privatisation

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Private Eye on Johnson’s Appointment of Neocon as Anti-Extremism Chief

A few weeks ago the Labour left staged an event on Zoom in which a series of Labour MPs and activists, including the head of the Stop the War Coalition, explained why socialists needed to be anti-war. They stated that after going quiet following the debacles of the Iraq invasion, Libya and elsewhere, the Neocons were being rehabilitated. There was therefore a real danger that the ideology behind those wars was returning, and Britain and America would embark on further imperialist, colonialist wars. And now, according to this fortnight’s Private Eye, for 16th – 29th April, 2021, Boris Johnson has appointed Robin Simcox, a Neocon, as head of the government’s Commission on Countering Extremism. Simcox is a member of the extreme right-wing Henry Jackson Society, firmly backing the wars in the Middle East. He also supported the rendition of terrorists to countries, where they would be tortured, as well as drone strikes and detention without trial. And when he was in another right-wing American think tank, the Heritage Foundation, he objected to White supremacist organisations also being included in the American government’s efforts to counter violent extremism.

The Eye’s article about his appointment, ‘Brave Neo World’, on page 14, runs

Robin Simcox, appointed as the new head of the government’s Commission on Countering Extremism (CCE), has neoconservative view that will themselves seem pretty extreme to many observers. He replaces Sara Khan, the first head of the CCE, which Theresa May set up in 2017 as “a statutory body to help fight hatred and extremism”.

Simcox was researcher at the neoconservative think tank the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), before leaving for the US to become “Margaret Thatcher fellow” at the conservative Heritage Foundation. He was also a regular contributor to Tory website ConservativeHome, writing there in 2011 that David Cameron was wrong to criticise neoconservatives “what has been happening in the Middle East is proving the neocons right” (ie that invasions could build democracies.

In a 2013 study for the HJS, Simcox argued: “Rendition, drones, detention without trial, preventative arrests and deportations are the realities of the ongoing struggle against today’s form of terrorism; they are not going to disappear, because they have proved extremely effective.” Rendition meant the US and UK handing terror suspects over to nations such as Libya or Egypt so they could be tortured for information. He complained that politicians “failed to adequately explain to the public” why these methods were needed and were “failing to explain that the complexities of dealing with modern-day terrorism meant that not all roads lead to a court of law”.

Simcox spent many years looking at Islamist terrorism, but at the Heritage Foundation he argued that making “white supremacy” the subject of a “countering violent extremism policy” was mostly driven by “political correctness” and could be “overreach”, regardless of the terrorist acts by white racists in the UK, US and elsewhere.

Simcox has been appointed interim lead commissioner of the CCE, possibly because bring him in as a temp means his recruitment wasn’t subject to the same competition and inspection as a permanent appointment.

Johnson has therefore appointed as head of the commission an extreme right-winger, who supports unprovoked attacks on countries like Iraq and Libya. The argument that these invasions were intended to liberate these nations from their dictators was a lie. It was purely for western geopolitical purposes, and particularly to remove obstacles to western political hegemony and dominance of the oil industry in the region. In the case of Iraq, what followed was the wholesale looting of the country. Its oil industry was acquired by American-Saudi oil interests, American and western multinationals stole its privatised state industries. The country’s economy was wrecked by the lowering of protectionist trade tariffs and unemployment shot up to 60 per cent. The country was riven with sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia, American mercenaries ran drugs and prostitution rings and shot ordinary Iraqis for kicks. The relatively secular, welfare states in Iraq and Libya, which gave their citizens free education and healthcare vanished. As did a relatively liberal social environment, in which women were to be regarded as equals and were free to pursue careers outside the home. And western intervention in the Middle East created an environment leading to the further, massive growth in Islamist extremism in al-Qaeda and then Daesh. And this has led to the return of slavery. This was Islamist sex-slavery under Daesh in the parts of Iraq under their jackboot, while Black Africans are being enslaved and sold by Islamists in slave markets that have reappeared in Libya.

Domestically, Simcox’s appointment is also ominous. He clearly doesn’t believe in human rights and the protection of the law. Just as he doesn’t believe in tackling White supremacist extremism, even though at one point there were more outrages committed by White racists than Islamists.

His appointment is part of continuing trend towards real Fascism, identified by Mike over at Vox Political, of which the Tories proposed curtailment of the freedom to demonstrate and protest in public is a major part. At the same time, it also appears to bear out the Labour left’s statement that the warmongers responsible for atrocities like Iraq and Libya are coming back. And I fear very much that they will start more wars.

The people warning against this and organising to defend real freedom of speech is the Labour left, whatever the Tories might say about ill-thought out legislation designed to outlaw ‘hate speech’. We need to support left politicos like Richard Burgon, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Diana Abbott and Apsana Begum. The last three ladies, along with former head of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, held another Zoom event as part of the Arise festival of left Labour ideas, Our right to resist – the Tory attacks on our civil liberties & human rights, in March. We need to support the Stop the War Coalition, because I’m afraid the Tories and the Blairite right in the Labour party will start more wars.

Blair lied, people died. And Johnson lies as easily and as often as other people breathe. If not stopped, the Neocons will start more wars and more innocents will be massacred for the profit of big business.

Tory Flag-Waving Now Reaching Reaganite Proportions

Patriotism, someone once said, is the last refuge of the scoundrel. And the Tories have done their best to show how true this is, especially last week when it seemed that they wasted no opportunity to wave the flag. This also led them to generate more synthetic outrage towards the BBC. Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty raised Tory ire when Stayt joked about the relatively small size of the union flag on display during an interview with Matt Hancock or one of the other Tory ministers. This led to howls from the Tory press that the Beeb was sneering at the flag. They weren’t. They were laughing about the Tory’s sheer opportunistic use of it.

It’s no accident that they’ve started waving the flag in the weeks running up to the local elections. Their performance on health, the economy, Brexit and just about everything else has been dire. They’re still trying to privatise the health service by stealth, they insulted the nurses with a 2 per cent pay rise, which is in real terms a cut in their salaries, wages are still frozen, more people are being forced into real, grinding poverty, the queues at the food banks are as long as ever, or longer. The Brexit that Boris has been so desperate to ‘get done’ is spelling disaster for Britain’s manufacturing industry, and businesses dealing with the continent and ordinary Brits wishing to travel abroad are now faced with mountains of paperwork and bureaucracy. Bureaucracy which the Brexiteers blithely assured us wouldn’t happen. Hopefully this year will see us coming out of lockdown and the Coronavirus crisis. We’ve a far higher rate of peeps receiving the vaccine than the EU, but that shouldn’t distract attention from the colossal way the Tories have mismanaged the Covid crisis as a whole. As Mike’s pointed out in one of his articles, Tory bungling and corruption – they gave vital medical contracts to companies owned and run by their friends and supporters, rather than to firms that could actually deliver – that over 100,000 people have died of the disease. One of the good peeps on Twitter has shown how this compares to the numbers killed in some of the genocides and ethnic massacres that have plagued recent decades. And the report, which was supposed to show that Britain isn’t institutionally racist, has been torn to shreds with some of the academics cited claiming they were not properly consulted and seeking to distance themselves from it. And then there are the mass demonstrations up and down the land against their attempts to outlaw any demonstration or protest they don’t like under the guise that it would be a nuisance.

And so, with all this discontent, they’ve fallen back to Thatcher’s tactics of waving the flag at every opportunity. One of the hacks at the Absurder in the 1980s said that Britain had three parties – the patriotic party, who were the Tories, the loony party, which was Labour, and the sensible party, which was the SDP/Liberals. Which showed you the paper’s liberal bias even then. The SDP, Liberals and their successors, the Lib Dems. have sold out utterly, while after four decades of Thatcherism Michael Foot’s Labour party looks far less than loony. But the hack was right about the Tories and patriotism. Thatcher waved the flag as frantically as she could and constantly invoked the spirit of Winston Churchill and World War II. One particularly memorable example of this was the Tory 1987 election broadcast, which featured Spitfires zipping about the sky while an overexcited voice told the world ‘Man was born free’ and concluded ‘It’s great to be great again’.

Here’s another feature of Fascism that’s been adopted by the Tories to add to those on Mike’s checklist. Fascism is an ideology of national rebirth and revival. Thatcher was claiming she was making us great again, just as Donald Trump claimed he was doing for America. Just as Oswald Mosley called one of his wretched books The Greater Britain. And unfortunately, as Zelo Street has also pointed out, Fascists like the Nazis have also used people’s natural loyalty to their flag as a means of generating support for their repulsive regimes. British Fascism was no different. Mosley also made great use of the flag at his rallies, and this tactic was taken over by his successors in the National Front and BNP. This has been an embarrassment to ordinary, non-racist Brits, who simply like the flag. One of my friends at school was a mod. At the time, the union flag and British bulldog formed a large part of mod imagery without meaning that the person was a racist or White supremacist. During one of the art lessons my friend started painting a picture with those two elements – the union flag and bulldog. The teacher came over and politely asked him not to do so, as he was afraid people would like at it and come to the wrong conclusion. This was just after the 1981/2 race riots, so you can understand why. But it is frustrating and infuriating that ordinary expressions of reasonable patriotism or simple pop culture iconography have become suspect due to their appropriation by the Far Right.

