The Economist

The Crisis at the BBC and the Cancellation of the Victoria Derbyshire Show

A few days ago the Director-General of the Beeb, Lord Tony Hall, formally stepped down. According to Mike over at Vox Political, Robert Peston has said that this means that the Beeb’s chairman, David Clementi, can oversee the installation of a new D-G, who isn’t under the control of Boris and the Tories. But Mike argues instead that Clementi’s time as chair is nearly over, and it’s likely that Johnson will use his influence instead to make sure the next D-G is a Tory puppet, who will purge anyone BoJob and Cumming’s don’t like. He also reblogs posts from the ever-perceptive Tom London, who points out that the Beeb has already been significantly biased towards the Tories. The bias against Labour and Jeremy Corbyn personally was so pronounced that it denies the election democratic validity. Tom London says that while it might say ‘Democracy’ on the tin, that democracy has already vanished when nothing but propaganda is being pumped out.

Quite so. As Mike says, the Tories’ plan is to install someone, who will raise no objection to their privatisation of the Beeb and its replacement by commercial operators, who will kowtow to the Tories.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/01/22/johnsons-corrupt-plan-for-the-bbc-the-propaganda-arm-of-the-tory-party/

In fact, as Mike also says, the Beeb has been under Tory influence for quite some time. Ever since David Cameron passed legislation allowing the public sector to recruit from the private industry. This has led to the influx of further senior management and corporate bosses at the Beeb, determined to turn it into a propaganda mouthpiece for the Tories.

It was also announced today that the Corporation was axing the Victoria Derbyshire Show. Derbyshire is a highly respected journalist, and the decision dismayed journalists and media figures as diverse as Paul Lewis, Stephen Pollard, the extreme right-wing editor of the Jewish Chronicle; Martin Barrow, and the Labour MP Tracy Brabin. Lewis described the show as ‘innovative’, praising the way it dealt with important social issue like poverty other mainstream shows would have struggled with, and called it ‘a people’s current affairs programme’. The former MP Danielle Rowley said that the show made complex issues accessible through a wide-ranging format, different voices, and great journalism and presenting. Martin Barrow, who is a foster carer as well as a journo, condemned its cancellation, and said he would always be grateful to the show for its reports into children’s care and young people’s mental health. Brabin said that the show was unique in having rigorous campaigning and allowing the public to have their say. She also praised Derbyshire as sharp, approachable and with a personal story that made her relatable. Laura Smith from Crewe and Nantwich praised the show for making sure that the voices of the survivors of historic abuse were heard, and praised the personal bravery of named victims that appeared on the show.

Zelo Street states that not everyone was upset by the show’s cancellation. Right-wing guttersnipes Darren Grimes and the Economist’s David Vance were overjoyed, though Vance considered it no more than a welcome start and wanted the complete closure of the Beeb.

Zelo Street believed that the show’s cancellation might not be unrelated to the fact that Derbyshire showed up Dominic Raab in the 2017 general election. Raab had claimed that the people using food banks weren’t poor, just experiencing ‘cash flow problems’.

The Street concluded

‘Once again, journalism is publishing, or indeed broadcasting, what someone does not want to see published, or broadcast. And the increasingly craven BBC is axing it.

Trebles all round for leering Tory boot boys. A lesson in grim reality for everyone else.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/01/victoria-derbyshire-binned-big-bbc.html

Another right-wing figure, who was not at all sorry to see Derbyshire and her show cancelled was Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad, the man who broke UKIP, who has made a video about it. Sargon and his equally deranged followers are convinced that the Beeb is biased towards Left and against the Tories, even when all the evidence shows the complete opposite. He thought she was particularly biased towards the Tories because she accidentally used the ‘C’ word for Jeremy Hunt’s surname when announcing a story. She immediately apologised, and said it was usually men, who used that word. Which is actually true, though I have heard it used by some foul-mouthed women. Sargon decided her comment showed that she had planned it, and thus her whole demeanour was an act. My guess is that it was a genuine mistake, but someone in the Newsroom probably had been referring to Hunt by the obscenity. Hunt’s name practically invites it. Derbyshire may well have heard it so often, that she accidentally said it herself, even though it was genuinely something she wouldn’t normally have said.

