poverty

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The Covid-19 pandemic shows the need for change. For a real ‘Reset’.

Button with label "Push to reset the world"Photo by Jose Antonio Gallego Vázquez on Unsplash

‘We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.’

Ursula K Le Guin

The year 2020 will be not be remembered with any great affection. So much suffering, loss of human life and economic uncertainty has left the nation in turmoil. Whilst in normal times we would be welcoming the new year with resolutions and hope for better days to come, the prospects for the future remain very uncertain.

Whilst the government’s handling of this pandemic crisis has been chaotic and indecisive with disastrous consequences, it has also revealed the dire state of our public and social infrastructure for which decades of ideologically driven government policies have been responsible. That, combined with the vast wealth and other inequalities that exist in both rich and poor countries across the planet and the climate tsunami following up frighteningly behind, should leave a bad taste in our collective mouth. It should start to make us question the very foundations of the economic model now turning to sand before our very eyes.

Covid-19 has exposed in the most distressing way the damaging consequences of the pursuit of balanced budget narratives which have allowed governments to justify public sector rationalisation or austerity on the grounds of unaffordability, and overseen a huge increase in poverty and inequality. Successive governments have abdicated their responsibility for the lives of citizens; their responsibility to create a fairer distribution of wealth and real resources and ensure that the public infrastructure meets their needs. Instead, they have plumped in favour of that elusive but all-seeing ‘god of the market’ which, in real terms, has meant ceding control to global corporations who direct the policy orchestra and pouring public money into the pockets of those same corporations with little transparency or accountability.

Whilst the government has found the power of the public purse to manage this crisis, there have been winners and losers throughout which reflect its ideological persuasion. It has only been with public pressure that it has been forced into political U-turns to help some of the poorest people in our communities, whilst leaving still others in distress and without adequate support. The road to Damascus moment still eludes a government which has chosen a path that so far has only led to economic hardship and inequity for many and yet great wealth for a few others.

It has also done so with the usual threats of a financial price to pay in the future to keep the household budget narratives of state spending alive and well. It would not do for the public to be disabused of the notion that taxes fund spending, that government has to borrow to cover its deficit and that public debt is real and will require difficult decisions at some unspecified time in the future. Such narratives are vital to government and will, without challenge, allow them to be able to finish off the job of destroying publicly paid for and managed public and social infrastructure and thus ensure the continuing dominance of global corporate power. We do indeed face a continuing hollowing out of democracy in favour of a growing alliance between the state and big business and the big political revolving door.

Whilst GIMMS and other educational organisations across the world have made huge strides in raising awareness of how money really works, the task ahead remains a daunting one. The weekly news is testament to the ongoing consequences of government policies and the spun narratives of how government spends but also encouragingly shows the power the public has to effect change, and not just through the ballot box. The on-going saga of free school meals continues to rumble on and elicit government U-turns. The latest, and most shameful, were the pictures on social media of the meagre ‘rations’ from a private company contracted and paid huge sums to provide substandard food packs which it turned out largely reflected government guidelines and did not meet the standards for the nutritious, balanced diet all children need to grow and thrive. It is to be regretted that the government, in the same week, went on to tell headteachers in England not to supply vouchers and food parcels to disadvantaged children during the February half-term, signalling it was already doing enough which is clearly not the case. There are no excuses for hungry children, or hungry adults for that matter.

The fiasco was yet another example of public money being poured into private profit and at the same time failing to address the reasons for children going hungry in the first place. Poverty and hunger are not new phenomena. Covid-19 has, without doubt, put a spotlight on the prevailing economic system and the economic decisions of successive governments which have not only been responsible for increasing poverty and inequality through employment, welfare and taxation policies but also shifted blame and created widening societal divisions which allow the real authors of economic distress to go scot-free.

It is therefore shameful that the Chancellor Rishi Sunak whilst facing opposition from campaigners is still considering cutting the meagre £20 per week universal credit uplift which has helped people struggling to get by during the pandemic. The consequences of the crisis will be with us for many months to come, possibly years, and therefore the government with its power of the public purse has no excuses when it comes to ensuring that its citizens can pay their bills and put food on the table while the disruption continues. Instead, its policy responses have proved not strategic but piecemeal and ill-thought-out with plenty of U-turns along the way.

Whilst we need the power of the public purse to mitigate the economic consequences of the current crisis, we also need a government with a long-term strategy for addressing the poverty and inequality that has arisen over decades and which has allowed top managers to reap excessive monetary rewards whilst depriving working people and their families, whose standards of living have declined substantially through low incomes and insecure employment.

Boris Johnson suggested earlier this week that he was still in favour of reducing Universal Credit saying:

‘what we want to see is jobs, we want people in employment, and we want to see the economy bouncing back. And I think most people in this country want to see a focus on jobs and growth in wages than on welfare’.

A change of heart? Given that the Tory government has presided over exactly the opposite over the last 10 years through austerity and economic policies which have increased economic instability whilst at the same time serving the corporate estate, instead, it is likely to be yet another in a long line of so far undelivered promises to level up. However, the sentiment is correct and is what should be driving government policy. We need a recognition of the power of the public purse to pursue full employment through a Job Guarantee and the vested power of government to legislate fair employment terms and conditions with the aim of shifting the balance of power back to working people instead of where it currently lies in corporate hands with government approval. We need a government prepared to address the key issues of our time using its currency-issuing powers, not just for the coming months but for always. Whilst Rishi Sunak calls upon the nation to spend the savings resulting from lockdown to get the economy going again (aside from the fact that he is turning a blind eye to the many millions of people as reported by the Resolution Think Thank this week who have lost out or got into further debt as a result of the pandemic adding to their already insecure lives) the looming crisis of climate change has been put on the back burner and time is running out. The god of growth must be worshipped anew to get the economy back into shape.

