neoliberalism

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Is The Current NHS Worth Fighting For?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 29/11/2021 - 11:06pm in

This was the title of a piece written by the Conservative candidate for North Shropshire. Reading it, I was half intrigued, half horrified and half not surprised. And I know that adds up to 1½ but it somehow seems appropriate for a man who was a surgeon in the forces, has since qualified as a... Read more

Pass the parcel to rail

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 27/11/2021 - 9:05am in

In my occasional forays into the Railway Gazette (which I like because it has a worldwide purview rather than focussing simply on the efforts to reopen the old railway to, say, Okehampton – which in fact it also does)… But I’m more interested in things that are perhaps slightly less mainstream and I was delighted... Read more

‘Bulb’ goes bust…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 24/11/2021 - 2:08am in

Or rather goes into administration… What that means is that, unless they can persuade anyone to buy the energy supplier – which is surely a folorn hope – it will actually be – what shall we say? ‘administered by the regulator.’ Or nationalised, on other words… How can the Tory neoliberal plan for capitalism continue... Read more

Surely Starmer could have said this without frightening the horses?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 23/11/2021 - 6:50am in

Even more so with Johnson’s frankly incoherent and shambolic ‘do forgive me’ speech: I didn’t think Corbyn was a great opposition leader at the time – but the current incumbent is, it seems to me, considerably worse… Though I profundly disagree with ‘Tory Fibs’ wealth creator’ comment, nonetheless, Corbyn had, one, at least, of the... Read more

Up The Stairs And Down The Lift Shaft

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 19/11/2021 - 5:00pm in

Both COVID-19 and the climate crisis are being used as camouflage for central bankers to throw more printed money into a broken system.

In March, 2020, we sat down with Hedge Fund Manager and Investor, Mitch Feirstein and CEO of State of Flux, Alan Day, to discuss how COVID-19 would affect the world’s supply chain. As their predictions came true against the backdrop of the recent COP26 talking shop, host Ross Ashcroft invited them back to explain the mess we are in.

The post Up The Stairs And Down The Lift Shaft appeared first on Renegade Inc.

The right wing mind – Political ‘Darvo’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/11/2021 - 8:02am in

The so-called Darvo system describes the psychological abuse of getting people to believe that they are responsible for the situation that, in fact, their controllers have caused. This idea was created by the University of Oregon Psychology Professor, Jennifer Freyd. Our government uses this all too regularly. Remarkably, people seem to have elected Conservatives regardless... Read more

COP26: Politicians and corporations greenwash ‘business as usual’ at climate change conference

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 08/11/2021 - 1:45am in

Chancellor Rishi Sunak holding up a green version of his ministerial box at the COP26 Climate Change ConferencePhoto by HM Treasury on Flickr. Creative Commons 2.0 license

You cannot simply *ask* the rich to reduce their emissions and resource use. The only reasonable approach is to tax them to the point where they are no longer rich.

Jason Hickel, Economic Anthropologist

 

This week, the COP26 conference being held in Glasgow has dominated the news headlines and reporting. Given the urgency of the climate crisis we are facing, there still seems to be little real commitment to turning pledges into reality. Words are cheap, actions much harder. In a tasteless photo op during the G20 Summit that preceded COP26, world leaders were pictured tossing coins into the Trevi Fountain in Rome, sending an awful message that suggested that a miracle was all we could hope for.

It has not been difficult to see who is dictating the pace in this round of talks. Let’s start with the corporate sponsors of the event, those very same companies which are spending vast sums of advertising money to promote their greenwashing, whilst doing very little, or privately lobbying government in their own interests. As noted in an investigation, eleven of those major sponsors produced, ‘more greenhouse gas pollution than the whole of the UK’, and they were understood to have ‘poured millions of pounds into the talks […] in Glasgow.

Gaston Browne, who is the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda and the Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, blamed powerful private sector interests and cuttingly remarked that ‘We are here to save the planet, not protect profits.’

 Furthermore, and as Adam Ramsey noted in an article in Open Democracy earlier this week:

“UK government hosts said Big Oil companies wouldn’t be welcome, but BP’s CEO is among fossil fuel lobbyists at the heart of the conference.