I’m not sure that Derbyshire is as unbiased as her supporters claimed. I was at a local Labour party meeting last week, and one of the subjects that came up again and again was the extreme bias against Labour by the media and its continued pushing of the anti-Semitism smears. And Derbyshire had done her fair share of this as well. When interviewing a spokesman from the Labour Party, Derbyshire had persistently asked them if they thought Corbyn needed sensitivity training. The spokesman had replied that he already had such training, as had they all. Too which she responded that she couldn’t believe the Labour party representative had said that he didn’t need it. Which is not what the Labour person had said.

Sargon’s video about it is interesting, however, for some of the stats he found. These included Derbyshire’s salary – £200 – £249,000 – and her viewing figures: 39,000. He concluded that her show had such a small audience that this was reasonable saving. He also pulled out the ratings for the audience of BBC news. Under Lord Hall, it has declined from 27 million three years ago to 18 million. It’s lost a third of its audience. While Sargon and other members of the right and extreme right are convinced it’s because of the Beeb’s nonexistent left-wing bias, the reality is that many of those 9 million viewers, who’ve turned off or over, will be left-wingers and Scots Nats put off by the Corporation’s pro-Tory bias.

My guess is that Derbyshire’s cancellation shows the direction the Beeb is moving. The Corporation’s being run down as it becomes nothing but a Tory propaganda outlet. The Tories would like to privatise the Corporation completely, but still recognise how valuable it is in the meantime. 70 per cent of the British public take their broadcast news from it. So the BBC will retain its main news programmes while closing down those, like Derbyshire, that provide a public service but don’t have massive ratings.

In that way the Tories will turn it into a propaganda network Goebbels would have been proud of, while preparing it for eventual privatisation and replacement by the networks of the Tories’ corporate backers.

 

Boris Johnson – Did the UK get what it deserves?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 28/12/2019 - 10:45am in

Andre Vltchek For in a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, “hold office”; every one of us is in a position of responsibility; and, in the final analysis, the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfill those responsibilities. We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the …

[SUSPENDED PENDING RESCHEDULING] Actually Existing Liberalism: History, Crisis, Prospect – Alexander Zevin with Grace Blakeley, 26th November

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/11/2019 - 10:02pm in

*THIS EVENT IS BEING SUSPENDED PENDING RESCHEDULING*
Tuesday 26th November 2019
6.00-7.30pm
Richard Hoggart Building 137

 

Join us for a talk by Alexander Zevin, author of Liberalism at Large: The World According to the Economist (Verso, 2019). After the talk, PERC will host a discussion between Zevin and Grace Blakeley, author of Stolen: How to Save the World From Financialisation (Repeater, 2019), followed by Q&A.

Since 1843 the Economist newspaper has been the most tireless – and internationally influential – champion of the liberal cause anywhere in the world. But what exactly is liberalism, and how has its message evolved? Shifting focus away from normative definitions offered by political theorists, or ones that start from Locke or Smith or another great thinker, this talk will detail liberalism’s emergence as a coherent worldview in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe – rippling out from Spain and France, and reaching a singular political and economic synthesis in Britain. The Economist allows us to see clearly the way liberalism has grappled with the world historical challenges that came after this moment, and was defined by them: working class demands for democracy, imperial expansion, conflict, cooperation and ongoing dominion, and the ascendency of high finance within the global capitalist order. Examining turning points in the history of each – from the Irish Famine to the Opium Wars, the Reform Acts to Female Suffrage, and from Keynes and the gold standard to Big Bang – the Economist has never simply reported on the world, but directly molded it.

Alexander Zevin is Assistant Professor of History at the City University of New York and an Editor at New Left Review.

Grace Blakeley is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research and the economics commentator for the New Statesman.

Chair: Nick Taylor is Lecturer in Political Economy and CUSP Research Fellow at Goldsmiths University.

 

All are welcome and no registration is required. For details on how to find Goldsmiths, click here.

The post [SUSPENDED PENDING RESCHEDULING] Actually Existing Liberalism: History, Crisis, Prospect – Alexander Zevin with Grace Blakeley, 26th November appeared first on Political Economy Research Centre.

