitable for children. The pretext for that was some of the coarse humour he employs in his satire. This is nothing compared to some of the language you will hear on YouTube. It looked very much like his real crime was sending up Dave Cameron and the other walking obscenities taking up space on the Tory benches.

What Abby Martin says about the media and the crimes of Empire describe the situation in America. But it also describes what the neoliberal elites are doing over here.

We have to stop this. We have to take back parliament, and end the warmongering. Now.

Book Review: The Violence of Austerity edited by Vickie Cooper and David Whyte

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 06/11/2017 - 9:07pm in

In The Violence of Austerity, editors Vickie Cooper and David Whyte bring together contributors to explore the negative impact of austerity upon citizens in the UK, covering such topics as health, education, homelessness, disability and the environment. This is a powerful description of the consequences of austerity policies for the UK’s most vulnerable people, writes Paul Caruana-Galizia, and should be read widely. 

The Violence of Austerity. Vickie Cooper and David Whyte (eds). Pluto Press. 2017.

Find this book: amazon-logo

Milton Friedman used to say that you can’t have political freedom without economic freedom. Libertarians have taken up his saying as a mantra. There’s logic in it – taxes directly restrict your economic freedom and fund other government interventions – and rhetoric – it casts politics and government as dependent and redundant. But is it right?

We’ve been building up to an answer since the 2010 election of the Conservative-led coalition government in the United Kingdom. The country’s path to economic recovery, the coalition government argued, isn’t more government spending and intervention. It’s ‘austerity’: a sharp reduction in government spending or, in Libertarian terms, a sharp rise in economic and so political freedom. For context, Local Authority spending per person fell by 23.4 per cent in real terms between 2009 and 2015, and general government spending as a percentage of GDP fell by 11 per cent.

The Violence of Austerity, edited by Vickie Cooper and David Whyte, contains chapters on the relationship – always negative – between the UK’s austerity policies and such areas as health and education outcomes, homelessness, the environment, poverty, disability and even the Northern Ireland Peace Process. The book is varied in its coverage, but it shows one thing clearly: for a lot of people in the UK, austerity has created less economic and political freedom.

In Chapter Four, Jon Burnett and Whyte cover ‘workfare’: the welfare conditionality schemes in which people are made to work without pay to improve their employment prospects or risk losing their entitlement to benefit income. They show us that people in ‘workfare’ are often forced into unsafe, physically draining, unpaid jobs. Complaints about working conditions are met with threats of sanctions. Employers, with the government’s backing, have total coercive power. Every year, over 100,000 people are put onto workfare schemes (65). Every year, over a million sanctions are imposed on them (62).

Robert Knox’s chapter, ‘Legalising the Violence of Austerity’ (Chapter Nineteen), shows us that when a government cuts spending, it doesn’t simply provide fewer services. It compensates for lost revenues with harsher enforcement of existing regulations and the implementation of new ones. Local Authorities, for example, are now faced with declining core funding from the central government, and a legal obligation to balance their budgets. Failure to do so can result in fines, disqualification and even imprisonment, Knox tells us. He concludes: ‘austerity has been accompanied by the extension and intensification of legal frameworks into politics’ (185).

Image Credit: (Funk Dooby CC BY 2.0)

A critic might respond: ‘fine, but when funding is limited it must be managed stringently.’ So where is the government making savings? On children, as Joanna Mack shows us in Chapter Seven. Not that there’s room for it: 27 per cent of the UK’s children live in poverty, a higher rate than most EU member states. On taking office in 2010, the coalition government froze the rate of child benefit. On winning the 2015 election, the Conservatives announced further spending cuts, including limiting tax benefits to two children. Lone parent households have experienced the sharpest falls in their incomes over this period (86-87).

Savings are also being made on those with mental illness, as Mary O’Hara shows (Chapter One). Again, not that there’s room for it: mental health services receive 13 per cent of the NHS’s budget while mental illness accounts for 23 per cent of the UK’s total loss of healthy years of life (37). Still, O’Hara writes: ‘mental health provision was hit hard and early by austerity measures and this pattern continued into 2016’ (38).

