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No, Blair – Wokeness Didn’t Cost Labour the Elections, You Did

The recriminations from last week’s elections continue. Unindicted war criminal Tony Blair crawled out from whichever stone he’s been hiding under since leaving office to give his tuppence worth on the reasons Labour did so badly. The headline from one of the papers says that he blames ‘wokeness’ and warns that Labour could ‘cease to exist’. Well, many people are saying the latter. And one of the reasons for its poor performance and disengagement with the working class isn’t ‘wokeness’, the new term that’s overtaken ‘political correctness’ to describe anti-racism, feminism, and an attitude against forms of prejudice, but Blair himself.

Let’s start with an obvious issue that united people across the political spectrum. Blair launched an illegal war against Iraq as part of George W. Bush’s ‘War on Terror’. Saddam Hussein was supposed to have aided Osama bin Laden. He hadn’t, but Blair put pressure on the intelligence services and falsified evidence – he ‘sexed up’ the ‘dodgy dossier’ – to show that Hussein had. Hussein was a monster who butchered his own people, but he hadn’t moved out of Iraq since his failed invasion of Kuwait. Experts on the Middle East said that there he was regarded as a joke. The real reason for Bush and Blair’s invasion was partly to defend Israel, because Hussein occasionally funnelled aid to the Palestinians whenever he felt like it, but mostly to grab the Iraqi oil reserves. They’re the biggest in the Middle East outside Saudi Arabia. They also wanted to steal Iraqi state enterprises, while the Neocons were keen on turning the country into the low-tax, free trade state they wanted to create in America. The result has been chaos, sectarian bloodshed, war crimes, and the destruction of the Iraqi economy and secular society.

Despite the loud backing of hacks from the Groaniad, millions of ordinary Brits knew better. Two million people, including one of the priests at my local church, marched in protest. Blair shrugged it off and the invasion went ahead. It was contrary to international law, and there have been abortive efforts to have Blair and Bush arrested for their crimes and tried in the Hague. The Tory party opposed the war, as did the Spectator. I think in many cases this was just simple opportunism and opposition for the sake of being seen to oppose, as when they’re actually in power, there doesn’t seem to be a war the Tories don’t like. But some Tories, to be fair, were serious. The right-wing journalist Peter Hitchens honestly despises the ‘Blair creature’ for the way he sent our courageous young men and women to their deaths for no reason. People chanted ‘Blair lied, people died’. Absolutely. But somehow he’s being treated as some kind of respectable statesman.

And it was Blair who started the British working class’ disillusionment with Labour. He was far more interested in capturing Tory votes and those of swing voters. Under him, the party became pro-private enterprise, including the privatisation of the NHS, and continued Thatcher’s dismantlement of the welfare state. It was Blair who introduced the ‘work capability tests’ for the disabled and continued Thatcher’s programme of making the process of claiming unemployment benefit as humiliating and degrading as possible in order to deter people from signing on. But he retained the party’s commitment to anti-racism and feminism as some kind of vestige of the party’s liberalism. The result has been that large sections of the White working class felt that they were being deliberately ignored and abandoned in favour of Blacks and ethnic minorities. This is the constituency that then voted for UKIP, and which I dare say has now gone over to supporting Boris Johnson’s Tories.

As far as ‘wokeness’ goes, yes, the shrill, intolerant anti-racism and feminism is off-putting. I am definitely no fan of Black Lives Matter, but it has immense support amongst British Blacks and Asians because of the deprivation of certain parts of those communities. Labour BAME supporters also felt abandoned because of Starmer’s tepid, offhand support for it, and his protection of those credibly accused of racist bullying. They started leaving the party as well.

The Labour party did badly at the elections not because of the lingering influence of Jeremy Corbyn, but because of Blair’s abandonment of the White working class, and Starmer’s contemptuous attitude towards the party’s non-White supporters.

Labour may well be on the verge of ceasing to exist, but it won’t start winning in England again unless to rejects Blairism and returns to proper, traditional Labour values and policies.

Is the forecast growth in consumer spending actually good news?

Shop"EWe're Open" sign with shopper wearing face mask in bagroundPhoto by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future.

Thomas Sankara

Quote from ‘The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions’ by Jason Hickel



Read all about it! It’s the feel-good factor! According to experts, Britain’s economy is forecast to grow at its fastest rate since the second world war, as retail sales jump in response to the partial opening up of the economy. Ian Stuart, the Chief Economist at Deloitte, suggested that the UK was on track for a significant recovery in consumer spending, as the huge savings put aside by wealthy households during the lockdowns enabled higher private consumption.

Reading the media headlines recently you could be forgiven for thinking that we are returning to some sort of normality, even though huge uncertainty and risk remain both domestically and globally. Unemployment may have fallen but many millions remain on furlough, with no certainty as to the future if, as expected, the scheme starts to wind down starting in July. Furthermore, we are not immune from the global economic consequences of the pandemic, which are far from over.

Without wishing to be the spoiler of what might be seen as good news, and goodness knows we need some, welcoming a potential return to growth in the form of consumer spending masks the fact that we are facing some of the greatest environmental challenges ever. It should be a moment to take stock and think about where we are going. Is our behaviour sustainable, and if not, how can we change things for the better?

Growth that serves the sole purpose of profit realisation must be challenged as an objective, given both its real human and planetary cost. There are serious questions we must start asking, even as the UK hosts the COP26:

  • Whether such excessive consumption designed to keep the economy going is ecologically sustainable?
  • On whose backs has the wealth of developed countries been built?
  • What are the consequences of that exploitation? Consequences such as the enormous global inequalities that have created such huge differentials in living standards between the Global North and South, the tremendous damage our reliance on fossil burning fuels is continuing to cause globally, and the devastation both in human and land terms of resource extraction to fuel our way of life.

Domestic considerations can no longer be viewed as distinct from global ones. They are interconnected by two issues; from a negative perspective, a toxic economic system which drives public policy globally and is directed by economists in major institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank; and from a more positive one, the clear interconnected nature of our ecosystems upon which the health of the planet depends, showing, if nothing else, our global interdependency, and of which we must take account when deciding the next course of action.

At the same time as the media lauds the return to growth and consumer spending (after all, good news is better than bad, regardless of whether uncertainty still reigns and whether it might be a short-lived phenomenon) it publishes, in seeming contradiction, headlines which equally clearly show the consequences of hitherto unchecked consumption on the planet, as if somehow the two are distinct from one another.

Week in, week out, there are always yet more indications of the effects of human behaviour on the environment, or evidence-based studies detailing the consequences of our overconsumption and reliance on carbon-based energy sources.

This week, California declared yet another drought following hot on the heels of the last one (2011-2017) which destroyed millions of trees and fuelled extensive wildfires. As the drought has intensified, officials have made moves to stop the global corporation Nestlé from extracting millions of litres of water from California’s San Bernardino Forest. The company bottles and sells its branded water products disregarding, as usual, the environmental damage it causes in resource-stricken areas, and not just in the US.

In the same week, a comprehensive new study by French scientists assessing the behaviour of planetary ice streams has shown that the planet would still lose 10% of glacier ice, even if we sought now to aggressively cut emissions to hit our climate targets. As a result, we face multiple consequences in the next few decades as sea levels rise along coasts, with risk of flooding and inundation as well as a decrease in the stability of river systems which could cause water shortages.

The study backs up one published by Leeds University at the beginning of the year. Andy Shepherd, a professor at Leeds, said that ‘Glacier melting accounts for a quarter of Earth’s ice loss over the satellite era, and the changes taking place are disrupting water supplies for billions of people downstream – especially in years of drought when meltwater becomes a critical source. […] Although the rate of glacier melting has increased steadily, the pace has been dwarfed by the accelerating ice losses from Antarctica and Greenland, and they remain our primary concern for future sea-level rise.”

Also, this week, whilst much concern has been expressed about overfishing, according to experts insufficient attention has been paid to the plastic and chemical pollution which is threatening disaster in our seas and oceans. We will pay an eventual heavy price for our poor planetary stewardship, if David Attenborough’s salutary warnings along with a huge body of scientific evidence backing up the realities of climate change and over-exploitation of resources, are ignored for much longer.

The bottom line is that what we decide to do now will determine what the world will look like in two or three generations’ time. And yet every indication is that politicians hooked on consumer growth and the GDP measure are going to fail to address the challenges we face in terms of reducing carbon emissions, managing vital resources more equably and addressing global inequality. Any proposals, regardless of grand promises, are likely to be watered down if they affect corporate profitability or will be limited by the imaginary boundaries of financial cost.

As the media repeated the IFS’s warning last week that public borrowing had soared to a ‘peacetime record’, an article in the Telegraph suggested that instead of increasing corporation tax (which apparently would only raise £14bn, described as a ‘drop in the ocean’ in terms of paying down the huge public debt) or implementing a wealth tax to raise revenue, all the Chancellor really has to do is ‘sit on his hands and let the growing signs of a surging economy do the hard work as consumers unleash £150bn of lockdown savings’.

Once again, we have the suggestion that private sector spending, rather than public, can get us out of the economic hole we are in, with complete disregard to the effects of such excessive consumption.

Reliance on private spending would, however, only give a short-term economic respite, should government fail to continue to spend sufficiently into the economy, not only to oil its wheels but drive the move towards sustainability and a more equable division of real resources and wealth. The real question should now revolve, not around private consumption to sustain an ailing economy, but around investment in public goods such as healthcare, education and training, research and development and sustainable transport systems, along with a vision for a kinder more sustainable future.

