Tag: Liberalisation

Tory dogma and hypocrisy: the “big state”, bureaucracy, austerity and “freedom”

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The Tories are not “paying down the debt” as claimed. They are raising more money for the rich.

Labour’s social and economic policy was a success, and this is substantiated by the LSE’s definitive survey of the Blair-Brown years:

There is clear evidence that public spending worked, contrary to popular belief.” Nor did Labour overspend. It inherited “a large deficit and high public sector debt”, with spending “at a historic low” – 14th out of 15 in the EU.

Labour’s spending increased, and money was invested in public services and social programs, and until the crash was still “unexceptional”, either by historic UK standards or international ones.

Until 2007 “national debt levels were lower than when Labour took office”. After years of neglect during the previous Conservative administration [2 recessions during the Thatcher era, another during Major’s],  Labour inherited a mess: public services in very poor state, shabby and squalid public buildings and unforgivably neglected human lives that formed a social deficit much more costly than any Treasury debt.

Labour Ministers set about addressing the causes and devastating effects of poverty and social marginalisation. Both poverty and inequality had risen to levels unprecedented in post-war history. This process accelerated during the 1980s.

Unlike every other post-war decade, in which the benefits of economic growth had been shared across social groups, the economic gains of the 1980s disproportionately benefited the rich at the expense of the poor (Hills, 2004). Social inequality on such a gross level was not only the result of Thatcher’s policies, she celebrated it. She declared that inequality is essential to fostering “the spirit of envy” and hailed greed as a “valuable spur to economic activity”.

The mess that Thatcher left is verified by several longitudinal studies. Dr. Alex Scott-Samuel and colleagues from the Universities of Durham, West of Scotland, Glasgow and Edinburgh, sourced data from over 70 existing research papers, which concludes that as a result of unnecessary unemployment, welfare cuts and damaging housing policies, the former prime minister’s legacy

…includes the unnecessary and unjust premature death of many British citizens, together with a substantial and continuing burden of suffering and loss of well-being.

The article also cites evidence including the substantial increase in income inequality under Thatcher – the richest 0.01% of society had 28 times the mean national average income in 1978 but 70 times the average in 1990, and the rise in UK poverty rates from 6.7% in 1975 to 12% in 1985.

It concludes that:

Thatcher’s governments wilfully engineered an economic catastrophe across large parts of Britain” by dismantling traditional industries such as coal and steel in order to undermine the power of working class organisations, such as unions. This ultimately fed through into growing regional disparities in health standards and life expectancy, as well as greatly increased inequalities between the richest and poorest in society.

Blair established the social exclusion unit inside No 10. “Social exclusion” signified not just poverty, but its myriad causes and symptoms, with 18 task forces examining education, babies’ development, debt, addiction, mental health, housing and much more. Policies followed and so did improvements.

John Prescott’s department published an annual Opportunities for All report that monitored these social targets: 48 out of 59 indicators improved. So when Cameron and his band of brigands sneer that “all Labour did was give tax credits to lift families just over the poverty line” – “poverty plus a pound” – they lie through their teeth.

Contrary to Tory claims, benefits were not Labour’s main instrument of social change: the benefit budget fell as a proportion of spending, outstripped by increases in health, education and other social services.

Despite Blair’s neoliberal turn, Labour’s social policies enshrined principles of equality and inclusion. The Tories deplore such principles, yet that doesn’t stop them claiming that their socially regressive policies are somehow “fair”. Things got better with a Labour administration, money was mostly well spent. That’s not the case now. It’s all being intentionally and spitefully undone. We are moving backwards on just about every positive social measure Labour put in place: the coalition’s “more for less” is exposed as pretence. They are simply raising more money for the rich.

And all because of their driving ideology. George Osborne’s “plan A” isn’t about economics: it amounts to little more than a rehashed Thatcherite ideological agenda of deregulation and labour market “flexibility”, as modelled by the Beecroft report – the assault on the rights of employees, and Labour’s historic equality legislation. The Tory demand for a “nightwatchman state” is both ill-conceived and completely irrelevant to Britain’s economic circumstances.

The Coalition have borrowed more in 4 years than labour did in 13 and have NOTHING to show for it except a handful of wealthier millionaires. And the return of absolute poverty.

We know that austerity was intentionally imposed by the Coalition, using a feigned panic over the budget deficit to front an opportunistic vulture capitalist approach to stripping our public assets. With the Coalition in power for 4 years, the deficit has apparently receded in importance.

We can hope that Labour can return to its  pro-social role of advocating government spending for the provision of public services. Conservatives have always played on dogma and popular prejudice by constantly equating government with bureaucracy. But that’s just the superficial excuse for their obsession with removing every trace of supportive provision and our public services.

It’s more accurate to say that Conservatives equate socially responsible, democratic, caring governments with “bureaucracy”. Conservatives aren’t ever interested in championing independent and merit-based public service. But most criticisms of government bureaucracy are based on myth, not reality.