John Pring tells us that savings are furthermore being made on disabilities (Chapter Three). He quotes an estimate from think tank Demos that disabled people risked losing £28 billion in income support by 2018, in response to then-Conservative Chancellor George Osborne’s ‘emergency budget’ of June 2010 (52). And savings are also being made on those who are homeless, as we see in Chapter Eighteen by Daniel McCulloch. He writes that between 2010 and 2015, the number of people sleeping in rough in England has more than doubled, increasing year-on-year (172). The number has risen by a further 16 per cent from 2015 to 2016. McCulloch cites a study which found that 67 per cent of Local Authorities have seen a rise in rough sleeping as a direct outcome of welfare reforms (173). He also references another that shows that increasingly punitive benefit sanctions exacerbate the risks homeless people face and also the risk of homelessness (173). This is all sad enough to contemplate; sadder still when you see that the savings are a false economy.

The book’s introductory chapter, by Cooper and Whyte, nonetheless misses an opportunity when assessing the success of austerity policy on its own terms. The terms: faster economic growth by cutting fiscal expenditure and public debt, which makes room for private business investment and creates a more competitive economy. Cooper and Whyte argue that austerity was never necessary as UK public debt has been higher; that mainstream economists advised against it; and that Iceland experienced a similar crisis, but didn’t undertake austerity and recovered faster than the UK. The second and third points are fair, the first less so: public debt as a percentage of GDP spiked in 2009 and remains elevated. But this is the most fundamental criticism of austerity policy – a lot of harmful side-effects without the intended effects. We should read more on why this is the case, rather than be told that it just didn’t work.

Cuts in government spending are cuts in total demand, which lower output and raise unemployment. Cuts in government spending in a depressed economy depress that economy even further: they diminish demand when demand is already low. For this reason, an empirical study across a sample of OECD countries by the Peterson Institute for International Economics found no support for the argument that austerity is good for economic growth. Even in purely fiscal terms, austerity is self-defeating: whatever savings are made by, for example, cutting income benefit, are partly offset by lower revenue. There’s only so much fat you can cut before you hit the bone.

Another empirical study by the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs found that austerity generates income inequality. As Ruth London’s chapter on fuel poverty shows, there are costs to cuts. Fuel poverty, for which the government is scaling back its support, costs the NHS £3.6 million per day (101). The costs are borne by those least able to bear them – children in cold, damp homes fall ill and miss school; adults miss work and lose jobs (Chapter Nine). Those who can afford to heat their homes remain unaffected. There are occasional attempts throughout the book to link austerity and inequality to the Brexit vote. A lot of work has been done on this, and the book feels like it should have had a chapter dedicated to it.

The Violence of Austerity is a powerful description of what’s happening to the UK’s most vulnerable people: more premature deaths, more malnutrition, more suicides, people freezing in their homes. On this basis alone, the book should be read widely. That is, even if you think some of the worrying trends explored in health and in the labour market pre-date austerity policies, the book shows us that a lot more people aren’t economically and politically free, but are suffering and struggling. You’d think they need more, not less, support.

Dr Paul Caruana-Galizia is a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Economic History at the London School of Economics. He is the author of The Economy of Modern Malta and Mediterranean Labor Markets in the First Age of Globalization. Read more by Paul Caruana-Galizia.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 

 


RT on DPAC Protest against Government: ‘We Want Them Out’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 10/10/2017 - 3:35am in

I’ve reblogged pieces from DPAC, whose monicker stands for ‘Disabled People Against Cuts’. They’re an organization formed to fight for the rights, and at times the very survival of disabled people, against the cuts introduced by the Tories as part of their austerity programme. As well as organizing protests against the cuts up and down the country, they’ve also memorialized the victims of Tory austerity, putting up lists of names and brief biographies of the people, who have died in misery and despair after being found ‘fit for work’ under the pernicious and very unscientific ‘fitness for work’ tests. They have also posted some very good analysis of the scientific basis – or lack of it – of some of the techniques used to find people fit for work, when they are severely or terminally ill.