 

[…]. These companies are the greatest perpetrators of the climate crisis, and none of them have committed to rapidly phase out their oil, gas and coal extraction in line with the 1.5°C target. But BP and Chevron still get a platform and the industry still gets access to influential decision-makers behind the scenes,”

Jess Worth, a director of Culture Unstained, quoted in the same article, told Open Democracy:

“While so many vital voices from frontline and Indigenous communities around the world have been excluded from the summit, this clearly demonstrates the injustice baked into the heart of the process.’

The voices of indigenous activists who see meeting net-zero targets via carbon offsetting, through mass reforestation, biofuels and new technologies, as a mechanism for further land grabs and environmental and cultural destruction, often remain unheard. Ita Mendoza, an indigenous land defender from Southern Mexico, attending for the first time, was clear:

‘The Cop is a big business, a continuation of colonialism where people come not to listen to us, but to make money from our land and natural resources.’

These few words sum up the crux of the matter, as western leaders and the global corporations whose interests they serve as a priority, fail to grapple with the concept that the only real way to limit global heating and its destructive impacts is to keep fossil fuels and minerals in the ground. That we have to tackle, with great urgency, carbon emission reduction and the vast inequalities which persist, particularly in the Global South which has borne the brunt of western exploitation for centuries. That we must take into consideration not the financial cost, but the real and finite nature of the resources that will be needed to drive change, and how they can be distributed globally in a fair and equitable manner.

As Jennifer Morgan of Greenpeace was clear in a Guardian article this week:

“The world needs to make immediate, dramatic and consistent emissions reductions now – not push the global south, in particular, further to the brink with offset schemes. They have led to land-grabbing, biodiversity destruction and human rights abuses. To protect nature, and people’s futures, governments must work in partnership with local Indigenous peoples to manage the land justly.”

However, when Boris Johnson suggests that ‘we can build back greener without so much as a hair shirt in sight’, he is promoting a view that we can carry on with no change to the way we do things, that technology will provide all the solutions, (even though many of them aren’t even off the drawing board and time is running out), and that we can carry on with a two-hundred-year-old economic system which has been based on the exploitation of humans, land and finite resources, and which has already done considerable damage.

Even if new technologies have a role to play in creating a sustainable planet, it will still require a transformation of our priorities, a change in our patterns of consumption of goods and services, and crucially, that the global political establishment has the political will to move beyond words and towards urgent action. Government will have to start acting as government, by doing what only government can; make the rules by standing up to myopic corporate power and spend as if tomorrow and future generations really counted.

Up until now, government has ceded its powers to the global corporates, bowing to their demands through lobbying or self-interest. It has also lied about its capacities, as the holder of the public purse, to spend to serve the public purpose. In his recent budget, Rishi Sunak scarcely mentioned funding for climate change action, and there are many others who question its financial affordability, focusing instead on growing the economy in a post-covid age to raise revenue, as if government actually needed to do so to fund its programmes or pay down debt – which it doesn’t. Given the growing challenge by a growing global MMT movement, the fact that the political establishment continues to promote these frameworks says much about the politicians who use them to drive their own political and personal agendas, rather than using such knowledge to deliver an economy that works for everyone. Seeing it in that light, one might be forgiven for wondering what the purpose of government is, if it has simply become a mechanism for an unfair distribution of real wealth and resources.

If we had naively thought that the COP26 was all about saving the planet for future generations, then, so far, we have been sadly disappointed. The continuing global obsession with growth, along with Conference hosts whose commitment to addressing the climate crisis has so far been shown to be lukewarm and always skewed in favour of business, should by now be making clear who is in charge.

As Greta Thunberg tweeted:

#COP26 is no longer a climate conference.

 

This is a Global North greenwash festival.

 

A two-week celebration of business as usual and blah blah blah.”

 Whilst the World Meteorological Organisation published its report ‘State of the Climate in 2021: Extreme Events and Major Impacts’ this week, we clearly have some still in denial and a Prime Minister existing in a complete disconnect, not just to climate threats, but also how that is bound up so closely with resource use and delivery of a green agenda. There are no limits to green growth in his rosy picture of the future, it would appear.

But as the UN Secretary, Antonio Guterres, attending the Conference made clear;

‘The report shows our planet is changing before our eyes. From the ocean depths to mountain tops, from melting glaciers to relentless extreme weather events, communities and ecosystems around the globe are being devastated. […] Scientists are clear on the facts. Now leaders need to be just as clear in their actions. We must act now, with ambition and solidarity, to safeguard our future and save humanity.’

