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The golden era of greenwashing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 16/08/2021 - 12:59am in

Fire fighters during a wildfire in Turkey in 2021Wildfires in Turkey – Image by Felton Davis on Flickr Creative Commons 2.0 licence

The “economy” is ultimately our material relationship with each other and with the rest of the living world. As today’s IPCC report settles in, we have to decide whether we want that relationship to be based on extraction and exploitation, or on reciprocity and care.

Jason Hickel, author of Less is More, and The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its solutions.

 

In 2018, GIMMS’ very first MMT Lens following its launch was entitled ‘The Economics of Climate Change’. In it, we reported on the just-published IPCC’s report on the state of the climate. Scientists warned that we only had 12 years left to halt the worst effects of climate change. The evidence even then was stark, and the clock is still ticking on the capacity of our natural world to support life.

As the world is beset by extreme temperatures, drought, wildfires, and floods, on Monday the UN-led IPCC issued its sixth and latest report, the work of 230 authors from 65 countries. It set out unambiguously the current state of the climate, and what steps we need to take to avert planetary catastrophe. The key takeaway from the report was that we have no more time to lose, and we must act with urgency. If we fail to do so, further climate changes are inevitable and will be irreversible. The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres said ‘the IPCC report is code red for humanity. Alarm bells are deafening and evidence irrefutable; greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.’

In anticipation of the report’s publication, Alok Sharma, the UK Minister presiding over the UN’s COP 26 climate talks in November, who is part of a government as always hot on easy rhetoric said: ‘This is going to be the starkest warning yet, that human behaviour is alarmingly accelerating global warming […]. We can’t afford to wait two years, five years 10 years – this is the moment’.

If your eyes aren’t out on stalks by now they should be! This really is a bit rich when the facts have been known for decades and conveniently shelved by successive governments of all shades, as being too hard to deal with and a threat to growth and company profits. We all know in whose pockets politicians lie. Little has been achieved and now we are in the last chance saloon. Saying we can’t afford to wait would be almost laughable if it weren’t so serious.

Politicians and corporations sell us the miracles of technological solutions, many of which are still on the drawing board and promote offsetting carbon emissions through such programmes as tree planting. The claimed answer to the capitalist prayer of business as usual.

As Oxfam noted earlier in the month when it published its report, Tightening the Net: Net zero climate targets implications for land and food equity’, just planting millions of trees to tackle the climate crisis is simplistic, given the huge amount of land that would be needed to offset global greenhouse gas emissions, which would, in turn, impact on the amount of land for crops at a time when climate change is already a growing threat to global food production and increasing levels of hunger.

And that doesn’t even reflect the growing knowledge about trees and the complexity of the environments in which they can exist successfully. Monoculture tree plantations are man-made and bear no relationship with old-growth forest with all the complexity of hundreds of years of growth and biodiversity. The land of easy solutions and a disappointing failure to grasp the reality of what we must do. Cut emissions urgently.

Danny Sriskandarajah, chief executive of Oxfam called, instead, for companies and governments to cut their emissions radically, rather than depending on offset, saying ‘Too many companies and governments are hiding behind the smokescreen of ‘net zero’ to continue dirty ‘business-as-usual activities’.

We are living in the golden era of greenwashing. A world in which the rich and powerful sell us the idea that we can have it all. This week, Linton Besser, Foreign correspondent for the Australian news network ABC, published his article entitled Dead white man’s clothes’, and revealed the dirty secret, as he called it, behind the world’s fashion addiction, with many of the clothes we donate to charity ending up dumped in landfill, thus, and not for the first time, creating an environmental catastrophe on the other side of the world. For example, plastic and other waste dumped in other nations – out of sight, out of mind.

Those on social media cannot fail to note the incessant sales pitches of ‘save the planet’ and buy ‘green, ethically produced’ clothing. As the environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg noted this week:

‘Many are making it look as if the fashion industry is starting to take responsibility, by spending fantasy amounts on campaigns where they portray themselves as ‘sustainable’, ‘ethical’, ‘green’, ‘climate neutral’ and ‘fair’. But let’s be clear: This is almost never anything but pure greenwashing. You cannot mass produce fashion or consume ‘sustainably’ as the world is shaped today. That is one of the many reasons why we will need a system change.

 

The fashion industry is a huge contributor to the climate-and-ecological emergency, not to mention its impact on the countless workers and communities who are being exploited around the world in order for some to enjoy fast fashion that many treat as disposable’.

It is indeed the golden era of greenwashing. Selling us ethical dreams tidied up in greenwashed advertising from clothing to electric cars, tree planting and eating choices (to justify that next purchase and give us a warm glow). How quickly the advertisers catch on. As the fate of humanity lies in the balance, the money makers continue to wallow in the hubris that we are gods with rights over nature and human beings to exploit and grow without end.

As Mark Blyth wrote this week in an opinion piece in the Guardian:

‘Instead, of telling us that we need to truly transform the way we live and organise society, we will be told that we can still carry on as we were, except perhaps with our fossil fuels and one-use goods replaced with green energy and recyclables. Maybe a bit less air travel, but still ‘back to normal’ with green edges.

 

This way of thinking is perhaps as dangerous as the climate crisis itself. While banging on about inflation as a threat to the poor, is a rhetoric of reaction, getting back to normal is a rhetoric of distraction.’

 Except that we can’t afford to continue as we are, or be distracted.

While the government expresses its commitment to action, the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), working in partnership with Vivid Economics, has revealed that only a small fraction of the budget had been pledged for new policies to tackle climate change, and that a substantial amount more had been apportioned towards measures that could push up emissions. It warned that despite the Government advisors’ estimate that investment of 1% of GDP a year from the public and private sector is needed to reduce emissions to net-zero, the policies announced in the budget actually equated to just 0.01%.