Whether it is President Biden’s idea to raise income and capital taxes to pay for the pandemic and fund his huge spending plans, the prospect of ‘hard choices’ having to be made by the UK Chancellor in the form of more austerity and cuts to public spending to balance the books, or The Telegraph’s solution of getting back to work to get the economy going again and thus increase tax revenues to pay down public debt, wherever you look, the recipe for public and global well-being is always founded on a false analogy of how governments spend. The public perception that public debt is bad and will have to be paid for in the future through higher taxes or that spending will have to be cut on essential public goods to balance the books, is a narrative that does not match reality and yet daily it features in the public discourse.

Indeed, this week, once again the cuts to the foreign aid budget figured heavily in the media as the government announced where the cuts would fall. The former Conservative Foreign Office Minister Liz Sugg described them as ‘difficult to comprehend’ given the global pandemic emergency and the impact of climate change on some of the world’s poorest countries. Experts and NGOs opposing the severe cuts which will affect women and girls’ education, polio eradication, clean water, and sanitation as well as vital research have described them as ‘savage’ and ‘a national shame.’ And so they are.

On the one hand, as hosts of this year’s COP 26, the government claims commitment to addressing climate issues and inequality, but then on the other, removes the very building blocks for change both domestically and internationally. The state of the public finances is never very far away from the discussion and will surely be used as a justification for future cuts to domestic public spending, as they have been already for those planned for International Aid.

The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office defended its actions saying the ‘tough but necessary decisions’ had to be made because of the fiscal impact of Covid-19. And Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell, whilst opposing the cuts saying that they were ‘balancing the books on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world’, was still content to uphold the notion that the state finances resembled a household budget.

Whilst one might have some reservations about the notion of ‘building back better’ in terms of who is likely to benefit in this so-called ‘brave new world’, it might seem to have hit a brick wall if the government continues to fall back on the ingrained perception that its spending policies are constrained by monetary scarcity and that at some point in time tough decisions will have to be taken to rein in expenditure.

Indeed, shockingly some politicians have already expressed concerns about the affordability of saving the planet from environmental chaos and addressing wealth distribution. “Where will the money come from” they opine? If we allow such discourse to continue, we will find ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place and the concept of steady finances will become an obstacle for change.

This week, MPs from the Public Accounts Committee expressed concerns that the Treasury had yet to explain how the tax system would help the UK to meet its emissions targets and still were to clarify how it would manage the reductions in tax revenues worth £37bn from fossil fuels as the UK shifts towards a clean economy. Whilst of course the tax system can play a vital role in behavioural change, once again we have the false ‘household budget’ analogy taking precedence by asking how the government would fund its spending if its tax revenues declined.

Meg Hillier MP, the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, emphasising the scale of the challenge said:

“The economic revolution required to abandon fossil fuels and reach net zero must be the greatest co-ordinated ask, of governments around the globe, in history. But the UK government has been blithely issuing ever more ambitious climate targets for years now, with no sign of a roadmap to reach any of them. The departments in charge seem stuck in a bygone era, with little sign of the innovative thinking needed to achieve all this.


Every week brings reports of some climate record disturbingly broken – the hottest year, the hottest decade, warming seas rising faster than we feared, carbon emissions raging back even as the economy takes more faltering steps. Now we are six months from hosting the next major global climate summit and the climate storm is breaking all around us. HMRC and HMT need to catch up fast.”

Her critical words reflect the endless rhetoric emanating from government ministers, who have yet to commit to a strategy for reaching net-zero, and yet they still reiterate the story that government spending is always constrained by tax revenues or market confidence in terms of financing the deficit. It does not bode well.

Whilst of course the realities we face are extraordinarily complex, and the solutions not always clear, there is no financial excuse for not acting. The key surely to effecting change is to start by acknowledging how the government really spends. We have seen the proof over the last year in shovelfuls! But what perhaps until now has gone unnoticed and scarcely recognised on the public radar is that over the last few decades public money has been leaching into private corporations, reaching vast sums over the last year with little transparency or accountability. The NHS, social care and the education system as examples have been sublet to the private sector on the back of public money.

The anathema of state intervention indicated by neoliberal dogma has been more about shifting public funds into corporations and driving privatisation, outsourcing and deregulation to serve corporate interests and the revolving door, rather than the public interest.

Only this week, Professor Eileen Munro, Emeritus Professor at the London School of Economics, commenting on the review of children’s services in England, has stated that the government seemed to be ignoring the role of poverty, poor housing and job insecurity in children’s well-being and development suggesting that it was ‘limiting responsibility to parents instead of how we function as a society.’ She is concerned, along with many others, that it will be used to cap the escalating costs of tackling children’s care (caused by government austerity policies) whilst at the same time will be yet a further step in introducing market-style structures and privatisation to what is a seriously underfunded but still a local authority run system.

Ray Jones, Emeritus Professor of Social Work at Kingston University has commented; ‘After more than 10 years of austerity creating poverty for children and families, it is crucial that this review rises to the challenge of confronting the impact of government policies which have caused so much harm’.

We can see thus how the government has used the idea of monetary scarcity to shift monetary resources from public sector goods into privately run, profit-motivated companies in a sleight of hand way and using the excuse that the private sector is more efficient.

If we care for the future, then we should be shouting from the rooftops that it will not be defined by a budget or monetary affordability, but by the political decisions taken by governments to deliver public purpose objectives, environmental sustainability and wealth and resource equity, or not as the case may be. The only thing that will necessarily check government spending will relate to inflationary pressures resulting from real resource constraints.

Hitherto, the game has been played to the advantage of global, profit-oriented corporations. But there is an alternative, and it starts with rejecting the economic orthodoxy which prevails and gaining an understanding of how government really spends and what possibilities that could offer for a better world.



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The post Is the forecast growth in consumer spending actually good news? appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

PEF publishes blue print for the post-covid economy on 29th April 2021

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/04/2021 - 4:43am in

The Return of the State – Restructuring Britain for the Common Good

Edited by PEF Chair Patrick Allen and council members Suzanne Konzelmann and Jan Toporowski

Publication Date 29th April 2021. Agenda Publishing

40 years of neoliberalism has failed to provide prosperity or stability to the UK economy. Instead it has led to low growth, turbulence, grotesque inequality , poverty and ill health for millions . This is the outcome of damaging economic polices driven by free market dogma, rentier capitalism and ideology. It’s time for a change.

This book contains 18 essays by PEF council members and academics who outline the essential features of a progressive economy dealing with the five massive challenges of our times to the economy – Covid-19, austerity, Brexit , inequality and climate change.

PEF calls for bold public intervention. Shrinking the state and weakening our public institutions has undermined social and community resilience and promoted an out-of-control, value-sapping and high-inequality model of capitalism. 

The authors say the resources of the state must build a fairer and more dynamic post-Covid society, using a mix of regional and industrial policy and investment to revolutionise our public health, housing and social services. A progressive new society should construct a new income floor and new measures to spread wealth and give everyone an equal stake in the economy. 

The financial crash of 2008 proved that only the state can rescue the economy when all else fails including the biggest banks. Covid has shown how only the state can rescue us from death and the collapse of the economy during a devastating pandemic. Only the state can steer the economy and deliver the investment needed to cope with climate change

The 2008 crash showed the breathtaking incompetence of the private financial sector. Now Covid has once again laid bare the myth than private is best – outsourcing to companies the job of track and trace at a cost of £37bn has so far failed to show any discernible benefit say the Public Accounts Committee.

By contrast, the selfless work of millions of NHS workers and volunteers has delivered one of the most outstanding vaccination programmes which has been the envy of the world. This has been done at modest cost and was only possible with a national health service drawing on the vocational drive of its workers for the common good.

The Biden adminstration is today showing the mighty power of the US State with Biden’s Covid and infrastructure bills. The results are expected to cut child poverty in half. The UK government should follow this lead and bring in new models of public intervention to deliver a pandemic-resistant, green economy which works for all citizens.

For an outline , list of chapters and authors and to order a copy go to this webpage

You can obtain a 25% discount on the cover price by entering code AGENDA25 on the Agenda page here

Launch event on Zoom – Wednesday 19th May 2021 at 11am . Joining details to follow.

The launch will be chaired Miatta Fahnbulleh , CEO of NEF and attended by Ed Miliband, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy . Martin Sandbu of the FT will attend as commentator.

The post PEF publishes blue print for the post-covid economy on 29th April 2021 appeared first on The Progressive Economy Forum.

Boris Says There’s No Money to Pay Nurses, But Has Millions to Spend on Atomic Weapons

Mike’s put up an excellent and disturbing article today, which shows very clearly where Boris Johnson’s priority’s really are. He’s planning to reverse the proposed reduction of Britain’s nuclear arsenal to 180 warheads and increase it instead to 260. As the peeps on Twitter have pointed out, this is a 45 per cent increase. It’s supposed to be in preparation for a possible terrorist attack using chemical or nuclear weapons by 2030. ‘Russ’, one of the critics of this insane proposal, has asked what Boris intends to do in the event of an attack like 9/11, when the terrorists came from four different countries. Would he launch those missiles at four different capitals? He states ‘Not a chance. Idiotic, dangerous, flashy bullshit.’