[…]

Recent climate action announcements might give the impression that we are on track to turn things around. This is an illusion. “Our addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink. We face a stark choice: either we stop it, or it stops us. It’s time to say, ‘Enough … Enough of treating nature like a toilet. Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper. We are digging our own graves.’

When Boris Johnson stood up at the conference podium and talked about it ‘being a minute to midnight moment’, it was, according to the reports, greeted with stony silence. The audience were surely open-mouthed at the hypocrisy falling from his lips, with a government claiming on the one hand that it was committed to reducing reliance on coal, whilst at the same time, supporting a controversial new mine opening in Cumbria, or proposing to give the go-ahead for a new oil field in Shetland. And that’s without the other failed measures such as the government insulation scheme, or the reduction in foreign aid (because apparently balancing budgets was more important than the planet or people’s lives).

While other countries are being asked to take action to prevent global temperatures from spinning out of control, it would appear that it doesn’t apply to the UK. We are the exception to the rule, and all we need to do is a bit of reforestation, promote expensive heat pumps (for which the proposed government spending will scarcely scratch the surface of the task) and encourage us to buy electric cars, and everything will be just fine and dandy. Business as usual, in a country where over 10 years, austerity has done huge damage, left the nation impoverished and public and social infrastructure in a state of decay.

We have a Prime Minister who can’t even manage to speak with the necessary gravitas on such an occasion as this, which requires us to move beyond rhetoric and silly references to James Bond, or Kermit as he did at a UN meeting in September. When Johnson said at that meeting, ‘It’s not only easy being green, it’s lucrative […]. We have the technology’, one immediately understands that being green for him is a business opportunity for his friends and their technology will deliver that ‘brave new world’. Only it won’t. Reality is much more complicated than that.

Shamefully, later in the week, we were then treated to another piece of astonishing hypocrisy, as the Prime Minister, whilst entreating the world to behave responsibly, climbed into a private plane to fly back to London. But according to his propaganda team, we don’t need to worry, because the aircraft was run partly on sustainable aviation fuel.

This ignored the uncomfortable fact revealed by research carried out by the Swedish government in 2019, that biofuels in aeroplane tanks were a ‘false solution for the climate’, and that if we are serious about saving the planet then we would have to fly a lot less than we do today. Lina Burnelius, one of the authors of the report, was clear that biofuels were not a sustainable solution as flight fuel, given the intense pressures on land use on an already strained ecosystem. She noted that:

‘If we increase the amount of bio-fuel from crops, enormous areas will have to be cultivated for this purpose. To replace half of our fossil fuels with bio-fuels, a third of the world’s croplands would need to be taken out of other production. This type of unprecedented expansion will require enormous additional forest areas to be logged, resulting in exposure and atmospheric release of vast quantities of carbon. On top of this, it will have a strong detrimental effect on our biodiversity.’

 She also discounted another proposed solution for sourcing biofuel – the use of food waste. It should be clear that in a world with increasing pressures on land use as climate change affects agriculture and food production, that in the future we should be aiming to reduce fuel use considerably instead.

In the face of a political class and a corporate body that has no real solutions but continuing growth, and the maintenance of the status quo nurtured under the now ubiquitous greenwashing brand, without real commitment we are staring over the precipice as wealth inequality and lack of fair access to real resources becomes ever more marked.

In a report published this week by Oxfam, which commissioned the study by the Institute for European Environmental Policy and the Stockholm Environment Institute, the policy lead, Nafkote Dabi, said that ‘a tiny elite appear to have a free pass to pollute’, and that ‘their oversized emissions are fuelling extreme weather around the world and jeopardising the international goal of limiting global heating.’

Scientists have urged governments to ‘constrain luxury carbon consumption’ of private jets, mega-yachts and space travel. The report noted that:

The world’s richest 1% are set to have per capita consumption emissions in 2030 that are still 30 times higher than the global per capita level compatible with the 1.5⁰C goal of the Paris Agreement, while the footprints of the poorest half of the world population are set to remain several times below that level. By 2030, the richest 1% are on course for an even greater share of total global emissions than when the Paris Agreement was signed.”