The agencies that the Tories attack and destroy actually play a valuable and indispensable role in making our society a better place to live. They are the very hallmarks of what makes us civilised, they are how we support vulnerable citizens, ensure equal opportunities, uphold human rights.

The whole point of having human rights is that they apply to EVERYONE – something the Tories never understand – if rights are  not universally applied, then they are worthless. In fact they are hostile to the very notion that we each have equal worth, as we know.

Tories value and develop social hierarchy. When Tories want to make “shrinking” government sound attractive and feasible, they claim they are cutting “bureaucracy” and not social “programs.” Most people recognise the public value of State programs – in the areas of education, health and the environment for example – and don’t want to see these reduced; but everyone hates bureaucracy.

Using the term “bureaucracy” in this way is a rhetorical sleight-of-hand that attempts to obscure the real costs of cutting back on government programs. The lack of coherent reasoning underpinning the rhetoric is because this is simply Tory fundamentalism: it is not founded at all on rational, evidenced discourse.

I’ve said elsewhere that Edwardian levels of inequality led to the Great Depression. Austerity measures under Chancellor Hindenburg contributed to the rise of Nazism. The drop in household income in Japan between 1929 and 1931 led to a wave of assassinations of Government officials and bankers.

Social policies after World War 2 turned the tables and brought peace, with inequality steadily dropping in Britain until recently. But inequality is now returning to pre-war levels. The Tories are incapable of learning from historic lessons, because of their own sense of entitlement, privilege and ideological bondage.

In response to the atrocities committed during the War, the International Community sought to define the rights and freedoms necessary to secure the dignity and worth of each individual. Ratified by the United Kingdom, one of the first countries to do so, in 1951, those human rights originally established in the Universal Declaration have been steadily eroded since the Coalition gained Office.

There’s a clear link between high levels of inequality and failure of Governments to recognise human rights, and to implement them in policies. Authoritarians view the rights of the individual, (including those considered to be human rights by the international community), as subject to the needs of the Government. Of course in democracies, Governments are elected to represent and serve the needs of the population.

Democracy is not only about elections. It is also about distributive and social justice. The quality of the democratic process, including transparent and accountable Government and equality before the law, is critical. Façade democracy occurs when liberalisation measures are kept under tight rein by elites who fail to generate political inclusion.

Related articles:

How remarkable that a government that argues against bureaucracy on the grounds that it’s a “threat to individual freedom” have no problems imposing the Gagging Act and the Legal Aid Act – policies purposefully designed to severely limit our freedoms. But then, the Tories were never known for their rationality, coherence and joined-up narratives. Or for integrity and telling the truth.

Thatcher’s secret plot to dismantle the welfare state and privatise the NHS revealed

The mess we inherited: some facts with which to fight the Tory Big Lies

The great debt lie and the structural deficit myth

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Osborne’s real aim is not budget surplus, but attack on Welfare State & public sectors It’s not a difficult task for a government to guarantee a safety-net that is always available for anyone who falls on hard times during an era of huge social and economic change. We all fund it, after all. And we all know that unemployment, injury or illness may happen to anyone through no fault of their own. It’s considered a duty of any first-world government to provide the means of basic survival for its citizens and to fund that with the money we contribute via taxes. In fact such an approach to social and economic welfare is internationally codified in human rights.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which the UK is a signatory, reads:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

The Tories prefer to spend the tax they take from you on Tory donors – private companies that don’t deliver a service but simply fleece profit; on undeserving millionaires’ tax breaks – the feckless, scrounging rich had at least £107,000 each per year extra already. Then there is the never ending list of Tory expense scandals – all at our expense. And tax evasion. Why are we paying for this?

Furthermore, why are we indifferent as a society to the fact that our government is causing harm to our fellow citizens? I can’t comprehend this, how can we have allowed this to happen, as a so-called civilised and once democratic society? It’s about a driving ideology that is socially detrimental, malevolent, and not economically necessary: the Tories do not think that people have a right to food, housing or medical care, that much is clear. But they continue to take the money we have paid since the 1940s for those things. And hand it out to the wealthy.

Despite these facts, the Govt and the right-wing media have the audacity to talk about welfare claimants, as if all our woes are their fault. They aren’t, the spiteful authoritarian Tories are the problem.

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We can’t afford this government, economically, socially, morally or psychologically. Osborne’s austerity message was seriously undermined, and his lies in trying to blame the last government were demonstrated last November when the Office for National Statistics found that the coalition had borrowed £430.072 billion since it took over, whereas the last Labour government managed to borrow just £429.975 billion in 13 years. –  George Osborne Says Britain’s ‘Best Days Lie Ahead’, Ignoring These 6 Graphs

 

Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his brilliant memes

The coming Corporatocracy and the death of democracy

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“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”
Benito Mussolini.