But the real excesses of flag-waving were to be seen over the other side of the Pond in Reagan’s America. Reagan was wrecking his country with privatisation and an assault on what the country had in the way of a welfare state, while murdering the people of countries like El Salvador and Nicaragua by supporting Fascist dictators and their death squads. But, like Thatcher, he did everything he could to use the symbols of American nationhood. Like the Stars and Stripes. A Republican party political broadcast in 1984 or thereabouts showed the American flag being raised no less than 37 times. This was so bizarrely excessive that one of the Beeb’s foreign correspondents commented on it. As far as I am aware, no-one took him to task for sneering at it.

This flag-waving is part of the Tories attempts to present themselves as the preservers of British national identity, tradition and pride against the assaults of the left, particularly Black Lives Matter and their attacks on statues. I’m not impressed with the attacks on some of the monuments, like that of Winston Churchill, even though he was a racist. But in Bristol the only statue attacked was that of the slavery and philanthropist Edward Colston. None of the other statues in and around Bristol’s town centre of Edmund Burke, Queen Victoria, Neptune and the sailors who made my city a great port, were touched. And then there was the protest last week against the new school uniform policy at Pimlico Academy in London. This ruled out the wearing of large afro hair styles. So the students started protesting it was racist. The headmaster also raised the union flag, which led the statement from one of the students, Amna Mukhtar, that it weirdly felt like they were being colonised. And then some idiot burnt the flag in protest. The headmaster has now rescinded the school’s uniform code and taken the flag down. Now I gather that one of the Tories is now calling for every school to fly the union flag.

It all reminds me of the comments the late, great comedian Bill Hicks made when Reagan and his supporters were flying the flag and their outrage when a young member of the Communist party burned it. After making jokes about the Reaganite rage and hysteria, Hicks said that he didn’t want anyone to burn the flag, but burning wouldn’t take away freedom, because it’s freedom. Including the freedom to burn the flag.

Quite. And the Tories are wrecking our country and taking away our freedoms while cynically waving the flag.

So when they start spouting about it, use your scepticism and think of Hick’s comment instead. And vote for someone else.

Have we had enough of market-led dogma yet?

“OK…SO WHERE DOES THE FUNDING COME FROM?”

It depends on what we are talking about. If we are talking about universal health care, a Job Guarantee, infrastructure work, etc., the funding comes from the national government.

If, on the other hand, we are talking about national government spending itself, – as in, “how does the government ‘fund’ its spending?”, the answer is the national government does not “fund” its spending because it is an impossible condition.

The national government alone is the source of funding in terms of its own currency for the private sector and the foreign sector combined. That is what being the monopoly currency issuer is all about: Providing the funds.

The currency-issuing national government is not an intermediary that collects “money” from private entities in the form of taxation or borrowing to fill its empty coffers, and then redistributes those “funds”.

Treasury has no coffers to fill. Rather, treasury fills the coffers of everyone else.

Ellis Winningham

Placard with the slogan "When is enough enough, when does hte greed stop?", Wisconsin State Capitol protest 2014Photo by Joe Brusky/Flickr Creative Commons License 2.0

Have we had enough yet? This week Boris Johnson, in a Zoom meeting of the 1922 Committee, warmly saluted the vaccine rollout with these words: ‘The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed my friends’. Whilst he has tried to backpedal from these ill-advised remarks, the words reflect a widely held view by politicians, institutions and the excessively rich that the market is the only mechanism for delivering well-being, and that the State should take a step back and let the market do its job, greed and all. We have paid a heavy price for that sort of thinking, in terms of environmental destruction, poverty, inequality, human degradation and exploitation.

The cumulative effect of five decades and more of market-led dogma and a toxic ideology that has been embraced by successive governments, of either political stripe, has given monetary succour to the corporations at the expense of public purpose, which has over the past year been revealed for exactly what it is. Greed for power, greed for profit. Not a very wholesome or edifying advert for capitalism, and one which is increasingly in the public eye, as media attention focuses on who has benefited from government policies and spending decisions, and those who have lost out.

The appalling management of the Covid-19 crisis, which has led to the deaths of well in excess of 126,000 people so far, combined with those who have suffered or died as a result of cuts to government spending on vital public infrastructure and the pernicious reforms of the social security system, have revealed in all their hideous outcomes what happens when government spending is reduced to household budgeting narratives. The phoney notion that delivering public purpose is either monetarily unaffordable and/or dependent on the economic climate.

The remark reveals something rather distasteful about a Prime Minister who not long back was standing on the steps of Number 10 encouraging us to clap for key workers. Those who have been responsible for caring for the sick, elderly, and vulnerable as well as keeping the economy functioning during the crisis whether in the public or private sector.

A letter written by the authors of The Spirit Level (Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson) which was published in the Guardian this week took the Prime Minister to task for his comments saying:

“You report (23 March) that Boris Johnson told backbench Conservative MPs that the UK’s successful vaccine rollout was thanks to capitalism and greed. Really? Greedy academics and research scientists? Greedy World Health Organization staff and civil servants? Greedy nurses who give us our jabs? Is that also why contracts given to Tory cronies for test and trace were so startlingly successful? This is not a trivial misunderstanding: it is a fundamental failure to comprehend how modern societies work. Prof Mariana Mazzucato has shown how discovery and innovation flow from the public sector, and there are now studies showing that more equal societies are more innovative, with more patents per head than those where capitalism is rampant.”

Whilst the financial markets have produced nothing of value, focused as they are on speculation and amassing huge monetary wealth, the real wealth makers, not the monetary sort, are those on whom society depends. The past year has highlighted their contributions on every level of society. It has also highlighted the role that government can play, if it chooses, in delivering public purpose aims. Whether that is spending to keep the economy from tanking or vital public service and welfare provision, research and development and education and training; all of which make the difference between a good society and a bad one.

However, we live in a world where ‘money’ wealth trumps the real wealth we enjoy, and which is sustained and underpinned by nature which provides the many services on which we depend. Deregulation (or rather accommodation) by neoliberal governments has created a rampant market-dominated model which is threatening democracy and the future of humanity and planetary health.

This toxic market ideology is at the same time underpinned by incorrect ideas of how governments spend. Ideas which suggest that taxing and borrowing are at the heart of their spending capacity, and which, if not reversed, will continue to constrain government actions on the key issues of our day.

The art of the possible is not financially oriented. The art of the possible is about political choices, but those political choices hitherto have left our society in a state of crisis and will continue to do so unless we challenge the status quo.

Currently, the rules for government spending are laid out clearly. Stuff the pockets of the private sector corporations and those of your friends, whilst telling the public sector that there is no money and keeping private-sector workers on low wages and in insecure employment. The evidence is piling up daily.

This week Test and Trace is hiring a ‘Lessons Learnt Analyst’ with a salary of £45,000. You couldn’t make it up! Management consultants being paid to advise what went wrong with a programme designed by management consultants. As GIMMS’ board advisor Deborah Harrington so rightly asked ‘do you ever get the impression we have all somehow been trapped inside a never-ending episode of ‘You’ve been framed’?

Also, this week ministers have opened the public purse yet again to the private sector; shelling out almost £1 million to a private recruitment firm to find temporary staff for the new, but controversial, National Institute for Health Protection, which is to replace Public Health England, in what has been termed a ‘shifting deckchairs’ exercise. In reality an attempt to transfer the blame elsewhere than at the government’s feet.

Whilst refusing to pay nurses a decent pay rise, giving workers a scarcely generous increase in the minimum wage and at the same time suggesting that more cuts to public services may be in the offing, the claim that the government needs to restore its finances smells of purposeful deceit of the public. As GIMMS pointed out last week, the contradictions are increasingly evident, and it is for the public to challenge those false flags which serve ideology and not necessity.

In March 2019, the IMF warned that the world had ‘run out of firepower to fight the next recession’. It erroneously suggested that the ‘money printing’ programmes known as Quantitative Easing, which had supposedly pumped trillions into economies after the Global Financial Crash in 2008, had left the economies so weak in the decade since that the balance sheets of the central banks had ‘swollen to a level that leaves little room left for manoeuvre’. Its conclusion was that the large piles of debt would reduce the ‘fiscal firepower’, available to counteract recessions’.