The question about 9/11 is a very good one. The vast majority of the plotters came from Saudi Arabia, and there is very, very strong evidence that responsibility for the attack goes all the way to the very top, to country’s present king or his head of intelligence. But George Dubya and Blair didn’t order reprisals against Saudi Arabia. Instead, we invaded Afghanistan. The country was indeed hosting Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the organisation responsible for it. But I’ve also heard that the Afghans denied all knowledge of the plot and offered to surrender bin Laden to the Americans, but were ignored. The American military were planning the possibility of invading Afghanistan several years before in order to control a planned oil pipeline passing through it.

Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was also accused of complicity with 9/11, and Blair was scaremongering about Hussein having weapons of mass destruction that could be launched within three quarters of an hour. This was also a lie. The real reason for the invasion was, once again, oil. The American and Saudi oil companies wanted Iraq’s reserves and its oil industry, while American multinationals also wanted to get their grubby mitts on the country’s state industries. The actual cost to the Iraqi people has been horrendous. The country’s tariff barriers were lowered as part of a plan to create the low tax, free market state the Neo-Cons dreamed about, with a result that every nation dumped their excess goods there, undermining its domestic businesses. The result was soaring bankruptcy and unemployment. The country’s welfare state was destroyed, as was the ability of women to pursue a career in safety outside the home. The country was riven by sectarian violence, and the mercenaries used as part of the invasion force ran amok, running drugs and prostitution rings. They also shot ordinary Iraqis for sport. The Allied forces also used depleted uranium and other highly toxic materials in their armaments, with the result that the country also has a horrendously high rate of birth defects.

And now Boris wants more nukes. Does he intend to use them on further victims of western imperialism, countries deliberately and wrongfully blamed for terrorist attacks just to further western geopolitical and commercial goals? Mike also suggests that it seems to him that Boris is planning to start some kind of war with a country on or near the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and would like to set off a few nukes to show how tough he is.

This is all too possible. The American radical magazine, Counterpunch, published an article a few years ago arguing that the American military was set on a policy of ‘full spectrum dominance’. This meant that it was to remain the world’s only superpower with the ability to destroy or conquer any other country that could threaten it. And it looked very, very much that Hillary Clinton, who claimed to be terribly offended by the treatment of Meghan Markle, was preparing for a war with China. Lobster has also published a very detailed article arguing that, despite the rhetoric and posturing about the Chinese threatening western security interests in the South China Sea, the Chinese actually aren’t any danger at all. But they do threaten the global American commercial power both in practice and at an ideological level. The Americans believe in deregulation and free trade, while in China capitalism is regulated and state-directed. The global struggle between America and China is partly about which model of capitalism should be dominant.

And then there’s the issue of whether you could ever use a nuclear bomb in the event of a terrorist attack. From the 1970s to historic Good Friday peace agreement in the ’90s, Northern Ireland and Britain suffered terrorist violence and bombings. In Ulster this was by Irish Nationalist and Loyalist paramilitaries, while in Britain the bombings were carried out by the IRA. Following 9/11, one of the critics of the invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq asked whether Britain would have used the same tactics of mass bombing and air strikes on Northern Ireland in response to the IRA’s terrorism. Of course we wouldn’t, although we did send troops there to suppress it. There’s a real possibility that, thanks to Brexit, the Good Friday Agreement could break down and Ulster could once again fall into violence and bloodshed. Which also raises the spectre of further terrorist bombings in Britain. Would Boris nuke Derry or Belfast in response? I doubt it. At the same time, many of the Islamist terrorists responsible for atrocities in Britain seem to be homegrown, Muslim Brits who come from ordinary, peaceful families, but who have been radicalised by Islamist propaganda on the Net or from some firebrand preacher in a British mosque. Obviously, Boris isn’t going to use it in Britain itself.

There’s also the danger that if Boris every uses them against a foreign enemy, it’ll pitch the world into a nuclear war that will end very quickly with the destruction of the planet. I can remember the late, great Irish comedian Dave Allen commenting on this in one of his shows on the Beeb during Reagan and Thatcher’s New Cold War of the 1980s. ‘Do you know,’ he said in his tobacco and whisky cured voice, ‘that there are enough nuclear weapons to blow up the world three times. Three times! Once is enough for me!’ It was a profound relief for millions around the world when Reagan and Gorbachev signed their arms limitation agreement in Iceland. That, and the collapse of Communism, promised the beginning of a better world, where we wouldn’t have to fear nuclear annihilation. Well, it was until India and Pakistan looked set to nuke each other later in the ’90s.

But now those dreams of a better, more peaceful world are fading as Boris once again wishes to send us all back to the days of Thatcher and the Cold War. Thatcher was vehemently in favour of keeping Britain’s nuclear deterrent. So much so that she falsified the results of an experiment to estimate the results of a nuclear war on Britain. The experiment showed that it would end with the country’s major cities reduced to nuclear cinders. This was too much for the leaderene, who had the parameters of the projection altered to give the results she wanted. But this still would have resulted in millions dead, and so she had the parameters altered again to show that Britain would have survived with minimal damage. By which time the whole exercise had to be scrapped as it was completely unreliable.

Michael Foot, the leader of the Labour party at the time, favoured unilateral nuclear disarmament. He was right, but the Tories and their puppet press viciously attacked him as some kind of fool or traitor, who would give in to the evil Commies. The complaint of many Tories was that he would give our nuclear weapons away. Unlike Maggie, the bargain basement Boadicea, as I think Roy Hattersley once called her.

It looks very much like Boris is playing the same game. He’s wrecking the economy, destroying the health service and welfare state, but he’ll have the right-leaning part of the British public praising him for standing up to those evil foreigners and protecting the country with nukes.

And all the while he’s claiming that there’s no money to give the nurses and other hardworking, front-line professionals anything more than what is in reality a derisory cut in wages. Which is clearly a lie. But it does remind me of what Goering once said:

‘Guns will make us powerful. Butter will make us fat.’

He’s following the Nazis in deliberately starving people while splashing the cash on arms.

For further information, see: Nuclear bomb announcement sends clear message: warmonger Johnson has cash to KILL, not heal | Vox Political (

What do we want from an economic recovery?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 15/03/2021 - 1:59am in

“We could be collaborating with each other and with our ecosystem to create a beautiful, awesome, healthy world. Instead, we’re all competing with each other working meaningless jobs creating pieces of landfill which serve no purpose besides turning millionaires into billionaires.

The overwhelming majority of human effort goes into competing against other humans. We do have the ability to take all that lost energy and re-route it toward collaborating with each other toward health and thriving. There is no real reason we can’t do this. There are no hard obstacles preventing us from moving away from our failed competition-based model to a collaboration-based model. All that’s stopping us is plutocratic propaganda and our collective belief in it. We do have the ability to drop that belief and move toward sanity.”

Caitlin Johnstone

Woman holding a sign at a demonstration. Slogan "Cuts don't heal".Photo by Charles Edward Miller / Flickr Creative Commons Licence

The propaganda and distraction machine is in full swing. Boris Johnson’s ‘Beacons of Hope: The UK Vaccine Story’ (coming soon to your TV screens) and the Royal story which has dominated media reporting for days, have allowed our minds to be taken off the real ball. The avoidable tragedy of Covid-19, the consequences of 10 years of public sector austerity and the ongoing fallout from the Chancellor’s Budget.

From the insulting proposal for a 1% pay rise for NHS staff, to analysis which shows that the self-employed will likely be hit harder by the increase in Corporation Tax than the multinationals (who let’s face it know how to avoid paying it) to the on-going financial catastrophe that is continuing to play out as our local government infrastructure, battered by cuts for years, is facing meltdown. A reckoning may be at hand.

Alongside the very real consequences of the pandemic and 10 years of public sector austerity, which have affected every aspect of our lives from healthcare to education and social security, we have a Chancellor who pretends he’s running a company or a household budget. The proposed 1% pay rise for NHS staff is ‘based on affordability’ he said this week. The Prime Minister followed up with the claim that they had ‘already given as much as we can’.

Notwithstanding the financial pain already inflicted on the public sector over 10 years by previous chancellors, he claimed that the offer was ‘proportionate, fair and reasonable’. State penury is not restricted just to local issues, as Boris Johnson suggested that our ‘straitened circumstances’ meant we couldn’t provide aid to starving children in Yemen.

Whilst there is no shortage of public money to do up No. 10, help the Royals renovate Buckingham Palace, pour into vanity projects like HS2 and feather the nests of the government’s corporate chums with no accountability and no expense spared – the taps flow freely for that – when it’s about delivering public purpose to the people of this country, then those taps mysteriously get turned to a dribble. Surely the penny will soon drop in the public consciousness that there is some deceitful sleight of hand going on here.

With the economy in dire straits and unlikely to recover quickly, this would be a very good time for a fantasy government that put public purpose at the top of the agenda to spend more on our public sector. Not just to restore it to a functioning public entity which would have both public and social benefits for the nation, but also because it would have positive implications for the macroeconomy.

In other words, it boils down to the fact that when people have more money in their pockets, they have more to spend in their local shops and on other goods and services, which in turn benefits the economy as a whole. In simple terms, an increase in government spending will result in an increase in national income. And when there is a limit to private investment as in such times as these, the gap has to be filled by government expenditure. Not just to stop the economy tanking now, but to ensure that a recovery, when and if it comes, will be sustainable.