Seen from this perspective, there are questions to be asked about how global corporations and their CEOs, get the ear of government, or can be allowed to speak at the Conference as Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and an excessively wealthy individual, did this week. Referring in his speech to his four minutes in space, he said, ‘Looking back at Earth from up there the atmosphere seems so thin, the world so finite and so fragile.’

Surely Bezos didn’t have to travel into space in a penis-shaped spacecraft that cost $5.5bn or $1.38 bn a minute to tell us that? Climate activists could have told him for free without ever stepping off terra firma. Questions need to be asked as to why indigenous people, whose livelihoods are threatened by climate change, and the neocolonial exploitation which serves to sustain a rotten economic system have no voice, but the rich can use their wealth to influence what happens next in their favour. One can only conclude that it is to save that rotten economic system to maintain the status quo, the existing power structures, and excessive wealth, while the rest remain an exploited, enslaved underclass.

When another wealthy entrepreneur, Elon Musk, says that his ‘plan is to use the money to get humanity to Mars and preserve the light of consciousness (whatever the light of consciousness means) one must ask which planet is he actually on, and wouldn’t it be preferable to put all our finite resources into saving the planet on which we actually live, and create a sustainable and equitable living space for all?

As growth is promoted as a solution, even in these days of climate crisis, people are being encouraged to save the economy rather than the planet, by endless appeals to consume in the aftermath of the pandemic. However, as the Australian economist Steven Hail noted on social media in 2015:

“The reluctance of heterodox, as well as orthodox economists, to accept that we do genuinely have limited wants, still surprises me.

 

They put so much effort into trying to prove that ever more consumption gives people ever more utility, that they miss the point, where well-being is concerned.

 

Most people, beyond a critical level, unless encouraged to compare themselves with others, are not made significantly happier by the ability to acquire ever greater quantities of goods and services.

 

What most people crave is security, and a sense that they are being treated fairly.

 

The security which would come with a job guarantee, and the fact that a job guarantee at a living wage with fair working conditions would protect those with less bargaining power from being treated unfairly, could make a permanent and very significant difference to people’s feelings of subjective well being.

 

We could change the lives of many thousands of people for the better, permanently.

 

What do our politicians do, instead?

 

Talk about a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to introduce ‘tax reforms’ which are likely to drive the distribution of income to even greater levels of inequality and inequity, and which are otherwise largely irrelevant to the interests of people who just want to know they will have decent paying, and socially worthwhile job opportunities, and a guarantee of security and self respect.”

This should be the subject of a big conversation about how we can move away from satiating our endless desires for what is often useless consumption, to create a society that operates in the interests of people and the planet. There is an alternative, but without the political will to achieve it, all we are left with is leaders tossing coins into the Trevi Fountain in the hope of a miracle.

It was, therefore, once again depressing to read an article in the Morning Star this week, in which the MP Richard Burgon, proposed a budget amendment that the ‘UK’s richest 1% should pay more tax to finance a just transition away from fossil fuels’.

Quite rightly he suggested that it is vital to reform the tax system to tackle damaging over-consumption by the very wealthiest elites, but to suggest that money raised could be used to fund a transition is yet more bunkum. The idea that taxing the wealthiest will finance anything is just more handbag economics which bears no relationship to monetary reality. It is sad to have to keep noting that progressive politicians are still accepting Thatcher’s lies with no challenge.

Let’s talk about public money. Let’s make it clear that this government lacks the political will to act, (unless it’s in favour of the wealthy elites), and this has nothing to do with financial affordability where the government is a fully sovereign currency issuer, as the UK is. Let’s make it totally unambiguous that the only constraints any sovereign currency-issuing government faces when it spends, are real resources, and that is what must be managed.

Shortly before Johnson left for London in his private plane, he told a roundtable of developing nations that ‘when it comes to tackling climate change, words without action, without deeds are absolutely pointless.’ How right he is. But it is equally clear that so far, corporate power is still dictating the game, the commitments lack real backbone and the financing for change still falls short of what is needed.

As David Wengrow, co-author with David Graeber of ‘The Dawn of Everything’, so succinctly expressed it in a Guardian article this week, the challenge is to ‘re-imagine and then remake our societies and our relationship with our planet in a new form.”