The public has been led astray by terms such as money printing, public debt and borrowing, and if your suspicions have been aroused that something is not quite right then it’s time to get with monetary realities. Governments around the world have as necessity dictated created the funds necessary to deal with the fallout of Covid-19 at the stroke of a computer key. It may have been dressed up in the smoke and mirrors of QE and borrowing, but it has shown without doubt that, just as in 2008, the money is there at central level to deal not just with the consequences of the pandemic, but also to address the issues which have arisen from insufficient government spending by political decree. From hunger and homelessness to infrastructure decay and environmental degradation.

But government action so far seems to be one of half-hearted plans dressed up in overblown rhetoric, from promises to level up our communities, invest in infrastructure, education and training and deliver an effective green transition. Lots of hot air but little in the way of concrete proposals, or worse, failure to deliver on already proposed programmes.

If the UK government’s flagship home insulation scheme is anything to go by, then one should ask whether that public funding has been properly administered or is even delivering its green objectives. Indeed, in hot news over the weekend the government has decided to scrap the green homes grant which was administered by a US company. Promising a kickstart for a green recovery along with green jobs, it descended unsurprisingly into a dogs’ dinner that was, according to the Environmental Audit Committee of MPs, ‘rushed in conception and poorly administrated’, indeed ‘nothing short of disastrous. As a reader’s letter published this week in the Guardian suggested:

‘This government’s approach to the climate crisis […] is the same as it is to all other iniquities its ideology exacerbates such as poverty, inequality and homelessness. They announce a relatively small injection of cash and a couple of initiatives, careful not to disturb the underlying practices causing the problems. If [the government were] serious and really followed the science, they would end all subsidies to, and investment in, fossil fuel industries. They would also implement curbs to reduce energy and resource consumption, direct and indirect, by the UK population. That would be global leadership and would set a course for a just transition.

 

The government’s proposals are nothing more than a smokescreen to suggest we tried, while baking in failure for our generation and horror for those that follow.”

The problems of lack of commitment by the government are also compounded by financial institutions and businesses who, whilst greenwashing their way to profits, don’t walk the talk. This week, it was reported that the world’s biggest banks have provided $3.8tn of financing for fossil fuel companies since the Paris climate deal in 2015, despite the fact that it has been known for some time that a large proportion of oil and gas reserves must remain in the ground in order to meet the Paris targets. This is exactly the opposite of what is required to tackle the climate crisis effectively and requires urgent government action and spending on a vast scale.

Also this week, Andrea Leadsom announced a new package for parents, ‘Start for Life’, which will provide a hub network to give families access to vital support. This is the same MP who praised Labour’s Sure Start initiative and had to be reminded that government cuts had closed more than 1000 Sure Start Centres.

It seems ironic that we have a Minister who in 2012 envisaged ‘there being absolutely no regulation whatsoever… no minimum wage, no maternity or paternity rights, no unfair dismissal rights, no pension rights…’ for employees working in small businesses and who also voted to reduce the household benefit cap, to freeze the rate of many working-age benefits and for many other changes to the benefits system which have seriously impacted on the lives of those same families, now purporting to want to address the failure caused by a political decision to cut spending on benefits and other services. You couldn’t make it up.

According to reports, Leadsom still has to get the Treasury on board with her plans. Despite the fact that such funding is available at a keystroke on a computer should the government choose; it is constrained only by the availability of real resources. The question of paying for it is an irrelevant one.

Instead of worrying about costs, the government, if it really wants to level up, should have the humility to examine the consequences of its previous spending and policy decisions, and the impact they have had on families across the nation. Would it not be better to start at the roots of poverty by addressing its fundamental causes, through wage and employment policies to help families manage their lives with less financial stress and worry, and in turn create more stable home environments?

The positive knock-on effects of more government spending on public purpose which then fan out into the wider economy are indisputable and make for a healthier and more productive society. Furthermore, people with more money in their pockets are better placed to provide for themselves and will spend any extra into the economy. Simple macroeconomics. And yet the government still sees public provision as a monetary cost rather than a societal gain.

A report on ITV this week covered the appalling conditions in which many families are forced to live in council housing (although this is not confined to social housing, the private sector’s reputation is just as blemished). It was truly shocking. The Chief Executive of Shelter, the biggest housing charity, described it as ‘the worst housing conditions they have ever seen’.

If the government is determined to address poverty and inequality, then it has to put its money where its mouth is. Yes, let us invest in public service provision to support families with better and more joined-up services, but it will not help unless the government focuses as well on eliminating one of the causes of family stress. Poverty. People do not choose poverty, and unemployment, governments impose it through the ideological dogma they espouse and the policies they enact.

At the other end of the scale, Kwasi Kwarteng, the Secretary of State for Business, defending his department’s slow progress on funding for the organisation UK Research and Innovation, which has so far failed to provide any sort of certainty for the science community, blamed it on the pressure on budgets. This is not just short-sighted, as the Covid-19 pandemic has shown, society will increasingly depend on science to address key issues like climate change, but is actually nothing short of a lie in monetary terms. Furthermore, this is the role of the State. Planning for the future, not abandoning citizens to the vagaries of a market-led disaster which is sure to follow without government action.

The government is not short of a penny. It is the currency issuer. Therefore, the only constraints it faces to deliver its agenda are real resource ones. Whilst the government continues to embrace false funding models which claim monetary constraints, any plans for a just green transition that will also address poverty and inequality at the same time will fall by the wayside.

The unvarnished truth is that the phrases ‘bolstering the treasury’s coffers,’ ‘closing the tax gap’ and ‘protecting the finances’ – terms which appear regularly in the press – are illusory descriptions of how the state money system works. Vocabulary designed to make us think that the government spends in the same way households, local government and businesses do.

The illusion acts to keep us in our place, so as we do not demand too much in the way of public services or any other useful expenditure which provides social value and serves the economy.

The real questions for citizens regarding the future are about what real resources we have and how we want them to be distributed. Do we want a return to the old normal of unnecessary and wasteful private consumption, environmental destruction and the reinforcement of the vast inequalities that accompany it? Or do we want our governments to act in the public interest by commanding the resources that are available to deliver public purpose? The second option will require a shift in how we think about creating a fairer society.

Why aren’t we looking at a Job Guarantee as a mechanism to help in addressing both inequity and climate change? Why wouldn’t governments choose a macroeconomically sound proposal, which focuses on creating economic stability in times of crisis and smoothing out the inevitable cyclical economic downturns which destroy lives?  Why not give working people useful, socially oriented employment instead of leaving them to rot on the unemployment scrap heap?

For too long, governments have acted in the interests of big business and global corporations, which in turn through the implementation of short-sighted employment and wage policies serving business, not citizens, have then impacted on their economies adversely.

Haven’t we had enough? Time for change!

 

 

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The post Have we had enough of market-led dogma yet? appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

Royal Commission: Funding cuts, lack of staff cause aged care horrors

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 25/03/2021 - 4:42pm in

Tags 

privatisation

Fully three-quarters of the 909 deaths caused by COVID-19 in Australia so far have been among aged care residents, a total of 685 people. The virus tore through aged care homes, particularly in Victoria’s second wave last year.

But the pandemic has only exposed the ongoing dysfunction in Australia’s aged care system that already existed due to government neglect.

The recently released findings of the three-year Royal Commission into Aged Care show that the sector is permeated by a severe level of neglect and suffers from chronic shortages of funding.

“At times in this inquiry,” co-commissioner Lynelle Briggs wrote, “it has felt like the Government’s main consideration was what was the minimum commitment it could get away with, rather than what should be done to sustain the aged care system so that it is enabled to deliver high quality and safe care.”

Although the commissioners failed to estimate how much extra funding was needed, they documented an accumulated $9.8 billion in cuts in annual funding by 2018-19 as a result of the actions of successive governments.

The Royal Commission estimated Australia spends just 1.2 per cent of total GDP on aged care, compared to an average of 2.5 per cent for similar nations.

A major injection of funding is also needed into at-home care, with the report criticising the failure to fund packages for 100,000 people wanting to stay in their own homes and already on the waiting list.

The report recommended a system where the elderly have the right to the standard of care they need, instead of the current approach that rations limited resources.

It also found chronic problems with inadequately trained workers and inadequate numbers of staff in aged care homes.

The proportion of registered nurses in the workforce fell from 21 per cent in 2003 to 14.6 per cent in 2016. More than half of residents are in homes with levels of staff it described as “unacceptable”.

The COVID crisis exposed how reliant aged care homes are on a casualised, underpaid workforce.

Workers are not given the time and resources to properly care for each person.

Residential aged care homes are notorious for abuse and neglect, with a survey showing 39 per cent of residents have experienced some form of abuse, including emotional and physical abuse.