Isabella O’Dowd, who is head of climate change at the WWF, said that ‘It’s not too late to prevent global warming from rising above 1.5%, it is in our hands. But to do that, the UK government must play its part by keeping every climate promise it has made’. She went on to note that ‘The spring budget showed a disconnect between the government’s rhetoric and the reality of what it’s doing. The ambition [on emissions-cutting targets] is great, but now we really need to see the policies that will deliver.’

Disconnect? Chasm more like. The word ‘ambition’ seems incongruous here too. The government’s ambition is confined to fine words and not much else, as the WWF shows in its analysis.

There can now be no mistaking the seriousness of the situation. Whilst action should have begun decades ago, when the first warnings were being aired, we must now grasp the nettle for our children’s children.

There is an alternative to the path being promoted by governments across the globe, governments who are the lackeys of global corporates through their spending and legislative choices and bypass democracy at every level. And yet it seems the media, despite the clarity of the seriousness of the situation we face, can’t get enough of the messages that claim that financial Armageddon is on the way if we don’t get our public finances under control.

This week, Gerard Lyons headed his article in The Times, ‘Now is the time to tighten monetary policy’. No, it is not! It is time to do the opposite. The Chancellor is just as penny-pinching and anxious to secure his reputation for fiscal discipline, and, perhaps, his future political career.

The reported row between Boris Johnson and his Chancellor suggested that the Prime Minister was ready to sack him over disagreements about spending on the NHS and his levelling up agenda.

In the Telegraph this week, it was suggested that Rishi Sunak should embark on a round of free market, deregulating liberalism, and reduce state intervention and spending, to keep his party members and backers happy.

It beggars belief that people would actually support someone who is openly talking about how he is going to get the public finances back in order, although it is understandable given the false narratives about how the government spends.

Clearly, his ‘Eat out to Help out’ discount has clouded some people’s views, and the collective memory banks seem to be rather short, in some cases, on the lived consequences of austerity and public policy. The cuts to public sector services, social security and infrastructure, along with employment policies that have kept wages low and people living precariously, have been so damaging to the economy, and the lives of working people and their families.

Never mind the fact that poverty is rife and growing, people are hungry and homeless, that our public and social infrastructure is in a state of decay as a result of 10 years of government spending decisions and policies. Austerity. Sawing one’s legs off in one easy action. So, why not have some more? And that is without factoring in the urgency of addressing climate change, which was so clearly laid out on Monday. It is astonishing that some advocate a ‘return’ (did it ever go away?) to less state intervention, to market ideology and more growth, when clearly it has been very damaging to growing numbers of citizens and to the planet, whilst enriching a few others beyond belief.

In good times and bad, it is only the government that has the capacity to spend and legislate for change within the context of available resources, but whilst Rishi Sunak continues to promote fiscal discipline and getting the public finances on a ‘sound footing’, we are wasting valuable time. And it would seem that the mantra of ‘business as usual’ prevails both in spending policies and ideology, to the delight of business advertising and public relations executives, busily working out their greenwashing agendas.

We should stop asking where the financing will come from and ask the important questions about national priorities instead. As Professor Stephanie Kelton, author of The Deficit Myth puts it:

‘Are these things worth doing and do we have the real resources—the people, the equipment, the raw materials, and the technology—to do them? Will they make society better off, and do we have the political will to act?’

 As an editorial in the Guardian noted this week:

 ‘The state is, clearly, not powerless against global capital. During Covid it paid for millions of workers without breaking a sweat. Contrary to conventional thinking there was no threat from rising deficits to interest rates. Thatcherism was defined by Nigel Lawson as “increasing freedom for markets to work within a framework of firm monetary and fiscal discipline”. This saw the state put in service of business interests rather than mediating between labour and capital. It also left Britain woefully unprepared, and ill-equipped, for the pandemic. A Thatcherite approach will not produce a fairer distribution of growth. It will militate against support during downturns and plans to “level up” the regions. Ministers ought to outline a new role for the state rather than relying on failed ideas about what the market can do.’

On the one hand, we have those who note the future monetary cost of doing nothing, implying we could make savings on future public spending if we act now, as if governments are monetarily embarrassed, which we know they are not. On the other, Sunak is still counting the Treasury beans and stressing the need for fiscal restraint to determine if we can afford to act. And according to some experts, the Treasury is blocking those green policies vital to the government’s claimed commitment to net-zero emissions. This week, Nicholas Stern, author of a 2006 study into the costs of climate change, reinforced the message that the UK cannot fight the climate crisis with austerity and trying to do so would put the green agenda in jeopardy.

Sunak has contrarily claimed this week that the UK would not see a return to the austerity policies of the last decade, promising to rebuild the economy after the pandemic. Suddenly in step with the incumbent of No.10? Which is it Mr Sunak? Having already cut foreign aid spending, and frozen pay for some public sector workers on the basis of keeping public expenditure down, it will remain to be seen whether it’s just more electoral rhetoric of the Johnson kind, which will be abandoned when it suits, remembering he has to keep Conservative voters and backers happy. But it’s true to say he can’t have it both ways. Government spending for the public purpose and austerity are mutually exclusive propositions. We should perhaps, therefore, ask a different question. Who would be the beneficiary of the public purse? The last year should give us an indication. The Corporations.

At the same time, those very same actors continue to talk in terms of the risk to economic growth if we fail to act, with little reference to the threat to the planet and human existence as we know it, or the idea that we can have unrestrained growth and call it green.

If we want any sort of future for our children, the cost of counting beans instead of planetary health will be huge. Continuing to promote the message that with green growth we can have it all, is equally to wilfully misunderstand the vastness of the challenge we face, in terms of real resources and addressing the already high costs of an economic system which is based on the exploitation of human beings.

Climate action may be a bargain, but not a monetary one in terms of future fiscal savings. It is a bargain in terms of human existence and planetary well-being. We can talk glowingly about creating a green economy, but until the government sets out detailed policy proposals, having already been widely criticised in many quarters for its failure to do so, real change will not happen.