The only limit to increasing government spending is inflation. Thus, in a perfect world, the real role of government is to target our infinite monetary resources to the efficient use of our finite real resources, for human and planetary health.

Whilst the government has stepped into the economic breach caused by the covid-19 pandemic, as only it can do as the currency issuer, we are still reaping the consequences of the public sector pay squeeze imposed by previous Chancellors, damaging employment policies that have held down wages and increased employment insecurity which, in turn, have resulted in a sluggish, stop-start economy and led to increasing rises in poverty and inequality.

Only this week, the media covered the very shocking report of a London food bank facing queues 2km in length, with 800 people waiting in the cold for hours to collect food parcels. That number is expected to be over 1000 this weekend. This is not a new phenomenon; across the country, food banks have been filling the gaps left by a state that has abandoned its people to penury through its policies, yet shifts the blame onto the individual and talks about food banks as if they were a normal part of society.

In November, the Trussell Trust reported that its network had seen a 47% increase in need during the first six months of the pandemic, with a huge increase in emergency food parcels. Some 2,600 of which are going to children across the UK every day.

Poverty and unemployment are not accidents, they are the result of government policy and spending decisions; yet their existence is increasingly being normalised as if there were no alternative. Charitable food provision is a sign of a failing state and is simply acting as a plug to mitigate for an ideologically driven agenda.

Not only have the consequences of government spending decisions and policies over a decade and more become clear in the state of the economy, but they also show the policy direction of a government that has put serving the needs of the market over and above public well-being, in the claimed belief that markets, left to their own devices, create wealth which then trickles down.

Thus, with the power of the public purse which the State has had since the early 70s, even if it chooses to pretend it has monetary limitations, the current government is using its currency-issuing capacity to fund private corporations to deliver public and other services for profit. It is indicating a political preference for serving the private sector and private profit, rather than delivering public purpose. And yet it continues to couch its spending plans as if it were UK plc with a profit and loss sheet.

Indeed, emphasising this false narrative earlier this week, the government suggested that pharmacies would have to pay back the loans that the government had made them over the past year. Pharmacies have played a critical role during the pandemic and yet many of them could be threatened with closure as a result, with a damaging knock-on effect on many of our poorer communities. The impact of those potential closures could be harmful for those with few financial resources, forcing them to find alternatives further afield.

It demonstrates yet again the promotion of a dishonest narrative that claims the government’s finances can be compared to a company, bank, or our own household budgets. The monetary reality is that the government is not a bank and the repayment of loans, whilst ostensibly fixing the public accounts (to suit the notion of government being a sound financial manager of the state finances), is a political deception practised by politicians for decades. The government doesn’t need an income provided by tax or to borrow to fund investment or to cover a shortfall and nor does it need to loan money with the expectation of repayment.

The public is so used to thinking in terms of their own household budgets, with tax representing income to fund government spending, that it fails to ask the key question about where the money came from to pay their tax in the first place. It is the forgotten conundrum. As Warren Mosler calls it, ‘The MMT Sequence’ starts with government spending the money into existence and the imposition of a tax. This enables the government to provision itself by getting us to work to earn the money to pay our tax. As Warren says, ‘we’ve got it all backwards!’ It’s not funding anything!

Without challenge to the public perception that money is scarce, limited to tax revenue or borrowing, and the idea that government must live within its monetary means, the deception will continue to wreak damage to our economy, further increase poverty, skew wealth distribution towards the already wealthy and lead to a failure to address the most important issue of all – climate change. The conversation on this score should never be about monetary affordability; it should be about what we need to do to address these challenges using the finite resources we have at our disposal. The choices are never monetary-led, they are always resource-led.

Whilst the Chancellor continues to claim that hard choices are ahead for our public finances, even if not just yet, our public infrastructure continues to deteriorate.

A report from the National Audit Office has indicated that despite additional government funding over the past year to cope with the pandemic, the vast majority of English councils are likely to cut their spending so as to be able to meet their legal duty to balance their budgets. Many will be forced to rely on their reserves to do so. This could mean yet more cuts to local services already severely depleted by a decade of austerity and cuts to local government funding (over £15bn). The dilemma they face is whether to cut yet more services or increase council tax and indeed many councils are preparing to do so.

From a macroeconomic perspective, the government failure to fund local government adequately has been and remains short-sighted. Covid has now exposed the serious financial position of local councils and cutting services will further damage the local infrastructure upon which we all depend, from vital access to libraries and community centres to social care, bus services and parks, street cleaning and bin collections.

Unlike the government, local councils are currency users. As such, they have to budget to ensure that they use their funding efficiently and effectively through a combination of government grants and local taxation. With the economy on a downward trajectory and still great uncertainty to come, the accumulated consequences of previous pay squeezes and employment policy and the Chancellor’s budget last week, the prospect of higher council taxes doesn’t bode well for a sustained economic recovery. Additional local taxes will take more money out of our local communities and the small businesses they support, who have already suffered over the past year. It will also further impoverish our local communities financially and culturally. The prospect of further austerity for our vital locally provided public services is not a happy one, any more than it is for our national public infrastructure.

Once again, the big question we face is what sort of future we want for ourselves, our families and our communities. After a year of lockdown and tragic loss, the desire to return to normal is a strong one that is regularly articulated in both private and public conversations. However, normal was never normal. As the author, poet, humanitarian and social justice activist Sonya Renee Taylor noted:

‘Normal never was. Our actual pre-Corona existence was not normal other than normalised greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction. We should not long to return my friends.’

Instead, she suggested that

‘we are being given an opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.’

This is not about articulating a left or right position, it is about articulating a future for humanity and for the planet.

As a baseline for creating a better place for citizens, we have to ask ourselves if we want to continue with the ‘normalised’ existence that we have been living up until now, which has accepted poverty, inequality and planetary exploitation as par for the course to maintain our living standards? Or do we instead work towards one which puts people’s wellbeing as a priority, by ensuring first that there is a future through a collective global vision for environmental sustainability, and second, that citizens have access to good education, good housing, sufficient food and warmth, clean air and water, a living income and good public services? These are not impossible desires.

As a Guardian editorial asked this week, do we rely on a consumer-led recovery that will further deepen the gap between the rich and the poor and the ‘shabby underfunded public realm’ that we have inherited as a result of austerity and a toxic economic ideology? Or do we consider public investment to restore our public and social infrastructure to bring about a recovery that is fairer and more equitable?

If we choose the latter, then the question is never one of monetary affordability, regardless of how many times politicians quote these tired mantras. It is a question of political will in the first instance and then determining how such policies can be delivered within the context of real resources. In an uncertain world, there might be hiccups along the way, but there is no excuse for not trying. But first, we have to decide what our priorities should be and how they can be delivered.



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If there is one thing the last year has taught us it is that the Government is never short of money

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 08/03/2021 - 6:02am in

“Do we want to be a society that is supportive, that is inclusive and compassionate, where it is acknowledged that not all can prosper, where those who are most vulnerable, most in need of help, are not seen as lazy or scrounging or robbing the rest of us for whatever they can get? Where we do not turn our backs on those facing hard times, we do not abandon them or exploit their weakness, because they are us.

We leave no one behind, we only say we have crossed the finished line when the last of us does, because no one is alone and there is such a thing as society.”

Michael Sheen, speaking at The People’s March for the NHS, Tredegar, Wales


Woman holding a placard with the slogan "Clapping won't pay my bills" as NHS workers protest for a pay riseImage by Tim Dennell via Flickr Creative Commons licence

On Wednesday, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak got up to the Dispatch box to deliver his Budget. As usual, the devil is in the detail, which we’ll come onto later, but at any rate, you couldn’t come away without the impression that there will be a future price to pay for the Government’s huge spending bill.

More than once, the Chancellor talked about fiscal responsibility, emphasising the record amount of borrowing, and suggesting that without corrective action ‘it would be the work of many governments, over many decades, to pay it back’. And whilst it would be ‘irresponsible to withdraw support too soon,’ at the same time it would be ‘irresponsible’ to allow our future borrowing and debt to rise unchecked.’ The ‘fiscal freedom to act’ was dependent on healthy public finances the Chancellor opined, and affordability would be the measure by which any future spending decisions will be made.

Trying to sound sincere by attempting a direct appeal he said, ‘I want to be honest with the public,’ then went on to suggest that there was no alternative to beginning ‘the work of fixing our public finances’. In other words, the government’s coffers are running on empty and we need to replenish them and pay down our debts.

If at this point you’ve lost the will to live, then it would be understandable, particularly if you have been a regular reader of the GIMMS MMT Lens. With false narratives about how governments spend, the public is being prepared for those ‘hard choices’ that the Chancellor has already promised. It is however economic illiteracy at its best both in terms of getting the economy back on its feet and importantly monetary realities.

Debt doom-mongering by the Chancellor will likely have the reverse effect to the one intended. For those who have been lucky enough to have saved over the past year, with such uncertainty and the prospect of higher taxes, who is going to be cracking open the champagne or booking their luxury holiday in the Maldives? Maybe a possibility for some as we come out of lockdown, but not a done deal and there is still much uncertainty. And as for those working people who are already on lower incomes, in debt or potentially facing the prospect of losing their jobs in the near future, spending will be the last thing on their minds.