An estimated 30 per cent of people have received substandard care and as many as 68 per cent in residential care homes were malnourished or at risk of malnutrition.

Free market model

These problems are also the product of a largely profit-driven system and high levels of privatisation.

The 1997 Aged Care Act, introduced under John Howard’s Coalition government, produced many of these problems, removing the requirement to have a registered nurse on duty at all times and cutting $1 billion in funding. It also allowed private companies to increase their share of the sector to around 40 per cent of aged care beds.

This means the rich are able to purchase a higher quality of services, with some eastern suburbs aged care homes in Sydney offering spas and allowing residents to order from restaurants each day, given that they fork out $2.2 million to secure a room.

The Royal Commission found that just 1.4 per cent of residents lived in aged care homes with “best practice care” levels of staff.

Its report found that, “staffing ratios should be introduced to ensure that there are sufficient nursing and other care staff present at all times in residential aged care”.

This echoes what the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation has long argued.

As its federal secretary, Annie Butler, put it, “Our politicians must come together and act now on the Royal Commission’s recommendation that providers meet a minimum staff time quality and safety standard which guarantees all health and care needs of older Australians are met.”

But there is no indication that Scott Morrison’s Coalition is about to provide the funding needed. It refused to release the report until minutes before a press conference announcing the government’s response.

Its aim was to prevent media outlets having time to digest the full scandal of neglect and abuse outlined in the Royal Commission’s report, ensuring coverage instead of a government announcement of a paltry $452 million funding boost.

There needs to be an end to private companies creaming off profits from aged care in a sector where 75 per cent of overall funding is provided by government.

Aged care needs to be nationalised, with adequate government funding to provide proper care.

Anything less will see the appalling levels of abuse of the elderly exposed in the Royal Commission simply continue.

By Tooba Anwar

The post Royal Commission: Funding cuts, lack of staff cause aged care horrors appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Money for bombs, but not for people?

MMT is a description of the monetary system. It is not something you can “switch to”, “implement”, or “use”. It merely describes what already is.

The description, once understood, implies what is possible and not possible. MMT then gives us an essential structure to work with to derive economic policy.

So, it is clear that mainstream economists are not critiquing MMT. Rather, they are attacking the progressive possibilities uncovered by what MMT implies. They are virulently angry about the public discovering that the mainstream lied to them; what economists told the people was impossible is factually quite possible, and economists are lashing out with everything they have – mainly straw man arguments – in a fit of terror and panic. In other words, the public found out that the TINA mantra (There Is No Alternative) was and is total bullshit, and that mainstream economists don’t know what the hell they are talking about.

Ellis Winningham (Economist)

 

HMS Vanguard – Image by Think Defence/Flickr Creative Commons License

As we approach the anniversary of the first lockdown, the author Michael Rosen, who spent 48 days in intensive care, has joined his voice with others calling for a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the Covid-19 Pandemic. The consequences for families across the nation and the economy have been painful and far-reaching. However, much of what has happened this year cannot be attributed to the unexpected nature of the crisis or to happenstance.

The responsibility lies, firstly, with an economic system which dominates policy and spending decisions and has left our public and social infrastructure a shadow of itself. Secondly, it lies with the government which has neglected its role in planning and spending for public benefit, preferring instead to serve its corporate friends.

For many years to come, the human and economic cost of the pandemic will be a reminder of a government which put corporations before people, with a decade’s worth of policies that deprived our local communities of sufficient funding, cut spending on vital public services and turned the benefits system into a corrective system which resembles the inhumane Elizabethan poor laws which brought into being the workhouse which punished instead of alleviating the pain and suffering caused by unemployment.

Whilst politicians and mainstream economists still talk about ‘fixing the roof’, in this case meaning the public finances, the real roof that needs to be fixed is the one that has created a public and social infrastructure which no longer serves the public purpose.

According to NHS officials, public sympathy for the NHS may be put in doubt as waiting lists for appointments and treatment grow as a result of a year of delays due to Covid-19 and the already damaging funding gaps which will further affect the NHS’s capacity to deliver services in the future.  Cuts to public sector spending over the last 10 years left the NHS ill-prepared for a pandemic. It left a stretched service short of nurses, facilities, equipment and beds. A situation which was also aggravated by poor government crisis planning.

These were the outward, most visible, and shocking indications that previous government choices, arising out of an adherence to fiscal and ideologically driven dogma, had left the public sector ill-prepared for what was to come.

However, in the same vein, we cannot ignore the causal relationship between government spending and policy decisions which have driven a rise in poverty, inequality and deprivation which have all played a major role in this crisis and its on-going, systemic disaster.

The statistics show clearly that the pandemic has affected some sections of society more than others, in geographical and class terms, and have contributed to life-changing experiences and tragic death outcomes. As Dr Charlotte Summers, a lecturer in intensive care medicine at the University of Cambridge, commented in a Guardian article this week:

‘The problem won’t be answered with a single-minded focus on economic growth but rather an understanding that health and wealth are intertwined and that tackling poor and overcrowded housing, air pollution, unemployment and inadequate education are essential for promoting economic prosperity and public health.’

That drills down into the very heart of the question about economic prosperity, and not just in this country. Who creates prosperity and what conditions are needed to ensure that citizens can make their contributions to the good functioning of the economy and society as a whole through the work they do, whether paid or not?

After the Global Financial Crash, austerity was prescribed as the cure for bloated public finances. We are now living with the consequences of the austerity lie, which has not just affected our public infrastructure but also led to increases in poverty that should shame one of the richest countries in the world.

Over the past year, it has been proved without doubt who the real architects of a healthy economy are; that is the people of this country who have kept it functioning despite the difficulties that Covid-19 posed.  From nurses, doctors and other health workers to social care workers, delivery drivers, those working in the energy and water sectors and local government services, those keeping our parks tidy and our streets clean; they are the real wealth creators since they represent the backbone of our economy and our real social wealth.

And yet, despite the clear evidence that our public infrastructure and the people who work both in it and the wider economy are vital to the good functioning of society, politicians still continue to preach ‘austerity’ through the household budget narratives they use to describe the public accounts.

Only this week, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggested that decisions on public sector pay had to be taken because of the ‘enormous pressure on the public finances’. That pressure is apparently so great that the Treasury and NHS England are in a standoff over the demand for additional funding, which if not conceded will result in yet more service cuts and will lead to the NHS not being able to tackle the backlog of surgery and treatments that have built up during the past year.

After 10 years of swingeing cuts already, combined with getting the NHS ready for the big sell-off to make it an attractive prospect for the private health care companies, once again there is the veiled suggestion in the standoff that after the huge and necessary relief package which has sustained the economy over the past year, in the end, hard decisions will have to be made about the affordability of public services and wage increases.

The same tired narratives have also applied over the cuts to foreign aid which the Chancellor announced last year. This week (as reported in the Guardian) the charity Voluntary Service Overseas is planning to shut down its operations in 14 countries as a result of government cuts to the foreign aid budget. The rationale for the cuts, according to the Chancellor, was a response to the economic costs of the coronavirus crisis. A government spokesperson suggested that it had been ‘forced … to take tough but necessary decisions’.

Suggesting that there is no money for aid because the government has spent too much on dealing with the pandemic is yet more deceit by a reckless government, which at the same time has absolutely no problem finding money as it did this week to lift its cap on the number of Trident nuclear warheads.

The inconsistency of the narrative is bewildering. One minute there is no money and the next like the magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat it is suddenly whipped up in no time.

Plenty of money for death and destruction, but none for dealing with the vast inequities that the dominating economic system creates. At the same time as announcing the lifting of the cap, Boris Johnson made a personal commitment (not that anyone takes his promises or personal commitment seriously) that they would be restoring foreign aid as soon as the ‘fiscal situation allows,’ again speaking as if there were a shortage of funds in the state piggy bank to provide support for overseas development.

If you are not confused, you should be, by these clear contradictions. There is no shortage of government funds. Only real resource constraints define government spending decisions and how they will be managed, along with the political will which determines what government priorities are.

We cannot see this issue purely from a UK perspective – it is so much more in these tumultuous times of global crisis and change. It is vital to take this discussion to the next level; the biggest threat we face is climate change combined with growing global poverty and inequality.

Instead of focusing on addressing those threats cooperatively with a global vision for change (not a capitalist inspired Great Reset), our leaders think the best way forward is to make the UK a world player in death and destruction. And it is not confined to the UK. This week the republican senator Mitch McConnell challenged President Biden to boost defence spending to counter what they see as a threat from China.