Such action must form part of a holistic strategy, directed by central government and flowing down to our communities and every aspect of our lives. It must take account of the lives of working people and the vast inequalities that have arisen over decades and will continue to rise if we do nothing. It must provide appropriate regulation and finance, as only the currency-issuing capacity of government can do, to ensure the innovation that could undoubtedly be unlocked by a government committed to change.

Despite Alok Sharma’s warnings prior to the publication of the IPCC report, the reality is that so far little commitment has been made, and the political will to act is shallow. We are scarcely off the starting blocks in terms of the action that needs to happen. A revolution in the way we live. That revolution must start with the basics of how governments spend.

 

 

 

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The post The golden era of greenwashing appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

Washington, D.C. Turns a Parking Subsidy into a Transit Perk

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 04/08/2021 - 6:00pm in

Train for the job

Among America’s many nonsensical tax exemptions is the one for employer-paid parking, which encourages workers to drive to work alone. No wonder 81 percent of them choose to do so.

A tax exemption for solo drivers penalizes transit riders, contributes to inequity and is flat-out bad for traffic, cities and the climate. This is why last year, Washington, D.C. enacted the Transportation Benefits Equity Amendment, which requires companies that subsidize employees who park at work to also subsidize those who do not.

Washington’s law gives non-car commuters a cash payout equal in value to the employee parking subsidy, which recipients can use to, say, pay for a transit pass instead. It’s modeled on a similar California law that successfully decreased solo driving to work by 17 percent and increased transit ridership by 50 percent. The system, according to employers, was “cheap, easy to manage and fair.” Even the state made out like a bandit, collecting $48 annually per employee who took the cash payout because the cash, unlike cheap parking, is taxable.

Read more at Bloomberg CityLab

Budget concerns

The stimulus money funneled to U.S. cities and states by the American Rescue Plan has inadvertently led to a flurry of engagement between government and citizens, as many political leaders have found themselves with sums of cash they rarely see, and have turned to residents directly to ask them how they think it should be spent.

Alexandria, Virginia has created a hotline and web portal that constituents can use to suggest how they would spend the $60 million the municipality received. Cities in California, Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia have created similar channels of communication, through which residents have called for funding for job training, housing and broadband internet. In Charleston, West Virginia, one mostly Black neighborhood wanted funding to fix its food desert problem. Now the city is discussing how to spend some of its $37 million on expanding a local food co-op to that community. 

“Usually when we do something new, I like to look and see what other jurisdictions have done,” said one Alexandria official. “But we’re all going through this at the same time — we’re building the plane as we fly it.” 

Read more at Route Fifty

School first

Of the pandemic’s many unexpected side effects, one that unfolded in India took many by surprise: a surge in child marriages. Last summer, as the lockdowns were eased, child marriages there increased by 17 percent as families rushed to marry off girls before a full reopening so they could keep the weddings small and inexpensive.

One of those girls was Priyanka Bairwa from the district of Karauli, Rajasthan. But rather than accede, Bairwa refused to be married off. When she threatened to run away, her parents agreed to drop the marriage and let her finish school instead. 

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Now 18, Bairwa is the founder of Rajasthan Rising, an organization that helps girls in Karauli seek scholarships and avoid arranged marriages before they’ve graduated high school. The group holds informational sessions with girls in rural villages to make them aware of their constitutional rights, and lobbies state ministers to enact laws allowing girls to receive free education until they are at least 17. It has also organized protests outside the homes of families seeking to marry off their girls, which the group’s members say have stopped specific child marriages from occurring.

Today, Rajasthan Rising has grown from its original ten members to 1,200 strong. “Many villagers called us mad,” said Bairwa. “But we had a clear goal, to reach vulnerable girls in all 33 districts of the state and demand long-term change.” 

Read more at the Guardian

The post Washington, D.C. Turns a Parking Subsidy into a Transit Perk appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

New PEF publication – guide to Joe Biden’s economic programme

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 30/06/2021 - 7:54pm in

The Progressive Economy Forum is today publishing a detailed new guide to the economic programme of the Joe Biden administration.

In less than six months since his inauguration as US President, Joe Biden’s administration has staked out a new agenda for US policymaking, breaking with the previous four decades of Republican and Democratic domestic economic policy to focus deliberate government action on job creation, addressing racial equality, environmental goals, and rebuilding American manufacturing industry. A dramatic expansion in trade union rights, pushing back on four decades of draconian restrictions on workplace organising has been pledged, and over $6tr of public spending is lined up, to be funded mainly by taxes on the richest Americans and the biggest corporations.

The UK equivalent for the whole programme (using share of 2020 GDP as the baseline) would be £560bn: £170bn for immediate coronavirus relief; £240bn for investment and business support; £150bn for welfare and education.

Surprising many with the scale and scope of its ambitions, the Biden Administration’s domestic economic programme has raised the bar for progressive governments across the world. This briefing breaks down the emerging details of the programme for a UK audience and lays out the main political conclusions.

PEF Briefing – BidenomicsDownload

The post New PEF publication – guide to Joe Biden’s economic programme appeared first on The Progressive Economy Forum.

The G7 jolly – a symbol of everything that is wrong with the global economic system.

11/06/2021.Eden Project, G7 Leaders’ Summit, Cornwall. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, sits for a group photograph with all the G7 leaders at the Eden Project before the G7 leaders’ evening dinner and reception.Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street Creative Commons License: (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

“The kind of transformation that is now required [to address the climate crisis] will happen only if it is treated as a civilizational mission, in our country and in every major economy on earth.”