The video shows people at the demonstration giving their perspective on the immense harm done to disabled people and Britain generally by the Tories. One young man says he can understand why people want to take more direct action to get the Tories out, considering the cuts to the welfare services and the NHS, which are killing people. A young woman says that their hospital was the first in the country to have a food bank inside it. But instead of examining why people were now being admitted to hospital suffering from malnutrition, people celebrated it. They laid on a party with food and drinks. Another young man states that people are suffering a massive abrogation of their rights and the removal of the income they need to survive. This has led to people dying in their thousands. It’s been seven years, but we will get them out. He reminds us that the UN condemned the austerity programme as a catastrophe, and that the Tories were guilty of grave and systemic human rights abuses against the disabled. The government responded by denying it was happening. He concludes with the words ‘We want rid of them. They’re a terrible group of people doing terrible things.’

Support Group for Teenage/School-age Parents

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/10/2017 - 6:20am in

I blogged last week about the outrage the Young Master, Jacob Rees-Mogg, caused when he appeared on TV to give the nation the benefit of his views on gay marriage and abortion. He’s a good Roman Catholic, and against both. In the case of abortion, this also includes instances where the woman is the victim of rape.

I hope this never happens to Mogg’s wife or daughter, but unfortunately women do become pregnant after being raped. This might surprise some on the right. I can remember hearing that one of the right-wing idiot pouring out their views on the Net or mainstream media apparently tried to play down the horrific nature of rape by claiming that it didn’t result in pregnancy.

However, I did find out this week about an organisation that exists to help teenage mothers, including those, who have become pregnant after such assaults. This is the Young Parents Help Unit. Not only does this give assistance to school age parents, it also helps girls take control of their emotions and teach them that they can say ‘No’. Teenagers, or at least some, experiment with sex, and some are forced into it or raped. The organisation also helps with such cases, including prosecuting the rapist.

I know that this isn’t quite the same as the issue of abortion, but felt I had to mention it as it might help someone reading this blog, whether they’re a teenage parent themselves, the parents of one, or simply friends or other relatives.

As for Mogg, I and millions of others have already made our opinions about him very clear, as have the many great commenters to this blog. I think he’s an aristo, who is completely indifferent to and complacent about the suffering his wretched views cause, whether they’re about abortion or on wider issues of the state’s duty to provide support for its poor and disadvantaged. He’s another toff, like Boris, who is being praised and promoted well beyond their abilities, and at a time when austerity is killing people, he’s a positive danger. He should be forced out of parliament immediately.

Protesters Chant ‘Tories Out’ at Jacob Rees-Mogg Meeting

This is a very short video from the Groaniad. It’s just over half a minute long, but it shows the protesters at the Tory Conference in Manchester disrupt a meeting held by Jacob Rees-Mogg. The crowd hold up placards and chant ‘Tories Out!’

I think this is just one of a number of protests that have taken place in Manchester against the Tories. I put up a brief video of one that was held outside their conference hall the other day. And I can’t say that I’m not happy that they held this protest in an event held by the Young Master. Rees-Mogg is being touted by some Tories as the next leader of the party, presumably after they dump May. The editor of Conservative Woman was writing in the I the other day, praising Mogg as ‘personable’ and ‘popular’. Well, she’s welcome to her opinions.

I have to say that Mogg in his coat reminds me of a figure from Andean folklore. This is the Pishtaco, described as a White or mestizo (person of mixed Spanish and indigenous heritage) man in a long dark coat, underneath which he carries a pair of long knives. This man kills indigenous children for the grease their bodies contain, which is used to lubricate the machines of European industry.

On the other side of the world, the Asian Indians had a similar story back in the days of the infamous ‘Coolie Trade’. This was the trade in indentured migrants from Indian and China to South America, the Caribbean and Fiji, to work on the sugar plantations to replace the enslaved Black workers, who had just been freed. Pay and conditions were appalling, and the immigrants were treated as slaves. There were also instances of kidnapping, and the British several times organised raids in India, where kidnapped Indian labourers had been forcibly imprisoned prior to their transportation half-way around the world. Furthermore, no provision was initially made for the migrant labourers to keep in touch with their families or send part of their earnings back home. Families were thus torn apart, with no word from their relatives, for years at a time. The imperial authorities responded to the trade by passing legislation regulating the trade, stipulating minimum living and working conditions and demanding that systems should be set up to allow the families of labourers to come with them, and migrant workers to send part of the wages back home to support their wives and families.

However, the kidnapping and complete absence of any news about some of the men, who had gone abroad to work had resulted in the rumour that rather than being taken to work on the plantations, the labourers were being taken to secret factory or workshop, where they were killed and their skulls drained of the cerebrospinal fluid. As with the Andean Amerindian stories about the grease from the bodies of murdered children, the fluid from their skulls was exported to Europe for use in industry there.