After 10 years of damaging public sector spending cuts, employment insecurity and the rise in poverty and inequality arising from it, which has affected all sections of society (except for the very rich) the expectation of more pain will more likely send people scurrying for safety rather than planning a big spending spree.

Littered throughout the speech were the usual false household budget narratives which have defined Treasury speak for decades: debt and deficit reduction, taxing and borrowing, affordability, debt burdens on future generations, hard choices and fixing the public finances. Weasel words which do not reflect monetary reality.

Whilst the government has indeed used its fiscal firepower, if somewhat selectively, to protect the economy over the last year, its price is couched in that of sound finance, or how we pay for it. It is time to call this narrative out for what it is. Economic twaddle. The real issues are not repairing the finances, as the Chancellor has repeated endlessly and which is parroted by economists, institutions, and journalists alike, but how can we use existing real resources to create a fairer, and more sustainable economy in the aftermath of the pandemic given the huge challenges we face in addressing inequity and climate change.

As a nation, we have choices to make and once again the question can be reduced to asking what sort of society do we want to live in and how can we deliver it? Over a decade, our public infrastructure has been laid waste and the tragic and unnecessary consequences laid bare.

As a result of a toxic economic ideology, the private sector has been promoted as the wealth creator, and vast amounts of public money have seeped into private profit rather than public delivery. And yet, strangely, at the same time, the question of affordability only applies to publicly delivered and managed services. Not to the corporations whose bank accounts have swelled with no transparency or accountability.  And nowhere has that been made clearer than in the Chancellor’s Budget.

Aside from the already damaging consequences of government spending choices, which have decimated public services, capped wages and decreased employment security, the question of how we improve the lives of ordinary people remains largely unanswered. Despite the empty words and posturing in Johnson’s and Sunak’s plans to level up society. The pressing question of addressing climate change also remains in the margins of urgency.

On closer inspection, underneath Sunak’s spending promises to keep the economy afloat over the next few months lies a different story. Whilst the Universal Credit uplift has been retained and despite calls for it to be made permanent, the Chancellor has only secured it until September, leaving huge uncertainty in the lives of people already hit by previous changes to social security benefits which have driven increasing poverty, hunger, and homelessness.

Through the Chancellor’s decision to freeze income tax thresholds, ordinary people will be hit with a sneaky income tax rise, whilst the increase in the minimum wage to £8.91 an hour from April is scarcely a giveaway for people already on low wages and struggling to make ends meet. With 700,000 people already in arrears on their rent, over a million in severe debt and a rise in destitution, not to mention the prospect of a council tax rise of 5% to add to the woes, the Chancellor has shown not financial skill or prowess but revealed his lack of macroeconomic credentials.

By concentrating on the false trope of ‘fixing the finances’ he has failed to address the key financial problems being faced by large sections of the population; both as a result of current and also previous spending decisions. Add to that the impact of further job losses with, according to the IPPR, more than half a million employers facing bankruptcy, remembering that one person’s spending is another’s income the future is looking ever more depressing for many.

With no additional funding for public services and a further £4bn of spending cuts to be added to the £11bn already announced, austerity it seems has not gone away.  The pay freeze already announced last year in Sunak’s spending review is a kick in the teeth for 2.6 million workers, which includes millions of teachers, police and other workers who have been on the frontline during the pandemic and was described by Sunak as ‘fair and proportionate’ given that private-sector wages had been falling, hours cut or redundancies made.  A question of equity? No! Pitting public sector workers yet again against the private sector, reinforces not only the fake message that the public sector is only affordable in a prosperous economy, but also allows working people to be distracted from their common cause – the class struggle. It also distracts from the reality that it is the government that that has the capacity to spend, as the currency issuer, and to set prices through its legislation.

In the light of the proposed 1% pay increase for the NHS, to add injury to insult Nadine Dorries suggested that nurses ‘do their job because they love their job’. The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, then went on to defend the measly sum on the basis of financial affordability. Aside from the extraordinary dedication of our nurses, doctors and other health workers over the last year, which has been reduced to goodwill by Dorries, as many in the profession have said, ‘you can’t live on claps’. GIMMS echoes the words of Rachel Clarke, a palliative care doctor and author who said:

‘The government insists a proper NHS pay rise is unaffordable… It’s claptrap of course. It is a political choice. […] If the prime minister can afford to spend two-thirds of the entire NHS annual budget on a very fast train, he can also afford to reward NHS staff with a real-terms pay rise. The fact that he has chosen quite deliberately not to do so speaks volumes.’

Indeed, but what was also missed out of the Budget speaks even more volumes. In the week that one of the UK’s largest care home companies announced that it was to sell off dozens of its homes, the Chancellor failed to make a mention of the catastrophic state of social care and has yet again put the problem onto the back burner.

As the sector faces financial problems due to falls in occupancy as a result of COVID-19, and combined with reductions in fees from the councils who fund them, who are cash strapped themselves due to funding cuts, the on-going viability of the current care home infrastructure is at risk.

Although the increase of 5% on council tax will allow 3% to be used for funding social care, this is yet another example of what happens when private companies delivering public sector services can no longer turn a profit. This not only leaves people high and dry worrying about where they might spend their remaining years, it also begs the question as to why private companies are involved at all?  Residential care should be funded adequately at central government level and be returned to public provision, locally provided for the interests of all concerned. There has been much discussion on finding solutions to the problem of funding social care which usually boil down to monetary affordability. Deficit spending and rising public debt have become the bogeymen upon which all spending decisions are taken. And in the orthodox model of how money works, someone will have to pay, i.e. in higher taxes.

And yet, the reality of the situation is as Stephanie Kelton noted in her book ‘The Deficit Myth’ published last year:

‘The country’s real deficits are in healthcare, jobs, infrastructure, education and the climate.

It seems that no lessons are being learned from the previous 10 years of public sector cuts, and their effects on the economy and the focus on balancing public accounts rather than the economic well-being of citizens will continue to wreak devastation. In the same breath as announcing that the ‘economic emergency’ caused by Covid-19 had only just begun and would cause lasting damage to growth and jobs, he is talking about how we pay for it. These are mutually exclusive positions.

The greatest omission in the budget was an absence of clearly articulated green measures. This was an opportunity for boldness, but instead, it was a damp squib! Promises of action make for good propaganda but according to research by Vivid Economics much more needs to be done to meet environmental targets and the Chancellor failed to put flesh on the bones.

As work by economists including Joseph Stiglitz has shown, green spending could create jobs and provide economic benefits as countries struggle to lift their economies out of the Covid-19 recession. And yet, whilst the government waves its environmental credentials as a host for COP 26 to take place in the UK in November, at the same time it is sitting on the fence over the opening of a new coal mine in Cumbria. Jobs are an important consideration, but as Fatih Birol from the International Energy Agency told the Guardian countries must forsake coal as a matter of urgency and avoid repeating the mistakes of the 2008 financial crisis.

We need as a matter of urgency to follow a more sustainable path for a green recovery, not stampede for growth at any cost! We cannot return to the false normal that we had before Covid-19 arrived on the scene.

In the light of rising unemployment, particularly amongst young people who have suffered over the course of the last year, a properly targeted green stimulus could tackle it through green initiatives to provide jobs and training focused on renewable energy and environmental conservation. Combined with the implementation of a job guarantee to ensure that no-one is left behind on the unemployment scrap heap, such initiatives could revitalise the economy by putting human and planetary well-being at the top of the agenda. But instead, as the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose suggested in a recent blog ‘The Treasury is reverting to free-market economic orthodoxy, relying on business and the housing market to do the heavy lifting’.

To conclude, it is an irony that with such huge challenges ahead, that on both the left and the right of the political spectrum Mrs Thatcher’s dictum ‘There is no such thing as public money. There is only taxpayers’ money’ is still alive and thriving.

But as GIMMS Associate Member, Neil Wilson put it in his budget preamble:

“If there is one thing the last year has taught us it is that the Government is never short of money”

But why is it always presented as a hard choice? Balanced public accounts or sustainable human and planetary flourishing? There is an alternative to this narrow and destructive vision of the future. And it is one that if we fail to grasp the message that monetary reality brings, we will betray our children and grandchildren who will pick up the real cost of not acting.  It will not be a monetary one. It will be one of planetary destruction and human decline.

In the words of Naomi Klein:

“Because, underneath all of this is the real truth we have been avoiding: climate change isn’t an “issue” to add to the list of things to worry about, next to health care and taxes. It is a civilizational wake-up call. A powerful message—spoken in the language of fires, floods, droughts, and extinctions—telling us that we need an entirely new economic model and a new way of sharing this planet. Telling us that we need to evolve.”



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The UK budget offered no vision for sustainable economic growth

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 06/03/2021 - 6:32am in

Council Member Josh Ryan-Collins:

This week’s budget appeared at first to be seismic shift away from conservative economic orthodoxy by the government. Alongside a further major expansion in borrowing to support jobs and incomes over the next six months, the chancellor adopted the previous left-wing Labour party’s policy of a major rise in corporation tax (from 19% to 25% of profits) to close a record peacetime budget deficit.

But as the dust has settled and the numbers interrogated, the budget looks rather less radical.

Firstly, it cannot be described as a rejection of austerity. The budget contained no explicit additional resources beyond the coming financial year for public services to deal with the legacy of the pandemic. Rather, as pointed out by the government’s own spending watchdog, the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR), it involved an additional £4bn spending cut, alongside £11bn previously announced, beyond next year. For the most vulnerable, the proposed £20 cut in universal credit remains, even if pushed back to September. The freezing of income tax thresholds will also hurt lower paid workers, assuming wages do rise.