The big question that should be in our minds is whether we will, and whether the current global corporate power structures will allow us to.

On Friday it was Youth Day in Glasgow. Young people demonstrated in their thousands, and spoke passionately and articulately. One demonstrator held aloft a placard which said: ‘Your failure will be our future’.

And therein lies the challenge we face. So far, the response is not enough. With still a week to go, as negotiations progress, we can only hope that leaders grasp the nettle, and that governments around the world recognise that they are the only bodies that have the legislative and spending powers to oversee change. That we live on one world, and those with the most, must act in concert with those with the least, to ensure their voices are heeded and respected as equal partners, rather than being viewed as opportunities to exploit to deliver a western green agenda. And finally, that individual and corporate responsibility will only ever be as good as the willingness of governments to make it happen.

 

 

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The post COP26: Politicians and corporations greenwash ‘business as usual’ at climate change conference appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

NHS complexity dangers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/11/2021 - 9:36am in

There is a good article in this week’s New Statesman on why we must fight to save the NHS from privatisation, where they point out that: In the 1980s, NHS administration costs accounted for just 4 per cent of the budget. By the mid-2000s, [administraors] ate up 14 per cent of a much larger budget.... Read more

David Card and the minimum wage myth

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 01/11/2021 - 6:53am in

Tags 

neoliberalism

David Card and the minimum wage myth Lars Syll Back in 1992, the U.S. state of New Jersey raised the minimum wage by 18% while…

The post David Card and the minimum wage myth first appeared on Economic Reform Australia.

Budget 2021 – Those with the least receive only crumbs

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak leaves No11 Downing Street with his red ministerial box to deliver his 2021 Budget Picture by Luca Boffa / No 10 Downing Street. Creative Commons 2.0 License

You have to ask yourself: if our economic system actively destroys the biosphere *and* fails to meet most people’s basic needs, then what is actually the point?

Jason Hickel – Economic Anthropologist

 

The Chancellor’s Budget and Spending Review has dominated the media reporting this week. It was summed up in the Mirror headline, ‘Champagne budget for the rich means real pain for poor as bills rocket’. Whilst the Chancellor gave his banking chums a helping hand with a tax cut, slashed the duties on champagne and domestic flights (what environmental crisis?) those with the least are left with the crumbs. With increasing costs as food and energy prices rise, combined with the recent £20 cut to universal credit which is already affecting some of the UK’s poorest families, a mere 59p increase in the misnamed ‘national living wage’ and a universal credit taper rate cut which will allow people to earn more before they lose benefit, is just yet more smoke and mirrors.

As the expensively dressed Chancellor gave his speech, you could be mistaken for believing that he really cared to make a difference as he set out what he termed his ‘moral mission’. However, subsequent analysis has shown that it will do little to address the financial struggle that many people in this country are facing. A crisis that has resulted, not just from the effects of the pandemic, but also from the 10 years of government policies and spending decisions that preceded it. Like many organisations pleading for the Chancellor to act, The Joseph Rowntree Foundation noted in the week before the Budget:

‘There is a debt crisis hanging over millions of families on low incomes. Behind these figures are parents gripped by anxiety, wondering how they will put food on their children’s plates and pay the gas bill; young people forced to rely on friends to help cover their rent and avoid eviction.

 

‘While many households on higher incomes have enjoyed increased savings and rising house prices during the pandemic, people on low incomes are under serious financial pressure that shows no sign of abating. As a society, we believe in protecting one another from harm. As costs pile up and incomes have been cut, we urgently need to rethink the support in place for people at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis.’

This week’s budget, as is to be expected despite the hype, has barely scratched the surface of the mounting crisis which experts are saying can only worsen over the coming months, not just in terms of the lives of working people, but also our public and social infrastructure. Institutions that, whilst forming the foundational backbone of a civilised society, are in a state of deepening decay as a result of the lack of funding, and the encroachment of the private sector leaching away public money. From the NHS to social care, education, and local government, all have come under increasing pressure as budgets have been cut, and the consequences are in plain sight. We live them every day. In addition, the chickens are finally coming home to roost on the strategically vital but privatised energy, water and transport networks. The passage of time since the first privatisations has shown the limitations of competition and the deregulated environment which accompanied it. Higher prices and poorer service quality have been the principal consequences, whilst CEOs and shareholders have been the beneficiaries.