These stories are just folklore. However, they were a metaphorical response to conditions of colonial oppression and exploitation. Mogg, with his tall, lanky frame certainly reminds me of the Amerindian figure. And as metaphors they also fit the Britain under the Tories. We are seeing people exploited, with capped wages, zero hours and short-term contracts, welfare to work legislation designed to get the unemployed working for the benefit – but not real wages – for the big supermarkets, and benefit sanctions to make the jobless and those threatened with unemployment feel as threatened and as powerless as possible. And people are starving. There’s about 100,000 forced to use foodbanks as they cannot afford to buy food. Something like seven million live in food insecure homes. And three million British children this summer went without having enough to eat.

Meanwhile, the Tories have given massive tax cuts to immensely rich, cuts which Rees-Mogg has fully supported, while at the same time voting to increase the tax burden for the poor, and cut benefits. And people are dying. I’ve mentioned the long lists and articles on those, who have died in starvation and misery due to benefit cuts by Mike, Johnny Void, Stilloaks, DPAC and so many others.

So the legends of South America’s indigenous peoples and its Indian counterpart also metaphorically apply to today’s Britain. Our people are being exploited and killed by the Tories and their austerity campaign for the benefit of the big corporations. Rees-Mogg himself has always been perfectly polite when he’s appeared on TV, and I dare say that personally he’s probably entirely decent the way he treats others. But his party is responsible for starvation, exploitation and death through a set of policies he firmly supports and wishes to expand.

The protesters are quite right to demonstrate against him and his wretched, murderous party.

Thousands Protest Tory Conference in Manchester

This is another really great clip from RT. It shows the mass protests that have taken place outside the Tory conference in one of the great, historic centres of British working class radicalism. One building flies a red banner proclaiming, ‘Ohhh, Jeremy Corbyn’. A speaker declares ‘They say Labour is a government in waiting. I agree with that, except for one thing. I am not waiting’. Another speaker states that ‘they have slayed men, women and children as they slept in their beds’, presumably referring to Cameron and May’s escalation of the illegal wars in the Middle East. One elderly lady states that we’ve had eight years of austerity, pay caps and poverty, and we’re not taking it any more. A crowd from Unison march with a banner, ‘Taxi for Theresa’. A group of girls march past, smiling for the camera, while at the end there’s a couple pushing a skeleton in a wheelchair underneath the banner ‘Found Fit for Work’, in protest at the government’s murderous Work Capability Tests. The crowd seem good natured, and drawn from across Britain. I noticed one banner, which seemed to be a group from my hometown, Bristol.

This shows some of the extent of the deep dissatisfaction with the Tories, their lies and the deaths they’re causing in Britain and particularly in the Middle East through policies designed to drive the poor at home to starvation and suicide, and murder innocents abroad under the guise of combating terrorism, when the intent is simply to seize their oil reserves and state industries. Same as it was in the imperialism of the 19th century.

I’m left with only one question after watching this: has any of it been broadcast by the Beeb? Somehow, given the Beeb’s flagrant right-wing bias, I doubt it was. Or if it was, much time was spent on it.

IMF Provides Cover for Europe’s Dysfunctional Currency Union

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/09/2017 - 6:01am in

The Council on Foreign Relations’ Brad W. Setser has produced a couple of interesting blogposts on Germany’s fiscal policies of late. The first one, titled “Germany Cannot Quit Fiscal Consolidation,” was published at the end of August. On September 18th, the second one appeared, titled “The Global Cost of the Eurozone’s 2012 Fiscal Coordination Failure.”

The latter is more limited in scope and draws heavily on a recent report by the Banque de France. Setser elaborates on the rather obvious point that the eurozone’s attempt at fiscal austerity in the years 2011–13, when the currency union experienced the second leg of its double-dip recession, was counterproductively harsh:

The consolidation observed between 2011 and 2013, based on the overall change in the primary structural balance of general government, is now estimated by the European Commission at almost 2.9% of potential GDP…the fiscal effort was 1.5 percentage points of GDP in 2012. (Banque de France 2017)

Corroborating the Banque de France’s analysis, Setser points out correctly that there was no sound economic case for Germany to embark on austerity just at the time when it also demanded this form of self-sacrifice, in the name of the “credibility” of the euro regime, from its euro partners. If anything, Germany should have continued with at least mildly expansionary fiscal policy to keep the eurozone’s recovery on track and enable its internal rebalancing. Setser chides the Banque de France for not mentioning that France, too, could have somewhat lessened and delayed its own fiscal tightening to support the regional growth momentum at a critical time.