Aside from the fact that people are unlikely to spend their savings like drunken sailors in the near future, given the on-going uncertainty about the economy and jobs, exhorting the gods of growth and indiscriminate private consumption as a solution to economic slow-down would not only be folly but denies the clear power of government to spend to effect real and sustainable change.

We need a sea change in how we live our lives to address the already happening climate catastrophe and indeed, it will only be through large scale government action in spending policies and legislation that will enable this to happen. There is a pressing need for a national investment strategy that includes a massive and long-term investment in education and training in order to secure our future productive capacity. We much focus on high-skilled, low-carbon and well-paid jobs both for the private sector and in a much-expanded public sector to ensure high-quality basic services are provided to everyone, including our disabled and elderly citizens. Our nation must become more productive if we are to reduce our working week and support our retirees and support to those nations without the necessary real resources to support their communities.

The overarching need is to protect our environment for future generations which should also include acting to redress the vast wealth inequalities that exist. We need to restore our sense of the value of publicly paid for and provided public sector work to national well-being, implement a Job Guarantee to provide stability through an effective countercyclical response to the inevitable economic ups and downs all economies face, and a living income for anyone who is unable to work for health reasons or caring or other essential duties including higher education. Of course, these will not be magic bullets to bring about a perfect world, but provide a basis for a conversation that we need to have.

These are important decisions, not just concerning the big macroeconomic questions about creating an efficient functioning economy, but also relating to the sort of society we want to see. For left-wing progressives, this would suggest creating a fairer and more equitable society where people have sufficient wages to live comfortably with adequate nutrition and good living conditions as well as good public services such as health and education. Assuming that the future will bring forth a political party that has the express intention of addressing these issues, change is in our collective hands as an electorate and we should not forget the power we hold.

It is regrettable that currently there is no such party dedicated to the change we need and that all roads are still leading to an ever-distorted capitalism wherever you place the X on the ballot paper.

Whilst the very real human consequences of government decisions and its policies continue to play out in our communities and our families the government, opposition politicians, economists and journalists continue to pound out the messages of monetary scarcity; either talking about the need for ‘hard choices’ to deal with the deterioration of the public finances or delaying the ‘repayment pain’ until economic conditions will allow.

Whether it’s Rishi Sunak the Chancellor or his shadow opposition sidekick Labour’s Annaliese Dodds, they both adhere to a household budget narrative of the public accounts, in other words, the diktat of sound finance as if a government suffered from the same constraints as business. The operative question in either case being, at what point do you enact such fiscal tightening, not whether you actually need to. How the state really spends cannot have escaped their notice, and yet they stick to the orthodoxy like glue.

Whilst that is undeniably to be expected with the Conservatives, whose agenda is more about creating an alliance with big business under cover of stories about monetary scarcity and ‘hard choices’, Annaliese Dodds in this week’s Mais lecture indicated clearly her party’s on-going adherence to the false notion that government constraints are monetary. Whilst, to be fair, she gave a cutting analysis of the effects of government policies on people’s lives both before and after the arrival of Covid-19, she stuck to the orthodox economic mantras. Namely keeping the City sweet by maintaining the joke of supposed Central Bank independence and having a ‘responsible approach to government debt.

She summarised her approach to fiscal policy as requiring ‘a set of rules around both annual and the stock of debt, that simultaneously demonstrates a prudent approach to the public finances and leaves space for investment in the future and the ability to adapt to crises’. A sound approach to the public finances she said must ‘also include consideration of the quality and effectiveness of public spending.’ Whilst such evaluation should always be a part of government spending strategies (and clearly, we have seen in recent months and years the exact opposite) the concept of sound finance continues to be the guiding doctrine of politicians on both sides of the political spectrum. They might have different spending objectives, but both are couched within the clear limitations of household budget thinking.

As society implodes as a result of rising poverty, inequality and ill health which has arisen as a result of government policies and placed increasing pressures on public services such as our NHS which this last year has bravely served the nation in a deliberately created environment of insufficient staff, facilities and other resources, there is only one direction in which we can place the blame. Governments whose decisions have favoured market solutions through privatisation and legislative policies which favour them – with shocking consequences.

In similarity to nature’s web of life, which is defined by its interdependence, our economy does not exist as disparate parts. The economy represents the lives of working people and the businesses that employ them, and its health is reliant on the public and social infrastructure provided by the government to support it. Remove one vital link and you risk that eventually the whole will collapse.

This is the frightening consequence we already face, not just in the real but finite resources upon which our societies are built and owe their existence, but also our dependency on the goodwill and care we express for others. As reliance on charitable institutions to feed hungry people or deal with rising homelessness increases, or rich philanthropists replace public institutions with the equivalent of poor law boards dictating the pace and deciding who will be a beneficiary, our society will continue to break down on the basis of a ‘convenient lie’ that the state has no money of its own and there is no alternative course of action.

Instead of examining the public accounts and deducting from the financial position the health of a country, a future government should be turning that idea on its head to see the reality of the challenges we face. The reality of the real constraints which are not money but real resources and how they can be managed fairly in the interests of all citizens. The fast-approaching reality of climate change and its consequences threaten to engulf us if world governments fail to work together to create better, fairer and more sustainable solutions.

We need a ‘Reset’. Not the ‘Great Reset’ being promoted by the World Economic Forum which, whilst sounding just the thing to address rising inequality and climate disaster, will maintain the same power structures with the same corporations dictating the rules in the interests of accumulating more profit and wealth whilst still clinging to the sham economic model which seeks to keep power in the hands of the few.