IDS Plans to Raise Pension Age So Most People Will Be Dead Before Claiming It

Yesterday, Mike put up a piece reporting and commenting on the latest plan by Iain Duncan Squit, sorry, Smith. The Gentleman Ranker and his Centre for Social Justice, truly an oxymoron in any connection with the Tory party and especially him, has decided that the pension age should be raised. Because life expectancy is increasing, so say. Well, as Mike has pointed out in his piece, it was, but is no longer. It went into sharp reverse with the Coalition, and for the first time in fifty odd years, the average life expectancy started falling. This has not prevented the man responsible for the tens of thousands of preventable deaths due to benefit sanctions, the work capability tests and his brainchild, Universal Credit, from claiming that the rise in pension age will boost the UK economy. I don’t believe it will, not for a single moment. The increase in the pensionable age will simply mean that that a sizable chunk of British senior citizens will be caught like the WASPI women. There really will be massive poverty. I’ve got a feeling IDS is justifying this by saying that it will get elderly people back into the economy and into work. Well, it will mean that the older people, who should rightly look forward to retirement, will be forced to go on working, if they’re able and the firm doesn’t want to get rid of them in favour of younger, and potentially cheaper workers. But it also means that the many older citizens, who have health problems that prevent them from finding suitable work, will be forced into poverty. You can expect them to be faced with the humiliation and futility of going through all the rigged work capability tests, with the assumption that, no matter how serious their health problems, they should be able to find some work to do.

And Mike’s article also quotes David Hencke about the real issue looming here: many people in the deprived parts of the UK, like Blackpool and Glasgow will be dead before they attain pensionable age. Hencke said in an article last year that the average male life expectancy in Glasgow, Blackpool, Dundee, West Dunbartonshire and North Lanarkshire was 75.4 years. So if blokes do reach pensionable age in those areas, then on average they’ll have all of five months or so to enjoy their pension before they die. Which means, to the Tories and Iain Duncan Smith, £££££savings.

Whatever Squit, sorry, Smith says, I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that many older people will die before they reach the age when they can actually claim the pensions they’ve paid in for. For decades parts of the financial sector have been debating reforming the pensions system in line with the increase in life expectancy. The idea here is that the state pension system is, or will be, in crisis because they are too many elderly people living longer and drawing their pensions for longer. This is as the birthrate falls, so there are fewer younger people to support them. The Financial Times was talking about this in an article in the 1990s. And ominously, this article cited the fact that when Bismark introduced his ‘Socialist Law’ granting Germans the right to state pensions and payment for medical treatment, he set the pensionable age at 70. The article stated that this meant that the majority of German workers would be dead long before they could claim it. The Financial Times at that period was a Lib Dem, rather than a Tory newspaper, but that didn’t stop at least one of its other columnists supporting the very Tory policy of workfare. The reasoning for raising the state retirement age is that it has to be done to stop the younger generation being taxed to the hilt to pay for benefits for the elderly. But it actually looks more like the real reason the unspeakable Smith has done it is for the same reason the Tories always want to cut welfare benefits. They had the poor, all the poor, as scroungers, and simply want to give any savings they make from the benefit cuts to the rich as tax cuts. Which will include the millionaire Smith himself.

For further information, see Mike’s article at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/08/18/planned-pension-age-rise-means-most-will-die-before-ever-seeing-it/

Smith is already a mass-murderer thanks to the carnage he’s inflicted on the unemployed and disabled. Support Corbyn and get him and his murderous government out before they cause more chaos with a no-deal Brexit.

The Economist misrepresents MMT

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/02/2019 - 8:28pm in

I have read the articles that The Economist published on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) in the current edition of the liberal-leaning magazine (here and there). I am not happy with the reporting, which includes false statements in general and also misrepresentations of what MMT is.

First of all, let me point out that MMT is not a “left-wing doctrine”, as claimed by the paper. Defining a doctrine as something that is taught, as the Merriam-Webster dictionary does, means that MMT is indeed a doctrine – but so is neoclassical (mainstream) economics. What I do not agree with is “left-wing”. MMT is a scientific theory about how money “works” – how it is created and destroyed, how it is spent and received and what follows from this.