― On Fire: The Case for the Green New Deal by Naomi Klein

 

Let’s start this week’s GIMMS MMT Lens with some good news! It might be from across the pond, but it is heartening to learn that this week John Yarmuth, Chair of the House Budget Committee, spoke on public television about the federal budget using an MMT framework. He explained that the US government is not money constrained and mentioned Stephanie Kelton’s book The Deficit Myth. Is this a defining moment? Can we make further progress within the ever-shortening timescale to address the key challenges the world faces? Let us hope so.



The deficit hawks and doves that have hitherto ruled the roost, basing their ideas on the false premise of monetary scarcity, will surely have to acknowledge the reality of how governments like the US and the UK actually spend? Unless they want to find themselves in the dock for wilful harm.

The challenges before us are vast; from addressing the climate emergency to the existing and growing global inequalities that have been driven by the toxic economic system which prevails and dictates policy around the world. Watch this space!

At the same time as Yarmuth revealed the truth about monetary reality to a US public who, like many, have been coached to believe that the state money system operates like their own household budgets, in the UK we still have politicians pulling the wool over the eyes of its own citizens.

In an interview with Andrew Neil on the newly launched channel GB News, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak suggested that we would have to take some difficult decisions to get the public finances back on track. He claimed, disingenuously, that in order to deliver the Tory manifesto of ‘more nurses, more hospitals, police officers, levelling up and investing in local communities’, they had had no option but to cut foreign aid, because apparently the government has a finite pot of money. Harking back to Margaret Thatcher’s lie that ‘There is no such thing as public money. There is only taxpayers’ money’, he said:

“Of course, I’m a fiscal conservative because it’s not my money, it’s other people’s money and I take my responsibility for that very seriously.”

“All governments have choices to make. [We are] making sure that we can invest in our children’s future and not have them constantly paying for the past.”

Apparently, even in the midst of the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced, one which affects both rich and developing countries, we still have politicians falling back on the lie of monetary scarcity; thereby suggesting that saving ourselves is unaffordable.

Politicians who claim that the choices governments have are limited by the tax they collect or their ability to borrow, and that balanced budgets should be the aim of spending policy to avoid a debt burden on future generations, are misleading the public. Either through their own ignorance (debatable perhaps given the growing awareness of monetary reality) or more likely with the objective of driving through a political agenda favouring global corporations, whereby the State has become a cash cow for their operations. All at the expense of publicly funded and provided services that serve the nation’s interests.

The last 10 years have been a case in point, as austerity drove cuts to government expenditure on public and social infrastructure, on the basis of the lie that there is a limited pot of money with which to deliver government policy; resulting in a decaying infrastructure and severely impoverished sections of society. What a terrible price we have paid.

At the same time as Sunak promoted his fiscally conservative credentials, Labour, under the newly appointed Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves, announced that the country had ‘lost’ £16.7bn in tax revenues over nine years due to slow economic growth caused by government policies, and compared the amount that could have been in the Treasury ‘coffers’ had the UK grown in line with the OECD average.

The Shadow Chief Secretary Bridget Phillipson referred to ‘a decade of misspending of public finances and waste’, which she said had ‘weakened the foundations of the UK economy and severely hampered Britain’s growth’. And indeed, one might make a very good case for criticising austerity, which cut public services to the bone on the false premise that it would grow the economy, a premise which has been exposed as a cruel falsity, both in the light of its consequences and also of the vast spending that has been undertaken by the government to keep the economy from tanking during this pandemic, when up till that point successive Chancellors were promoting fiscal discipline. However, setting aside the drive for growth for the moment (we will come back to it) Labour is still talking about taxes funding spending. What’s changed? Growth may indeed increase tax revenues, but those increased tax revenues have absolutely nothing to do with paying for government spending, paying down the national debt, reducing a debt burden on future generations or whatever other nonsense is masquerading as fiscal correctness.

If we genuinely want to address the climate emergency and the vast global inequalities that exist, it’s a story that needs to be consigned to the dustbin of history.

And as for Treasury ‘coffers’, the government doesn’t have any. None of this narrative is true. It represents the continuing smoke and mirrors of monetary scarcity played out daily by politicians, the media, and orthodox economists. As was pointed out this week by an MMT activist, if everyone knew how the money system worked the UK Chancellor would never get away with the austerity nonsense pedalled by his predecessors and other politicians for the purpose of delivering a political agenda, and which has done so much damage over the last 10 years to the UK’s public and social infrastructure.

The government, as the currency issuer, has as much money as it needs to deliver its political agenda within the context of available resources. That is its only constraint. It does not rely on growth to fund its spending through the increased taxes such growth might bring. In plain speak, the government is not a household and is not constrained in its spending priorities either by the tax it collects (for vastly different purposes) or by borrowing. It needs to do neither. Such narratives are deliberately constructed to justify the pursuit of a damaging economic ideology that has been exposed by the pandemic as unnecessary and indeed vastly harmful.

That should be the starting point for the public conversation on what comes next, not whether the government has been fiscally prudent by balancing its budget or needs to cut back its expenditure to do so, however appealing that message is to a public still firmly ensconced in its household budget comfort zone for understandable reasons. If you hear the narrative enough times, you come to believe it must be so. We must therefore double our efforts to challenge and unpick the false narratives. Much depends on it.

Last week the G7 met in Cornwall and showed yet again not only its myopic, status quo vision for the future, but also its contempt for the pressing challenges we face. As world leaders flew in from around the world, the Prime Minister arrived in Cornwall after a short carbon-intensive flight from London, whilst laughably at the same time lauding his commitment to addressing climate change with his usual hypocritical bluster. It was also revealed that trees were cut down to provide meeting rooms for the heads of state who were there to address the climate emergency, amongst other things. Those very same trees which play a vital role in planetary health!

The final communique detailing the deal that had been struck by G7 leaders was criticised heavily for its failure to bring new cash to the table. The Build Back Better mantra vaunted by politicians and global institutions such as the World Economic Forum and the World Bank, is nothing but a toothless symbol defined by empty political rhetoric.

