NHS

Young people and workers of the world unite! You have a right to a future.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 14/09/2019 - 9:41pm in

Placard at a demonstration with the slogan "Planet over Profit"Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Earlier this week in New York, Greta Thunberg, Naomi Klein and other environmental activists shared a platform in an event entitled ‘The Right to a Future’. In the face of growing public concern about the consequences of climate change (see last week’s blog) the discussion focused on how to break through the political and economic barriers which are preventing addressing the climate crisis, and how best to secure a future in which human beings can survive and thrive.

Greta Thunberg’s lonely protests outside her own Swedish parliament have grown into a world-wide movement. Next week on September 20th a series of climate strikes will take place on every continent across the world (link here). Young people who have the most to lose will be joining hands in an act of world-wide resistance and asking politicians to take their heads out of the sand and act before it is too late.

Greta’s simple message to the world in the face of those who claim that action will be too expensive was; ‘’If we can save the banks, we can save the world. If there is something we are not lacking in this world it’s money. Of course, many people do lack money, but governments and these people in power, they do not lack money’.  

In the light of the growing campaign to challenge the monetary orthodoxy of the past decades by bringing an understanding of modern monetary realities to ordinary people and shining a lens on the consequences of austerity and public spending cuts, this simple message was a heartening one. Such public figures as Greta Thunberg and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez espousing such ideas in a public arena allow us to explore and challenge the narratives of destruction and go boldly forward in the knowledge that a Green New Deal is not just affordable, but vital to our existence.

As Professor L Randall Wray and Yeva Nersisyan write in their paper entitled ‘How to pay for a Green New Deal which they explain mimics that of J.M Keynes famous book ‘How to Pay for the War: A Radical Plan for the Chancellor of the Exchequer’;

We already have the financial wherewithal needed to afford whatever is technologically possible. We do not need to go hat-in-hand to rich folks to get them to pay for it. We do not have to beggar our grandkids to pay for it. We do not have to borrow from China to pay for it. We do not have to get the Fed to “print money” to pay for it. All we need to do is to remove the self-imposed constraints, the myths, and the misplaced morality; then budget for it, approve the budget, and spend. […] That is how you pay for it.” *

*For federal reserve read Bank of England.

Prior to last week’s Spending Review, Greenpeace and the Friends of the Earth urged the Chancellor to invest at least £42bn to tackle the climate crisis. Much of course has been made of the loosening of the fiscal purse strings (along with dire warnings by the economic sirens of orthodoxy) but the £32m allocated by Javid amounted to little more than a gesture and was just 0.l% of what is needed to help the country meet Theresa May’s 2050 net-zero target. In fact, as the Friends of the Earth noted, ‘it completely undermines the government’s commitment to taking climate and biodiversity seriously’. Instead of putting its money where its mouth is, it is showing the complete contempt with which it holds our young people who will inherit the consequences of its failure to act.

Of course, that may come as no surprise when you know that the some of the signatories of a letter (a former founder of the Taxpayer’s Alliance, the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Adam Smith Institute) sent to the EU and the UN last week entitled ‘There is no Climate emergency’ are reported to be advising Javid, Johnson and Truss.

Naomi Klein climate activist and campaigner wrote in her book ‘This Changes Everything’ (2014):

“The bottom line is what matters here; our economic system and our planetary system are now at war. Or, more accurately our economy is at war with many forms of life including human life. What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources: what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the laws of nature.”

Our governments and the corporations they serve need to move beyond viewing the natural world and its citizens as resources to consume and throw away in their constant search for profit. As Klein says, we need a ‘shift in worldview at every level’. In her new book On Fire: The Burning case for a Green New Deal to be published next week she makes the point that ecological breakdown and economic injustice are inseparable. From action to deliver a greener and more sustainable world to addressing the inequality which leaves too many without enough food, adequate shelter, healthcare and education, the Green New Deal (GND) provides a radical framework upon which we can build for real change.

However, we should also not forget the importance of the Job Guarantee which is fundamental to delivering a GND. We need to manage the transition for workers currently employed in carbon heavy industries, towards a green pathway that not only cleans up the environment but redresses the exploitation of both humans and finite resources in the search for surplus value. This exploitation has formed the basis for the economic and societal injustices that have prevailed for far too long and the adjustments which will have to be made must not impoverish further or place any more burden on those who have already paid a heavy price and suffered enough.

On the one hand, we have politicians on the right barricading themselves in with nonsensical fiscal rules which, despite a loosening of the purse strings to offer a few crumbs from the table, still favour financial prudence over societal and planetary well-being to keep the status quo in place. On the other we have economists and politicians on the left discussing how the green new deal can be paid for through borrowing because interest rates are so low. They, in their different ways both deny the monetary reality that a government which issues its own currency doesn’t have to borrow to fund its spending and fail to grasp that such financial constraints could put the brakes on government action to address climate change. Instead of imposing monetary constraints which do not reflect monetary reality, our leaders and their advisors should be looking at how we can best manage the resources that will be needed to put the GND into action without exceeding the productive capacity of a nation and indeed the planet.

It is imperative that our young people grasp monetary realities and challenge the stale paradigms and incorrect narratives on both sides of the political divide which will deprive them of a future if not addressed urgently. On a dead planet there are no workers – well actually there are potentially no people!

In other news this week our NHS is still on the endangered/critical list as budgets are squeezed and services increasingly put under pressure thus creating the perfect conditions for a long-planned takeover by a privatised US style Medicare system. What began with Thatcher and was enthusiastically embraced by Blair and later Cameron’s Tory/Lib Dem coalition now is in its endgame as US private healthcare companies circle for the ‘prize’.  Brexit or no.

It was reported that London GPs have been told to restrict specialist referrals under an NHS plan to ration services in order to plug the growing hole in healthcare budgets. This will amount to cost-cutting at the expense of patient care whilst also and very importantly removing from doctors in GP Practices or in hospitals the ability to make decisions about what is best for their patient. Financial accountability trumps the clinical needs of patients. Health Campaigners rightly fear that similar cuts will be imposed in other Clinical Commissioning Groups across the country, which also have substantial deficits.

However, the public needs to be aware that this is all part of a long-term plan, which began in the 80s and was pursued by successive governments, to whittle down the NHS to its barest essentials to make it a profit-making enterprise for the private healthcare sector and allow it access to a ready market of private/insurance paying patients thus creating an unequal two-tier health service of haves and have nots.  The Americanisation of the NHS has been with us for decades and whilst the focus is often on funding, as if somehow addressing that would be a solution, we should be directing our attention to campaigning to reinstate the NHS as a publicly owned, funded and managed organisation for the benefit of the nation and its health and not the coffers of private companies.

In the same week it has been reported by the left-wing think tank the IPPR (link here) that NHS trusts crippled by the Private Finance Initiative still have £55bn of their debt outstanding, which it says represents a huge burden on already squeezed budgets at a time when trusts are struggling to provide patient services and meet the spiralling costs of estate maintenance. Whilst noting that PFI had proved to be a very bad deal which by 2050 will have cost around £80bn for just £13bn of assets, it suggested incorrectly that although they were bad deals, they were the only mechanism that could have brought enough capital into the health system.

The truth of the story is that PFI (introduced by John Major) was embraced enthusiastically by Blair and the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown who used it as a mechanism to keep expenditure off the public accounts in order to remain within the government’s fiscal rules. Contrary to the suggestion made by the IPPR that they were the only means of funding NHS infrastructure, the government as the currency issuer could have funded that capital investment without borrowing a bean. Interestingly, at the time the Chief Economist of the IPPR, Peter Robinson, said that the idea that government could not have afforded new schools and hospitals without the PFI was ‘economically illiterate’ although it has to be said that that was in the context of the state being able to borrow more cheaply.

As Chris Thomas, an IPPR fellow, who carried out the research notes ‘Toxic PFI contracts are still driving billions away from patients and into private bank accounts.’ Our NHS is now paying the price for an accounting trick to give the impression of a financially prudent government which has financially burdened the NHS and enabled the privatisers to achieve their objectives under cover and with impunity.  And we should not imagine that this just applies to PFI. Clinical and back office services which have landed in the lap of private companies through tendered contracts also take public money away from patients.  The State has become nothing less than a profit-oriented cash cow for the private sector to leach from at the expense of patient care.

Tweet bu @help_forceContinuing with the NHS theme, if you’re a tweeter you may have seen this earlier in the week. Helpforce is an organisation that in its words is ‘working with NHS Trusts to create exciting roles for safe, reliable and effective volunteering’. In the tweet, reference is made to Emma Valentine who is explaining to the assembled audience the flexibility that NHS England offer their employees should they wish to volunteer within healthcare and praising what a difference volunteering can make to our society.

GIMMS has covered volunteering before in its blogs so excuse us if we do so again. It is important to reiterate that it is not knocking at all the social value of volunteering both for those doing the volunteering and those on the receiving end. However, we cannot support volunteering when it is a part of a clear strategy to reduce costs and deliver a profitable health and social care system for private providers whilst at the same time denying a person the dignity of a paid job.

In NHS England’s volunteering strategy Consultation Document published in 2017 it wrote in its forward:

‘Volunteers are crucial in both health and social care. […]. The Local Government Association has made proposals that volunteers including those who help care for the elderly, should receive a 10% reduction in their council tax bill […]. We support testing approaches like that, which could be extended to those who volunteer in hospitals and other parts of the NHS. The NHS can go further, accrediting volunteers and devising ways to help them become part of the extended NHS family, not as substitutes for but as partners with our skilled employed staff.