Whilst the pay freeze for public sector workers has been lifted, there is little suggestion that they will benefit from it. Just more pleasing soundbites which do not reflect the real issues, and which do not present immediate solutions to the shortages of nurses, doctors, paramedics and care workers.

When Boris Johnson claims that he has got ‘social care done’ or that he has fixed it, it demonstrates his lack of intellectual reasoning. This should tell him that it won’t matter how much money he throws at the problem, (and it isn’t anywhere enough anyway), it won’t magic up social care workers. People who are currently working in a low wage and insecure employment environment, brought about by, yes, you guessed it, government policies! Policies that have shifted responsibility to a profit-motivated private sector and failed to plan and train, along with inadequate spending and cuts to local government budgets.

To emphasise the scale of the coming winter disaster, Stephen Chandler, who is president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, issued a very stark warning, saying on the Telegraph website:

‘Unless the government takes immediate steps to shore up the care system for winter, tens of thousands of people will lose services on which they rely to get up, wash and dress, eat and drink, take vital medication, go out to work or to other activities and go to bed.

 

‘Family carers, already exhausted by the extra demands of Covid, will have to do even more to plug the gaps and may have to cut their working hours or give up jobs altogether. The NHS, which depends utterly on social care support, will be put in jeopardy.’

And whilst, contrary to expectations, Sunak announced that Whitehall departments would receive a proposed 3% yearly increase, as has been noted, this will not make up for the impact of a decade of austerity, especially in local councils (and many other public institutions) which are struggling to cope with the additional pressures that Covid-19 presented, on top of their already dire financial state.

While the Chancellor declared that the UK was entering an economic ‘age of optimism’, the reality on the ground is somewhat different. His budget is nothing more than a sop that will do little to remedy a decade of tory austerity and fiscal discipline which has done so much harm, justified as it was, on the supposed need to restore the public finances, and also concealing another objective to destroy the UK’s public infrastructure through privatisation. It was promoted as being about being a low tax, small state economy with a hands-off approach, but which, in reality, has turned into a government-funded corporate fest of public money, whilst at the same time our public services have been decimated on the basis of the lie of financial unaffordability. As a result, as Frances Ryan noted in a recent Guardian article,what was once a functioning state is now a patchwork of broken services’. The neoliberal state has failed us completely.

Furthermore, the four million low-income families who are behind on rent, bills and debt payments, a number that has increased threefold since the pandemic began, cannot be relegated to a set of unfortunate statistics which bear no relationship to government policies or the economic ideology that drives them. Poverty cannot be ascribed, as some politicians allege, to the failings of the individual human beings who suffer it. Such thinking has poisoned the public discourse and created a damning but false picture of the feckless and lazy poor. It has also led to a general acceptance of food banks and other charitable support, on the grounds that we have been persuaded that feeding the hungry and housing the homeless are not the responsibility of the government. As a result, the public dutifully puts food donations into the crate at the local supermarket or makes cash contributions to local charities. We seem to have stepped back in time to the Victorian Poor Law boards and Dickens’ Beadle in Oliver Twist, deciding arbitrarily who was deserving of help. But if anyone has been feckless or ineffectual, it is, in fact, the government, which has abdicated responsibility for its citizens. Where we are now is a direct consequence of government decisions which have cut spending on essential public infrastructure, along with its ideological preference for a great free market ‘free-for-all’, which has left families to struggle on low incomes and in precarious employment to suit its corporate donors. The question is never ‘Is there enough money?’ The question is ‘What are the government’s priorities and who benefits from them?’

As the Dispatches programme this week, Growing up Poor: Hidden Homeless, showed so starkly, poverty destroys people’s lives. For those suffering in the midst of it through no fault of their own, from those on low incomes, involuntarily unemployed, sick or with disabilities, their lives are an endless round of struggle and stress, and not just for the adults. In the end, it comes down to the social determinants of health and well-being, and disregarding those, as this government has done over a decade, will have significant real human costs on future generations, as a result of childhoods that have been blighted by this government’s policies. To listen to those children’s hopes and fears, expressed in this programme, should be a salutary lesson for us all.