Annual revaccinations, ongoing test and trace capacity, a huge NHS catch up program on thousands of missed operations, and rising unemployment bills will all be somehow funded on pre-pandemic spending plans. Meanwhile, NHS workers can look forward to a miserly 1% pay rise in return for their heroic pandemic efforts.

Secondly, the budget was singularly lacking in ambition when it came to the government’s role in creating a sustainable, inclusive and investment-led recovery.

There was no mention of investment in social care, a sector that is badly organised, extremely low paid and clearly vital in improving the resilience of an ageing population and economy to future pandemic-type shocks.

There was no new green stimulus despite the UK facing a £100bn funding gap to reach its net-zero by 2050 target and despite its hosting of the global COP26 climate change summit this November. Neither was there any major program to help young people find work. Both the latter two challenges could have been tackled with green jobs and apprenticeships program focused on renewable energy and environmental conservation.

Meanwhile, the new National Infrastructure Bank will be capitalised with just £12bn (equivalent to just 0.5% of GDP) and again, be heavily reliant on private sector co-investment.

Indeed, it appears the government may have abandoned industrial policy altogether, shutting down the Industrial Strategy Council lead by Andy Haldane and moving industrial policy out of BEIS and in to HMT.

Reverting to economic orthodoxy

Instead, the Treasury is reverting to free-market economic orthodoxy, relying on business and the housing market to do the heavy lifting.

A 130% ‘super deduction’ tax break for capital investment by businesses in machinery and plant was the key pro-growth policy announcement. Whilst it makes sense to reduce tax on productive investment, it is highly questionable whether the majority of British firms believe there is sufficient demand in the economy for major new capital investment outlays. The OBR is predicting not, forecasting a return to anaemic growth of just 1.7% in 2023, following a boom in 2022.

“The Treasury is reverting to free-market economic orthodoxy, relying on business and the housing market to do the heavy lifting.”

The policy may bring forward some existing planned capital spending but is unlikely to create the structural shift in investment the economy needs. The exception may be those firms already doing rather well in pandemic conditions. Amazon, for example, has racked up record profits over the past nine months as physical retail has collapsed and may use the supertax break to wipe out its UK tax bill completely.

The corporate tax profits hike is a sensible policy. However, its timing — not being introduced to 2023 — is suspect and will likely mean it is subject to ferocious counter lobbying if the economy improves. If businesses are to be taxed, a more sensible approach would have been a phased in rise in corporate tax starting immediately, accompanied by a windfall tax on those companies — like Big Tech, Private Equity and the Supermarkets — that have done so well out of the pandemic.

On housing, the budget was an opportunity to push forward a big capital investment in public housing and retrofit of existing stock and rethink the country’s highly regressive property taxation system. Reducing property tax for the poorest would be a fair way of stimulating stagnating demand.

Instead, the government extended the stamp duty tax cut on home purchase into the summer and announced it will guarantee 95% mortgages. These are expensive policies that reveal the Treasury remains fixated on the idea that ever-rising house prices are the best way to stimulate the economy and private sector house building. This debt- and consumption-lead economic growth model is inefficient, leads to greater financial fragility as well as increasing inequality as more people are priced out of the housing market.

Meanwhile, there was no sign of any reform of property taxation, nor even a commitment to raise capital gains and remove exclusions as had been rumoured.

In summary, whilst the extension of government support to the Autumn should be welcomed and will help the country avoid a much more severe recession, this Budget was not the economic reset the country needed. It will do little to stimulate a sustainable recovery and help Britain on to a more progressive economic trajectory. Now was surely the perfect time to shift the focus of taxation on to economic rents and away from labour. Instead, it is a budget that mainly favours the rentier sectors already doing well — Big Tech, banks, developers, homeowners — at the expense of the public sector, lower paid workers and renters.UCL IIPP Blog

This blog first appeared on the blog for the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose

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The post The UK budget offered no vision for sustainable economic growth appeared first on The Progressive Economy Forum.

The Budget should be about building a just society, not balancing the books.

11/03/2020. London, United Kingdom. Budget Day . 10 Downing Street. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak holds up the red box outside Number 11 on his first Budget.Picture by Harriet Pavey/ No 10 Downing Street. Crown copyright 2020 via Flickr

Too large a proportion of recent “mathematical” economics are mere concoctions, as imprecise as the initial assumptions they rest on, which allow the author to lose sight of the complexities and interdependencies of the real world in a maze of pretentious and unhelpful symbols.

John Maynard Keynes


The burden of the national debt hangs heavy; or so the economists, politicians and journalists want us to believe. In a Dispatches programme that aired this week on Channel 4, ‘Britain’s £400bn Covid Bill: Who will Pay?’ you could be forgiven for thinking that the game is up and we’re on the road to financial collapse unless we get our public finances back on track.

There would be an eventual price to pay as a result of all the money the government had borrowed to cover the costs of extra benefits, furloughing and business support schemes, a former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling suggested. Our national debt had grown scarily larger than the overall size of the economy. According to the presenter, the magic money tree had financed the huge cost of the pandemic (erroneously referring to QE as the magic money tree even though it cannot be described as money printing and injects no new net financial assets into the economy – find out more here). Alistair Darling, who was referred to as having planted the original magic money tree back in the late noughties as a response to the Global Financial Crash, was apparently alarmed that it had become a forest and warned his audience that if not now, there will be a future reckoning. Indeed, the Chancellor confirmed on Saturday, in advance of the Budget, that the country’s finances were exposed and that there will be a future price to pay for the high levels of spending and borrowing. The fear mantra continues.

Since Britain’s lockdown, the economy, according to the presenter, had struggled to generate tax, with the direct implication that this had had an effect on the government’s ability to fund its spending, which then had required it to borrow vast sums to cover its deficit.

He asked what the options were to remedy the situation and restore the public finances to order? Tax rises? More austerity? Or kickstarting growth through investment in hard infrastructure through even more borrowing? And could that last option lead to bankruptcy in the end, even though, as so many of us know now, a sovereign currency-issuing government never needs to worry about insolvency, providing its liabilities are in its own currency.

The consequences of all the options discussed in the programme reflect the general media conversation which is currently dominating the run-up to the Budget on March 3rd.

Raising corporation taxes, implementing a one-off wealth tax, a windfall tax on profits, or hitting pension savers with a tax on their pension savings. All are posited as being potential mechanisms to boost the Treasury coffers to fill the financial black hole caused by the pandemic. Sunak is, according to some sources, considering raising Corporation Tax. However, whilst some companies have clearly benefited from the pandemic and seen a rise in their profits as a result, that will not be the case for many companies. In short, increased corporation taxes would affect many small and medium-sized businesses that are already struggling, especially in the face of the massive corporations that pay little or no corporation tax in the UK.

Such a decision could further stifle the economy and leave those companies with no option but to increase prices, lay off their staff or close down. Tax increases with the aim of balancing the public accounts would be a death knell for an already declining economy, at a time when politicians should be pushing hard instead to reduce the tax burden on all workers to rebalance the economy and make it fairer.

More austerity as a potential solution would not only also be unpalatable, given the damaging consequences of previous cuts to public sector services and local government, but would also further impact on an already decimated public and social infrastructure. If nothing else, the pandemic should have demonstrated beyond all doubt to the nation the vital nature of our public and social infrastructure and what happens when you cut spending on it. The economy, which reflects the lives of real people, suffers.

The final option discussed was stimulating regional growth through government investment in hard infrastructure, as part of the government’s so called ‘levelling up’ promises. It was suggested that it would generate the taxes to repay the debt and ensure that UK Plc would be ultimately better off. Once again, we have the incorrect suggestion that the government can be compared to a business and must manage its accounts like a company balance sheet. It is not. Although it is counterintuitive to most people, money is created by the government from nothing and unlike businesses does not need an income or to borrow to spend on day-to-day expenditure or infrastructure investment.

The programme then topped off with the usual fear-mongering idea that ‘money printing’ on this scale could spark inflation and/or a financial crisis. Zimbabwe or Venezuela awaits! As if it were ‘money printing’ in itself that creates inflation, rather than spending beyond the productive capacity of the nation. Whilst inflation is the only real limitation to government spending, the current economic climate is unlikely to produce it.

With unemployment already high (the jobless rate is at its highest since 2016) and likely to rise even higher over the coming months, along with the prospect of yet more business failures, it is highly unlikely that high inflation or Zimbabwe is on the cards, even if Andy Haldane the Chief Economist at the Bank of England, has suggested that interest rates may have to rise. Even his own colleagues on the Monetary Policy Committee at the central bank disagreed with his analysis. The economy is on a knife-edge and will be for some time to come. After 10 years of already punishing austerity, which has kept wages low, reduced living standards and cut spending on the public infrastructure serving the nation, the pandemic has, and will continue to add to that economic pain. A recovery is likely to be slow and painful without sufficient government intervention.