In a world where driving down costs to extract profit is the aim of the capitalist game, it is easy to see why volunteering holds attraction to those in the business of global domination of healthcare. As the campaigner Jo Land wrote last year in her article in the New Internationalist ‘Why neoliberals are pushing ‘Accountable Care’ worldwide’ (link here)

‘Costs are to be kept low through using deskilled staff and telehealth technologies. Another way of keeping costs low are controversial ‘new models of care’ in which populations such as the frail elderly are cared for at home, leveraging maximum (unpaid) support from volunteers and family.’

A new report by the charities ProBono Economics and Helpforce found that around three million volunteers are giving their time in health and social care and that the NHS is planning to increase its voluntary support from 80,000 to 156,000 over the next three years. It suggests that given the NHS’s digital transformation strategy tech-literate young people could teach patients to use new technologies to help them manage their conditions and it also proposes that skilled workers could also offer their skills as unpaid volunteers in project management or data analytics or as economists and lawyers. Such volunteering roles will be prioritised as part of the Helpforce programme which is supported by NHS England and forms part of its long-term plans.

In a lecture in 2014 Andy Haldane, the Chief Economist at the Bank of England and Trustee of Pro-Bono Economics, pointed out the value of volunteering to the economy could exceed £50bn a year. If that is £50bn of unpaid work which is contributing to the well-being of society for free, then surely this is a moment to ask questions? As Harvie and Dowling note in their paper; Harnessing the Social: State, Crisis and (Big) Society:

‘capital’s lifeblood is unpaid work, and the Big Society as political economy is an attempt (to) extend the realm of unpaid work that can be appropriated.’

What has been presented as community empowerment aimed essentially at devolving power from the state which has deliberately been marketed to appeal to our human capacity for empathy has been used by government to restructure society as the State increasingly withdraws ‘from fiscal intervention or the provision of welfare’.

Where government should be at the heart of delivering societal and economic well-being through its policies, the public has been persuaded otherwise as part of a long-term divisive strategy to lay blame on individuals rather than the state. Thus, it enables justification of its withdrawal from provision of public services and social security to favour private sector involvement and a restoration of Victorian charitable values.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can and should challenge the mantra of “there is no alternative” because it has done huge damage to people’s lives, their livelihoods and the planet.

Firstly, instead of freebie labour which keeps capital exploiting working people to manage their profit margins we need a better model which gives working people more control over their lives and can also act as an economic stabiliser during an economy’s cyclical ups and down. Why not start with government re-embracing full employment policies – we did once why not again? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes a right to work (article 23 (1)) and both the UN and the International Labour office asserted that full employment should be a national and international goal.

Why not implement a Job or Employment Guarantee to benefit our local communities which would both sustain their economies and also provide a mechanism to address climate change on a local basis?  Why not pay people a decent wage and offer training to provide support in socially useful work which would have the added benefit of offering a stepping-stone into private sector employment with skills to match should they choose to? The research is clear about the value of work which allows people to feel socially included, participate in the economy, feed and clothe themselves adequately and also raises their self-esteem.

Secondly, if a skilled job needs to be done, then why are people not being employed on a regular salary to do it? If, for example, there are tasks that need to be accomplished on a regular basis outside of normal nursing and caring duties then why not employ people to do it on a living wage?  Full employment policies combined with a job guarantee would put working people back in the driving seat and would have the added benefit of putting money into circulation to ensure a thriving and sustainable economy.

As it stands, we have government colluding with big business through its employment policies which include the encouragement to volunteer via a cynical appeal to their better nature which keeps working people suppressed and capital in charge and profitable.

Why not think beyond the neoliberal narrative which abandons people and the planet to its fate? Let’s work towards a fairer and more inclusive economic model which puts the planet and people at its heart. It’s time.

 

Upcoming events:

GIMMS Labour Fringe Event

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Brighton, BN2 1RL

September 23 @ 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm – book your free ticket here

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September 24 @ 6:30 pm – 21:00 pm – book your free ticket here

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Leeds, LS6 3HN

September 28 @ 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm – book your free ticket here

 

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The post Young people and workers of the world unite! You have a right to a future. appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

Brexit Bias on the Beeb: Points West Goes to Weston-Super-Mare

The Beeb, as has been pointed out by countless left-wing websites and academics, ad nauseam, has a very strong Tory bias. It’s shown in its determination to vilify the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn at every chance it can get, while packing news shows like Question Time with Tory MPs, supporters and members of right-wing think tanks. And this right-wing bias seems to go right down to local news. Points West is the local news programme for the Bristol area, covering not just Bristol, but also Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire. Yesterday, as part of the coverage of the Brexit debates in parliament and the demonstrations both pro- and anti-, they decided to gauge local attitudes in our part of the West Country. This meant talking to three local MPs, Thangam Debonnaire in Bristol, the Tory MP for Tewkesbury and another Tory from the Forest of Dean. They wanted to talk to the latter because he was one of those who threw their hat into the ring when the party ousted Tweezer and started about deciding her successor. And it was very clear that he was a Brexiteer, who wanted the whole debate to be over and done with and everyone get behind BoJob. He couldn’t, however, say what benefits Brexit would bring his constituents in the Forest, and didn’t answer the question when David Garmston, the interviewer, asked him what he was going to tell them what they would be for his constituents. Instead he just waffled about how he was sure they wanted it over and done with as soon as possible, or were fully informed of the Brexit debate. Or something.

Then it was down to Weston-Super-Mare for a vox pop. The split, their presenter announced, between ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’ voters was very narrow, 52% versus 48%. They were down in the north Somerset resort town because attitudes in Weston closely followed those nationally. But this wasn’t evident from the people they showed speaking. Points West put out two deck chairs, labelled ‘yes’ and ‘no’, and invited people to sit in them in answer to the questions ‘Do you want an election?’ and ‘Do you support Brexit’. I think they showed four people, of whom only one was Labour and a Remainer. The rest were Tories and very definitely Brexiteers. And what specimens of humanity they were! One was an elderly lady with a Midlands accent, who ranted about Remainers being ‘Remoaners’ and ‘snowflakes’, all the while making gestures suggesting that she thought they all ought to be thrown into the sea. She then went off giggling like an imbecile at what she thought was her own wit. She was followed by an elderly gent, who declared that he wanted a general election that would return the Tories with a massive majority. And then there was a young man from Salisbury, who was also behind Boris Johnson and Brexit.

These loudmouths reminded me of the Bill Hicks joke about evolution having passed by some pockets of humanity. ‘In some parts of our troubled world, people are shouting ‘Revolution! Revolution! In Kansas they’re shouting ‘Evolution! Evolution! We want our opposable thumbs’. Evolution isn’t supposed to go backwards. But you wonder. All the anxiety about food and medicine shortages – I know people, who are stocking up on their medicines already – as well as the devastation to the economy, manufacturing industry, jobs, all that went unmentioned by the Brexiteers on the sea front. Listening to the old chap declaring that he wanted an overwhelming Tory majority, I wanted to ask him, who he thought would continue paying his pension and if he had private medical insurance if this happened. Because the Tories are determined to cut pensions, one way or another, and they are selling off the NHS. And Nigel Farage has said very openly that we may need to change to an insurance-based system. Which is a not-very-coded way of saying that he’s in favour of it. But obviously these people weren’t concerned about any of that. They just believed everything they read in the papers, like the Heil, the Scum and the Torygraph.

And I doubt very much that these talking heads were representative of the good folks down in Weston-Super-Mare. If attitudes in the city really are like those nationally, then the people sitting on those chairs should be equally split. Instead it looks like the report was very carefully staged to favour the Brexiteers. Just like rather more Tory MPs were interviewed on the programme than Labour.

The programme was on tonight about Sajid Javid and how he grew up in his parents’ fashion shop in Stapleton Road in Bristol. Apparently he still proud of his roots there, despite the fact that it is a run-down area with a reputation. It’s topical, but I still wonder if it was anymore objective than last night’s edition about Brexit. I didn’t watch it, only catching a brief glimpse of it, when one of the interviewers was asking other Asian small businessmen in the area if they shared the national fears about the harm Brexit would do to businesses like theirs. It’s possible that the programme really was more unbiased. But somehow, given the nature of last night’s programme, I doubt it.

A Brexit free zone. GIMMS reports on the real news: austerity hurts (and what we can do about it)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 31/08/2019 - 9:50pm in

Neon sign slogan For the WorldPhoto by John Tyson Tang on Unsplash

“…under the Covenant, all States parties should avoid at all times taking decisions which might lead to the denial or infringement of economic, social and cultural rights. Besides being contrary to their obligations under the Covenant, the denial or infringement of economic, social and cultural rights by States parties to the Covenant can lead to social insecurity and political instability and have significant negative impacts.”

Chair of the UN Committee on Economic, social and Cultural Rights.

In the news this week the Chancellor Sajid Javid pledges money for schools, the NHS and the police in a pre-spending review announcement. Thanking the British people for their hard work over the last decade he said ‘we can afford to spend more on the people’s priorities – without breaking the rules around what government should spend […]. But at the same time, it’s vital that we continue to live within our means as a country’. Reminding the public that the government mustn’t allow its public finances to ‘get out of control’ he also said that when it came to spending ‘taxpayers’ money’ he would make ‘no apology for challenging every decision and making sure every pound is wisely spent’.

The promise to open the purse strings a tad comes with the same tired old language and false narratives about how money works. A worn-out record endlessly repeated as if to brainwash the public with its truth.

But, if the government keeps repeating the false household budget narratives of tax and spend and fiscal rules then those of us who know differently must keep challenging it, must call it out for what it is. A falsehood which has left many in the country bereft of the dignity and economic security that well-paid works brings, exacerbated by a pared down public service sector which has stripped people of the support they need through good times and bad and in the service of creating a functioning more equable society.