While our leaders play at warmongering, what we really need is action. Action to address the human and resource exploitation that is creating huge poverty, inequality, and environmental destruction. Exploitation which afflicts both rich and poor countries but discriminates more unfairly against those who are being affected by the West’s excessive consumption, unfair distribution of real wealth and the impact of damaging resource extraction.

We need a fairer trading system as well as a transfer of technologies and other practical support to assist in this global levelling up.

With global cooperation, there could be a role for such organisations as the VSO to work with poorer nations. Not charitably funded, but rather a global governmental initiative using sovereign currency-issuing capacities to give everyone a fair chance within a sustainable economic system.

Whilst these things may seem impossible, acting on fighting poverty globally shouldn’t be down to charities, who are in fact mitigating for a rotten global economic system which is unjust and exploitative, and also creates power imbalances serving the political interests of corrupted governments.

What we desperately need is targeted action by national governments to reduce global inequity. In light of the challenges, we will all gain by cooperation. The inequality and poverty our leaders have connived in, through embracing neoliberal and monetarist ideology, is a stain on the international community.

However, commitment to tackling climate change even locally is being watered down by our current government. According to a report by Greener UK which is a coalition of campaigning groups, legally binding commitments on key areas such as pollution, nature, restoration, waste and resources have been put off until 2037; and only this week Boris Johnson announced that he wanted to cut air passenger duty on domestic flights to boost travel connections across the UK. Some commitment to addressing climate change!! The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is suggesting a similar policy with half-price flights to boost the domestic economy. We are going in the wrong direction.

In the light of the planned COP26 conference being hosted by the UK in November, it puts doubt not just on the government’s commitment to real change here, but also playing a cooperative role globally. An opportunity perhaps for more hot air and rhetoric from ministers promising the Earth but the reality of less action.

It is even more disturbing to learn that the environmental principle intended to stop branches of government from acting in ways that might harm the environment will not apply to key departments such as defence and the Treasury. Does that imply that tackling climate change is to be relegated to affordability? No doubt after this huge round of relief spending, we might possibly see that suggestion being made.

The household budget earworm is well and truly established in our public conversations, but it is important to challenge those notions. The BBC reported this week that UK government “borrowing” had hit a February record, and suggested that the public finances had been hit hard as a result.

On Thursday the Centre for Public Policy held a Zoom webinar entitled ‘Is there any money left? The Future of Public Finances Post-Covid.’ Echoes perhaps of Liam Byrne’s note left in the Treasury stating that there was ‘no money left’.

Politicians, economists, and journalists can’t get beyond thinking in accounting frameworks about the public finances, and thus constrain debate about the very serious issues we face, because now or later we will, according to them, have to pay for it. Affordability trumps saving the planet, addressing poverty, and restoring our public infrastructure to health every time!

At the other end of the scale, this week an article in the Financial Times, alluding to a supposed failure of the fiat monetary system, suggested that it had reached the end of its usefulness as it had led to higher debt and spending profligacy, and that some alternative monetary anchor should replace it. The Gold Standard and its replacement forged at Bretton Woods failed to cope with the uncertainty caused by global events such as the Great Depression. So why would one want to restore such an anchored system? It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now.

In fact, whilst not mentioned, probably deliberately, it would be much fairer to say that the fiat monetary system hadn’t failed, but rather the ideological ideas that underpin the spending and policy decisions of neoliberal governments had. Poverty, inequality, and privatisation of public services have all contributed to the impoverishment of our global societies. That should be the real cause for concern.

Private debt is the real problem, not public debt as we are led to believe. The nonsense spouted about public debt and borrowing levels is designed to keep the population in check, and thinking that the things they value such as good local and nationally paid for and provided public services, health and social care and education are unaffordable.

The in-depth paper An Accounting Model of the UK Exchequer’, which was co-authored by Neil Wilson, Richard Tye and Andrew Berkley and was presented to the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose this week, reveals the monetary realities of government spending and exposes the smoke and mirrors that confuse people’s understanding and lead them to accept the dominant paradigm.

Even if you previously believed it was firmly attached, the global pandemic of 2020 has caused the mask of ‘fiscal responsibility’ to slip away completely. Politicians that were previously preaching hair shirts of austerity have been able to find billions of pounds, dollars and euros from somewhere to prop up their economies while the inflation that we were told would run rampant if we were ever to undertake such an action has been noticeable by its absence.”

In an article this week, even the BBC seems to be getting on board with this new way of understanding the public finances. As explained by Andrew Verity:

“…Unlike households governments controlling their own currency can borrow without limit money that they have freshly created.  They therefore can’t go bankrupt. Because almost all of the money borrowed by the government in this financial year (by issuing gilts) will be owed to another public sector body, the Bank of England. It’s nothing like a household borrowing from a bank.”

It is important to note two things; firstly, that without the government’s relief package the economy would have been worse off – government had no alternative; and secondly, that the additional spending will not create a debt burden for future generations – the bogey man that is regularly flaunted in front of citizens worried about rising taxes for them and for their children.

If the government had failed to act, the burden would have been one of economic collapse and human misery combined with continuing economic uncertainty and all that would mean for future generations. The choice is simple. Worry about the myth of public debt or forge a new understanding that enables economic and planetary stability.

We are by no means out of the woods, led as we are by a government that has a singular agenda to support its corporate friends and pour public money into private profit. But with increasing public knowledge about how the government spends, and that fantasy but perfectly possible future government dedicated to public service using the monetary tools at its disposal, we can address the challenges and create a society which adds real value to human existence, whilst at the same time ensuring economic and planetary sustainability.

 

 

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The post Money for bombs, but not for people? appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

Tom Mayhew Skewering the Lies about Benefit Claimants with Laughter

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 19/03/2021 - 6:47am in

Okay, I finally stayed up last night to listen to Radio 4’s Tom Mayhew Is Benefits Scum. I blogged about this programme a little while ago when I first read about it in the Radio Times. I said that it looked like it was worth listening to, as it seemed that it would tell the truth about what it’s really like to live on benefits. This is as opposed to the various ‘poverty-porn’ documentaries like Benefits Street, that seek to portray everyone on welfare as a scrounger. Unfortunately, it’s on at 11.00 pm on Wednesday evenings, which is a bit past my usual bedtime. But last night I actually managed to stay up and listen to it.

It’s not long, only a quarter of an hour in length, and mixes staged recreations of meetings with Jobcentre staff and benefits advisors, and stand-up, observational comedy based on Mayhew’s own experience of the benefits system. He also had a guest performer, Francesca Inez, a disabled woman, who gave her own perspective on how unfair and humiliating the system’s treatment of the disabled is.

It started out in the Jobcentre, where Mayhew was being asked by the clerk if he had really been spending 35 hours a week looking for work. Had he gone for that job as a miner as he should have done? Going out, he found his friend Francesca lying on the floor. She had gone through the process of seeing what would be the ideal job for her, and told it was ballet dancer. She had fallen over trying to practise. Mayhew commiserated with her, telling her that the machine had told him his ideal jobs were footballer, boxer and the Queen’s butler.

This sketch led into Inez herself talking about the grotesque injustice of the benefits system. She said people ask her what should be the proper relationship between government agencies and the disabled over benefits. She said it should be a partnership between the government and the claimant’s doctor. Unfortunately, this had been scrapped by New Labour, who had decided that a sizable number of claims for disability benefit were fraudulent, and so had introduced the Work Capability Test. In fact, the proportion of fraudulent claims was 0.05 per cent, so it was in fact easier for Mayhew to get a job as a footballer than to commit benefit fraud. She asked who would seriously want to be unable to go out on their own, to go to the toilet on their or prepare their own food, all for the sake of £100 a week. She was also massively unimpressed by the clerks the Department for Work and Pensions send round to make sure that claimants really are disabled. ‘Oh, I’m just here to see if you’re still wobbly’, she imitated one saying. He reply was ‘Well, I’ll give you a wet shave, and then you tell me.’

Mayhew also attacked the sanctions system. He thought you were only sanctioned if you deliberately tried to mislead or play the system. But no! He found himself sanctioned for eight weeks simply because he’d sent the wrong form in. But he’d been told that it would take eight weeks for his case to be reviewed. How strange, then, that he had his benefits restored after only four after he’d written to him MP. He then gave a shout-out to David Gauke, a Tory, saying how weird it was that a Tory MP should actually help someone on benefit.

He argued that it was wrong to call welfare payments ‘benefits’. Benefits sounds like something extra on top of one’s wages. Instead it should be called ‘Survival Money’, because you needed it to survive. This would make it difficult to have people thrown off it as well. Depriving someone of benefits sounds much better than removing their survival money. And as for sanctions, how does being hungry make someone better at finding work?