The whole premise of the argument presented in the programme is that government spending is constrained by its tax revenue or the ability to borrow to cover the deficit, which in turn leads to public debt, which will at some point in time lead to ‘hard choices’ at some future Budget. The vision of the Chancellor and his Treasury Team pouring over the public accounts and wondering how they can keep the Conservatives’ reputation for sound finance intact, is a powerful one, that is currently being exploited day in and day out as Budget Day approaches. Raising corporation tax, a stealth tax on wealthy pensioners, a one-off wealth tax, all grist to the mill in the discussion about what the Chancellor might do after the huge round of government spending, to reinforce his fiscal reputation as a sound manager of the public finances.

At the same time as Rishi Sunak is working on how to get the public finances back in order and pay down the debt, those on the left are continuing to promote endlessly across social media, the idea that we need to raise the taxes of the rich (in this case through Corporation Tax, wealth taxes or a tax on profits) in order to be able to spend on an economic recovery.

Last week, it was the Labour leader Keir Starmer proposing Recovery Bonds, or using the savers’ money, to fund the recovery. This week, it’s getting the rich to pay for it. According to the IPPR, which published its reportTax and Recovery: Beyond the Binary’ this week, we can pay for a sustainable recovery by raising taxes on the wealthy. Let’s tax the rich for equity, removing purchasing power and the influence their wealth affords them, but please let’s stop telling people it pays for stuff! It doesn’t. Using such redundant household budget narratives begs the question as to whether the left really want to create the more equitable and sustainable economy that they seek. In promoting reliance on the wealthy to achieve their objectives, they forego any claim to progressive politics.

In its favour, the report suggested quite rightly that the UK tax system is in serious need of reform because, ‘It is inefficient, unfairly taxes labour more than capital, exacerbates inequality, and fails to shape the economy in a sustainable way’. These are indeed the right arguments to make, and are fundamental to real societal change and the creation of a fairer, more equitable society. And yet those arguments are still couched in the household budget narrative that government needs our taxes in order to spend:

‘…in the aftermath of the pandemic, tax increases will be required in order to put public finances on a sustainable footing in the medium term. This will likely include addressing increased funding needs for public services such as health and social care. The exact size of this will partly depend on how quickly the economy bounces back (which in turn depends on the size of the stimulus this year).”

Once again, the implication is that our public services are dependent on the health of the economy, when instead it is the other way around.

Whilst one understands that people rightly feel that the rich should shoulder their fair share of the tax burden, they do so on the misunderstanding that these taxes pay for our public and social infrastructure, from which we all benefit, rich or poor. However, we are not beholden to, or dependent on, rich people for creating a better society through the payment of taxes or indeed trickle-down of wealth. We are dependent instead on a government with the political will to create that society. Over decades, the political, economic and media establishment have promoted sound finance over human well-being as if there were no alternative.

The Dispatches programme, while asking how we can pay the Covid-19 bill, then went on to cover the extraordinary consequences of the past year. But it made no specific connection between previous government legislative and spending policies and the rise in poverty and inequality, which is a phenomenon which predates Covid-19 and indeed can be traced back decades. GIMMS has covered these in many previous blogs.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research indicated that the number of UK households living in destitution had risen from 0.7% of all households in 2019 to 1.5% in 2020. The NIESR Director, Professor Jagjit Chadha told Dispatches:

As a result of lockdowns, levels of destitution seem to be rising across the country. But what’s terribly worrying is that in certain regions – in the North West in particular – we might see some 4, 5 or 6 per cent of the population living in destitution,”


In places where income levels are relatively low compared to other regions, an economic shock drives more people into destitution and poverty. We’ve also been looking at the demand for food banks and that’s gone up at a really worrying rate over 2020. And I don’t see that that’s going to fall this year, particularly if furloughing or other forms of income support stop over the next month or two,”

There are no magic bullets. We have to be realistic and we might make mistakes along the way. The future is built on uncertainty. However, it is within the capacity of a sovereign, currency-issuing government with a real vision for the future to start making a difference. We could have a real road map for the future instead of Boris Johnson’s meaningless rhetoric.

A government that was really interested in ‘levelling up’ and making people’s lives better, would not only be investing in hard infrastructure, training and education to bring jobs to facilitate a green and sustainable transition, but also reinvesting in the public and social infrastructure which has been decimated by decades of rationalisation, cuts and privatisation.

As part of a proactive economic strategy, it would also commit to full employment policies, introduce legislation to ensure a proper living wage with better terms and conditions of employment, and introduce a Job Guarantee to manage the inevitable cyclical nature of the economy. It would ensure that the needs of those unable to work, for whatever reason, were provided for to allow a dignified and rewarding life. Nobody should have to rely on food banks or charitable donations in order to have a decent life. Nobody should have to feel that they are responsible for their poverty – the great neoliberal lie of meritocracy which has become embedded in the public consciousness. The government has the tools to ensure economic well-being for its nation.

This moment of great change offers an opportunity. Aside from the vast inequalities that exist, climate breakdown is no longer a distant threat; it is bearing down on us at great speed. We must address these challenges as a matter of urgency. GIMMS has indicated more than once that we need to initiate a conversation about our priorities. More consumption accompanied by more real resource and human exploitation by global corporations? Or a different choice? One with a collective vision for a better future, in which the government plays a greater role in addressing those challenges, and through its taxation and other policies, ensures it has sufficient real resources to create a fairer and less stressful existence for all, whilst ensuring the sustainable and efficient use of the nation’s resources.

After a year of great uncertainty, pain, suffering and death of loved ones, with a prospect of yet more to come, and life-changing choices to make, we have to decide what the nation’s priorities, and our own as families and individuals, should be.



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The post The Budget should be about building a just society, not balancing the books. appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

Why Sunak should put an end to England's stamp duty holiday romance | David Mitchell

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 28/02/2021 - 9:00pm in

The tax break on house purchases saw prices rise by 8.5% – but is it really the best way to address the housing shortage?

Reports last week that the stamp duty holiday in England and Northern Ireland is to be extended were met with unsurprisingly little consternation, surprisingly. I mean that I wasn’t surprised by the lack of consternation which, on reflection, was surprising. Can you be surprised on reflection, or just by a reflection because you haven’t had a haircut since October? I think you can. It was a gradual, creeping surprise that stole through me gingerly, like a presentiment of diarrhoea.

People don’t like stamp duty, because it makes the surreal sums involved in procuring shelter significantly more eye-watering. Still, isn’t it a bit nuts, when you think about it, extending the stamp duty holiday? The country isn’t made of money. Except it sort of is made of money because the property here is worth so much. Particularly in the south-east, but in Britain generally, houses cost too much. And, thanks to the stamp duty holiday, UK prices rose last year by 8.5%. That’s while most of the economy was somewhere on a scale from lightly to totally screwed.

I, like all loyal Britons, swell with pride that our property market has become the repository of choice for Russian oligarchs’ ill-gotten wealth

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Recovery Bonds – The very opposite of what is needed.

Seedling sprouting from the soilImage by Neville Kingston from Pixabay

“The same rule of self-destructive financial calculation governs every walk of life. We destroy the beauty of the countryside because the unappropriated splendors of nature have no economic value. We are capable of shutting off the sun and the stars because they do not pay a dividend.”

John Maynard Keynes


As the Chancellor’s March Budget draws ever closer, there is no shortage of comment or recommendations by media pundits as to what its content should be. The question on people’s lips is how can the Chancellor raise revenues without wrecking the post-Covid recovery. Opinions are varied, ranging from higher taxes sooner or later, to another round of cuts to public sector spending to ‘get the public accounts back into health’. As if the consequences of the Great Financial Crash in 2008, and the austerity which followed when the Conservatives came to power in 2010, are not burned into the collective memory, the public is treated yet again to another round of the tired mantra of ‘How are we going to pay for it?’

Whilst the Chancellor has pumped huge sums into the economy to prop it up over the past year (even though that support has been selective, left some sections of society in financial distress and seen huge sums of public money being poured into private profit) the deficit and debt remain the bogeyman waiting in the shadows to justify unpalatable solutions, which will most certainly add to the nation’s pain, not reduce it.

Douglas McWilliams, a Director at the Centre for Economic and Business Research, suggests being ‘honest’ with the public about taxes having to go up at some point, says the government should encourage the rich to pay their fair share as a moral imperative, and claims that having worked with the public sector for many years, there is still plenty of inefficiency that the Chancellor could squeeze to close part of the gap.

Putting aside the issue of the hugely inequitable distribution of wealth, which needs addressing as a matter of social justice, the fact is that tax does not fund government spending, wherever it comes from, not even from the pockets of the rich. Public spending arises as a politically derived decision, not relating to the efforts of the bean counters in the treasury and their budgeting skills, but to the economic ideology which currently prevails. One which has been guided for decades by neoliberal thought which favours the primacy of the market (never mind that the market is a creation of the state, not a freestanding phenomenon to be obeyed at all costs) and monetarist orthodoxy which suggests that government spending is limited by tax revenue or the ability to borrow. Neither of which reflects monetary reality.

Furthermore, over the last 10 years, cuts to public sector spending have decimated public services and local government. Cuts which have impacted on and severely constrained their ability to meet the current challenges and will continue to do so without a change in public policy and funding.

Whilst further rationalisation might suit the current government, being intent on privatisation and pouring public money into private corporations with complete disregard for transparency and public accountability, the end result is aiming only to serve the bank balances of those corporations. Not that of the public interest.

The direction of travel is clear. Without any protest from the public, we are witnessing the potential end of publicly paid for, managed, and delivered services, accountable to Parliament and ultimately the electorate, in favour of a continuing alliance between the government and the corporations that it serves.