What the Chancellor offers with one hand, he takes away with the other in his reference to living within our means and sticking to the spending and borrowing rules set out by his predecessors. The implication is that as the Tories have been so careful with the public finances they have collected enough pennies in the state piggy bank to give them some room to spend. At the same time, long-suffering citizens get a pat on the back for having sacrificed so much so that the government could get its finances back into order and now here’s the reward for pulling in their belts! Better public services. Except that the price for pulling in our belts has been catastrophic. For the last nine years, spending on public services and welfare has shrunk, hunger and homelessness have increased and our most precious planetary cargo our children, (as reported in last week’s MMT Lens) who will carry the consequences of austerity forward, have all borne the brunt of cuts on the back of the lie. Not a week goes by without proof of the damage that has been caused both to people’s lives and the economy.

Austerity hurts and it was a choice.

It is quite amazing what the prospect of an election can bring forth, as the Conservatives attempt to airbrush their image to hoodwink the public into believing that they have been good custodians of the public accounts and the economy whilst claiming yet again 9 years later (a boring record now) that they had no alternative as they were clearing up Labour’s financial mess. Labour has paid a high price for Liam Byrne’s message left in the Treasury that there was no money left

However, this money on every count from schools, to the NHS and policing, whilst welcome, is too little too late. It cannot make up overnight for the consequences of the last nine years of austerity, but then it probably is not meant to. As Aditya Chakrabortty noted in an article this week about funding for education it also has political aims attached. Not only won’t the £2.8bn reverse the cuts made over the last 10 years, most schools won’t benefit at all since the government has indicated that the cash will go to areas which have been underfunded in the past which just happen (not by chance of course – do you hear the election trumpets?) to be full of Conservative target seats for a coming election.

Chakrabortty also notes that ‘classrooms have been turned into the new frontline of the welfare state, with staff filling in for councils in financial collapse and parents in precarious jobs or terrible housing’. This emphasises the wide-ranging consequences of cuts to welfare spending on the most vulnerable people in our nation from those that are sick or with disabilities to those who are involuntarily unemployed or in insecure, low paid employment.

If MMT Lens readers caught the ITV video report on Thursday evening which captured the raw reality of life for people in Liverpool then it surely must bring a heavy heart to many and pose questions about the Conservative’s economic record.

In Liverpool, one in three children live below the poverty line – that is equivalent to more than 35,000 children. That is a shocking statistic. But statistics don’t tell the full story. Families on the breadline with no reserves to fall back on, living hand to mouth, relying on food banks and parents going hungry to feed their children. A life lived in fear of the knock at the door that might render them homeless.

Shirley Marshall, who runs a community store in Liverpool, commented in the video ‘We’re turning into a third world country, that might sound overdramatic, but I don’t think it is, people have got nothing at all, absolutely nothing’. Liverpool is just one of many towns and cities where similar conditions are occurring. We are failing our children and whilst the government extols the virtue of balanced budgets future generations will pay a heavy social and economic price.

While government continuously lauds from its propaganda towers its employment record reiterating at every opportunity its ‘work pays’ mantra it masks the upsurge in insecure work which is pushing people into the red. It masks the people who are working two or three jobs just to make ends meet as people become trapped in chronic poverty and have to rely on charity to exist. It masks the fact that women, who have been affected most by government cuts to public spending, have to work as many part-time jobs as they can fit in just to keep their children fed, clothed and sheltered. The same women who then struggle during the summer holidays to cover the cost of childcare which pushes them into the red and into debt.

This is a vicious circle which once entered becomes increasingly difficult to extricate oneself from. People are made to feel inadequate, as if they alone are in control of their fate and are not subject to the deliberate and harmful intentions of government policy. The mantra of ‘work pays’ is inextricably linked to a neoliberally inspired blame culture which suggests that people are either feckless and improvident or responsible and good with their money. We become winners or losers in a competitive, dog eat dog world and which one you are is down to your personal qualities and hardworking attitudes rather than the time or place in which you were born and brought up and the government policies which were or weren’t enacted.

In the week when Boris Johnson suggested that patient morale might be improved by hot buttered toast and a national tabloid claimed that health tourists have totted up £150m in unpaid bills which could have funded more nurses, doctors and operations, Javid also promised more money for the NHS.

After having deprived it of adequate funding for nearly a decade, closed hospitals, cut services and staffing levels (not to mention the ones who have left through the intolerable stress caused by the pay cap and endless firefighting) it is simply laughable to suggest that hot buttered toast and employing a celebrity chef to improve food will improve patient morale. After a long line of previous celebrity chefs who failed in their task to improve food quality, the latest appointment will have her work cut out. Last year, figures were released which showed that hospitals are spending as little as £3 a day on food for patients. This at a time when records show that the number of patients admitted to hospital with malnutrition has more than doubled since 2009/10.

The problem of malnutrition is becoming so serious that earlier this year MPs recommended that the government appoint a minister for hunger in the UK (yes you read that right) to confront the growing problem of food insecurity which according to figures affects one in five children.

According to the Commons Environmental Audit Committee, the UK has among the worst levels of food insecurity in Europe and up to 2 million people may be undernourished including those admitted to hospital, care homes and mental health units.

Human Rights Watch, in a report published earlier this year Nothing left in the cupboards’ , examines how the changes to the welfare architecture and austerity motivated reductions in government expenditure on welfare are responsible for the huge increases in the distribution of food parcels through the food bank network to meet the needs of those families in food poverty.

Interestingly, it also examines whether austerity motivated cuts to welfare were a political choice or a necessary bitter pill. It was, of course, presented to the public as necessary to restore the public accounts to health as the new Conservative government rejected Labour’s fiscal stimulus and set the country on its austerity path. As Cameron is quoted as saying at the time ‘The age of irresponsibility is giving way to the age of austerity…The age of austerity demands responsible politics. Over the next few years, we will have to take some incredibly tough decisions on taxation, spending, borrowing – things that really affect people’s lives. Indeed, the authors of the report claimed that ‘reducing the public deficit could be a legitimate aim for state policy and may be genuinely unavoidable’ thus confirming yet again the extent of the misunderstanding about how our money system works. That said it also said that

In carrying out such cuts to spending a state cannot, however, disregard its duty to protect people’s human rights. Even where unavoidable, decisions taken in the context of fiscal contraction should not have a disproportionately negative impact on rights. States are required to assess their plans against their obligations under international human rights law.”

As we are now witnessing, Cameron’s ‘age of austerity’ and ‘responsible politics’ have turned sour. Austerity has touched every aspect of ordinary people’s lives and affected the good functioning of our society as the public and social infrastructure is taken apart and the welfare system stripped to the bone.

It is a vicious circle where low incomes, insecure employment and poor housing, combined with changes to welfare benefits impact on health – which in turn creates more pressures on a health service which is itself crumbling under the strain of austerity and cuts to its budgets. And now, after 9 years of pain, the Conservatives have the audacity to claim that as a result of their careful stewardship of the public finances they have money to spare. Which is a little surprising since in the real world of the state finances governments can’t have money to spare as they can’t save it in the first place.

The front-page headline about health tourism and unpaid bills covered in two tabloids plays to a primed audience and is a distraction from the realities of government austerity policies and their ideological purpose. Firstly, to note that when considering that the total annual spend for the Department of Health is approximately £124.7 BILLION, £150 million is a drop in the ocean!

In this age of austerity which has wrought division and aroused suspicion of foreigners (not to mention immigrants), focusing on health tourism in such a hateful way is a deliberate distraction designed to drive a wedge between people with the suggestion that their tax money is being diverted to pay for treatment of foreign visitors. Aneurin Bevan, the founder of the NHS was clear in his essay ‘In place of Fear’:

“The fact, is of course, that visitors to Britain subscribe to the national revenues as soon as they start consuming certain commodities, drink and tobacco for example, and entertainment. They make no direct contribution to the cost of the Health Service any more than does a British Citizen’

As our NHS is being carved up and reorganised to create a US-style Medicare health service shaped as Integrated Care, how convenient it is to focus on hot buttered toast and health tourists to stir up animosity. While the real prize is being sliced and diced into private hands the public has been blinded by emotive arguments with sleight of hand in mind.

The idea of ‘taxpayers’ money’ is a divisive one and intended to be. It separates us into categories of hard-working people or shirkers, citizens or foreign visitors and immigrants. Instead of seeing human beings, we see money and entitlement.

With better knowledge of how government spends, we can challenge that story. Indeed, unless we do challenge these false narratives about how government spends then the future could be a bleak one for us all, but most especially our children’s children.

We can point to the fact that the government as the currency issuer, is never short of money and neither needs tax revenue or to borrow before it can spend.

We can point to the fact that from a macroeconomic point of view austerity was always the wrong path given that spending whether by government or the private sector equals income to someone. It is that which keeps the economic wheels turning.

We can point to the fact that the government made a deliberate choice to restrict funding to pursue an ideological agenda under the guise of creating financially sustainable public finances and public sector services, but which had nothing to do with monetary realities.

We can point to the fact that contrary to the ‘There is no alternative’ mantra which has been thrust into the public consciousness on a daily basis, that there is one. It starts with asking fundamental questions of those who suggest that our future is dependent on financial considerations. It starts with challenging the notion that we can’t afford the vital programmes needed to deal with climate change and rising inequality.

We can show that a government has choices which are not related to balancing books. We can demonstrate that it’s not money that constrains government spending but resources. We can illustrate how government can put them to work to deliver public purpose; human and planetary survival in the first instance and in the second to address the huge inequalities that have arisen as a result of government policies designed to fill the pockets of the rich at the expense of the majority.

As one of the US Presidential candidates pointedly noted: ‘If the environment were a bank it would have been saved already’. The same could be said of poverty and inequality.

Let’s get informed and let’s get cracking.

If you have questions and want further information on these important issues you couldn’t do better than exploring our website. It has all the information you need from the basic to more in depth knowledge.

Give us a whirl and you won’t regret it.