He also joked about the massive lack of self-esteem people on benefits have. He told one story of how he’d been accosted by a man while walking back from the Jobcentre. The man had told him that he should carry himself with a bit more confidence, head held high, because if he’d been a mugger, Mayhew would have been an easy target. It was, Mayhew jested, a Virtual mugging in which he’d been robbed of his self-respect. He then told another one about a mugger marching him to a cash machine, telling him he was going to leave him with nothing. ‘How kind of him to clear my overdraft!’

More seriously, Mayhew told a chilling anecdote which showed how easy it is for desperate, starving young men to be reduced to selling their bodies for sex. He’d met someone at a gathering, and they promised to get in touch with each other again via email. A few months later he got one from this man. Mayhew replied to him, saying he was in a bad patch financially, and asked him for £50. He told him he’d be able to pay him back in two month’s time. The man replied that he couldn’t give him any money, but he would pay him £200 to have sex with him. Mayhew joked that he didn’t, as he wouldn’t do anything like that for less than £350. But for a moment he was tempted. Poverty has often forced desperate women into prostitution, but this story showed it could also happen to men.

I had a great, appreciative comment by Mayhew to my original blog piece about his programme. He asked me if I could do something to further publicise his programme, because he’d been going through the papers and hadn’t found any reviews of it. Listening to his programme, it was easy to understand why: he was too sharp, and told the truth.

Right-wing rags like the Heil, the Scum and the Depress sell copies by spreading moral panic about benefit claimants. They actively paint them as scroungers and malingerers, as does right-wing internet radio host Alex Belfield. Although rather more polite, the same attitude also pervades the Torygraph and the Times. These papers very definitely do not want their Thatcherite ideals contradicted by people, who’ve been at the sharp end of the system, showing their readers they’re perfectly decent, honest people and telling them how dysfunctional, humiliating and malign the system really is.

And unfortunately I don’t see the supposedly left-wing press being much better. The Mirror, the Graun and the Absurder have all struck me as being Blairite New Labour, who wholeheartedly embraced Thatcher’s contempt and persecution of the unemployed, the sick and the disabled. The Graun has many times urged people to vote Lib Dem in recent elections, so again, these papers won’t want their readers disabused of some of their received notions.

Added to this is the current campaign by the Tories and their lapdog press to destroy the Beeb. This is partly because the Tories depend for their propaganda on the favour of Rupert Murdoch and his papers, who hates the Beeb as an obstacle to his domination of the global media. They also hate the idea of a state TV broadcaster as part of their opposition to any kind of state intervention, as well as the idea of an impartial, public service broadcaster. Hence the attempt to set up various rivals to the Beeb by the Times.

As a result, the papers have been running stories about how the BBC is too left-wing and too ‘woke’. Belfield put up a video a day or two ago rejoicing over the cancellation of Nish Kumar’s The Mash Report. Director-General Tim Davie had supposedly cancelled it because it was too biased towards the left. Belfield went further, and claimed that the real reason it was axed was because it wasn’t funny and was helmed by a ‘box-ticker’ – his term for a person of colour or other minority, who’s been given a job because of their identity rather than talent. Kumar’s Asian, so Belfield’s comment looks just a tad racist to me. Belfield claimed that cancelling Kumar’s show wouldn’t make any difference, as the Beeb as a whole is too left-wing and needs to be privatised.

It’s obvious from this that the right-wing media, then, aren’t going to give a good review to an explicitly left-wing comedy show. I also think that class is also an issue here. New Labour, it has been pointed out, was liberal but not socialist. Blair had turned his back on the working class, and instead New Labour concentrated on trying to recruit the middle classes. The left-wing elements of New Labour ideology was a concern with combating racism and other forms of prejudice, such as against gays, and promoting feminism and better opportunities for women. I think defending and promoting the disabled is in there, so long as they are properly respectable and not benefit scroungers. Mayhew is working class, and so isn’t of interest according to New Labour ideology.

All of which means that, unfortunately, the press isn’t prepared to give a hearing to something like this. Which is a pity, as it’s very good. Mayhew tells his stories and his jokes in a normal, conversational tone. He doesn’t harangue or shout for effect, as many comedians do. And he’s actually very witty. To simulate a studio audience, the show used canned laughter because it was impossible to have a live audience due to the Coronavirus. Mayhew made a couple of jokes about how the imaginary audience hadn’t paid for their tickets. He then told how, after one gig, he’d been accosted by an unhappy audience member. Why didn’t he get a proper job instead of standing there complaining, asked the man. To which he replied, ‘Have you seen my show?’ He then commented that at least he was a Tory who had paid for his ticket. He also made jokes about other people, being paid to do nothing all day. Like MPs.

It’s a pity the shows on so late on a weekday night, as it’s a funny, necessary antidote to the constant propaganda being pumped out about benefit claimants being scroungers. I don’t know anything about Francesca Inez, but from what I heard she deserves a place with the other disabled comedians, who have appeared on TV. At the very least, she deserves an endorsement from DPAC because of the way her comedy tries to bring their concerns to public attention. The show also demonstrates very clearly why we need a public service broadcaster, as it’s only a broadcaster like the Beeb that would take a chance on a show like it.

I think it’s only a four part series, and concludes next week. If this sounds like the kind of thing that tickles your funny bone and you also agree with its message, then please tune in.

I hope this is the start of a great career for Tom Mayhew, and that the show later gets repeated in an earlier slot when hopefully more people can hear it.

The Axing of the Mash Report Won’t Satisfy the Beeb’s Right-Wing Opponents

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 13/03/2021 - 9:53pm in

Mike has report on his excellent blog this morning that Tim Davey, the Director-General of the Beeb, has cancelled Nish Kumar’s The Mash Report on the grounds that it was biased towards the left. Apart from further demonstrating the corporation’s own right-wing bias, it also shows Davey trying to appease the Beeb’s right-wing critics. They’re constantly attacking the Corporation for what they claim is left-wing bias, and demanding its privatisation or the removal of the license fee and its replacement by subscriptions.

Tory threats to privatise the Beeb are nothing new. Thatcher also made much noise in the 1980s about removing the license fee, and there was a debate over whether it should be funded through advertising like ITV. This stopped because most of the British public were against it. Then the Tories did it again under John Major, attacking the corporation for its supposed left-wing bias because Paxo was regularly giving them a mauling on Newsnight. This was accompanied by more threats not to renew the corporation’s charter and privatise it.

But if Davey thinks that axing the Mash Report will appease the Tories, he’s very, very much mistaken. The Tories hate the Beeb for the same reason they hate the NHS: it’s a state-run organisation, and so out of the hands of the media magnates that fund them. Like Rupert Murdoch, who views it as an obstacle to his own domination of the British media and a rival to Sky. Hence the Murdoch mafia have been running the Corporation down and taking every opportunity to attack and vilify it for the past forty years. The Tories also hate the very idea of public service broadcasting and the idea of media impartiality. Any broadcaster that does not support them absolutely is, according to them, terribly biased and an affront to British free speech. It doesn’t matter what Davey does, they will continue to attack the Beeb no matter how many supposedly left-wing presenters and programme he throws to the wolves.

This was shown very clearly in a video right-wing YouTuber and internet radio host Alex Belfield posted up about the Mash Report’s cancellation yesterday. The man dubbed Bellend by some of my commenters claimed that it was cancelled, not because it was left-wing, but because it was unfunny, had low ratings, and was hosted by ‘a box ticker’. This is the term Belfield uses for a Black or Asian person, who he believes has been given a job simply because of their colour rather than talent. Which sounds just a bit racist to me. The Corporation, he claimed, was still full of ‘woke’ lefties.

I never watched the Mash Report and can’t say I’ve seen enough of Nish Kumar to make any comment on him one way or the other. From what I saw of him he seemed pretty much like many of the other comedians the Beeb has had on over the years, neither better nor worse. But the right hated him because he was a Remainer, and dared to show how ridiculous Brexit is and the lies behind it in his act.

This is all about politics, not talent. The Conservatives and their lapdog media are determined to destroy the Beeb regardless, and it won’t matter how hard Davey tries to satisfy them by making it another Tory mouthpiece. The demands for the sacking of allegedly biased presenters, personalities and shows won’t stop with Kumar and the Mash Report.

They’ll continue until the Beeb is privatised and another right-wing broadcaster owned by Murdoch.