Earlier this week, the IFS issued a press release entitled ‘Look to the Budget to secure the recovery, not fix the public finances’. Whilst recommending quite rightly that the Chancellor set out plans for supporting the recovery, offsetting the impacts of Covid-19 on inequalities, and allocating substantial sums to health, education, local government and justice, in the next breath it suggests, despite all those fine aspirations, that the public finances were ‘likely on an unsustainable path’ which will need to be addressed at some unspecified time in the future. It jumps on the usual orthodox bandwagon of government being able to ‘borrow’ at extremely low rates of interest, but at the same time suggesting even modest rises in the cost of borrowing would impact on public debt, and put further strain on the public finances.

In the eyes of its Director Paul Johnson, abandoning austerity whilst at the same time expressing an aim to balance the books, will bring about an eventual ‘reckoning’ in the form of big future tax rises if growth is not fast enough to tackle the fiscal deficit. Once again, we have an accounting description of the public finances which treats income (in the form of taxation) and expenditure as if they were like those of a business or a private individual relying on an income to spend.

The bottom line is always, mistakenly, that at some time in the future when the economy bounces back into health, action will need to be taken to restore the public accounts back to balance. Even though the government as the currency issuer does not depend on taxation to spend, or borrowing to cover the deficit, and that deficits in themselves are not necessarily the bad things we have been led to believe, that is the narrative that finds its way relentlessly into the public arena and is reinforced daily so as to ensure the public don’t forget it.

The policies of successive governments, often pursued regardless of the damaging economic outcomes for many people whilst creating vast disparities in wealth, have arisen both as a result of the promotion of fiscal responsibility and the ideologically driven doctrine of market supremacy. The consequences of this harmful, decades-long narrative on society have been brought into the public gaze over this last year. GIMMS has covered them endlessly in its blogs since its launch in 2018. Consequences including low wages, insecure employment, unemployment and underemployment, all of which impact on people’s standard of living; leading to rising hunger and homelessness, ill health and increased crime.

Combine this with a decaying public and social infrastructure through lack of public investment, and you have a recipe for societal, not to mention environmental, breakdown.

Which makes it all the more a contradiction in terms when the IFS and other organisations write reports or launch reviews aimed at securing a better understanding of how inequality arises. A case in point is the IFS Deaton Review of Inequalities which was launched a year and a half ago, in which Sir Angus Deaton raised the astounding possibility that ‘inequalities may prove a threat to our economic, social and political systems unless they are tackled effectively’. A statement that declares the obvious, but often fails to make connections between the rise of inequity and government policies.

At the same time as arguing for a better understanding of how inequalities in health, income, wealth, educational opportunity and family life affect people’s lives, and seeking to identify the forces that combine to create them, 18 months on even as Covid-19 has added to pre-existing inequalities, the IFS is choosing to frame its arguments within the context of limited monetary resources and hard choices to be made, maybe not today, but in the future.

It seems to be quite confused as to the forces that have created this societal dissonance and inequity, although the elephant in the room is staring them right in the face. The economic policies of successive governments, which have given precedence to the notion of balanced accounts rather than economic well-being.

The premise that inequality is harmful to society is the right conclusion, but, according to the IFS, solving it may be more problematic in the future, given the already dire state of the public finances. Jam today but bread and scrape tomorrow. Everywhere you look the same paucity of thinking hinders real change.

Yet again this week, as the pundits try to outguess each other as to the Chancellor’s budget plans, the pros and cons of a wealth tax have been the subject of discussion in the media. Norma Cohen, an Honorary Research Fellow at Queen Mary University of London, whose PhD thesis was entitled ‘How Britain Paid for the War: Bond Holders in the Great War 1914-1932, argued in an article in the Financial Times that an Excess Profit Duty of the type implemented in 1917 to help pay for the war, should be considered today to deal with the ‘gaping deficit’ which has occurred as a result of the pandemic.

Such a tax, she suggests could be useful in thinking about how Britain will repay its debt, by allowing the government to extract higher revenues from businesses who have been able to ‘exploit the effects of the pandemic whilst shielding the weakest’. In a time when some sectors have profited hugely from the pandemic leaving others with staggering losses, and when the widespread inequality which predates Covid-19 has been exacerbated by it, equity is clearly an important consideration. But we should disregard the suggestion that such a tax could be revenue-raising, either for funding spending or paying off public debt.

In short, let us not indulge in the household budget nonsense which imagines that the treasury needs tax to fund public services or to repay the enormous sums which it has spent over the last year. If we are to make arguments for taxation, let us make the right ones. Not indulge in spurious arguments which claim we depend on the largesse of the excessively wealthy for the public and social infrastructure which society and the economy needs for its health and well-being.

  • Tax to drive the currency by creating demand for it.
  • Tax for equity and wealth redistribution through appropriate tax regimes.
  • Tax to remove the excessive purchasing power and influence wealth brings.
  • Tax to create fiscal space, meaning to make room in the economy to spend on essential services, when otherwise there would be a shortage of real resources and consequently, rising inflation.
  • Tax to drive essential behavioural change.

But let us put to one side the tax funds spending mantra. It doesn’t. Saying so endlessly won’t change the facts.

The measurement of a healthy economy is how much the government policies and spending decisions have done to improve people’s lives and create a fairer and more equitable society. Not whether the government managed to collect sufficient tax or balanced its books.

While the debate continues about the coming budget and what it will mean for the economy and people’s lives, Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, gave a speech this week that could be described as less a ‘A New Chapter for Britain’ and more of ‘Back to Business as usual.’ With no mention of a Green New Deal, he suggested that working with business would be a central plank of his leadership and that businesses would have to play an essential role in dealing with social responsibilities and the climate emergency. Plus ça change and all that!

A fairer society cannot be created by companies whose rationale for existence is to make a profit. A fairer society can only be created by a government with the will to do so by its spending and legislative decisions. Exploitation of working people and the planet’s resources require the government to be the arbiter on behalf of their electorate, not work hand in glove with corporations to service their greed. Haven’t we seen the consequences of the current government’s actions? Democratic governance is the only mechanism for defending citizens against the unchecked greed which is a shameful and unnecessary feature of economic life.

Under Labour’s leadership, he also added that its priority would always be financial responsibility. ‘I know the value of people’s hard-earned money – I take that incredibly seriously’ he said. Whoa! Labour spending taxpayers’ hard-earned money wisely. It seems that Labour, like other progressive parties, still have no understanding of the modern monetary realities and prefer to keep their heads firmly in the sand of orthodoxy, rather than spend the time up to the next election building a case for deficit spending without all the smoke and mirrors rigmarole of taxing and borrowing.

His big innovative idea, which was praised in some quarters, is his proposal for Recovery Bonds. A totally absurd scheme which not only demonstrates ignorance of macroeconomics, but also how governments that issue their own currency really spend. In an allusion to war bonds, he suggested that a future Labour government would spend the money raised through their issuance on rebuilding local communities, jobs, businesses and infrastructure, giving ‘millions of people a proper stake in Britain’s future.’

Let’s first put this proposal into a historical context. During the second world war, the government sold war bonds. They were not for the purpose of financing the war as one might have been led to think, but were offered as a mechanism to curb inflationary spending when the economy was already at full capacity/employment fighting the war. It allowed the government to purchase all the resources it needed to fight the war and manage inflationary pressures at the same time.

As the economist John Maynard Keynes made clear at the time, the money the government removed from circulation through offering War Bonds did not go anywhere and did not fund the war. Furthermore, with the present-day economy in a depressed state, which is likely to continue for some time to come, maybe years as our experience with the GFC showed, and made worse by economically illiterate years of austerity, this is not the moment to encourage saving. We need the exact opposite to recover and grow. As the saying goes one person’s spending is another’s income. What we need to do though is consider what that spending consists of. Will it be transitory, short term consumption which does nothing to add to our happiness, or useful spending,  contributing to creating a better, healthier planet and a sustainable mode of living?

As in the post-war period we need the government to spend, as only it can, on rebuilding the economy and deliver a Green New Deal by committing to full employment as a policy choice through a Job Guarantee and the restoration of the role of government in public service delivery. Doing this does not require the issuance of Recovery Bonds it just requires political will. The mistaken idea being perpetuated is the lie that the government has to borrow our money to do nice things. That lie has already done much damage.

Furthermore, what is being suggested is that asset-rich people can put their money in a bond (which goes nowhere except into a savings account) and get interest paid on top at maturity. Professor Bill Mitchell has a phrase for when big corporations buy them. Corporate Welfare. This is at a time when the richest half of the income band has increased their savings, whilst the poorest have fallen into debt. If people want safe places to save, then fine (but at current bond rates it’s scarcely going to be a steal). But let’s abandon the notion that the government needs their money.

GIMMS Associate Member Neil Wilson provided an MMT Lens perspective on the Labour Party’s proposal for Recovery Bonds this week:

“All that happens is the balance sheet of the commercial bank shrinks and a Gilt is swapped for a Banana Bond. Not one extra penny is added to the Consolidated Fund by the process.

Because, of course, money from the Consolidated Fund comes via votes in Parliament not by flogging cheap gimmicks to the public. If Starmer wants money for any project, all he has to do is put a Supply Estimate in and get Parliament to vote it through. And that funds the project. Each time, every time – in the same way it has been done for at least 150 years.”



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