 

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BoJob Goes Full Duce and Demands Suspension of Parliament for Brexit

God help us, he’s finally done it. BoJob has gone to the Queen to request that she suspend parliament on the 10th September, so that he can force his wretched Brexit through. It’s a move that has been denounced by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. This is his way of avoiding moves by the Tory Remainers, Labour and the other opposition parties through legislation as contained in their pact. The Skwawkbox has posted an article arguing that BoJob’s move now presents Tory Remainers with a chance of defeating him without supporting Corbyn’s vote of no confidence. This means defeating Queen’s Speech, which will probably be on 17th October. If this happens, it means we could be facing a general election on the 5th of December.

See: https://skwawkbox.org/2019/08/28/prorogation-and-tory-squeamishness-mean-5-december-ge-day-likely/

Both the Skwawkbox and Zelo Street have pointed out that BoJob’s decision means that he was lying when he denied that he planning any such move when he spoke to the Beeb last weekend. People have been comparing Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament to that of Charles I, who famously lost his head after losing the British Civil War. But as the Skwawkbox also pointed out, there was another parallel far closer in time. NHS doctor and campaigner Rachel Clarke tweeted that ‘We are a parliamentary democracy. This is stunt is straight out of 1930’s Germany’ and that it is ‘utterly inexcusable’.

It is. On both counts. Hitler seized power by using the Reichstag fire to declare a state of emergency. This allowed him to seize full dictatorial powers, which meant the suspension of the Reichstag, the German parliament. He then began passing legislation outlawing all competing political parties. The Skwawkbox comments that while Johnson is suspending parliament just to force through Brexit, he shares the Nazis’ contempt for democracy.

And they also put part of the blame on the ‘Centrists’, including Jo Swinson and the Lib Dems. They will no doubt wring their hands about it, but Johnson has been able to do this because they gave him the space. They could have supported Jeremy Corbyn’s no confidence vote and allowed him the chance to form a caretaker government while a general election was called. But they didn’t. Swinson was too keen to defend her Tory politics against the threat of a genuinely progressive, reforming government. Swinson has condemned BoJob’s decision, and stated that the Lib Dem’s will oppose it. But nevertheless, as the Skwawkbox says, the Lib Dems’ culpability is absolutely clear. And the Skwawkbox wonders if they will now see sense and realise just what a danger BoJob is to the fabric of our society, and join Corbyn against him.

And BoJob does present a very clear danger. Not only has he demanded the suspension of parliament, Robert Peston revealed that he had been told by a ‘No. 10 source’, that if parliament does pass a vote of no confidence, they’ll just hang on and won’t make way for another government.

See: https://skwawkbox.org/2019/08/28/centrists-have-gifted-johnson-opportunity-for-1930s-nazi-style-coup/

Again, the actions of a dictator. In this instance, it’s General Pinochet, Maggie’s old chum. Before the Fascist butcher was finally overthrown, his fellow torturers and mass-murderers tried to oust him. They couldn’t. He just stuck there. As for the Nazi seizure of power, the parallel there is to the actions of the Catholic Centre Party. They could have voted against the Nazi machtergreifung. But they didn’t, as they were afraid Hitler would move against the Roman Catholic church. Which he did, eventually. The Centre party was banned along with all the others, and the Roman Catholic youth groups were likewise dissolved to make way for the Hitler Youth and the German Maids’ League as the sole permitted organisation for young people. You can understand and to a degree sympathise with the fear that motivated the Centre party to give in. It takes extraordinary courage to stand up to a dictator, even one that was as initially weak as Hitler. But Swinson doesn’t have that excuse. She’s allowed Johnson the political opportunity to make his odious decision simply for cynical political reasons: she’d rather have a ‘no deal’ Brexit and a completely unelected government than see Corbyn in No. 10.

The similarity between BoJob, the Tory party and Hitler and the Nazis has also not been lost on Mike. He points out the way the Nazis demonised the Jews and the sick and disabled. Just like the Tories and the Lib Dems in their coalition also demonised the sick and disabled. The Tories haven’t murdered them like the Nazis in their infamous Aktion T4, just allowed them to die as they removed the benefits they needed for support.

And he also points out that the first party the Nazis banned was the Communist. And it’s not a coincidence that the Tories have been referring to the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn as Marxist, despite the fact that Labour is actually democratic socialist. It’s very different, and the real Communist parties, like that of the former Soviet Union, heartily despised them. Lenin and co. used the word ‘reformist’, which refers to this form of socialism, as a term of abuse.

And, as under Hitler, we have an extreme right-wing press fomenting nationalist further and promoting Johnson’s populism.

Mike goes on to quote Martin Niemoller’s poem, ‘First they came…’. He stated he paraphrased it a few years ago on his blog to insert the sick and disabled in the first line, to draw attention to the way the Tories were demonising and persecuting them. But now he believes the last line should be about democracy, and how it no longer matters whether I speak out or not, because no-one will listen.

He concludes

That is the situation we face, it seems.

You can watch it getting worse and do nothing, and then tell me I was right when it is too late to reverse this disaster.

Or you can actually get up and stop it.

What are you going to do?

Johnson’s coup: Now we must fight to prevent the end of the UK as a democracy

And if this seems hysterical, just remember that during the 1970s the British security services and the Times and Mirror were considering organising a coup to overturn Harold Wilson’s government. In that event, trade unionists and left-wing activists were to be arrested and interned. See Livingstone’s book, Livingstone’s Labour.

Johnson is an authoritarian, and the Brexit party, which has announced they will support him, is even further to the right. Democracy is under threat. We need to get rid of him now!

 

Kate Maltby Smears Corbyn and his Supporters as Conspiracy Theorists

Last Thursday, 22nd August 2019, Kate Maltby decided to give us all the benefit of her views on Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and the ‘Trumpification of British politics’ in the pages of the I. She opined that both BoJo and Corbyn were like the megalomaniac manbaby over the other side of the pond. She was also irritated by the fact that the similarity between Corbyn and Trump hadn’t been picked up by the public in the same way the similarity between Johnson and Trump had. She then went on to whine that both Trump and Corbyn’s politics were based in conspiracy theories undermining western democratic politics, conspiracies which she thought came straight from Putin and the Kremlin. She wrote

Yet to those of us hwo have followed Corbyn’s rise closely, the sight of him comparing any other politician to Donald Trump felt like an act of such shamelessness that it might only be matched by the Ponzi President himself. If there is a single line running through Tump’s politics, it is the practice of rule by conspiracy theory. Yet it is from those who believe that the existing democratic order is essentially a conspiracy that Corbyn also draws his base. As researcher Peter Pomerantsev writes in his superb new book, This Is Not Propaganda, “we live in a world of mass persuasion run amok, where the means of manipulation have gone forth and multiplied”. The digital imprint of the Russian state has been particularly successful in undermining the confidence of voters in western democracies in our own democratic norms and even our ability as voters to understand our political realities.

The analyst Ben Nimmo has summed up the Russian approach to disinformation as “dismiss, distort, distract, dismay”. Hence, the birth of a whole new online culture populated by voters who don’t even share a basic epistemology with existing “elites”. Johnson and the Brexit campaign benefited most clearly from this crisis of trust, but so does their fellow Eurosceptic, Jeremy Corbyn. Track the pro-Corbyn and pro-Trump networks online, and you’ll find a commitment to anti-vax theories that tell you the Government wants to make your children ill. Johnson, to his anti-Trumpist credit, has just announced a campaign to counter this particular theory.

Both are surrounded by supporters who trade in conspiracy theories about Jews. While Corbyn’s party is under formal investigation for anti-Semitism, only this week Trump was manically R’Ting the conspiracy anti-evangelical Wayne Allyn Root, who attacked Jewish Democrats for not supporting him.

She then goes on to take Corbyn to task for not coming down hard enough on the Russians about the Skripal poisoning, and for using the memory of the lies over the Gulf War to cast doubt on the Russian’s guilt.

This is all shameless bilge and propaganda itself. The I also reviewed Pomerantsev’s book, and declared that while it was very good on the subject of Russian propaganda, there was very little material about how the West also manipulates information.

And manipulate it the West certainly does. The conspiracy magazine Lobster has been showing since the beginning of the 1980s how the British and American secret state and other covert organisations have manipulated information and worked secretly to influence state policy to their advantage. During the Cold War there was an entire department, the IRD, or Information Research Department set up within the British state to counter Russian and other enemy propaganda. It also tried to undermine the Labour party by producing disinformation and fake texts linking Labour politicians with the IRA and Soviet espionage. And we’ve seen this campaign start up again under the Tories in the form of the Integrity Initiative, with its extensive links to British intelligence and the cyberwarfare division of the SAS producing smears trying to link Corbyn to the Russians. When various right-wing loons and shameless liars haven’t been trying to claim that Corbyn was somehow an agent for the Czechs.

That the British secret state has also done its best to undermine democracy is solid fact. Britain’s disinformation campaign against its foreign enemies is the subject of a book, Disrupt and Deny: Spies, Special Forces, and the Secret Pursuit of British Foreign Policy, by Rory Cormac, (Oxford: OUP 2018). The blurb for this reads

It has long been an open secret that British leaders use spies and special forces to interfere in the affairs of others-as discreetly as deniably as possible.

Since 1945, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, has spread misinformation designed to divide and discredit targets from the Middle East to Eastern Europe and Northern Ireland. It has instigated whispering campaigns and planted false evidence on officials working behind the Iron Curtain, whilst GCHQ now uses the internet to undermine terrorist recruiters. MI6 has tried to foment revolution in Albania, and to instigate coups in Congo, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran. It has sabotaged ships to prevent the passage of refugees to Israel, secretly funnelled aid to insurgents in Afghanistan, and launched cultural and economic warfare, not only against Cold War enemies such as Communist Czechoslovakia, but also NATO allies.