Max Lawson from Oxfam said of it, ‘Never in the history of the G7 has there been a bigger gap between their actions and the needs of the world. We don’t need to wait for history to judge this summit a colossal failure, it is plain for all to see’. A rich nation’s club in service to a rotten economic system at the expense of the well-being of the planet and citizens across the world.

The G7 jolly, in which guests were wined and dined in luxury, also showed huge disrespect for a region impoverished by government decree, and the local inhabitants whose lives were disrupted to accommodate the event. A symbol of everything that is wrong with the global economic system. You couldn’t make up this nonsense! The huge chasm between words and actions is getting wider and wider, as the climate realities continue to bear down upon us and are reported on almost daily. From the report this week that despite the slowdown in air travel and industry over the past year, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached 419 parts per million in May – the highest measurement of greenhouse gases that have been recorded in the 63 years covered by the Mauna Loa Atmospheric Observatory in Hawaii, to the UN’s warning that urgent action is vital to address the growing global problem of drought which is affecting both developing and developed countries.

In the words of Mami Mizutori, the UN Secretary for disaster risk reduction,

drought is on the verge of becoming the next pandemic and there is no vaccine to cure it. Most of the world will be living with water stress in the next few years. Demand will outstrip supply during certain periods [and will be] a major factor in land degradation and the decline of yields for major crops’. Mizutori went on to make it clear that ‘Human activities are exacerbating drought and increasing the impact threatening to derail progress on lifting people from poverty.’

The United Nations World Food Programme has warned that unprecedented levels of drought across many African countries are threatening human existence in those areas, as land becomes parched and consequently infertile, and famine takes hold.

California and Arizona have been hit by multiple wildfires this week; hundreds of thousands of acres have burned as long-standing drought continues to affect the area. Scientists referring to it as a ‘mega drought’ say that it should be a wake-up call, as water resources providing crucial supplies to 40 million people and feeding the needs of agriculture are at risk, and may force drastic and perhaps unpalatable action. The nation’s largest reservoir is on track to reach the lowest level ever recorded. Cities like Las Vegas are baking in temperatures reaching historic highs and researchers are predicting that this heatwave will be one of many likely to hit the US South-West before summer ends.

In the UK, the government has equally shown disregard for the growing threats as a result of the climate crisis and continues to learn no lessons.

The 2016 report on Exercise Cygnus which simulated the consequences of a fictitious influenza pandemic, warned that ‘the UK’s preparedness and response, in terms of its plans, policies, and capability [was] not sufficient to cope with the extreme demands of a severe pandemic that will have a nationwide impact across all sectors.’

It should therefore not be surprising to learn that the same is true of the Climate Change Committee’s risk assessment on climate crisis preparedness, also published in the same year. The 2016 report warned that the UK was poorly prepared for water shortages and floods. In 2019 it repeated its warning that the UK still had no proper plans for protecting people from heat waves, flash flooding and other damaging impacts arising from climate change.

The government responded that it ‘welcomed this report and will consider its recommendations closely as we continue to demonstrate global leadership on climate change ahead of COP26 in November’. It is difficult to know at this juncture whether to laugh or cry. Just more bluff and lies from a government which promises lots and delivers nothing.

As US President Joe Biden plans a huge fiscal injection to revitalise his country’s decaying infrastructure, which has arisen over decades through the overriding obsession of both Houses with balanced budgets and neoliberal dogma, our own over-privileged Chancellor is still bamboozling people with his nonsense about being a safe pair of fiscal hands. The only conclusion one can draw is that balanced budgets must trump human survival.

As the economist Daniela Gabor wrote in a recent Guardian article:

‘Climate activists should be prepared to fight the battle against fiscal fundamentalists with a simple message: the government is not a household.’

Also writing that:

‘We cannot rely on private finance to lead us out of a climate crisis it has systematically contributed to. We have to disempower carbon financiers, and we do that by making the democratic state – not investors – lead the way forward.’

The government has the capacity to be the real powerhouse in terms of both its currency-issuing and legislative powers, and contrary to popular opinion is not beholden to corporate dictat. Equally, in a truly democratic state as the economist Professor Bill Mitchell says, ‘The government is us’. We could be the real arbiters of change through our votes.

However, currently we have a democratic deficit reinforced by a toxic media which, as Raoul Martinez, the philosopher, artist, and filmmaker so rightly notes:

‘As long as the vast majority of wealth is controlled by a tiny proportion of humanity, democracy will struggle to be little more than a pleasant mask worn by an ugly system.’

Whilst the data shows that the world’s wealthiest 1% produce double the combined carbon emissions of the poorest 50%, and the Musks and Bransons of the world obscenely seek to exploit finite resources for thrill-seeking trips into outer space, such wealth inequality and unequal access to real resources are a degrading consequence of ceding power to the unelected, whose wealth buys them political influence.

We should instead be looking at how we reduce consumption of those same finite resources and at the same time put those we have to better use by creating a fairer and more sustainable planet. As it stands, their wealth brings the rich huge advantage, while the rest pay the price in increasing poverty, inequality, and planetary degradation.

At the same time, after an exceedingly difficult year of human suffering and economic pain, governments around the world are seeking yet again the holy grail of growth to keep the whole capitalist shebang on track and rolling. Often it is erroneously described in terms of delivering ‘green growth.’ This is a contradiction in terms, but invites us to believe that cosmetic changes will be enough to save us, and that we can continue pretty much as we are using new technologies; some of which are still in the land of imagination or have as yet to be proved.

We have reached a crossroads for decision making for the sort of society we want to see. As Jason Hickel, the author of ‘Less is more’ tweeted recently.

‘If your economy requires people to consume things they don’t need or even want, and to do more of it each year than the year before, just in order to keep the whole edifice from collapsing, then you need a different economy.’

Across the planet in both developed and developing countries, the prevailing economic system is built on the exploitation of humans and other real resources for profit at any cost and which is leading us down a path to no return.