Bristol South Labour Party Passes Motion of Solidarity with Indian Farmers

Bristol South CLP held its monthly meeting last Thursday, and passed a number of motions. Due to the Coronavirus, these are now held over Zoom, like many meetings up and down the country generally. A number of motions were debated and passed during the meeting, one of which was solidarity with the Indian farmers. Explaining the issues was a guest speaker, Dal Singh, from the Sikh community. According to Mr Singh, the central issue is the poverty caused by the BJP’s government’s privatisation of the state purchasing apparatus for agricultural goods. The Indian government had a state organisation that bought up the farmer’s produce, giving them a fair price. But now Modi is handing this process over to private entrepreneurs, who are paying starvation prices for the produce purchased. Singh said that as a result, the farmers are going to be in debt for the rest of their lives. The farmers affected and involved in the protests aren’t all Sikhs, but Sikhs form a majority of those affected. When asked what the attitude of the Sikh community was to it, Mr Singh seemed to indicate that they were more or less resigned to it. He called it a ‘genocide’ several times, and said that Sikhs regarded it as part of the long history of their people’s suffering going back to the horrors of the partition of India and the British occupation of the Punjab. He also described how the police and armed forces were being used by the Modi government to brutalize protesters and muzzle the press, with the arrest and beating of journalists covering the protests. As well as explaining the situation, Mr Singh also gave details of charities to which people could donate to help the affected farmers, though I’m afraid I’ve forgotten what they were.

I had absolutely no problem supporting the motion. Socialists are internationalists, as the Style Council song reminds us, and we have to stand in solidarity with working people around the world. ‘Workingmen of all countries, unite!’ as Marx and Engels said in their little Manifesto. I am very pleased that others agreed, and that the motion was passed.

Someone at the meeting commented that the Indian farmers were yet more victims of Neoliberalism. Absolutely. Around the world, working people are being pushed further and further into poverty as wages are slashed, hours increased, rights at work taken away, industries privatised and deregulated. The book Falling Off the Edge, which is a critical examination of this process, the poverty it’s causing, and the violence and terrorism that it engenders as a backlash, describes very clearly how its affecting the average Indian worker. And this poverty is the creation of Modi’s BJP Hindufascist government.

Hindufascist? Yes, absolutely. The BJP is a nationalist organisation, which actively persecutes non-Hindus like Christians, Sikhs and Muslims. One of Modi’s fellow BJP politicos was the governor of a province, which took absolutely no action when pogroms broke out against the Muslim population back in the 1990s. The BJP also have connections to the RSSS, a Hindu nationalist paramilitary outfit modelled on Mussolini’s Fascists. Not only has the BJP followed the standard Neoliberal policies of privatisation, deregulation and low wages, they’ve also been trying to abolish the affirmative action programmes intended to improve the conditions of the Dalits, the former ‘Untouchables’. Debt slavery was one of the forms of exploitation and servitude that afflicted many Indians, and Mr Singh’s comment that Modi’s privatisation will mean that farmers will not be able to get out of debt certainly makes you wonder if the scumbag is actively trying to bring it back.

It’s not only non-Hindus and the lower castes Modi is persecuting. The BJP, or at least parts of it, have a real, bitter hatred of Gandhi and his influence on Hinduism, because he preached tolerance and the inclusion of the Muslims rather than turning India into a Hindu state. The party also actively persecutes liberal Indian journalists and writers. Tony Greenstein, the long term campaigner against Zionism, racism and Fascism, has also rightly criticised Labour party leader Keir Starmer for supporting Modi. Yes, I know – India is now a global powerhouse. Yes, it’s a vital trade partner with this country. But the country’s prosperity should not come through the exploitation of its working people. Just like ours shouldn’t. But this seems lost on Starmer and the rest of the Blairites.

I am very glad, however, that my local Labour party has made this gesture of support for the Indian farmers, and hope this will give them strength in their struggle with a Fascistic, exploitative government.

The “Market” is no solution for the NHS – or for any public service.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 15/02/2021 - 7:20am in

Graffiti art of a femal NHS medic wearing a mask and gloves making a heart sign with her signsPhoto by Colin D on Unsplash

The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas but escaping from old ones.

John Maynard Keynes

 

This week we begin our MMT Lens with a subject which, while not directly linked to monetary realities, is one that is connected to the toxic economic orthodoxy which has corrupted the public policy of successive governments for decades and is now culminating in the demise of the National Health Service as many of us have known it.

A decade of severe cuts to spending has left the NHS on its knees. This was a result of the bogus claims that in 2010 the Conservatives had no option but to implement cuts to public spending to get the public finances back in order, otherwise the country risked bankruptcy. The era of commitment to the false concept of sound finance began with huge cuts which affected every area of public service delivery and was used to justify the reforms and market-driven frameworks which ensued, leaving the NHS where it is today; ready for takeover by the private sector.

On the 5th of July 1948, the NHS was launched by Aneurin Bevan. It was the jewel in the crown of the government of the day. It brought hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, opticians, and dentists together under one umbrella to provide care, free at the point of delivery. Since that time much has changed. Dentistry and opticians became chargeable in 1952, and in recent decades successive governments, beginning with that of Margaret Thatcher, began to attack the principles enshrined in the creation of the NHS, of a publicly funded, managed, delivered and accountable service.

Over time, those principles have been smudged and the real political aims disguised by numerous rounds of reforms, implemented by successive governments, which created a fragmented NHS. An NHS behind whose logo lie a myriad of private or voluntary sector companies, both managing back-office operations and providing clinical services. Reforms from the introduction of the internal market by Margaret Thatcher, to Tony Blair’s continued changes (breaking an election commitment) which promised private healthcare providers a stronger presence in the NHS. The reforms were sold to the public by the claim that they would drive up the quality of service and offer choice, but, in fact, they opened the doors to the Health and Social Care Act 2012 which allowed NHS contracts to be put out to tender in the private sector.

Since that time, further reforms implemented by the ‘at arm’s length’ organisation NHS England under the direction of Simon Stevens (a former employee of the US healthcare company United Health) have aimed at moving the NHS towards a US-style integrated care system.

This week, following the leaked draft of the government NHS White Paper, journalists misled the public by claiming that it would bring about the scrapping of privatisation and competition introduced by Andrew Lansley’s reforms. The reality is something quite different. Boris Johnson ‘taking back control’ of the NHS, is yet another smokescreen for bringing a long-held objective to fruition.

The White Paper makes it clear instead that it will not lead to a reduction in the role of the private sector. It will increase it and indeed make it easier for the private sector to function within the NHS without all the bother of tendering for contracts. The deliberate drive to fragment the NHS has left it a shadow of its former self. Its logo, originally symbolising the positive change in the government’s relationship with its citizens, has become nothing more than a logo of no substance.

As the government has poured vast sums of public money into private contracts during the pandemic with little transparency or accountability, it has destroyed the validity of the claim that government has no money of its own, even though it continues to frame its spending in household budget economics. With the prospect of many more hundreds of billions of pounds of public money being spent on new independent laboratory networks and funding private hospitals to clear NHS waiting lists, it is clear that there is no scarcity of money. What is even clearer is that the government has made a political choice about where public money should flow to.

As the currency issuer, it could have made a political choice to invest long term in public health provision. Instead, the government has abandoned all pretence that as an elected body it has a duty to serve its citizens. It has used its monetary capacity to deliver its market-driven aims, which not only have given even more power and influence to big corporations through light-touch regulation, but also poured public money into private profit to keep the wheels of capitalism oiled.

At the same time, it has, also by political choice, left the public sector – health and social care, public health, and local government in a state of collapse, struggling with the consequences of 10 years of cuts which left the country unprepared for the devastating scale of the pandemic. Any claimed additional money is but a drop in the ocean in terms of what is needed to restore the NHS to a properly functioning service delivering public care. And Captain Tom’s efforts, laudable as they were, serve yet again as a distraction. We clapped for the NHS while it was sinking beneath the waves.

Deborah Harrington, director of Public Matters and Advisory Board member to GIMMS, describes government plans in an article in The Tribune this week:

“Boris Johnson’s health team is presenting this White Paper as the antidote, claiming that it gets rid of privatisation and the market, when it does neither. The White Paper does not herald a return to public service: to imagine that it could, would be to propose a political U-turn of unprecedented magnitude – a free-market government turned socialist overnight.

She goes on to say, in a very personal statement which we should all heed:

“I’m not just a patient now – I write and research on these matters myself. But as a patient, I’m worried. As a mother and grandmother, I am devastated to know that the range of care available to me throughout my life will not be guaranteed to my children and grandchildren. The NHS was an extraordinary gift – a gift squandered since by governments prepared to mislead the public on this most precious and important issue, because corporate approval means more to them than the public good.”

 It is important to note at this point that the roots of this process lie in decades of neoliberal ideology and its tentacles which have spread around the world through organisations such as the IMF, the World Bank, and the World Economic Forum.  As Stewart Player, the author of ‘The Plot against the NHS’, indicated in his article published by the Socialist Health Association in 2017:

[the] “basic strategy now adopted for the NHS in England has its origins in the business-dominated international policy circuit, of which the WEF is the apex, rather than in either the Department of Health or NHS England – let alone in the creative input of local communities, doctors and nurses […] What a comparison of the FYFV with the WEF reports suggests, instead, is that what is now planned for the NHS in England is not a home-grown response to meet distinctively English circumstances, which the FYFV presents itself as being, but what the global policy-making elite at Davos sees as a way of avoiding further growth of spending on publicly-provided health care.