We need quite a different ‘Reset’ as suggested by Associate Professor Fadhel Kaboub in a GIMMS ‘in conversation’ event last week. One where public purpose, not profit or greed, directs government spending and legislative actions for a sustainable and fairer future and without which the light at the end of the tunnel will recede, not get closer.

There is an alternative and history is still to be written on the choices we make. We once believed that the Earth was flat, that it was at the centre of the universe and the sun and planets revolved around it. Those notions were disproved by the observations of scientists like Copernicus and Galileo. We need now to disprove the notions that money is scarce – not because knowing it makes a difference in itself, but because knowing it will enable us to decide what history will eventually record about the decisions that were taken as a result.

We can be on the right side of history if we choose to be.

 

Upcoming Event

Phil Armstrong in Conversation with Pavlina Tcherneva – Online

January 24th 2021 @ 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm GMT

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

Phil Armstrong, author of ‘Can Heterodox Economics Make a Difference’ published in November 2020, will be talking to Pavlina Tcherneva.

Pavlina is program director and associate professor of economics at Bard College and a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute. She conducts research in the fields of modern monetary theory and public policy and has collaborated with policymakers from around the world on developing and evaluating various job-creation programmes. Her work on the Job Guarantee spans over 20 years.

Author of the recently published book ‘The Case for a Job Guarantee’, she challenges us to imagine a world where the phantom of unemployment is banished and anyone who seeks decent living-wage work can find it – guaranteed. It will be of particular relevance as we begin to grapple with the economic fall-out of the Covid-19 pandemic but for anyone passionate about social justice and building a fairer economy it should be essential reading.

We invite you to join us for this informal event which we are sure will be both stimulating and insightful.

Tickets via Eventbrite

 

Past Event

Phil Armstrong in Conversation with Fadhel Kaboub – Online

Author and MMT Scholar Phil Armstrong talks to professor of economics and president of the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity Fadhel Kaboub about how MMT insights apply to the global south, colonial reparations, the MMT Job Guarantee contrasted with Universal Basic Income, and much more.

Audio via the MMT Podcast here

Video will be available soon.

 

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The post The Covid-19 pandemic shows the need for change. For a real ‘Reset’. appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

The Surprising Effect of a One-Time Gift

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/01/2021 - 3:07am in

A number of recent initiatives have shown that a one-time gift of money to poor or homeless folks often allows them to permanently and meaningfully improve their lives. The studies that show the positive results of these projects disprove a myth that has often been used to argue against free cash: that people will simply squander it rather than spend it responsibly and effectively. 

In Vancouver, the Foundations for Social Change conducted a pilot initiative called the New Leaf Project in which homeless people were given CAD $7,500 (USD $5,800) as a one-time gift. Recipients were screened and not all were accepted — people with severe addiction or mental health issues were not eligible, for example. All recipients were asked to think about how they could best use the money to move their life forward. Some proposed fixing up their cars so they could get to and from a job. Others bought computers, and some planned to start their own businesses. 

Some of these folks received ongoing coaching and, for comparison, others did not. About half of them participated in a workshop and the study results showed that they used the cash to improve their situations dramatically. They moved into stable housing, became food secure, and after a year many still had around $1,000 of the money tucked away in savings. They dispelled the myth that the money would be misspent — they actually reduced their spending on alcohol, cigarettes and drugs by an average of 39 percent.

The New Leaf Project’s cash recipients spent more money on rent, food, bills, transit and other essentials than non-cash recipients. Credit: Foundations for Social Change

Receiving a lump sum seems to provide a kind of jump start to people’s lives that the usual incremental assistance doesn’t. A lump sum is transformational and it instills in recipients a sense of empowerment, of choice and of dignity. This approach also cuts through much bureaucracy, as the recipients have to manage the funds themselves.

Vancouver’s New Leaf Project was a test to see if a one-time gift could make a difference. The results seem to show that in most cases it works, though only if the recipients are in a position to benefit from it and if there is infrastructure they can plug into: public transportation, affordable housing, fair credit ratings and alternatives to fast and junk food.

Around the world

The Foundations for Social Change was not the first to give this approach a try. A century ago, many U.S. states had something called Mothers’ Pensions, which were cash transfers for mothers who were single or whose husbands couldn’t work.

A recent study of the effects of the program found that: 

Male children of accepted applicants lived one year longer than those of rejected mothers. Male children of accepted mothers received one-third more years of schooling, were less likely to be underweight, and had higher income in adulthood than children of rejected mothers. 

In 2010, a British charity called Broadway gave 13 homeless folks in London $1,277 each. All of them had been living on the streets for at least four years when the project started. A follow-up study found that 11 of the 13 ultimately moved into housing. That’s not a big sample size, but it is additional evidence of success.

In 2014, Christopher Blattman wrote a New York Times op-ed describing how he worked with the Ugandan government to give out $8,000 to poor folks to put toward a business proposal. When Blattman followed up four years later he found that most of the recipients invested in learning trades like carpentry, and their earnings were 40 percent higher than the control group. 

However, when Blattman checked in again after nine years it seemed the control group had mostly caught up. The cash recipients did accumulate more assets and they and their children were healthier, but after nine years they were not earning more. It seems the gift accelerated the progress of those who were motivated rather than being solely responsible for it.

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A similar initiative in Mexico, the Prospera cash transfer program, had positive effects mainly on the children of recipients — better health, more education and eventually better jobs.

Blattman also worked on a cash giveaway program in a poor part of Liberia. Here the recipients were given just $200. They spent it wisely — mostly on food, clothes and adding minutes to their phones — but it was not enough to put them over the threshold to true self sufficiency. It takes a substantial amount for one to get both feet on the ladder out of poverty.