And yet in the light of this, on the one hand we have the Conservative Chancellor promoting fiscal discipline and on the other, a Shadow Chancellor still grinding on about collecting tax from the rich to pay for public services, in a party beating its breast with mea culpa for there ‘not being any money left’ when it left office in 2010.

The continuing smoke and mirrors of public accounting will keep the lie going at huge cost. As climate change and the problem of the finite nature of real resources breathes down our collective neck, politicians are still asking the same old tired and irrelevant questions as to whether we can afford to save ourselves. All total baloney of course!

The G7 meeting has proved itself to be yet another talking shop and yet another of Boris Johnson’s ‘roadmaps’ to nowhere. The climate summit in November will undoubtedly take us even further down the greenwashing road to the maintenance of the status quo, given the current government’s ineffective, wishy-washy responses so far.

Worse, possible action is still viewed, at least in the UK, in terms of the state of the public finances and affordability. The government’s action on cutting foreign aid must put into question its commitment to bringing about change and addressing the vast global inequalities that exist largely as a result of neo-colonial domination and exploitation. We urgently need to acknowledge the vital role government can and must play in driving a real green agenda, not an apologist one serving the status quo.

The problem is this. What government that seeks re-election (unless you live in one of those countries which are suffering from the toxic consequences of capitalism and the neo-colonialism which continues to exploit and impoverish them, and who are unrepresented at the G7) is going to want either to deal with the hard truth or tell its populations that concrete transformational change to the way we live is needed. Not a change that aims to deprive people and make their lives miserable, but a revolution in the way we do things with the aim of changing our perspective, from one of endless consumption of stuff, to one of creating sustainable communities that put people and the planet at the heart of policymaking.

The sad truth is that governments currently exist for the benefit of global corporations, where profits matter more than people and the planet, and the rich are already looking for escape routes to safety – Mars might be a good choice. As the waters rise metaphorically and actually and nations start to fight over real resources, our children’s children will be the inheritors of the mess capitalism has made. Unless we do something different.

As Johnson spluttered on about the G7 rising to the challenge of ‘beating the pandemic and building back better, fairer and greener’, and bringing an end to entrenched inequalities’ after Covid, it seemed he had totally forgotten, as had his colleagues, that those inequalities didn’t just happen by themselves. They happened as a result of decades of neoliberal ‘free market’ dogma, subscribed to by political parties of all shades, and which has been firmly rooted over the last 10 years in unnecessary austerity policies in many major economies and also imposed on indebted developing countries. And does he recognise the global inequalities that have been created by the same toxic ideology, whereby the resources of developing countries have been exploited at a terrible cost to support the living standards of the West, and upon which the green revolution is planned? This is the same man who has been happy to go along with cuts to foreign aid because apparently we have spent too much and must look to counting the pennies to get the public accounts in balance. The word hypocrite comes to mind. With such a scarcity narrative, it might seem an uphill struggle to address the challenges.

What happens next will be determined by political will and public support. It is rooted in the reality that the Blue Dot we inhabit is all we are, and all we have. Seen from that perspective, it should be an invitation to explore how we can do things differently. MMT offers a lens on how we can achieve that. The road might be bumpy, and we might make mistakes along the way, but in the end, we’ve nothing to lose.

 

Upcoming Event

Phil Armstrong In Conversation with Mike Hall

Sat, 3 July 2021 – 15:00 – 16:30 BST

GIMMS is delighted to present another in its series ‘In Conversation.’

GIMMS Associate Member Phil Armstrong will be talking to MMT activist Mike Hall.

Mike is a retired engineer and a liver of life of many parts including as an Industrial Controls Engineer, Windfarm Engineer, General Manager of IT refurb resale small business, Worker Co-op founder and local authority Co-op Development Worker. He studied for a Masters in Business Administration at Cranfield (UK) and has been an MMT activist for 11 years. He is also a grandfather and a lover of Jazz!

Register for this free event via Eventbrite

 

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The post The G7 jolly – a symbol of everything that is wrong with the global economic system. appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

The Return of the State – authors introduce their chapters

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/06/2021 - 5:59am in

Jan Toporowski

TO PURCHASE THIS BOOK click here and use AGENDA25 to obtain a 25% discount

The post The Return of the State – authors introduce their chapters appeared first on The Progressive Economy Forum.

The Reality of Governor Newsom's Budget

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 24/05/2021 - 7:20pm in

A few things have happened since California Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed an austerity budget in January

State tax receipts came in higher than expected (though they will not rise next year).

A recall campaign collected signatures amounting to the required 12 percent of registered voters, so Newsom is now running for governor. 

Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan sent the state $27 billion.

And Biden's three big Plans far outstripped anything California Democrats have offered the state since Grey Davis was recalled in 2003, leaving them paddling in Biden's wake. 

Needing to get out in front of Biden's quasi-New Deal advance, and to show some post-pandemic achievement, on May 14th Newsom announced his "generational" state budget, a "historic, transformational budget."  Here of course we welcome with open arms Newsom's recognition that solving California's problems means massive government spending, since it is true. The K-12 increases are especially welcome, as are those trying to reduce with the state's long epidemic of houselessness. 

Yet like Biden, Newsom sees a narrowed function for four-year colleges and universities, and is funding them accordingly, meaning meagerly.

The press did find his historic numbers hard to follow.  Writing in the LA Times, John Myers noted the range of the proposals 

The governor’s list of spending priorities, which rely on a surprise cash infusion spread over several years that is projected to ultimately top $100 billion, is dizzying: money to house those who are homeless, support entrepreneurs, train workers, educate students and connect them to the internet, fix roadways, prevent wildfires and strengthen California’s power grid.