Through bribery and blackmail, Britain has rigged elections as colonies moved to independence. It has fought secret wars in Yemen, Indonesia, and Oman-and discreetly used special forces to eliminate enemies, from colonial Malaya to Libya during the Arab Spring. This is the world of covert action: a vital, though controversial tool of statecraft and perhaps the most sensitive of all government activity. If used wisely, it can play an important role in pursuing national interests in a dangerous world. If used poorly, it can cause political scandal-or worse.

In Disrupt and Deny, Rory Cormac tells the remarkable true story of Britain’s secret scheming against her enemies, as well as her friends. He uncovers a world of intrigue and manoeuvring within the darkest corridors of Whitehall, where officials fought to maintain control of this most sensitive and seductive work. A fascinating tale of covert operations in its own right, it is also the story of Britain’s attempt over the decades to use smoke and mirrors to mask its decline as global power.

As readers of this blog will be aware, it’s blatantly untrue that Corbyn and his supporters, or at least the vast majority of them, have conspiracy theories about Jews. What they are aware of is the way accusations of anti-Semitism have been levelled at Corbyn and the Labour left for purely political reasons. The Right, including the Blairites in the party, like Tom Watson and John Mann, are using it to try to maintain the Thatcherite status quo. And the Israel lobby is doing it simply to smear and discredit anyone critical of that nation’s apartheid system and its slow-motion ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

I am at a loss, however, to know where Maltby got the idea that Corbynists are opponents of vaccination. The American anti-vaxxers, from what I’ve seen, tend to be on the political right, Conservatives and Libertarians. The kind of people who watch Alex Jones’ InfoWars and have the same bizarre ideas of ‘Purity Of Essence’ as the mad American general Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War satire, Dr. Strangelove. The type of people, who think putting fluoride in the water is a globalist plot, and any kind of welfare state is a horrendous Commie assault on democracy. Definitely not the kind of people, who support Jeremy Corbyn. In fact, it looks like the accusation is simply a shameless invention of Maltby herself.

I’m not surprised that Maltby has come out with this lying screed. Along with her CV, in which she informs us she’s written for The Financial TimesThe Spectator, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The TLS, The Times, and The New Statesman, and appeared on various TV and radio programmes, she also declares that

Much of what I’ve gleaned about the workings of Westminster I’ve learned from my time on the team behind Bright Blue, the liberal Conservative pressure group and think tank. 

See: http://www.katemaltby.com/about-me/

She’s a Tory, and the only difference I can make out between ‘liberal’ and right-wing Tories, is that the ‘liberals’ are less open in their hatred of the poor and disabled, and their determination to punish, humiliate and kill them. Oh yes, and their better at deceiving the Tory rank and file that they don’t want to destroy the welfare state and privatise the health service.

She’s just another right-wing hack, upset and irritated by the fact that an increasingly media-savvy public are aware of how much the lamestream media is manipulated by corporate and right-wing political interests. And she’s just following a well-worn media path by trying to link Corbyn and his supporters to anti-Semitism, conspiracy theories and the Russians. It’s time she, and the various shameless hacks like her, were given the boot. Then people might start believing in their politicians and their media.

 

Change is coming. Keep calm and keep on PUSHing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/08/2019 - 9:32pm in

Neon sign with the word "change"Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

Each week, GIMMS aims to keep its readers abreast of the latest stories in the news and they form the basis of our weekly MMT Lens.  Each week we search for positive signs that things are changing, given that it always seems to be a catalogue of increasing doom and gloom which can be depressing at times. However, this week we’d like to begin the lens on a positive note with reference to Professor Bill Mitchell’s blog earlier this week We are approaching an era of fiscal dominance’.  We can surely be encouraged by his words which suggest that we are observing a paradigm shift as the neoliberal narrative is failing big-time and the dissonance in mainstream economics and political debate is getting more intense and more public. It shows promise that such questioning is beginning to take place in public arenas.  Recent articles from Reuters and Bloomberg, along with the growing understanding of monetary realities by more and more people across the globe, must give us hope that the challenge to the mainstream macroeconomic consensus which has dictated government policies for decades is beginning to bear fruit. All we need now is to get the politicians on board! Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the US and in the UK, MP Chris Williamson, are already shining a light on how money works and how such an understanding will allow us to respond to the challenges we face and deliver progressive agendas to meet them.  To use an analogy from nature, a seed planted and nurtured will grow.

However, whilst bearing that in mind, we cannot ignore the daily news which demonstrates how the flawed economic system which has dominated the last four decades, along with the last 9 years of government-imposed austerity, have created vast disparities in wealth and increased poverty and inequality. Whilst Brexit thunders on in the political arena and mainstream news reporting the very real consequences of public sector cuts and government spending policies are increasingly in evidence. People are suffering, people are dying, and our public and social infrastructure is crumbling and breaking down. All those things which form the foundations of a healthy society and allow it to function are failing (although the government propaganda might lead you to think otherwise). These are the very real consequences of government cuts and policies and should be the wake-up call that shocks the nation into active opposition.

The government is promising increased spending on policing and proposes extended stop and search powers in response to rising knife and other crime. However, it has failed to acknowledge the role of austerity in rising crime and the drug crisis which has been termed as a public health emergency and has resulted from the decay of our publicly paid-for institutions, local government and other supporting organisations along with rising poverty and inequality. Over 760 youth clubs have closed and 3500 youth workers have lost their jobs as a consequence.  Nearly 130 libraries, which provide many other important services including access to the internet, were scrapped in 2018 alone and those that remain do so on reduced hours or are serviced by volunteers instead of a paid workforce. Our public land assets are increasingly being sold off, from our parks to playgrounds, police stations and NHS estate.  Developers are doing very nicely from this sell off of previously owned public assets.

As our communities start to shrink and die, crime rises, the old and sick become isolated and distrust and fear grows as the social frameworks which knit people together as communities are dismantled and fall into decline. The last 40 years, which have given precedence to business and profit seeking, have diluted the importance of the public institutions which lie at the heart of a healthy economy and national well-being.  It is withering away and with it any semblance of a civilised society. The neoliberal narratives of self-help and a blame culture have poisoned the concept of human cooperation, and are leaving us confused and lacking in hope.

As noted in last week’s blog, far too often the loss of this public and social infrastructure is explained away in financial terms of unaffordability; that expenditure on such infrastructure is reliant on an economy that is growing and a fiscally prudent approach to the state finances.  Indeed, Sajid David the new Chancellor suggested only this week that it was down to the hard work of the public that investment in public services could be made, once again making an implied but incorrect connection between tax collection and paying for public services.

The public has been bamboozled for far too long by household budget descriptions of how money works. It seems only right and proper to us that like private individuals and households, governments should behave the same and spend in relation to income.  However, instead of looking at the deficit and debt arguments which proliferate and determine the public response to a government’s actions we should be examining its economic record and ask ourselves whether it has delivered a healthy and sustainable economy that serves the public purpose? It’s what you do with your spending that really counts. Who benefits and who doesn’t? Not whether you balanced a budget or achieved a surplus. Deficits certainly matter but not in the way that most of us think they do.

In the case of the UK, the ones who have benefited from Tory policies are corporations, big business and wealthy people, not just in money terms but also through the influence that such organisations and private individuals exert on politicians to favour them.

Just a quick flick through this week’s newspapers brings to the fore the consequences of ideology, austerity politics and government spending decisions on people’s lives.

The founder of the Museum of Homelessness reports that one homeless person dies every 19 hours on average, while shamefully more than a quarter of a million homes lie empty. Matthew Downie, the director of policy and external affairs at Crisis, commented that was disgraceful that hundreds of vulnerable people across the country have died without the dignity of a secure home. He points out that many of these fatalities are occurring, not while people are sleeping on the streets but when they are in temporary accommodation that is not fit for purpose.  Most people don’t choose to live on the street or want to be shoved from pillar to post living in temporary accommodation or relying on the goodwill of friends, sofa surfing.  Families with children, young and older people have become victims of government spending choices, not because there was no money but because it suits an ideologically driven neoliberal agenda of a small state and self-reliance.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism researching effects of poverty in Oxford which is a city with one of the highest average salaries in the UK has found that in its poorest wards, men die on average fifteen years younger than their counterparts living in Oxford’s more prosperous areas. It noted that the gap that had been recorded between 2011 and 2015 had increased by four times more than it had been between 2003 and 2007. Over England and Wales, differences in life expectancy for those living in the most and least deprived areas was nine and a half years for men and seven and a half years for women (2015-17). The increasing divide between the rich and the poor is conveyed in their stories which are distressing to read (link here).  While the public applauds fiscal prudence, people’s physical and mental health is declining, and people are dying as local authorities and organisations struggle to keep up with the demand for support because of cuts to government funding leading to cuts in social programmes designed to assist vulnerable individuals, families and children.

Added to this situation are the cuts to spending on a welfare system which, following reform, is not fit for purpose and has left people struggling financially and in fear of getting into debt. The bottom line is that when people don’t have sufficient monetary resources to live a decent and dignified life, not only do they suffer unnecessarily but the economy also takes a hit. Money removed from people’s pockets through spending cuts is money removed from the economy.

While the Chancellor of the Exchequer applauds the Conservative record on employment this week and thanks the public for their hard work, unemployment rises by 31,000, which is the biggest rise since 2017, vacancies are down and although earnings did rise once adjusted for inflation, they are still below pre-crisis levels. As usual, the government fails to acknowledge the working realities of those figures. People doing three jobs just to keep themselves and their families afloat, the increase in zero-hour contracts to near record levels, up 15% from 791,000 a year ago to 896,000 in the last three months, bogus self-employment and the gig economy which is increasingly being used to supplement people’s wages are the realities of the statistics presented by the government.