Issues and questions

So, does this imply that all we need to do is hand out free cash and let the recipients figure out everything for themselves? I suspect not exactly. Folks are smarter than they are given credit for, and that needs to be acknowledged. But the rungs on the ladder have to be in place for a person to gain a foothold. 

The programs described above were paired with other kinds of support: workshops, job training programs, subsidized housing, affordable public transportation to and from jobs, decent low-cost or free medical care, and in some cases, child care for single parents who became working parents. Without that infrastructure folks can’t really put the money to use. In Uganda, for instance, carpentry mentors were available to help recipients learn the skills they needed. An ecology and infrastructure are key —  cash alone won’t do it.

If that ecology is present, and if folks are given a substantial enough amount of money — enough to really allow them to create and sustain a change in their lives — then it appears they do come up with a plan, a roadmap to raise themselves and their families up. They know how to manage their money and time given the opportunity. 

With renewed dignity and confidence folks who were counted out often realize their hopes and ambitions.

The post The Surprising Effect of a One-Time Gift appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Britain Takes a Step Towards Real Fascism with Patel’s Concentration Camp for Migrants

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 03/01/2021 - 10:10pm in

Nearly a week ago, on 27th December 2020, Mike put up a piece reporting that smirking, treacherous and bullying Home Secretary Priti Patel was planning to open what has been described as a ‘concentration camp’ for migrants by New Year’s Day at Barton Stacey, Hampshire. The camp will have no drainage, sewage or mains water. Even the local Tory MP, Caroline Nokes, was appalled at these conditions. He quotes her as saying

“It will be like a prison camp and conditions will be appalling. There are no plans to provide healthcare services on site, which will add to the strain on local GPs. I am shocked anyone could think this is a good idea.”

See: Patel plans concentration camp for 300 refugees with no mains water | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Mike followed this up with a description of the terrible conditions at the Pennally migrant camp in Wales. The food there is an inadequate and poorly cooked, the only showers that worked are shared and toilet facilities are also inadequate. Social distancing is difficult. Face masks are only available on request, the wearing of which is only enforced in the dining area. Hand sanitisers and soap dispensers are either empty or not working.

See: If you think conditions in Priti Patel’s planned concentration camp are bad, you should see them in the ones she already has | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

It’s good that Mike has put this up, because there have been a series of videos by right-wingers on YouTube about the camp and about migrants generally. The channel ‘We Got A Problem’ views Black and Asian migrants as a real threat to the British public. It concentrates on crimes committed by migrants and asylum seekers, as well as Pakistani grooming gangs with a specific focus on the dangers of rape, child abuse and violence from what the gravel voiced man behind the vlog describes as ‘imported Labour voters’. He also abuses them as ‘scumbuckets’ and other terms too vile to be used in a family blog. He, Belfield and Farage have seized on the fact that many of these migrants have now had to be accommodated in four star hotels to present the image that violent, sexually dangerous migrants are living in luxury at the expense of the British taxpayer. When one of the inmates of these hotels went berserk a while ago and attacked five people, it was presented as a result of this person’s greed – he was upset at the food and lack of internet connections – rather than any wider problems with conditions at the hotel.

I don’t doubt that if Patel does start building concentration camps for migrants, it will be popular with a certain section of the British public. People like ‘We Got A Problem’, Farage and Belfield. Belfield put up a video a few days ago praising the government for passing legislation preventing illegal immigrants, or as Belfield calls them, ‘dinghy day-trippers’, from receiving benefits for five years.

This should set off warning bells for everyone else. Not only is it unjust as it is, but whatever the government do to migrants, they ultimately do to the British public. Food banks were first set up to support asylum seekers after Tony Blair passed legislation preventing them from claiming state benefits. Then the Tories pushed their wretched and abhorrent welfare reforms, which have stopped a large section of the poor and needy from receiving state support, so that now very many people are forced to rely on them. Real poverty and starvation is growing, but Tory MPs like Jacob Rees-Mogg think it’s wonderful food banks are there for them. I’m impressed with the generosity of the British public, the people who volunteer at these banks too. But the point is, there should be no need for them. The disabled and unemployed should be given support by the state at a level when they can afford to buy food, pay the rent and clothe themselves and their children. And it should begin immediately. They shouldn’t have to wait over a month. But Belfield thinks the British public are a bunch of scroungers anyway. He’s put up a number of videos baldly stating it. The Tories would like to dismantle the welfare state. It’s what Thatcher and her coterie discussed in the 1980s, though they were prevented from actually going through with it. But I’ve no doubt that if the Tories get away with banning migrants from receiving benefits for five years, they’ll try to extend the time ordinary Brits will be unable to claim benefits.

And if they can build concentration camps for migrants too, how long will it be before they build the same for ordinary Brits as well. They’ll be used first to house criminals as a quick solution to the problem of prison overcrowding. And then we might see the unemployed being sent there, both as a form of support and to teach them the value of hard work. Like the Nazis did with the ‘asocial’. And then perhaps it would be expanded to include people, whose political views are a threat to the establishment. Like all these ‘cultural Marxists’ the Tories and their supporters claim are running the country.

Patel’s concentration camps are a dangerous symptom of a real Fascist tendency in the Tory party. A tendency that will start with migrants but could end up with the British version of Dachau.