It is certainly very interesting that the Banque the France today finds the courage to present an argument that implies a severe critique of Germany’s fiscal folly. Perhaps it felt inspired by the fresh spirit of the republic’s new president. Perhaps open debate will also help official Europe to finally catch up with the realities of truly enormous collateral damages caused by its flawed policy doctrines of “growth-friendly” austerity and structural reform. As it stands, the eurozone is at high risk to repeat past mistakes as soon as its current stream of good luck runs out.

The more recent blogpost also echoes Setser’s main concern analyzed in the earlier blogpost of late August: global rebalancing.

No doubt Germany did itself a disservice by turning towards austerity in 2010– the German economy’s recovery stalled in 2011–13. Germany thereby also did great harm to Europe’s currency union – pushing the eurozone back into recession, suffering high unemployment and massive permanent income losses in due course. But by doing so, Germany’s fiscal folly also had the result of turning the eurozone into a huge burden for the world economy. Worst of all, there are no signs that Germany may be changing course: over the last few years, Germany has run up even more sizeable budget surpluses.

Setser is not mincing words on the global relevance of the matter:

That means that German fiscal policy won’t be supporting either internal rebalancing in the eurozone (a fall in Germany’s surplus that helps support a rise in the surpluses or fall in the deficits of Germany’s eurozone trade partners) or global rebalancing. … It makes it less likely that the eurozone’s growth will spill over to the world through a reduction in the eurozone’s current account surplus. And it would be nice if Europe would now, during its recovery, repay the rest of the world for the negative demand and trade spillovers that went along with the second dip in the eurozone’s double dip recession.

With the eurozone refusing to “pay back” any received demand stimulus from abroad, Setser moves on to investigate whether more constructive efforts to rebalance global demand may be forthcoming elsewhere in the world economy. He turns to various IMF Article IV consultations as well as the Fund’s latest “External Balance Assessment” exercise for that purpose, only to emerge with the less than cheerful result that

at the end of the day, the IMF is only calling for a pause in fiscal consolidation: Its long-term fiscal recommendation for China, Japan, and the eurozone is still for a consolidation that would raise national savings and thereby would be expected to raise the current account surpluses of all three. … China, Japan, and the eurozone combined are over a third of world GDP, and collectively have a current account surplus of about 1 percent of world GDP [see Setser’s chart below]. A fiscal consolidation in all three that would raise their national savings (or in China’s case reduce public investment) creates a pretty big headwind to global rebalancing. … [Hence it is to be feared] that rebalancing could come through policies that in aggregate slow global demand growth, and introduce a deflationary bias to the global economy.

Indeed. Despite publishing some enlightened research papers on the matter in recent years (see here, for instance), institutionally, the IMF appears to have a similarly hard time kicking its austerity obsession as Germany. Like brothers in mind: Always too keen to push for more austerity, never too worried about how very damaging that might turn out to be. This peculiarly distorted mindset, undisturbed by mounting evidence to the contrary, may also explain why the IMF is providing unwelcome political cover for Europe’s dysfunctional currency union by seemingly purely technical means, in the following sense.

It should be obvious by now to any observer who is not in deliberate denial of the facts that Germany only manages to celebrate its supposedly virtuous fiscal conservatism by running up gigantic current account surpluses. The sectoral financial balances of all three of Germany’s domestic sectors show notorious surpluses. Germany’s corporate sector is highly profitable but refuses to invest accordingly. Not even negative interest rates entice Germany’s household sector to spend sufficiently, as the distribution of income and wealth is becoming ever more unequal thanks to wonderfully “liberating” reforms and official wage repression. The government prefers to run down Germany’s public infrastructure stock because the country’s fiscal lunatics believe that that may be the best way to prepare for the future and bolster the economic possibilities for our grandchildren. But the “German model” can only work if the rest of the world overspends and overborrows sufficiently. The German model has wrecked the eurozone to begin with. Germany and its euro satellites are now out for bigger prey – the world economy.