It was also revealed this week that NHS spending on private mental healthcare had risen by almost 30% to £100m in just one year. Sick and vulnerable patients are being sent hundreds of miles away from home away from their families for lack of sufficient local NHS beds to accommodate sick individuals who need expert care. The government’s pledge to end out of area care by increasing the number of beds has yet to be honoured and the NHS is paying huge amounts of public money to private, profit motivated companies whose rationale is deriving profit, not delivering first class, expert care.

Figures from the Department of Health and Social Care show that last year it handed a record £9.2bn to private providers such as Virgin Care and the Priory mental health group. When Matt Hancock pledged ‘there is no privatisation on my watch’ clearly his statement fails to reflect the policies of successive governments, including the current one, which has until more recently been a slow burn towards privatisation and is now speeding towards a successful conclusion – the creation of a two-tier health services ‘alla’ accountable care in the United States.  The media and the politicians have done an exceedingly good job at concealment of the intentions.

The beneficiaries of money from the public purse are not confined to the NHS and nowhere more evident is the outsourcing of children’s services. In 2014, despite opposition, changes to regulations made it easier for commercial companies to bid for contracts and for-profit organisations are now involved in the provision of foster care, children’s homes and children’s social services.  Ray Jones, Emeritus professor of social work at Kingston University and author of ‘In Whose Interest? The Privatisation of Child Protection and Social Work’ (link here) noted in an article last week:

“For the past 40 years, successive governments have pushed crucial services out of public ownership and into the private market. Despite the dismal track record of big outsourcing companies failing to deliver on their public service contracts, and overcharging central and local government, opportunities continue for private companies to make money from the public purse”

While this government has pursued austerity on the basis of money scarcity, the idea that public services can only be paid for if we have a healthy economy and the belief that the private sector is more efficient, the facts tell a different story. As Ray Jones notes:

not only are local authorities spending large sums with private companies, they are purchasing poorer quality services at a higher cost.’

Public money is being siphoned off into the private sector for profit whilst at the same time, the government plays the ‘Mikawber’ card which suggests that there is no money for public services and deceives the public with its lie. As was pointed out earlier, we should be less concerned about the size of the deficit which should always be seen in context and more concerned about what the government is spending on.

As fares are set to rise on a privatised rail network, a private company wins a ‘lucrative’ contract to run the HS2 and graduates in England face increasing debt burdens as total interest on undergraduate student loans is set to double, it is clear that the effects of the last 40 years of entrenched neoliberal dogma, combined with a deliberate political intent to use false analogies about how money works are now coming home to roost as daily we see evidence of the consequences.

This is not a time to watch as bystanders; this is a moment for action.  Some will tell you that ‘we can’t do anything so why try?’ But let’s not be defeatist. We are already making a difference, as activists and campaigners from around the globe work together to challenge an idea that’s had its day. As one of GIMMS’ favourite economists reminds us from time to time, we need to keep on PUSHing until something happens.

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The Stepford Daughters of Brexit and Slavery and the Emergence of Capitalism

Yesterday for our amusement the awesome Kerry Anne Mendoza posted a video on twitter made by two very definitely overprivileged girls talking about the evils of socialism. The two young ladies were Alice and Beatrice Grant, the privately educated granddaughters of the late industrialist and former governor of the Bank of England, Sir Alistair Grant. With their cut-glass accents and glazed, robotic delivery of their lines, they seemed to fit the stereotype of the idiotic Sloane perfectly, right down to the ‘Okay, yah’, pronunciation. Mendoza commented ‘I don’t think this was meant to be a parody, but it’s the perfect roast of the “yah-yah” anti-left.’

Absolutely. In fact, what the girls were describing as socialism was really Communism, completely ignoring democratic socialism, or social democracy – the form of socialism that demands a mixed economy, with a strong welfare state and trade unions, progressive taxation and social mobility. It also ignored anti-authoritarian forms of socialism, like syndicalism, guild socialism or anarcho-Communism. They were also unaware that Marx himself had said that, regarding the interpretations of his views promoted by some of his followers, he wouldn’t be a Marxist.

But it would obviously be too much to expect such extremely rich, public school girls to know any of this. They clearly believed, and had been brought up to believe, the Andrew Roberts line about capitalism being the most wonderful thing every invented, a mechanism that has lifted millions around the world out of poverty. Etc. Except, as Trev, one of the great commenters on Mike’s and this blog, said

If “Capitalism works” why are there a million people using foodbanks in Britain today? Not working that well is it? Why did the Government bail out the Banks using our money? Why did the Banking system collapse in the first place, was it because of Socialism? I don’t find these idiotic spoilt brats in the least bit funny, I feel bloody angry. When was the last time they ate food they found in the street? Bring back the Guillotine!

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/08/14/these-young-ladies-of-brexit-need-to-be-seen-to-be-believed/

The two girls were passionate supporters of the Fuhrage and his wretched party, and were really looking forward to a no-deal Brexit. It shows how out of touch these girls are, as Brexit is already wrecking the British economy, and a no-deal Brexit and subsequent deal with a predatory America would just wipe it out completely. Along with everything that has made post-war Britain great – the NHS and welfare state. But these girls obviously have no connection with working people or, I guess, the many businesses that actually depend on manufacturing and exports. I think the girls’ family is part of financial sector, who stand to make big profits from Brexit, or at least are insulated from its effects because they can move their capital around the globe.

The girls’ views on the EU was similarly moronic. They really do seem to believe that the EU is somehow an oppressive, communistic superstate like the USSR. It wasn’t. And the reason anti-EU socialists, like the late, great Tony Benn distrusted it was partly because in their view it stood for capital and free trade against the interests of the nation state and its working people.

And they also have weird views on slavery and the EU’s attitude to the world’s indigenous peoples. To the comment by David Lammy, the Black Labour politico, who dared to correct Anne Widdecombe for comparing Brexit to the great slave revolts, they tweeted

“Lammy being pathetic as usual. The chains of slavery can be intangible, as amply shown in China, the Soviet Union and the EU; to deny that just shows your ignorance and petty hatred for the truth”.

To which Zelo Street commented that there two things there. First of all, it’s best not to tell a Black man he doesn’t understand slavery. And second, the EU isn’t the USSR.

They were also against the Mercosur deal the EU wishes to sign with the South American nations, because these would lead to environmental destruction and the dispossession and exploitation of the indigenous peoples.

“As usual the GREED and selfishness of the EU imposes itself using their trade ‘deals’ in the name of cooperation and fake prosperity. The indigenous tribes of the Amazon need our protection not deforestation”.

To which Zelo Street responded with incredulity about how they could claim environmental concern for a party headed by Nigel Farage.

And they went on. And on, going on about how the EU was a threat to civil liberties. And there was more than a touch of racism in their statement that Sadiq Khan should be more concerned to make all Londoners feel safe, not just EU migrants. They also ranted about how Labour had sold out the working class over Brexit in favour of the ‘immoral, money hungry London elite’. Which shows that these ladies have absolutely no sense of irony or any self-awareness whatsoever.

In fact, Zelo Street found them so moronic and robotic, that it dubbed them the Brexit party’s Stepford Daughters, referring to the 70s SF film, the Stepford Wives. Based on the novel by Ira Levin, the films about a community where the men have killed their wives and replaced them with robots.

See:  https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/08/brexit-party-presents-stepford-daughters.html

There’s a lot to take apart with their tweets. And perhaps we shouldn’t be two hard on the girls. They’re only 15 and 17. A lot of young people at that age have stupid views, which they grow out of. But there is one issue that really needs to be challenged.

It’s their assumptions about slavery and the genocide of indigenous peoples. Because this is one massive problem to any assumption that capitalism is automatically good and beneficial.

There’s a very large amount of scholarship, much of it by Black activists and researchers, about slavery and the emergence of European capitalism and the conquest of the Americas. They have argued that European capitalism was greatly assisted by the profits from New World slavery. Caribbean historians like Dr Richard Hart, in his Blacks in Bondage, have shown that transatlantic slavery was a capitalist industry. For the enslaved indigenous peoples and the African men and women, who replaced them when they died out, capitalism certainly did not raise them out of poverty. Rather it has done the opposite – it enslaved them, and kept them in chains until they were able to overthrow it successfully with assistance of European and American abolitionists in the 19th century.

And among some left-wing West Indians, there’s still bitterness towards America for its constant interference in the Caribbean and Central and South America. America did overthrow liberal and progressive regimes across the world, and especially in the New World, when these dared to challenge the domination of American corporations. The overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz’s democratic socialist regime in Guatemala is a case in point. Arbenz was overthrown because he dared to nationalise the banana plantations. Which upset the American United Fruit Company, who got their government to overthrow him in coup. He was replaced by a brutal Fascistic dictatorship that kept the plantation workers as virtual slaves. And the Americans also interfered in Jamaican politics. They were absolutely opposed to the Jamaican Labour party politician, Michael Manley, becoming his nation’s Prime Minister, and so did everything they could to stop him. Including cutting trade.

And then there’s the enslavement and genocide of the indigenous peoples.

Before Columbus landed in the New World, South America had a population of about seven million. There were one million people in the Caribbean. I think there were similar numbers in North America. But the indigenous peoples were enslaved and worked to death. They were also decimated through diseases carried by Europeans, to which they had no immunity. The Taino people were driven to extinction. The Caribs, from whom the region takes its name, were able to survive on a reservation granted to them in the 18th century by the British after centuries of determined resistance. The conquest of the New World was a real horror story.

And Britain also profited from the enslavement of indigenous peoples. I doubt the girls have heard of it, but one of the scandals that rocked British imperialism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was that of the Putomayo Indians of South America. They had been enslaved by British rubber corporations. It was this abuse of a subject people that turned the Irish patriot, Roger Casement, from a British civil servant to an ardent Nationalist.