Scared Alex Belfield Mockingly Rants about Diane Abbott Leading the Labour Party

Yesterday right-wing YouTuber and internet radio host Alex Belfield put up a video expressing his surprise and horror over a discussion on Twitter about the Labour party. The peeps there were saying that Keir Starmer had finally had enough of leading the party and was about to stand down. Ready to take over from him was Diane Abbott. The rest of the video was just Belfield doing a very unfunny impression of the veteran Black MP making some kind of acceptance speech for the leadership. Abbott is one of the most vilified MPs in parliament. She receives half of all the misogynistic letters received by female parliamentarians. Belfield appears to be one of the people, who has a singular dislike of her. He’s been presenting her as thick as ever since she made a stupid maths mistake talking to one of the presenters of Talk Radio about Labour party policy and how it would be funded a year or so ago. He’s also played up the fact that Abbott has been extremely critical of the police, who I think she feels are racist, but had to call them for help when she was threatened by her privately educated, drug addict son.

I can’t say that Abbott is my favourite MP, and while I can see her being many things, stupid is not one of them. Plenty of Tories have been caught out being unable to do basic Maths as well, but Belfield and the Tories are obviously determined to push the idea of Abbott being massively thick in the hope that it will colour public perception of her. This says to me that they’re afraid, desperately afraid of her. Belfield put up a video a month ago ranting against Abbott’s nomination as MP of the year. I think he may have been one of the right-wingers, who was outraged at a similar vote by a sizable number of the British public in favour of Jeremy Corbyn for the same award a year or so ago.

Last week the Groan published an article from one of the leaders of Operation Black Vote arguing that the Tories were trying to set the working class against Blacks. This is absolutely correct. Belfield constantly harps on about how White working class boys are the most disadvantaged group in the UK. He has a personal chip on his should about this, as he is also constantly talking about how he is a working class lad without a degree from a pit community, in contrast to the ‘woke’ leftie snowflakes at the BBC, who are over-promoting Black performers and drag queens. I’ve no doubt that Belfield is right that about the disadvantaged condition of working class White boys. But he is definitely using it as a weapon for party political purposes by placing them in opposition of Blacks. Part of the reason White British youths are disadvantaged is due not to affirmative action programmes for Blacks and other minorities, although these have played their part, but to Tory policies that have devastated working class White communities. This included the closure of the mines which supported villages like Belfield’s. The Tories have absolutely no interest in helping the working class, whether White, Black, Asian or whatever. They’re only interested in using their underprivileged condition to generate hatred against the Labour party and programmes designed to improve the situation of Blacks in the UK.

As for Starmer giving it all up and deciding to pack it as leader of the Labour party, oh! If only! He’s been a disaster as leader. He has no policies, no real opposition to the Tories and, I would argue, no morals. He’s a typical Blairite. His only real opposition is not to neoliberalism and the Conservatives – he seems to be following Blair’s example of adopting Tory policies while trying to present Labour as better able to carry them out – but to the real socialists in his own party. He and Rayner have been doing everything they can to carry on the witch hunt against true Labour centrists – the peeps who want a return to proper Labour policies and values – by smearing and expelling them as anti-Semites. He has done everything he seemingly can to protect the plotters and intriguers, who conspired to sabotage Labour’s chances at last year’s elections and in 2017. These individuals were also guilty of real racism towards BAME MPs and activists. But no action has been taken against them, to the disgust of the party’s Black members and supporters. His leadership is also becoming a personal autocracy, as he and the new head of the NEC impose rules silencing local parties from voicing their criticisms of his leadership. Local leaders and officials have been suspended for breaking these rules.

I and many, many other Labour members and supporters would be delighted if Starmer went. And while I have problems with Abbott – I think she does go too far in her accusations of racism – I would certainly rather have her as leader of the Labour party.

And that, I think, is what’s behind Belfield’s constant mocking and pillorying of the MP. He’s afraid. Afraid that others like me would also prefer to have her as leader of the Labour party. White peeps from working class families. The same people he and the Tories are trying to turn against Blacks.

As far as I know, Starmer isn’t planning to retire from the leadership anytime soon. But I’d be highly delighted if he did. He has done nothing for the working class. And the Tories aren’t going to do anything for them either, except make them poorer and even more desperate. Only the Labour left is going to do this, and that includes Diane Abbott. I don’t think she’d be popular with the general public, as Tory propaganda has probably gone too far.

But I think intellectually she’s more than a match for right-wing loudmouths, and has and will do more for working class peeps than he and the Tories ever will.

Talk Radio’s Kevin O’Sullivan and Rod Liddle Get Upset about British Universities’ Dictionary of British Slave Traders

And now for a much more serious subject. The day before yesterday, 30th December 2020, Talk Radio posted this video on YouTube of one of their presenters, Kevin O’Sullivan, talking about the compilation of a Dictionary of British Slave Traders by a group of British universities with that fixture of the right-wing press, Rod Liddle. The project is led by a professor Pettigree, and involves the universities of Lancaster, Manchester and University College London. O’Sullivan quotes Prof. William Pettigree, who said that after Black Lives Matter it was important that there should be further, accurate information on the breadth of Britain’s involvement in the slave trade. As you can imagine, neither O’Sullivan nor Liddle are fans of the project. Some of their arguments are good, but others are just them using the issue to ride the usual Conservative hobby horses of attacking state education.