Back in 1999, Germany amended its constitution, essentially requiring the government to run (structurally) balanced budgets until eternity (the so-called “debt brake”). As there can never be too much stability and thrift, finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble finds both comfort and widespread praise as an overachiever. Pretty much the same is expected today from all euro members, as the so-called “Stability and Growth Pact” and “Fiscal Compact” call for just that.

Little surprise the sectoral financial balances of the eurozone as a whole have come to resemble the German model quite closely: The household and corporate sectors are both in surplus, the improvement in the government sector’s balance mirrors developments on the external front. Following its German rulebook, the eurozone practices its fiscal virtues on the back of the global economy – officially sanctioned by the IMF, an international institution that is supposedly concerned about global rebalancing.

For the IMF’s latest External Balance Assessment shows a current account “norm” for the eurozone of 3.1 percent of GDP, just slightly below its actual value for 2016 of the trivial amount of some 400 billion U.S. dollars. In other words, as far as global imbalances are concerned, the eurozone does not have any homework to do; the eurozone is somehow not even part of the problem or imbalance in the world economy at all. Surely the eurozone authorities will be much relieved to hear this verdict: the German model just got its official okay by the global community’s master watchdog.

In an endnote, Setser makes some very interesting observations concerning the eurozone’s current account surplus “norm”:

Thanks to a set of debatable technical adjustments that have been made to the IMF’s model (raising the contribution of aging to the current account surplus above the basic estimate that emerges from the underlying model), the IMF now believes that the current account “norm” for the eurozone is a surplus of three percent of GDP—more or less what we have now. Before those adjustments, the current account norm for the eurozone was lower—around one percent of the eurozone’s GDP in the 2014 model, around 2 percent in the 2015 model. These technical adjustments make it easier for the IMF to propose further fiscal consolidation in the eurozone, as the fiscal consolidation doesn’t open up a big current account gap.

Put differently, a minor “technicality” was used to let the eurozone off the hook. Prior to the global crisis, when concerns about global imbalance were running high and the IMF first concerned itself with the matter in the form of “multilateral consultations” as a new tool of multilateral surveillance, the eurozone authorities were keen to excuse themselves as being no party to global imbalances, since the eurozone’s current account was roughly in balance over the 2000s. As we now know, the eurozone’s internal imbalances were quite effective enough in turning Europe’s stability union into a mess and massive drag on global growth.

Not only did the IMF get involved financially in the eurozone’s internal crises, which is odd enough. Externally, the IMF now also sanctions that the eurozone continues to “solve” its internal challenges – that is, life in a dysfunctional currency union – on the back of the global community. For the eurozone authorities may now, once again, choose to excuse themselves as a party in global imbalances, since a perpetual three-percent-of-GDP current account surplus was declared to represent “balance,” at least in their case. It must be nice to have a good friend in Washington, D.C.

I am just a little concerned here that the IMF may not be doing itself a big favor by providing official cover to Europe’s dysfunctional currency union. Clearly the Trump administration has formed a less favorable view on the matter of Germany’s notorious current account imbalance; with Germany unquestionably pulling the strings in the eurozone too, and with important global ramifications as discussed here. And the U.S. Congress might well go along with getting more active about notorious surplus countries (or regions).

Moreover, China and other emerging market economies may be excused for feeling shortchanged in exercises undertaken in the name of global stability if the IMF’s European members continue to get special treatment, even if that happens through convenient “technicalities.” Their natural response would be to question the IMF’s impartiality and credibility – providing fresh impetus for flourishing alternative arrangements.

It turns out minor technicalities can be quite political.

IMF Provides Cover for Europe’s Dysfunctional Currency Union

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/09/2017 - 6:01am in

The Council on Foreign Relations’ Brad W. Setser has produced a couple of interesting blogposts on Germany’s fiscal policies of late. The first one, titled “Germany Cannot Quit Fiscal Consolidation,” was published at the end of August. On September 18th, the second one appeared, titled “The Global Cost of the Eurozone’s 2012 Fiscal Coordination Failure.”