He then added politely, "It could be some time before the numbers outlined by Newsom can be fully reconciled. The governor frequently uses unorthodox ways to measure state spending, lumping together dollar amounts that span multiple years." The $100 billion in economic assistance translates into a budget increase of $40 billion in the current year--still an excellent increase, but one that should be defined correctly.

Reconciliation will involve a couple of simple moves. One is to separate multi-year from single-year numbers. Myers does that in contrasting the headline $100 billion with the annual $40 billion.

The other move that's especially relevant to higher ed budgeting is separating ongoing from one-time funds. The former commits the state to program building over time. The latter does not. 

UC's president and Board of Regents chair issued a statement to say, "The University of California is deeply grateful to Gov. Newsom for proposing the largest state investment in UC’s history: more than $807 million."  In his press conference (around minute 52 in the version helpfully archived by Dan Mitchell) Newsom correctly describes the permanent investment as an increase in $506 million. It's better than the $136 million he proposed in January. But as with all these budget announcements, don't read the headline, read the top line (in the slide at the top).

Here's the table that Newsom's Department of Finance published, in the Higher Education section of the May Revision.

The second row of figures is UC's Ongoing General Fund. Newsom and legislative Democrats cut UC's general fund during the pandemic year; later they decided to give it back, but not until the following year (2021-22). 
We can redo the table so that it tracks only the state's permanent commitment to UC, in the form of ongoing general funds.  I give the one-time general fund restoration back to the year to which it belongs--2020-21.  

UC Ongoing General Fund

2019-2020

2020-2021 (with cut retroactively restored)

2021-2022

2 year cumulative change

 

$3,724.3 M

$3,766.0 M

$3972.1

6.65%

The one-year increase is 5.5 percent. Note that UC's GF allocation still falls short of the magic $4 billion ceiling it's been trying to break through for twenty years (in unadjusted dollars, so the real problem is worse--I discussed this issue in "Shortfall," covering the history that made Newsom's January budget such an affront).  

This increase is obviously better, but you don't get to break the $4 B barrier by restoring a cut to permanent general funds one year late. More importantly, an average annual increase of a bit more than 3¼ percent does not qualify as "the largest state investment in UC history."  It doesn't justify the "huge budget boost" trumpet blast in this LA Times headline, or the statement cosigned by UC president Drake and board chair Pérez.

There are other commitments, all one time, where the main money goes to 2 things: workforce preparedness and student housing.  

State underfunding has helped turn student housing into a scandal of private development leading to overpricing, blown open this March when UCSD housing announced average rent increases for doctoral and professional students of 31 percent. Newsom proposes $4 billion (over 2 years) for a "low-cost student housing grant program focused on expanding the availability of affordable student housing." The money may well go subsidize the private developers that helped cause the affordability problem--details are sparse.  It's a major problem, but would best be solved by the state restarting continuing allocations to capital projects, which it ended around 2006.

For the workforce, Newsom proposes $1 billion (over 2 years) "to establish the Learning-Aligned Employment program, which would promote learning-aligned, long-term career development for UC, CSU, and CCC students." The money would form a permanent endowment.  Again there are no details: much better student advising is not mentioned, but employer partnerships are, so it may turn out to be a state subsidy for apprenticeship programs. 

Newsom proposes little or nothing in core needs.  Deferred Maintenance, a problem totaling tens of billions, gets $325 million in one-time funding, which for DM is a contradiction in terms. UCLA's Asian American Studies Center gets $5 million in one-time funding to research "the prevention of hate incidents." He recommends $40 million more than that for the animal shelter medicine program at Davis. 

A better way to fight racist hate crimes would be to fully fund critical ethnic studies, gender, queer, and trans studies, political theory, sociology, history, and the other non-STEM fields that study these issues systematically and have long offered detailed solutions. That is not happening, and I will return to this issue a bit later this year.

Newsom's thinking aligns with Biden's and the national party in a few important ways. They both continue the decades-old drift toward giving public funds to students rather than to institutions.  Student money escapes the instructional and (non-sponsored) research core, whose complexity and costs keep rising, but whose growth in operating money does not keep up. 

Second, they are using higher ed as a kind of renewed welfare state. Newsom knows it is politically hard to address the state's housing affordability crisis by with a massive public housing program for working- and middle-class people, but fairly easy to subsidize private developers to build public housing for students.  The public colleges' working poor would be affordably housed for a few years. 

The same goes for health and related social services (legal support for undocumented students, food security, transition support for formerly incarcerated students).  I favor this full suite of public support systems--it's the point of the Real College movement--but want them to be integrated into the society at large, funded through progressive taxation of the overall population, and not used as a substitute for funding advanced education.  

Third, Newsom and Biden see higher education as workforce training for economic growth. They also tie that mainly to community colleges rather than to four-year degrees.  Newsom bundles his two biggest one-time programs into an aggregate with a largish headline number that must be shared by the 3 segments, and which treats the segments and their students as the same.  Newsom is joining Biden in demoting four-year colleges, which is an anti-progressive trend that universities will need to fight.

This budget is a lot better than a cut. But it's not the New New Deal.  I'd feel better about where it might lead had president Drake and board chair Pérez described it accurately and set out ongoing needs.  But they did not.  

Here's an update of the January chart, for context.

 

Budget spending can’t hide Liberals’ big business, fossil fuel agenda

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 14/05/2021 - 6:12pm in

Tags 

Budget

The Liberals are preparing for the next election by spending money on issues that have hurt them in recent months—aged care and violence against women. But their budget offers no real solutions and is riddled with nasty measures that illustrate their real agenda.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was happy to bill the budget as a cash splash and was rewarded with headlines such as “Everyone’s a winner, baby” (The Age), “Full-strength recovery” (Herald Sun) and “Super spender event” (The Australian).

The government is pumping tens of billions into the economy over the coming year to maintain the post-COVID economic bounce.

But Frydenberg’s already signalled he plans to turn off the tap after the election, cutting the deficit from $106 billion in the coming year to $57 billion in 2024-25.