It is pathetic that the Tories, after having cut funding to local councils and charities, which, in turn, affected Labour’s Sure Start Programme and led to many centres being scaled back or closed, are now committing a measly £500 million of support for families, which includes a similar network of ‘family hubs’ as ‘one-stop shops’ for advice and guidance. It amounts to a sticking plaster that will not fix the problems they caused in the first place. It is a drop in the ocean in terms of repairing the damage which has already been done by the government through a decade of cuts and austerity measures. People on low incomes and in insecure employment are disadvantaged from the start. It leads to grinding poverty, hunger, and homelessness, the consequences of which then filter into every aspect of their lives, leaving families ill-equipped and struggling to manage. This isn’t an accident. It is by government design. A policy choice. Society is creaking under the weight of decades of neoliberal orthodoxy and handbag economics, which this cruel government has purposefully refined to cause increased pain and suffering for those who least deserve it.

It is truly sickening to hear the Chancellor defending that decade of cuts to vital support for families with young children, by saying that the ‘one thing my predecessors, not just George [Osborne] did was ensure that I had a very strong economy and set of public finances that I inherited’.

And here we come to the crux of the matter. A political establishment, that includes both sides of the spectrum, touting handbag economics as if they represented monetary reality. The cult of fiscal discipline has had dire consequences for those burdened by its yoke. The real costs to working people and their families have been substantial. People who should be able to depend on good economic governance to ride the waves of the inevitable economic cycles and emergency events like the pandemic and the climate crisis (which critically was scarcely mentioned in the Chancellor’s budget), and which require an effective macroeconomic response.

It is further compounded by a compliant neoliberal media which largely fails to challenge the ideology which drives such policy, as well as left-wing economists who, whilst claiming to want to tackle the huge inequity that exists and address the climate crisis, hunker down in mainstream orthodoxy, thus inhibiting, at a stroke, any progress that could be made. Indeed, prior to the Budget, a Guardian editorial opined that the government would shortly have to ‘disclose its cash position; how much it expects to be taxing the public over the next few years, how much it will spend on schools, policing, and mitigating climate change – and how much it will have to borrow…’

The mainstream media does its very best to keep the public in the dark and fails to ask the right questions. The government doesn’t have a ‘cash position’. It’s not a business. It doesn’t have to tax or borrow to fund its spending or cut one departmental budget to fund another.

The only thing the editorial helpfully gets right, is what is the point of a capital investment programme to build libraries or hospitals, if then, because of the rules on day-to-day spending, you can’t employ librarians or nurses and doctors to work in them? These are arbitrary rules which make no sense if one knows how the government spends and that its real constraints are resources, not money.

There is no limited pot of money to be divvied out, and a post-covid economic miracle will not take place while such ideology influences government spending and policy decisions. If people don’t have good, secure, well-paying jobs, as is the case for so many because of an economic ideology which has allowed worker exploitation over decades and the fruits of that productivity to be taken by a bloated corporate sector obsessed with profit, then we cannot make any progress.

As usual, Labour can’t help but reinforce that dominant narrative. This week, John Trickett set out his radical alternative to target the rich, saying that wealth taxes would ‘raise’ up to £86bn a year to rebuild Britain. Labour’s Rachel Reeves told ITV that it was important to ‘raise money … but not in the way the government was doing it’. Once again, the use of language, in this case the word ‘raise’, implies that they think that government needs taxes to spend, or pay down its debts. Yet again the smoke and mirrors of public accounting continue to obfuscate the truth about how the government spends. It also ignores the real roles that taxation plays in managing the nation’s economy, one of them being to deal with the huge wealth inequities that exist, as well as to facilitate through taxes and government policies, a fairer access for all to the nation’s resources. But no, they both imply, that government should be taxing the wealthy to raise money to spend on public services. Taxing the rich will not transform our public services or the economy, and the idea that we are beholden to the rich for a functioning public sector is just more cap doffing to big business and the excessively wealthy, as well as being offensive.

The State, as the currency issuer, is the only institution that has the capacity to spend money into existence to do what is needed within the context of available resources and their allocation. It is desperately depressing to see progressive politicians framing their plans in Thatcherite terms of household budgets and taxes paying for stuff.