The latter is more limited in scope and draws heavily on a recent report by the Banque de France. Setser elaborates on the rather obvious point that the eurozone’s attempt at fiscal austerity in the years 2011–13, when the currency union experienced the second leg of its double-dip recession, was counterproductively harsh:

The consolidation observed between 2011 and 2013, based on the overall change in the primary structural balance of general government, is now estimated by the European Commission at almost 2.9% of potential GDP…the fiscal effort was 1.5 percentage points of GDP in 2012. (Banque de France 2017)

Corroborating the Banque de France’s analysis, Setser points out correctly that there was no sound economic case for Germany to embark on austerity just at the time when it also demanded this form of self-sacrifice, in the name of the “credibility” of the euro regime, from its euro partners. If anything, Germany should have continued with at least mildly expansionary fiscal policy to keep the eurozone’s recovery on track and enable its internal rebalancing. Setser chides the Banque de France for not mentioning that France, too, could have somewhat lessened and delayed its own fiscal tightening to support the regional growth momentum at a critical time.

It is certainly very interesting that the Banque the France today finds the courage to present an argument that implies a severe critique of Germany’s fiscal folly. Perhaps it felt inspired by the fresh spirit of the republic’s new president. Perhaps open debate will also help official Europe to finally catch up with the realities of truly enormous collateral damages caused by its flawed policy doctrines of “growth-friendly” austerity and structural reform. As it stands, the eurozone is at high risk to repeat past mistakes as soon as its current stream of good luck runs out.

The more recent blogpost also echoes Setser’s main concern analyzed in the earlier blogpost of late August: global rebalancing.

No doubt Germany did itself a disservice by turning towards austerity in 2010– the German economy’s recovery stalled in 2011–13. Germany thereby also did great harm to Europe’s currency union – pushing the eurozone back into recession, suffering high unemployment and massive permanent income losses in due course. But by doing so, Germany’s fiscal folly also had the result of turning the eurozone into a huge burden for the world economy. Worst of all, there are no signs that Germany may be changing course: over the last few years, Germany has run up even more sizeable budget surpluses.

Setser is not mincing words on the global relevance of the matter:

That means that German fiscal policy won’t be supporting either internal rebalancing in the eurozone (a fall in Germany’s surplus that helps support a rise in the surpluses or fall in the deficits of Germany’s eurozone trade partners) or global rebalancing. … It makes it less likely that the eurozone’s growth will spill over to the world through a reduction in the eurozone’s current account surplus. And it would be nice if Europe would now, during its recovery, repay the rest of the world for the negative demand and trade spillovers that went along with the second dip in the eurozone’s double dip recession.

With the eurozone refusing to “pay back” any received demand stimulus from abroad, Setser moves on to investigate whether more constructive efforts to rebalance global demand may be forthcoming elsewhere in the world economy. He turns to various IMF Article IV consultations as well as the Fund’s latest “External Balance Assessment” exercise for that purpose, only to emerge with the less than cheerful result that

at the end of the day, the IMF is only calling for a pause in fiscal consolidation: Its long-term fiscal recommendation for China, Japan, and the eurozone is still for a consolidation that would raise national savings and thereby would be expected to raise the current account surpluses of all three. … China, Japan, and the eurozone combined are over a third of world GDP, and collectively have a current account surplus of about 1 percent of world GDP [see Setser’s chart below]. A fiscal consolidation in all three that would raise their national savings (or in China’s case reduce public investment) creates a pretty big headwind to global rebalancing. … [Hence it is to be feared] that rebalancing could come through policies that in aggregate slow global demand growth, and introduce a deflationary bias to the global economy.

Indeed. Despite publishing some enlightened research papers on the matter in recent years (see here, for instance), institutionally, the IMF appears to have a similarly hard time kicking its austerity obsession as Germany. Like brothers in mind: Always too keen to push for more austerity, never too worried about how very damaging that might turn out to be. This peculiarly distorted mindset, undisturbed by mounting evidence to the contrary, may also explain why the IMF is providing unwelcome political cover for Europe’s dysfunctional currency union by seemingly purely technical means, in the following sense.