Non-White Slave Trade Ignored

The Dictionary will have 6,500 entries, including small investors, women, and people, whose involvement in the Abominable Trade has not been mentioned before. O’Sullivan claims that this is a device for finding out whether a perfectly respectable living person had an ancestor 350 years ago, who invested £5 in a plantation, and then make their blameless descendant into a pariah and get them sacked. He states that we need the Dictionary ‘like a hole in the head’, denounces the obsession with the slave trade as a ‘national sickness’. Liddle, who is introduced as writing for the Sun, the Spectator and the Sun on Sunday, agrees, calling it ‘self-flagellating imbecilic obsessiveness’. He states that the Dictionary isn’t about anyone, but specifically the White English. It doesn’t mention the Ottoman Empire, the people, who profited from the slave trade in the West African countries, specifically Ghana. He states that he was in a cab a couple of months ago, whose driver was Ethiopian. The driver told him how much he hated Britain. When Liddle asked why, he was told that it was because Britain was the country that invented slavery and enslaved whole nations. He’d never heard of the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire or the slavery that continued in his own country for hundreds of years after Britain had stopped it. He’d never heard of the fact that Britain was the first country to abolish it. Liddle also makes the point that Ethiopia, where it continued, had never been colonised. Liddle goes on to claim that universities are implanting in people’s minds the notion that it was only the British, who were slavers and had this wickedness. This is, he said, reflected in ‘that very stupid woman, who is head of the British Library’, Liz Joly, who said that ‘White people invented racism’. Liddle goes on about how we also invented television, the printing press, democracy, but we invented slavery, sin and mosquitoes. It’s utter rubbish and time we got over it.

The Coronavirus Lockdown Prevented Criticism of BLM at Football Matches

O’Sullivan dismisses Pettigree’s comments about the need for the Dictionary as nonsense, and describes the obsession with the slave trade as a kind of ‘national insanity’. He asks why the country is obsessing about the actions of slave traders who lived three centuries ago. Liddle says we’re not obsessing. It’s a tiny, tiny minority, who are obsessing. And they’ve been partly able to get away with it because of the Coronavirus. This has allowed footballers to take the knee in support of an organisation that wishes to abolish the family and capitalism. This wouldn’t have happened if there had been fans in the ground, because as soon as fans were allowed, they booed. This occurred not just at Liddle’s club, Millwall, but also at Colchester and Dallas in the US. They’ve got away with this because this year has meant the lone voice of the common sense public has not been heard. O’Sullivan agrees with him, stating that the people have been eclipsed by the lockdown and the authorities in politics and football have been allowed to proceed without comment from the public and fans. Liddle states that it’s a salutary lesson that when these restriction are placed on our lives, there is nothing they won’t try to get away with. He then goes to tilt at the Beeb, stating that they used the Coronavirus as an excuse to ban the words to ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and ‘Rule, Britannia’.

Liddle Attacks his Daughter’s State School for views on British Empire

O’Sullivan agrees with him that the obsession with slavery and the ‘Woke’ thing is that of a tiny, tiny minority, who are vocal and noisy. He hopes that in this coming year, 2021, the Dictionary never gets published, and that the people’s voice gets heard and we are able to push back against these noisy people. Liddle then describes how, when his daughter went to state school last year, she was taught in her history lessons, which went uncontested, that the reason Africa was in poverty was because of colonialism. He states that this is easy to disprove, as Ethiopia, which was never colonised, is exactly the same as Eritrea. Both countries are equally impoverished and despotic. Liberia, which was never colonised, is as badly off as Sierra Leone next door. Singapore, on the other hand, was colonised for 200 years, and is the most affluent country in the world. There is, Liddle claims, a reluctance to face the truth because of this liberal mindset. This is based on a fallacy, which falls apart if you pick at it.

O’Sullivan then asks Liddle if they teach Critical Race Theory at his daughter’s school. This ‘controversial and very dubious philosophy’ is being taught in schools all over the country, which states that if you’re White, you’re racist, even if you don’t think you are. He states that it’s fine if adults want to learn this nonsense, but really dangerous to teach it to children in schools. Liddle again agrees with him, says he’s sure his daughter was, and that they got her out of it not just because they were teaching ‘that rubbish’, but because most of the time they weren’t teaching at all. There were no lesson during the Covid outbreak, not even online, O’Sullivan jokes that it was probably better that she was getting no lessons at all then. Liddle replies that she got lessons from him on how the British Empire brought decency and democracy to the world as a corrective for five minutes.

Rod Liddle criticises ‘self-flagellating’ Dictionary of British Slave Traders – YouTube

There are several issues to unpack here. Firstly, if the Dictionary was only an academic exercise in researching the depth of British public involvement in the slave trade, then I don’t think there should be any objection to its compilation and publication. There’s already been considerable research on the subject. A little while ago one historian of the subject said that they were actually astonished by how widespread participation in the slave trade and slavery was, with ordinary members of the public investing their money in it. In fact you could easily produce a list of British slaveowners simply by going through the government’s Blue Book published c. 1840 for the compensation given to the slaveowners after abolition. From the 1820s onwards the British government passed legislation designed to halt the illegal importation of slaves in their colonies by passing legislation demanding that all slaves be registered. This could also be used. The compensation returns and slave registries might have some surprises for those, who believe that only White people owned slaves. Several of the slaveowners in the Caribbean included the Maroons, the free Black communities outside British law. I also believe, though I’m not sure, that the free people of colour, the free Black population, may also have owned slaves.