On the other side of the world, in the Pacific, British imperialism also managed to dispossess an entire Polynesian people and trash their island. This was in the 1920s. The island was rich in mineral deposits, and so moved the indigenous people out, ultimately relocating them to Fiji. Their island was then strip-mined, leaving it a barren, uninhabitable rock. In the 1980s the survivors were trying to sue the government over their maltreatment, but with no success.

This is what unfettered British imperialism and capitalism did. And what I’ve no doubt Farage and other far right British politicians would like to do again without the restraints of international law. It’s why I believe that, whatever the demerits of the Mercosur agreement are, it’s probably better than what individual nations would do without the restraint of the EU.

The girls are right to be concerned about the fate of indigenous peoples. But they are profoundly wrong in their absolute, uninformed belief that unregulated capitalism will benefit them.

It doesn’t. It enslaves, dehumanises and dispossesses. Which is why we need international organisations like the EU, and why the Brexit party isn’t just a danger to Britain, but to the world’s weaker, developing nations and their indigenous peoples.

Johnson’s Fascistic Denunciation of ‘Collaborators’ with the EU

Yesterday Mike put up a piece commenting on Johnson’s Fascistic rhetoric describing those opposing a no-deal Brexit in parliament. Simply put, he described them as collaborators with the EU. The Blonde Beast said

There’s a terrible kind of collaboration as it were going on between people who think they can block Brexit in Parliament and our European friends, and our European friends are not moving.

We need our European friends to compromise and the more they think that there’s a chance that Brexit can be blocked in Parliament, the more adamant they are in sticking to their position.

As Mike points out, Johnson is falsely claiming that the ordinary people, who don’t want a no-deal Brexit, have teamed up with the EU. It also identifies his enemies as a unified cause, which is also one of classic features of Fascism. Following the infamous forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Hitler viewed everything that he considered damaging to Germany to be part of a massive Jewish conspiracy. Financial capitalism, socialism, Communism and democracy were all parts of this conspiracy to undermine Germany and destroy and enslave the White, ‘Aryan’ race. As were decadent modern art, music, literature and unAryan scientific theories, like Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, because Einstein was Jewish.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/08/14/terrible-collaboration-speech-johnson-flashes-his-fascist-credentials/

Johnson hasn’t gone quite that far yet, and Mike points out that he isn’t a Fascist. But he is showing many of the warning signs. So much so that one tweeter put out a picture of BoJob with the caption ‘This man is the biggest threat to Britain since Adolf Hitler’. It’s an exaggeration, but a forgivable one, considering that BoJob’s Brexit is already wrecking British economy and industry, and that he and his backers in the Murdoch press are looking forward to a trade deal with Trump’s America which would see our agriculture and industry bought up by the Americans, including the Health Service, the welfare state dismantled, workers’ rights removed completely, along with our environmental protection laws. All so that BoJob and the elite rich can enjoy absolute unfettered capitalism and massive profits for their own businesses.

And I’m not surprised that Johnson is sounding like a Fascist. He’s a massive egotist, like Donald Trump, and both men are extremely authoritarian. Trump talked about having newspapers and press people, who criticised him shut down. Johnson, when he was mayor of London, spent millions of taxpayers’ money on three watercannon that were illegal in mainland Britain. And BoJob’s the leader of a highly authoritarian party. Under Thatcher the Tories had links with very unpleasant South American Fascist regimes, like Chile’s General Franco. The Libertarians in the party, including Paul Staines, used to invite to their annual dinner the leader of one of the Fascist death squads in El Salvador. The Freedom Association also wanted the suppression of trade unions, workers’ rights and the welfare state and NHS, and unfettered capitalism. It was very much freedom for the rich, and wage slavery for the poor.

And he’s supported by a fanatically authoritarian press. Remember how the Tory papers demonised the judges and lawyers, who had ruled against one of Tweezer’s Brexit plans as the enemies of the people. It was the classic rhetoric of authoritarian, Fascist regimes.

And you can bet that as opposition to Boris mounts, he and his backers in the media are going to become even more splenetic and Fascistic in their denunciations. They’re already demanding anti-democratic measures to get what they want. This is the suspension of parliament, as advocated by the Torygraph, so that BoJob can force through Brexit without opposition from MPs. Who are our elected representatives.

BoJob is a menace to British prosperity, British industry, British working people and British democracy. Get him out!

 

Trump Post-Brexit Trade Deal Will Bring Hardly Any Real Benefits

This is very revealing. According to the BBC World Service, a post-Brexit trade deal between Britain and America would only increase the economy by 0.1%. And that would be 15 years from now.

As the Skwawkbox and Mike over at Vox Political have both pointed out, this means that the Tories will have sold Trump and the American companies backing him our NHS, workers’ rights, and environmental and consumer protections for hardly anything. In fact, Mike points out that even the 0.1% growth may not happen, as the economy is already faltering, and so any gains made later may be swallowed up by the losses that are occurring now.

This is despite yesterday’s Times enthusiastically hyping Trump’s offer of a trade deal with America. Zelo Street effectively ripped that piece of propaganda apart by pointing out that we would only get the deal if we became America’s poodle, a point that was also made by one of the columnists in today’s I. The Sage of Crewe also refuted what Trump’s negotiator, John Bolton, and the Times clearly thought would be an attractive demonstration of the deal’s benefits. Bolton stated that it would be easy to make such deals quickly for manufacturing and industry, but that service sector would take a bit longer. Nevertheless, next year could see cheap American cars coming into Britain. The Sage of Crewe pointed out the other side of the coin: British cars would be undercut by cheap American imports.

I can remember when something similar happened to the motorcycle industry with the Japanese way back in the 1990s. This was when the Japanese economy started contracting and there wasn’t quite so much a market for their bikes. Their solution was to start exporting cheap bikes to Britain, which would undercut our own, domestically made machines. Even those produced by Japanese manufacturers over here. As you might expect, British bike manufacturers, including the management of Japanese companies over here, were extremely upset and started arranging meetings about what they could do about this threat to British industry and jobs. I’d be interested to hear if British car firms are planning something similar to combat the similar threat John Bolton is making to them. But guessing from the glowing way the Times was pushing Trump’s grotty trade deal, I doubt we’d read of one in that Murdoch rag.

But the Americans would wait until after Brexit before requiring us to fall in line with their policy over Iran and the involvement of the Chinese firm Huawei in the 5G network.

Put simply, this deal would make us into America’s poodle. We’d have our industries and agriculture picked off by the Americans for their benefit, as the Zelo Street article also points out. He also states that Bolton is lying through his teeth about Congress easily passing such a deal. Congress’ Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has said that it won’t pass any deal unless the Good Friday Agreement is honoured.

The Zelo Street article concludes by stating that BoJob loves to say that Britain is a vassal state of the EU, but doesn’t mention how this deal would make us a vassal state of America by the back door.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/08/us-trade-deal-if-well-be-their-poodle.html

And Mike and the Skwawkbox point out how the BBC hid the news that Trump’s deal would bring hardly any benefits to Britain by putting on the World Service. This is the Beeb’s service for the rest of the world, not Britain. Presumably the people actually affected by it don’t count. Mike concludes in his turn that its shows once again that the Beeb is the Tories’ propaganda arm, and wonders if Ofcom are aware of it?

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/08/14/boris-johnson-would-sell-out-our-nhs-and-our-rights-to-trumps-us-for-practically-nothing/

I’m not surprised by any of this. The Americans were less than altruistic in the deals they made for their entry into the Second World War. They drove a very hard bargain with us after the War. They and the Russians both wanted the dismemberment of the British Empire so that their goods could be allowed into our former colonies. It was also thanks to their demands for payment that Newfoundland became a province of Canada. Before then it was another British colony. However, we had to give it, or sell it to the Canadians in order to raise the money to pay the Americans.

I’ve also met former members of the aircraft industry, who were also very bitter at the way America had demanded cutting edge technical information from this sector after the War. The Americans’ breaking of the sound barrier by the X-1 rocket plane, flown by Chuck Yeager, was a tremendous achievement. But it was solidly based on British research, some of which was, in its turn, based on captured German material. But the British project had to be closed down and its results and information handed over to the Americans as part of their price for coming to our aid.

Counterpunch and some of the American left-wing news sites on YouTube have also pointed out that the lend-lease arrangements under the Marshal Plan also weren’t altruistic. This was the American economic scheme to build Europe and the rest of the free world up after the War using economic aid. But there were also strings attached, which meant that the aid went chiefly to American companies.

You can conclude from this that the American state and capitalism drives a very hard bargain, and that such deals are very one-sided. As many left-wing sites have argued over and over again in their discussion of the ‘Special Relationship’. Which actually means far less to the Americans than it does to us. That was shown very clearly by Clinton’s reaction to German unification. This made Germany the strongest economy in Europe, and Clinton showed, as Beeb newsman John Sargeant managed to get the Prime Minister to acknowledge, that Germany was now America’s most important partner in Europe, not Britain.

And I’m also not surprised at the Tories and Murdoch ardently supporting this sell-out of our country. The Tories admire American capitalism and its lack of worker protection and welfare state. I can remember previous episodes where the Americans were promising a better economic deal if we abandoned Europe and joined them. And the Tories cheering such schemes nearly always owned businesses in America. And in fact, as far back as 1925 the Tories, or a section of them, were forming plans for the political reunion of Britain and the US.

And that shows exactly what Johnson and the Tories are like. Now and in the past, and I’ve no doubt in the future, they are willing to sell out British industry, the welfare state, our precious NHS and workers, all in return for the victory of unfettered capitalism and their squalid economic gain.

The Strange Case of the Missing Money

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 11/08/2019 - 11:58pm in

Woman holding coins and "make a change" written on a scrap of paperPhoto by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash

“Economics lie at the very root of practical morality”

Josephine Butler, English feminist, social reformer and campaigner against injustice.