The left-wing mainstream economist Grace Blakeley, in The Tribune, got a little closer to the truth this week by exposing the fallacy. The government is not a household, and therefore ‘not subject to any imperative to balance its books, and as the currency issuer, ‘cannot meaningfully run out of money’. But then in a show of inconsistency, whilst referring to government stepping in to create employment to ensure that underutilised resources can be put to work, went on to say, ‘In doing so, it triggers higher rates of growth and ultimately creates the revenues needed to repay the initial borrowing over the long term’. It then begs the question, if the government is not a household and cannot meaningfully run out of money, why would it need to create revenues to repay its borrowing? It doesn’t make any logical sense and leads to inevitable confusion on the part of anyone who reads it. Given the serious nature of the challenges we face, we have no time for incremental progress. Let’s tell the story of money correctly.

Both sides of the political spectrum collude in these lies in one way or another and to varying degrees. As such we will be a laughingstock at the COP26 table next week, and will effectively drown in the cost of these lies, should the government fail to act with purpose through its real spending capacity.

It is worrying that a report from the Treasury has suggested that moving towards net-zero would require tax rises, as revenue from fossil fuel-related activity is eroded. As the Guardian reported, the Treasury warned that serious economic damage could occur ‘if the UK overspends or misdirects green investment.’ They suggested that the government ‘may need to consider changes to existing taxes and new sources of revenue throughout the transition in order to deliver net-zero sustainably, and consistently with the government’s fiscal principles.’

None of this will matter, least of all a balanced budget or fiscal principles, if we haven’t got a healthy planet to sustain human survival. And as for new sources of revenue, the Chancellor doesn’t need them to spend in the public interest or to address the climate emergency. Whilst government can overspend, that is not an issue of the scarcity of money. The Chancellor has the power to authorise the central bank to spend what is necessary, within the boundaries of available resources and deciding how those resources will be allocated and to whom.

As Ed Matthew, campaign director of the E3G think tank, noted:

‘To governments looking to Cop26, this looks unprofessional and embarrassing. The UK is standing in front of the world at Cop26 trying to galvanise ambitious action from every country. If the government has not presented the robust economic case in favour of action, that’s going to significantly undermine those attempts.’

The government is in disarray on the subject, and we are being led to believe by the Treasury that growing the economy to get the public finances back in order should be prioritised over addressing the climate emergency. Fiscal discipline rules.

There is still much uncertainty about the outcome of COP26, with many fearing that it will go the way of all other climate conferences, with lots of hot air and meaningless promises, and little real commitment to change. However, Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN has warned that the world is risking a ‘hellish future’ if it fails to confront the crisis. On the current trajectory, the hosts of COP26 will, depressingly, oversee failure.

The Channel 4 programme ‘Growing up Poor’, ended with a clip from a speech by Boris Johnson who said that the UK needs, ‘every other country to follow its lead and commit to net-zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century.’ Aside from the fact that 2050 is too late, as Peter Kalmus noted in an article a few weeks ago, in the light of the government’s record on poverty and inequality which has overseen growing societal destabilisation and the decay of our public and social infrastructure, why would anyone follow our lead on anything, let alone addressing the climate and planetary crisis for which, so far, Johnson has shown no commitment? If we fail to make progress, the planet will continue to face increasing frequency of heatwaves, storms, flooding and crop failures, which will lead to the displacement of millions of people.

Depressingly, it all feels very ‘last minute.com’, and, as such, leaves us little time to act decisively. But as the MP Richard Burgon, recently speaking in Parliament, made clear, we need to be on a war footing. We need to replicate the war effort in the US and the UK from 1940 onwards, with the same sense of urgency as they did, but for very different reasons and objectives. Perhaps we need to issue climate bonds, not to fund anything, but to ensure that the government can access the real resources it will need to address the climate emergency without creating inflationary pressures. We need to stop deferring to big business and philanthropists as if markets and technology can provide all solutions without a radical rethink about how we live. Their agendas are not about challenging the status quo but serving their own interests rather than the public purpose. Bill Gates and his philanthropist cronies should not be dictating the agenda because their wealth allows them to.

We need, above all, to realise what is at stake and what it will mean for our children and their children, if we fail to act now. Instead, currently we have a government helping the corporate sector to greenwash its way to maintaining the status quo with all that means for human survival on a wasted planet.

 

 

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The post Budget 2021 – Those with the least receive only crumbs appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

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