Real Danger of Innocent People Demonised for Ancestors’ Involvement

O’Sullivan’s claim that the book would be used to denounce and pillory perfectly decent people for what their ancestors did hundreds of years ago is hysterical, but unfortunately also a real possibility. I had to make a similar decision myself when I was working in the Empire and Commonwealth Museum. It seemed that there was a strong possibility that some of the people described as slavers may have been the remote ancestors of people I knew personally. I had to think very carefully about telling them, and was eventually advised against it by one of their close friends. They told me that I shouldn’t tell this person about their possible connection to the slave trade, because they were very anti-racist themselves and the information would only upset them. I’ve no doubt that this is true of very many people. I also think that behind some of outrage from O’Sullivan and Liddle, but which goes unspoken, is the fear that it will be used by activists to demand reparations for slavery. I’m not sure how much this will affect ordinary people, though. In the 18th and 19th centuries most people in this country were the ‘labouring poor’, who comprised 90 per cent of the population. These had problems enough paying for food, clothing and accommodation. They wouldn’t have had the disposable income to invest in anything, never mind slaves or plantations, even if they were so inclined. Really we’re only talking about the middle classes and aristocracy as investors and slaveowners. Reparations for slavery are a different issue, but this has its dangers too. Over time, many of the wealthy or comfortably off people, who owned slaves, will have lost their money. All it would take to cause real controversy and angry backlash is if poorly paid people struggling to make ends meet get a demand for reparations from richer Black people. If that happens, you can expect the story to be all over the Heil, Depress and the rest of the press like a rash.

Need to Teach Extra-European, Islamic and Asian Slavery and Slave Trade

I also agree with O’Sullivan and Liddle that more should be taught about extra-European slavery. This includes that of the Arabs and Muslims in north Africa, the Ottoman Empire and the Islamic slave trade from east Africa across the Indian Ocean. Liddle is also quite right about the Ethiopians practising the slave trade. Way back in the 19th century we sent a punitive expedition into Abyssinia to stop them raiding British territory for slaves. One of the books we had in the library at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum was Major Darnley’s Slaves and Ivory. This was published in the early part of the 20th century and described Darnley’s own personal undercover investigation of slavery within the Abyssinian empire. Darnley published the book to make the public aware that the Abyssinians were still raiding British Uganda for slaves, and that the Ethiopian princes were destroying whole regions of their own empire through such raids. He wished to generate sufficient outrage that public opinion would swing behind a British invasion of the country. Dame Kathleen Simon, a determined foe of slavery, actually praised Mussolini and the Italian Fascists in her book on it for their invasion of Abyssinia, which she felt would at least extinguish slavery there. I do think there is a real need to teach this aspect of the slave trade to counter the notion that it was only Britain that was only, or primarily responsible for it. Britain wasn’t the first country to outlaw it – that was Denmark – but we were the leading country to do so and insist that other nations follow.

The East African Slave Trade in the 19th Century, from James Walvin, Atlas of Slavery (Harlow: Pearson Education 2006) 129.

Concentration on Western Slave Trade Product of Black Rights’ Movement

Research into the historic slave trade has been linked with the campaign for Black liberation since the time of W.E.B. Dubois. Hence the fixation on it by contemporary anti-racist activists. Driving this is the continued impoverishment and disadvantaged condition of the Black community as a whole. But real, Black chattel slavery has re-emerged in Libya and in sub-Saharan African countries like Uganda. There is little interest in combating slavery there. When right-wing critics urged western anti-racist activists to do so, the response has been that it should be ignored as a distraction from continued demands for racial equality here in the West. Kate Maltby, a White contributor to the I, made that argument in its pages a few months ago. She has a point, but it’s still no reason to ignore real slavery as it exists now in order to concentrate on angry denunciations for past crimes. There are books published on non-European slavery. Jeremy Black includes it alongside western slavery in one of his books. James Walvin includes maps of the African and Indian slave trade and routes alongside transatlantic slavery in his Atlas of Slavery. There are books on African slavery, and there is a particular study of the Islamic slave trade, Islam’s Black Slaves: A History of the Other Black Diaspora, by Ronald Segal. I think, however, that there may be some objection to teaching about these slave trades from some anti-racist activists, who may feel that it would somehow be racist or even islamophobic to do so.

Liddle Promoting Privatisation of State Education with Comments

But as you can hear from the video, O’Sullivan and Liddle were also determined to use the issue of slavery to attack other right-wing bugbears. Like the Coronavirus lockdown. This is there to save lives, but it’s too much for the right, who favour the economy at the expense of people’s lives. Hence the rant about footballers taking the knee for Black Lives Matter. Liddle also uses it, surprise, surprise! – to attack state education. We’ve been this way before. I remember the rants of the right-wing press under Thatcher, when the Scum, Heil, Depress and the rest ran stories about children in state schools being indoctrinated with left-wing propaganda, like Peace Studies, while anti-racist fanatics in Brent forced them to sing suitably altered nursery rhymes like ‘Ba Ba Green Sheep’. That was a lie put out by the Scum, supposedly, but I’ve met people, who swore they sang it at school. Thatcher used those fears to push through her creation of academy schools, telling the British public that it would put them in control of their children’s education. And this would be taken out of the hands of evil, left-wing Local Education Authorities. In fact, Thatcher’s academy school programme was a complete flop. It was being wound up by Norman Fowler before Blair took the idea out of the Tory dustbin, dusted it off and then made it official Labour policy. And unfortunately the wretched schemes been going ever since. In fact academy schools are not better than state schools and are far more expensive. They should be wound up and education renationalised. But this would upset the parasites running the academies. I don’t think it’s an accident that Liddle came out to rant against state education when he writes for the Scum, as Dirty Rupe would like to move into education as well.

Neo-Colonialism and African Poverty

As for the terrible condition of modern Africa and the legacy of British colonialism, it’s quite true that much of the continent’s problems don’t come from it, but from the rapacious venality and ruthless tyranny of their post-independence rulers. But we took over these countries partly to exploit their resources, and their poverty is partly caused by the Neo-colonial economic system that prevents them from industrialising and confines them to exporting raw materials to the Developed World. I can remember being taught all this in ‘A’ Level Geography nearly forty years ago from teachers, who were definitely not Marxists trying to indoctrinate us. As for the success of Singapore, this can be used to support the socialism Liddle and O’Sullivan fear and despise. Singapore’s leaders were influenced by the Fabians and their belief that the state should take a leading role in the economy. Singapore ain’t a socialist country, but its success does refute Thatcherite free market economics.