In my own book on “Modern Monetary Theory and European Macroeconomics”, which was published by Routledge in 2017, I discuss the balance sheet approach to macroeconomics that MMT truly is. Focusing on the Eurozone, there is a lot of discussion of money creation, but there is nothing political in it apart from the usual presuppositions – that we want full employment and price stability. If somehow this constitutes “left-wing” politics then it is only fair to say that the current mainstream approach is “right-wing” politics – or is it not?

I think that The Economist makes a grave error when it mistakes a scientific theory, which is falsifiable, for a “left-wing doctrine” (that is not). We need to talk about what money is, where it comes from, what it does, and how it is destroyed. We need to talk about how it changes the way that people think and act. We need to discuss the legal dimension as well. All of this cannot happen as long as The Economist claims – wrongly –  that MMT is a doctrine.

The other issue that I’d like to point out is that there are many statements in the articles on MMT that are plain wrong or confused or made by people who have no authority. Take this paragraph, for instance:

Jonathan Portes of King’s College, London, points out that under mmt a country facing a combination of weak growth and high inflation, as Britain did in 2011-12, would require spending cuts rather than the increased stimulus called for by Keynes.

Who is Jonathan Portes? I have never heard of him. Given his statement I do not think that he understands MMT, so why would The Economist let him act as an interpreter for MMT? Couldn’t they find an MMT economist and ask them what MMT economists would have counseled in Britain in 2011-12? This statement construct an MMT straw man, and a clumsy one at best. “Under MMT”? MMT is not a policy regime, but a theory of how money works. The UK cannot be “under MMT” or “off MMT” since MMT is a description of reality and not a policy proposal.

Apparently, the writer believes that since neoclassical economics supports neoliberal society, the same must be true for other theories. That is wrong. Where neoclassical theory is normative – it tells you how things should be: free markets, no/little government interference, etc. – MMT is descriptive. Once you have understood how money works you will find that it should be much easier than you thought to attack unemployment and to achieve price stability, but that is not MMT.

You can build policy proposals using the insights of MMT, but then these are not “MMT”. They have “MMT inside” in that they rely on the framing of MMT. Policy proposals based on MMT include The Green New Deal, the Job Guarantee, the Euro Treasury and many more.

The last issue I want to raise has to do with the way the article misrepresents MMT. Here is a paragraph which covers what supposed is MMT:

Some radicals go further, supporting “modern monetary theory” which says that governments can borrow freely to fund new spending while keeping interest rates low. Even if governments have recently been able to borrow more than many policymakers expected, the notion that unlimited borrowing does not eventually catch up with an economy is a form of quackery.

MMT does not say “that governments can borrow freely to fund new spending while keeping interest rates low”. There is no MMT author that I know that has said something like this, and I have been around for ten years. There is no paper or book where you can find this, and I challenge The Economist to show me their source. If they can’t I accuse them of sloppy reporting and misrepresenting a scientific theory.

What is the problem with that sentence? That is very easy to answer: the framing. MMT economists know that the government does not have to borrow in order to spend and therefore does not “fund new spending”. Actually, it can’t even do it, even if it wants to. In a monetary system with a sovereign currency, which the UK has, the government just spends the money by crediting the account of the seller’s bank with reserves. This is the Bank of England’s job.

The Treasury has a publication which confirms this story.

5 Funding

5.1 The framework for public expenditure control

5.1.1 Most public expenditure is financed from centrally agreed multi-year budgets administered by the Treasury, which oversees departments’ use of their budget allocations.

There you have it: “Public expenditure is financed from […] budgets administered by the Treasury”. It does not say: Public expenditure is financed from bond issuance. It does not say: Public expenditure is financed from taxes.

So, in an enlightened world where science helps society to make the right choices, you would point out that government spending in the UK is not financed through either taxation or bond issuance. That is a technical insight that is falsifiable. The Parliament can ask the Treasury whether this is true or not and have it explained to the public if it feels like this is a good idea.

As John Maynard Keynes once said: “I give you the toast of the Royal Economic Society, of economics and economists, who are the trustees not of civilization, but of the possibility of civilization”. Whether a society is civilized depends, among other things, on the way that scientific debates are conducted. The Economist just put the UK debate on progressive economic policy on a slippery slope, claiming that a particular school of economics science constitutes “doctrine” and then misrepresenting that school’s views. They should know better than this.