Boris Johnson has been distributing largesse. Well, not quite distributing it; it’s still in the pot of promises. There will, apparently, be extra money for the NHS, money for policing and education and even some to manage Brexit. If it were true then potentially it’s a good thing, but of course like everything the devil is in the detail.

After 9 years of being told endlessly there was no money and that cuts were necessary to deal with Labour’s economic mismanagement suddenly it just appears out of nowhere. Shouldn’t someone be asking how are they going to pay for it? Has someone checked out their fully costed budget? If it were Labour doing the spending then, of course, these are exactly the questions that would be being asked, even though they don’t represent monetary realities.

Of course, in the lexicon of monetary orthodoxy, aka household budgets, we can all thank the previous Chancellor who squirrelled away money in the ‘rainy-day fund’ for just such an event! Except, of course, that the question of how we pay for it doesn’t reflect how money works at all; the rainy-day fund is a figment of former chancellors’ imaginations because governments don’t spend like households and neither have nor don’t have money; they cannot put money aside or save for future expenditure. Those of us who know how it works might suppose it is simply missing knowledge on both sides of the political divide but maybe it is just a torturous game played out in the Houses of Parliament over the despatch box to deceive the public and deliver political agendas.

On the other hand, the new Chancellor Sajid Javid doesn’t seem to get it at all – or maybe he does. Whilst Boris Johnson is going on a spending spree of promises to keep the nation sweet in the run-up to a possible election, deal with the initial fall-out from Brexit and avoid the possibility of recession (currently being blamed on Brexit by media pundits whilst carefully ignoring the impact of 9 years of cuts to public spending on the economy), Javid said this week that he’s not expecting a recession at all (he’s checked with the orthodox economic oracles). He has claimed that increased growth will allow the government to meet its spending pledges (despite a contraction in the economy between April and June). Presumably, he’s counting on the additional tax that will be poured into the government’s coffers in the event of the engines of the economy perking up. Just how that miracle will occur is anyone’s guess given that the government actually has to spend before anyone can even pay their tax! If he knew this long kept secret (except he probably does but must keep to the business of government’s fiscal discipline) he could increase spending at a stroke of a computer key to avoid or lessen the worst effects of any potential recession which of course he is denying is a possibility.

Apparently, according to him, ‘the fundamentals of the British economy are strong – wages are growing [and] employment is at a record high”. Did anyone tell that to the funeral director offering budget funerals in this the final episode of the BBC programme Broke who is working a variety of jobs over 120 hours a week to keep his and his family’s heads above the water? Or those other people featured in the programme series who struggle every day working long hours on low wages, on zero hours or in the gig economy to keep their household budgets balanced and out of debt or indeed live on the beach for want of proper accommodation? There is a huge dissonance between the spoutings of government ministers and the realities on the ground for ordinary people.

Now let’s get back to that extra money Boris Johnson was talking about. Boris made his announcement in an article in the Sunday Times saying, ‘It is thanks to this country’s strong economic performance that we are now able to announce £1.8m more for the NHS to buy vital new kit and confirm new upgrades for 20 hospitals across the country’. So here we are again back to the idea that a healthy economy with higher tax revenues allows a government to spend (not withstanding that the economy is currently spiralling downwards along with other economies across the world). The suggestion is that the Conservative government has been fiscally prudent and that its economic policies which have resulted in higher tax revenues allow it to spend more. Again, a typical household budget response to government spending which is a cynical deception to cover its ideological intent.

However, not long after this announcement it became clear that this £1.8bn cash injection for the NHS capital budget which covers buildings and equipment isn’t extra money at all. It isn’t even new money, and nor will it be sufficient to make up the loss of NHS funding after 9 years of cuts to public spending. Krishnan Guru-Murthy from Channel 4 in an excruciating interview with the health minister Chris Skidmore suggested that it was money hospitals had saved by cutting services that they were now able to spend on capital projects. Trying to get Skidmore to admit the truth he said:

“I’m trying to work out where this money has come from. Hospitals up and down the country have been saving money for years but have not been allowed to spend it. And the understanding from experts like the Nuffield Trust is that this is an accounting exercise which now releases that money to be spent. Money that they saved by cutting on services that they’re now able to spend on capital projects.”

It turns out that Trusts couldn’t spend the cash they had saved until of course Boris Johnson claimed in a fanfare of trumpets that he was giving the NHS more money. This is nothing but yet another act of sleight of hand meant to put the government in a good light in the event that it will have to fight an election.

And let’s not forget either that small issue of Boris Johnson’s big red bus and his promise of £350m a week for the NHS if we voted to leave the EU?  People may have thought it sounded a great deal of money when multiplied up but it wouldn’t even cover the real costs of the cuts the government has already made over the last nine years and is a few specks in the ocean compared to the annual government expenditure on the NHS which in 2017/18 was around £122bn, of which £108bn was spent on day to day running costs.  The well-being of the nation and the economy, which depends on a well-funded publicly paid for and managed NHS, has been at stake for the past nine years, while the government has pretended there was no money for our health service and pushed through reforms designed to irrevocably change it and finish the work of successive governments. The NHS has lost its ‘N’; services and treatments are being cut left, right and centre, hospitals closed or downgraded and ‘care in the community’ has become the next big byword for change to cut costs as private healthcare companies no longer taking over through the backdoor are brazenly and openly charging now through the front door.

In another analysis this week, on Johnson’s funding pledges for education it would also appear that things are not quite as they seem. The Prime Minister committed to ‘invest in our schools and close the opportunity gap in our country’. However, new research published by the Education Policy Institute this week has not only found that the pledge would cost double what the government has promised, but also that it would disproportionately benefit the least disadvantaged schools thus reinforcing the educational inequalities that prevent many children from getting the best start in life.

Furthermore, the proposed extra money fails to take account of the real-life circumstances of children who won’t only lose out from an unfair distribution of education funding. Combined with the cuts to public spending on services, reforms to the welfare system, poor wages, insecure employment, homelessness and poor housing not to mention children in temporary and unsuitable accommodation or coming hungry to school, the effects can equally compromise a child’s future life chances and ultimately that of the nation itself. Government cannot continue to ignore the social determinants of a healthy society which cuts to public spending have undermined.

GIMMS might have missed it, but the one spending commitment that seems to have been left off the list is the environment. If anyone can tell us differently then we would be pleased to stand corrected.

The most pressing issue that we humans face is global climate change and in the last few weeks our planet has been displaying extremes of heat, storms and flooding and wildfires in the Arctic. Professor Michael Mann at Penn State University, one of the world’s leading climate scientists confirmed in an interview last year that the impacts of global warming on our planet ‘are now ‘no longer subtle…[and] we are seeing them play out in real time’.

Scientists who were meeting in Geneva earlier this week are soon to publish a stark warning about the damage also being done to the land surface of our planet as a result of the human activities which have led to soil degradation and erosion, expanding deserts and the destruction of forests and biodiversity.  Land which has been an asset in combatting climate change has now been turned into a major source of carbon as the battle for land increases to grow biofuels, plant material for plastics and fibre, timber for paper and furniture and food for growing populations.

As citizens of planet earth, we should all be concerned about the lack of real action by governments across the world. Whilst we all can make our personal contribution to changing our own behaviours, the reality is that it is only government with its sovereign spending and legislative powers that can drive the level of change we actually need to save ourselves.  We have a choice, as Professor Mann explains, we can keep on walking out into the minefield or we can reverse course and get off as quick as we can.

When politicians and think tanks ask where the money will come from to invest in addressing climate change, it is the wrong question. We should instead be asking what the consequences will be of inaction, as increased consumption and growing world populations put ever increasing pressures on nature’s resources which are being depleted far faster than the planet’s ecosystems can renew them. This is the only overspending that we should be concerned about.

Arguments about the size of deficits and debt should be put aside for the more important arguments about how we address these challenges. We must identify what resources we have and how we can use them effectively, not only to preserve planetary life but also deal with the increasing poverty and inequality that has arisen as a result of both a flawed economic system and a warming planet, which are already increasing the pressures on land and water use.

An understanding of how money works combined with an appreciation of what a Job Guarantee is and a discussion about the Green New Deal are an important start to the public conversation about where we go from here. Certainty is an impossibility. Life doesn’t deal in chocolate boxes, but we have to start somewhere and as Professor Michael Mann said we have a choice we can keep on navigating the mine field or we can reverse course.

In a recent article, Larry Elliott and Richard Partington posed the question “Boris says he’ll spend but who will pay? Will they break with austerity even if that means higher public borrowing they ask? The article notes that the Institute of Fiscal Studies has indicated that Johnson’s tax promises are expensive commitments which could cost £9bn a year. The authors quote the OBR which said that it would push government borrowing and debt up from the levels in their forecasts adding that there was no war chest or pot of money set aside that would make them a free lunch. They refer to Gordon Brown’s ‘golden rule’ only to borrow for investment (now where have we heard that before?) and George Osborne’s pledge to eliminate the deficit within five years and quote the UK’s ‘total debt pile’ and the fact that the deficit is still a ‘problem’. They even refer to John McDonnell, who has suggested that Labour would ‘raise spending with greater responsibility, as the party would increase taxes on high earners and businesses.

This is the false language of household budgets and quite simply does not apply to a sovereign currency issuing country. A government that is monetarily sovereign neither needs to tax or to borrow in order to spend. And yet our politicians, many journalists and institutions hang on to outdated concepts, regardless of the realities of modern money. The discussion hangs on deficits and debt, balanced budgets and surpluses when these are no more than red herrings which take no account of the economic context, the economic record of the government or the consequences of government policies on the lives of citizens.

If the government is us then it is beholden on us to use our power to change how things work. Let’s not pay the price for not doing so. There is an alternative world out there if we choose to stand against the tide. The first small step is understanding that a government is defined by the spending choices it makes and that there is no scarcity of money, only lack of political will.

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