 We are at the mercy of a global system which puts profits above people, and in this case, patient care. We are at the mercy of a group of people who claim, falsely, that money is scarce, and that public provision at its current levels is unaffordable, whilst at the same time cultivating a culture of private profit-based provision.

While our NHS slides into a potentially irreversible situation, as Covid-19 allows the government to use the pandemic to drive its agenda forward as quickly as possible, the consequences of years of government policy compounded by almost a year of the relentless gloom and indeed sorrow continue to play out.

It beggared belief to witness video footage filmed this week in Brent and Glasgow which showed residents queuing to access food banks or soup kitchens in freezing temperatures.  It was described rightly by many as shocking and humiliating and reminiscent of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

Journalists and other commentators have decried food poverty as if it were a discrete phenomenon, rather than asking the question as to why so many people are going hungry in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, notwithstanding the current crisis.  As GIMMS has commented many times the solution to hunger is increasingly seen as a charitable one – public donations to food banks or supermarkets distributing food through various organisations (to reduce waste as much as to feed people).

It is a situation which is being normalised in society.  At the exits of supermarkets, we are invited to donate a bag of pasta or a few tins of something – soothing our collective conscience perhaps.  Hunger and the poverty from which it originates predates Covid-19 and is the direct result of the market-driven ideology which is pursued by the government through legislation, spending and policy decisions which keep wages low and increase job insecurity. In other words, political decisions to serve business needs rather than those of citizens.

Nobody needs to go hungry, but we are institutionalising dealing with it through charity rather than government action.  Decades of neoliberal propaganda have demonised people by shifting blame to individuals, while in an act of sleight of hand, the real culprits are released of any responsibility for the state of the nation. Whilst at the same time, the coffers of private companies and politicians’ friends become bloated with public money which should be going into public provision instead.

Although we are told regularly it is a question of monetary affordability, it is not.  It is a question of what we want to prioritise in our society given the limitations that real resources pose. If we want better public services, to reduce inequality or deal with climate change then we will have to consider how we share out those resources in such a way as to deliver them for the greatest good possible rather than serve the greed of the few.

In the short term, as Yeva Nersisyan and Randall Wray of the Levy Institute pointed out in a paper which was referred to in a Guardian Editorial earlier this week:

[the] “government is engaged in relief, not stimulus, spending. It is offering much-needed assistance to the devastated balance sheets of households, school districts and local governments. Rescuing public services, making sure people do not starve and building COVID-19-testing systems is not an economic stimulus but a necessary antidepressant.”

In the longer term, the challenges are even starker. Addressing the vast inequalities which were created as a result of the pursuit of market dogma and the looming climate crisis bearing down upon us, begs an important question about how we deliver a ‘just, equitable and inclusive’ transition to a sustainable economy.

Currently, as politicians spew their climate rhetoric, Boris Johnson claims he is committed to action and the public express support for real change, there is also a desire to restore normality after such a gruelling year. This week Andy Haldane (and the Chancellor before him) invited the public to indulge in a spending spree with their savings once the pandemic releases its grip on the economy. Are they inviting us to return to our old spending patterns for short term gain? Putting aside the fact that for many people there are no such savings, and many have only increased their debt, face unemployment or future job insecurity, those with savings may prefer a more judicious approach in the short to medium term if they feel uncertain about where the economy is headed or indeed the planet!

This is an opportunity to reimagine what is important with concrete proposals for change. Growth is being touted as the mechanism to overcome the economic consequences of the pandemic. But what sort of growth? The destructive sort which has already been laid bare by the realities of an already over-exploited planet where huge wealth, poverty and inequity exist side by side or a radical rethink to how we live our lives. Consumption which brings transitory pleasure or creating a world that is sustainable, puts protecting biodiversity at the top of the agenda and focuses on human well-being rather than human and planetary exploitation.

In an article in the Guardian this week the economic commentator Larry Elliott suggested one option is to leave it to the market. But haven’t we had enough of the god of the market and its undelivered promises which have also brought about huge disparities in wealth, crushing poverty and inequity?

The WEF’s Great Reset posits a solution but in reality, positive as it is presented, it just leaves the same oligarchs and philanthropists in place directing the orchestra in their own image for their own benefit and a smaller role for public provision through elected government.

We make no excuse for raising these issues again and again in our blogs. It may seem like a broken record but there is a huge amount at stake for future generations and not so future.

It boils down to chumocracy, revolving doors and corporate control or the institution of a functioning democracy. The possibility that people can elect a government to deliver public purpose and create a public and social infrastructure to serve the public good instead of public money being siphoned off into private profit. Currently, the latter situation looks to continue as global corporations greenwashing their way to more power and profit consolidate their power through those seated in parliament who approve it.

We need a new way of envisaging well-being and it is only government that has the monetary and legislative firepower to create the change we need, should it have the political will to do so. It may seem that the human will to commit to real change may be in the balance but as Elliott notes in his article ‘The need for change is glaringly obvious and the opportunity is there too. That opportunity must not be squandered.’

And yet whilst the country and indeed the planet faces some exceedingly difficult challenges, the media oracles continue this week with their usual warnings about the level of government debt and ask how are we going to pay for the astonishing amounts the government has spent so far to manage the ongoing economic fallout from the pandemic and deliver government promises relating to promised societal ‘levelling up’ and dealing with climate change?

These questions dominate the discussion in the media and beyond on a weekly basis. Rishi Sunak, having already promised not to increase income tax, national insurance and VAT is running out of possibilities to bring the public finances back into balance, according to the economic pundits. An increase in Corporation Tax perhaps? Or a wealth tax which could raise up to £260bn in revenue to cover debt or future government expenditure or so the story goes.

Yet again, despite the incredible sums already spent there is apparently a limit to governments financing themselves through the ‘printing presses’ without compromising the ability of the central bank to keep inflation at an acceptable level. It denies yet again the monetary realities of the currency issuer and fixates instead on the wrong solution. Taxation. Whichever path the Chancellor takes going forward, he could cut short any economic recovery at all. Taking money out of the economy can only contribute to further pain at a time when the government needs to be spending more, not just to mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic but also address the future challenges looming in front of us.

If we want to redistribute wealth and remove the power such wealth commands, yes to increasing taxation. But believing it could get the government out of a sticky debt wicket or give it fiscal space to spend is to misunderstand the role of tax which, at base, is not to fund government spending. The real challenges the government faces are not budgetary, but of managing real resources to bring about change.

With this household budget understanding, the only solution might be to envisage yet more cuts to public sector spending which would add to the already underfunded and overburdened public and social infrastructure which the evidence of the last year has shown it to be unfit for purpose despite the brave and staunch efforts of public employees.

Furthermore, there is no ‘fiery pit of economic disaster’ if the UK does not get its financial house into order as was suggested by a senior analyst at the AJ Bell Investment Consultancy in a right-wing newspaper this week. The fiery pit is more related to the planetary disaster that faces us all if governments around the world fail to cooperate and spend sufficiently to bring about that just, equitable and inclusive transition we so desperately need.

 

 

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The post The “Market” is no solution for the NHS – or for any public service. appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

Does Starmer’s ‘Pro-Business’ Mean ‘Anti-Workers?’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 11/02/2021 - 9:59pm in

Okay, I might be jumping the gun here, but I came across a video from the awesome Novara Media. I haven’t watched it, so this might be just me showing my prejudice. I just looked at the video’s title, which seemed to say everything. I can’t remember it precisely, but it was something on the lines of Starmer declaring that Labour would be ‘pro-business’.

This should set alarm bells ringing, because when a politico talks about being ‘pro-business’ he always, but always means the same thing: further tax cuts for the rich, deregulation and privatisation on the grounds that this will set the forces of private enterprise free and provide financial incentives for the rich to invest and expand their businesses and economy. For ordinary people it means low wages, more welfare cuts and the destruction of workers’ rights in order to get people off state support and making the labour market fluid, so employers can hire and fire at will without going through all the pesky business of negotiations with trade unions and industrial tribunals.

That’s what ‘pro-business’ meant under the Tories, and that’s what it was also under New Labour. With the addition that under New Labour, big business was further rewarded through the appointment of leading management to positions in government as part of the corporate capture of the state.

I might be wrong here, but if Starmer has made noises about being ‘pro-business’, it means he’s going back to the Blairite policies of awarding government posts to big business in exchange for corporate donations, and making the rich even richer at the expense of Britain’s working people.

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