While O’Sullivan and Liddle thus are quite reasonable in their criticisms of the proposed Dictionary, they are using it as a tool to promote a wider, right-wing agenda. One that will cause further poverty and endanger lives, but will benefit their paymasters in the press barons and big business.

the recession’s likely long-term impact on homelessness

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/12/2020 - 2:59am in

I’ve just written a report for Employment and Social Development Canada on the current recession’s likely long-term impact on homelessness in Canada. An overview of the report can be found here.

the recession’s likely long-term impact on homelessness

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/12/2020 - 2:59am in

I’ve just written a report for Employment and Social Development Canada on the current recession’s likely long-term impact on homelessness in Canada. An overview of the report can be found here.

Bolivia: New Gov’t Sets to Work Undoing Damage Left by US-Backed Añez Regime

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/12/2020 - 6:45am in

Only weeks after their landslide victory, the leftist Movement to Socialism (MAS) party is already enacting widespread changes to Bolivia in an attempt to undo the damage of one year of military rule. Last November, a U.S.-backed coup removed democratically-elected president Evo Morales from power, placing the far-right authoritarian politician Jeanine Añez in power.

Internally, the new government, headed by Luis Arce, is facing many pressing concerns, as the country tries to come to grips with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed over 9,000 Bolivians, making it one of the worst affected countries in the world per capita.

Arce, Morales’ economy minister until the coup, has made the eradication of poverty and extreme poverty his top priority. Under Morales stewardship (2006-2019), Bolivia saw its poverty rate reduced by 42% and extreme poverty cut by 60%. The government has already begun issuing what it calls “hunger bonuses” — cash sums to all adults who do not receive a salary. This is a desperately needed financial transfer, as many sectors, including tourism, have virtually collapsed thanks to the pandemic. As part of a wider economic program, Arce announced changes in public spending he hopes will “optimize expenses and reactivate public investment to generate jobs.”

Part of Arce’s work entails undoing the damage done by the Añez administration over the past year. The government is restarting public transportation projects canceled under Añez’s brief rule, such as a tramway project for the city of Cochabamba, and reopening its Ministry of Cultures, which Añez closed, labeling it an “absurd expense.” The Ministry of Cultures promoted indigenous Bolivian identity and will now be led by an indigenous Quechua Campesina (farm worker). Television and radio networks that were shut down under the previous administration have also been allowed to broadcast again. Late last month, Latin American news network TeleSUR began operating in Bolivia after one year of silence.|

Internationally, the changes have been perhaps more pronounced. Bolivia has rejoined a number of progressive Latin American alliances and organizations, including the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) — a left-wing trade and political bloc aimed at promoting Latin American unity. Former President Morales also traveled to Venezuela, observing the recent elections and embracing government officials there, also posing underneath a portrait of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara.

 

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A post shared by Evo Morales Ayma (@evomoralesayma)

While Añez’s interior minister Arturo Murillo invited Israeli security forces to the country to help quell dissent and crush any resistance to their rule, the country’s new Minister for the Presidency, Maria Nela Prada, pointedly wears a Palestinian Keffiyeh (headscarf) on official business. Under Morales, Bolivia had become a champion of Palestinian rights on the world stage, even declaring Israel a “terrorist state” in 2014. Bolivia’s position was part of a continent-wide shift in relations; in 2005, not one country in South America officially recognized Palestine, but by 2018, all had changed their positions.

Añez was handpicked by the military after they intervened in the country’s 2019 presidential elections, claiming fraud and demanding Morales resign. Morales fled to Mexico, then Argentina, and faced spending the rest of his life in prison if he returned to his homeland.

Añez and Murillo pushed forward a radical privatization program, cracking down on opposition to their rule. Calling herself an “interim president,” she promised to immediately hold elections. However, she postponed them three times. Fearing permanent military rule, Bolivians organized a nationwide general strike that paralyzed the country and forced her to concede to elections in October. While Morales was banned from standing, Arce and the MAS won in a landslide, nearly doubling the vote total of their nearest challengers. Morales returned to a hero’s welcome last month, accompanied by MintPress’ Ollie Vargas.

Añez, meanwhile, was attempting to go the other way, but was prevented from fleeing the country on a plane to Brazil. She complained that she was being “persecuted” for “thinking differently.” Others felt that she was being held to account for her crimes, which included overseeing two massacres of indigenous MAS supporters. Murillo, on the other hand, managed to fly to Panama and is now currently in the United States. Given the U.S.’ strong support for the coup, it is unlikely that he will be forced to return.

Perhaps a bigger problem for the U.S. than the fall of their client government, however, is the democratic election of a Marxist politician as head of state. In 1973, the U.S. organized the overthrow of the democratically-elected Marxist Salvador Allende in Chile. With such widespread support for Arce and his policies, doing the same again in Bolivia might prove far harder this time.

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera for MintPress News

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Bolivia: New Gov’t Sets to Work Undoing Damage Left by US-Backed Añez Regime appeared first on MintPress News.

Homelessness planning during covid

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 08/12/2020 - 7:23am in

The Calgary Homeless Foundation has just released a 12-city scan of homelessness planning during COVID. It’s a national study (which I authored).

My ‘top 10’ overview of the study can be found here.

Homelessness planning during covid

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 08/12/2020 - 7:23am in

The Calgary Homeless Foundation has just released a 12-city scan of homelessness planning during COVID. It’s a national study (which I authored).

My ‘top 10’ overview of the study can be found here.

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