It should be obvious by now to any observer who is not in deliberate denial of the facts that Germany only manages to celebrate its supposedly virtuous fiscal conservatism by running up gigantic current account surpluses. The sectoral financial balances of all three of Germany’s domestic sectors show notorious surpluses. Germany’s corporate sector is highly profitable but refuses to invest accordingly. Not even negative interest rates entice Germany’s household sector to spend sufficiently, as the distribution of income and wealth is becoming ever more unequal thanks to wonderfully “liberating” reforms and official wage repression. The government prefers to run down Germany’s public infrastructure stock because the country’s fiscal lunatics believe that that may be the best way to prepare for the future and bolster the economic possibilities for our grandchildren. But the “German model” can only work if the rest of the world overspends and overborrows sufficiently. The German model has wrecked the eurozone to begin with. Germany and its euro satellites are now out for bigger prey – the world economy.

Back in 1999, Germany amended its constitution, essentially requiring the government to run (structurally) balanced budgets until eternity (the so-called “debt brake”). As there can never be too much stability and thrift, finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble finds both comfort and widespread praise as an overachiever. Pretty much the same is expected today from all euro members, as the so-called “Stability and Growth Pact” and “Fiscal Compact” call for just that.

Little surprise the sectoral financial balances of the eurozone as a whole have come to resemble the German model quite closely: The household and corporate sectors are both in surplus, the improvement in the government sector’s balance mirrors developments on the external front. Following its German rulebook, the eurozone practices its fiscal virtues on the back of the global economy – officially sanctioned by the IMF, an international institution that is supposedly concerned about global rebalancing.

For the IMF’s latest External Balance Assessment shows a current account “norm” for the eurozone of 3.1 percent of GDP, just slightly below its actual value for 2016 of the trivial amount of some 400 billion U.S. dollars. In other words, as far as global imbalances are concerned, the eurozone does not have any homework to do; the eurozone is somehow not even part of the problem or imbalance in the world economy at all. Surely the eurozone authorities will be much relieved to hear this verdict: the German model just got its official okay by the global community’s master watchdog.

In an endnote, Setser makes some very interesting observations concerning the eurozone’s current account surplus “norm”:

Thanks to a set of debatable technical adjustments that have been made to the IMF’s model (raising the contribution of aging to the current account surplus above the basic estimate that emerges from the underlying model), the IMF now believes that the current account “norm” for the eurozone is a surplus of three percent of GDP—more or less what we have now. Before those adjustments, the current account norm for the eurozone was lower—around one percent of the eurozone’s GDP in the 2014 model, around 2 percent in the 2015 model. These technical adjustments make it easier for the IMF to propose further fiscal consolidation in the eurozone, as the fiscal consolidation doesn’t open up a big current account gap.

Put differently, a minor “technicality” was used to let the eurozone off the hook. Prior to the global crisis, when concerns about global imbalance were running high and the IMF first concerned itself with the matter in the form of “multilateral consultations” as a new tool of multilateral surveillance, the eurozone authorities were keen to excuse themselves as being no party to global imbalances, since the eurozone’s current account was roughly in balance over the 2000s. As we now know, the eurozone’s internal imbalances were quite effective enough in turning Europe’s stability union into a mess and massive drag on global growth.

Not only did the IMF get involved financially in the eurozone’s internal crises, which is odd enough. Externally, the IMF now also sanctions that the eurozone continues to “solve” its internal challenges – that is, life in a dysfunctional currency union – on the back of the global community. For the eurozone authorities may now, once again, choose to excuse themselves as a party in global imbalances, since a perpetual three-percent-of-GDP current account surplus was declared to represent “balance,” at least in their case. It must be nice to have a good friend in Washington, D.C.

I am just a little concerned here that the IMF may not be doing itself a big favor by providing official cover to Europe’s dysfunctional currency union. Clearly the Trump administration has formed a less favorable view on the matter of Germany’s notorious current account imbalance; with Germany unquestionably pulling the strings in the eurozone too, and with important global ramifications as discussed here. And the U.S. Congress might well go along with getting more active about notorious surplus countries (or regions).

Moreover, China and other emerging market economies may be excused for feeling shortchanged in exercises undertaken in the name of global stability if the IMF’s European members continue to get special treatment, even if that happens through convenient “technicalities.” Their natural response would be to question the IMF’s impartiality and credibility – providing fresh impetus for flourishing alternative arrangements.

It turns out minor technicalities can be quite political.

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