And even the big spending increases fall well short of what is needed for real change.

In the case of aged care, the government has failed to make the fundamental reforms recommended by the royal commission—including needs-based funding, mandated minimum staffing levels and a requirement for registered nurses on-site at all times.

Extra funds that will flow to home care operators will not be tied to improving services, allowing unscrupulous private operators to cream off even higher profits.

The government’s gestures towards women also fall well short. As ACTU president Michele O’Neil put it: “This budget contains $17.9 billion in tax write-offs for big business and only $1.1 billion for women’s safety over the next four years.”

There is no new money to extend paid parental leave and the government rejected a recommendation to include superannuation on the payments.

The cut in childcare costs only helps families with two or more children in care—and the measure doesn’t start until July next year.

The plan to help single parent families (overwhelmingly women) buy a home with a 2 per cent deposit will apply to just 2500 people a year.

Meanwhile, as the ABC noted: “There was zero support for women on the pension who don’t have a lot of super and don’t own their house.”

Government spending on universities will fall over coming years, from $7.56 billion in 2021-22 to $7.17 billion in 2023-34, setting the scene for even more job cuts on campuses.

Nasty measures

There were some genuinely nasty measures hidden in the budget small print. New permanent residents are banned from claiming welfare for four years. Newly unemployed people’s JobSeeker payments will be backdated to when they submit a job plan, not to the date they first register.

These two measures will rip around $200 million a year from the poor—while the government is spending $90 billion on a dozen submarines.

No such worries for big business and the rich, who are set to gain $62 billion in tax cuts and subsidies according to the Greens. While workers will not get their modest tax cuts until later this year, businesses can claim instant cash-back for buying equipment.

There’s plenty of support for fossil fuels, with $58.6 million for gas projects and $30 million for early works on a new gas generator in Port Kembla.

The budget contains $264 million to fund new carbon capture and storage projects—an unproven technology that green-washes the continuing use of fossil fuels.

And there are hundreds of millions—the government won’t admit the exact amount—for Australia’s remaining oil refiners.

Labor responded with a welcome nod towards building more housing. But it had no more to say on climate change than the Liberals. And its scheme to encourage young entrepreneurs is little more than a gimmick.

Critically, Anthony Albanese was mute on whether a Labor government would stop the next giant round of tax cuts in 2024-25, due to flow almost exclusively to the wealthy and expected to cost $95 billion over five years.

Frydenberg’s budget figures rely on everyone being vaccinated by the end of the year, an opening of international borders in mid-2022 and iron ore export prices remaining high.

He is also gambling on consumer spending and business investment to drive the economy as he winds back public spending.

But low wage growth means the consumer spending boom is likely to wane. And business capital spending has been falling for years—from $37 billion a quarter in December 2015 to $31 billion before the pandemic hit.

If workers are to avoid paying the price of a fundamentally weak economy, there will need to be a fight for the wage rises and services we need.

By David Glanz

The post Budget spending can’t hide Liberals’ big business, fossil fuel agenda appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Government To Allow Under 30’s To Sell Their Organs For A House Deposit

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/05/2021 - 9:38am in

The Government has announced that they will be easing restrictions around the selling of organs to allow those citizens under 30 the chance to become property owners.

”We know that it is tough at the moment for young Australians to enter the property market so we’ve done something about it,” said the Treasurer. ”Going forward a house won’t cost you an arm and a leg, just a kidney or spleen.”

When asked how this would help the already over inflated property market, the Treasurer said: ”It will help greatly, especially older Australians.”

”As the homes they own will be worth more and if they need it they’ll be able to source some fresh young organs to help keep them alive.”

”Now, if you’ll excuse me, I saw a baby with some candy I might go and explain to it how the tax system works.”

Mark Williamson

@MWChatShow

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter @TheUnOz or like us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/theunoz.

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Christensen Orders PM To Open Up The Borders Or Extend Job Keeper To The Philippines

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/05/2021 - 7:51am in

The Government’s member for Manila George Christensen has ordered the PM to either open up the borders or extend Australia’s Job Keeper program to the Philippines.

”This budget doesn’t do enough for the fine people of the Philippines,” said the member for Manila. ”It’s all well and good to say this is a budget for Women, but what about all the women in the Philippines.”

”Those poor girls over there rely on good hearted philanthropists like myself to help them chase their dreams of becoming ping pong champions.”

When asked why he was more concerned for the people of the Philippines than the people of Queensland, the member for Manila said: ”That is patently untrue.”

”I am doing my all to give the people of Queensland what they want and that is me overseas in the Philippines.”

”Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to head to Rebel sports to get some ping pong balls shipped to Manila.”

Mark Williamson

@MWChatShow

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter @TheUnOz or like us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/theunoz.

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Budget tipped to include $1.2 Billion Increase To PM’s Promo Photo Spending

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 10/05/2021 - 7:00am in

Tuesday’s Federal Budget is tipped to reveal a $1.2 billion dollar increase in spending for the PM’s official photo budget, with $500 million of that to go towards purchasing new hi-vis for Mr. Morrison.

”This is a budget that will get Australia and the PM working,” said the Treasurer Josh Frydenburg. ”By the time of the next election our leader Scott….err ScoMo will have had his picture taken in every plane, train and truck in the country.”

When asked why the Government feels that having the PM pictured in hi-vis at various work sites was necessary for the countrys economic recovery, the Treasurer said: ”Australians want to have confidence in their leader.”

”Whether it’s in a truck or a plane, a smiling Scott…err ScoMo is what this country needs.”

”Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to join the PM for a photo shoot at Engadine Maccas. It must have something to do with cleaners wages’, as he asked me to bring a mop, bucket and a pair of pants.”

Mark Williamson

@MWChatShow

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter @TheUnOz or like us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/theunoz.

We’re also on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/theunoz

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