“The real corruption that has eaten into the heart of British public life is the tightening corporate grip on government and public institutions – not just by lobbyists, but by the politicians, civil servants, bankers and corporate advisers who increasingly swap jobs, favours and insider information, and inevitably come to see their interests as mutual and interchangeable… Corporate and financial power have merged into the state.”Seumus Milne.

The Conservative privatisation programme has been an unmitigated failure. We have witnessed scandalous price rigging, and massive job losses, decreased standards in service delivery and a disempowerment of our Unions. But then the Tories will always swing policy towards benefiting private companies and not the public, as we know. In Britain, privatisation was primarily driven by Tory ideological motives, to “roll back the frontiers of the State”. The “survival of the fittest’ Conservative social policies are simple translations from the “very privileged survival of the wealthiest at all cost” and “profiteering for Tory donors and sponsors'” economic ideology.

Consider, for example, who the beneficiaries of Tory workfare policy are. Despite spectacular failure in “helping people into work”, these schemes persist. In 2012, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) reviewed the DWP’s impact assessment into how its “mandatory work programme” was working. Former Cabinet Office chief economist and NIESR director Jonathan Portes wrote: “Whatever your position on the morality of mandatory work programmes like these – the costs of the programme, direct and indirect, are likely to far exceed the benefits.”

“At at time of austerity, it is very difficult to see the justification for spending millions of pounds on a programme which isn’t working.”

So we ask ourselves who benefits from this “scheme”. Big business does of course. They get free labour, funded by the tax payer, to maximise profits. The service providers also benefit. What this means is that the money “saved”’ in public sector cuts has been used to subsidise some of this Country’s richest companies, and they have been provided with free labour from a reserve of State induced unemployment. Workfare is nothing less than the gross exploitation of the economic victims of this Government.

The apparent Conservative desire for wider share ownership in some instances of privatisation was certainly intended to make the privatisation reforms difficult to reverse: it would make them very expensive to reverse, but also, it’s partly because re-nationalisation risks alienating the critical middle class swing voters in the electorate, quite apart from the fiscal implications.

Private ownership is considered by the Tories as one of the better ways of reducing the power of the trades unions, and with it the perceived support for the opposition Labour Party. Indeed, creating counterweights to the perceived and mythologised “monolithic” unions meant that inadequate attention was given to dispersed control and competition, evident in the early utility privatisations of telecoms and gas, for example.

Privatisation and liberalisation are distinct policies, whilst it is possible (and common) to privatise services without liberalising, it is less often understood that one can liberalise without privatisation.

For example, it is quite common for gas and electricity distribution networks to be municipally owned, with private ownership elsewhere. After the collapse of Railtrack, the British Government created Network Rail, a not-for-profit-distribution public-private partnership, a quasi-commercial public entity that is a compromise between the desire to renationalise and a desire to keep the debt off the public sector’s balance sheet.

Roads are almost entirely in public ownership while transport services are almost entirely privately supplied. The main case for privatising networks like the power grid is that they can be more effectively exposed to profit-related incentives, while at the same time clarifying the nature of regulation, and separating the regulatory and ownership functions.

Of course the alternative view is that the state can better pursue its interests [on behalf of citizens] by direct control through ownership than by indirect control through regulation. Tory privatisation has been a total failure. It’s entirely ideologically driven.

The Conservatives are endorsing the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) , which will enshrine the rights of Corporations under International Law, and restrict future governments in overturning the changes through the threat of expensive legal action. These are the largest trade agreements in history, and yet they are NOT open for review, debate or amendment by Parliaments or the public. This agreement will shift the balance of power between Corporations and the State – effectively creating a Corporatocracy. It will have NO democratic foundation or restraint whatsoever. The main thrust of the agreement is that Corporations will be able to actively exploit increased rights in the TPP and TTIP to extend the interests of the corporation, which is mostly to maximise their profits.

Human rights and public interests won’t be a priority. Six hundred US corporate advisors have had input into this trade agreement. The draft text has not been made available to the public, press or policy makers. The level of secrecy around this agreement is unparalleled. The majority of US Congress is being kept in the dark while representatives of US corporations are being consulted and privy to the details.

A major concern is that many of the regulations likely to be affected under TTIP are designed to protect our health and the environment by setting safe levels of pesticides in food and chemicals in our toiletries and household cleaning products for example. These safeguards will be eroded or eliminated, potentially exposing people to greater risks of unsafe, unregulated commercial goods to support  the interests of multinationals.

In November, WikiLeaks published a draft chapter of the agreement – and the reasons for secrecy became clear. The draft confirms our fears that this agreement tips the balance of power between Corporations and the State and citizens firmly in favour of Corporations.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership includes a particularly toxic mechanism called investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). Where this has been forced into other trade agreements, it has allowed big global corporations, already with too much power, to sue Governments in front of secretive arbitration panels composed of corporate lawyers, which bypass our domestic courts and override the decisions of parliaments and interests of citizens. Not that this would be a particular issue in the case of the UK, with the Government always favouring policies that promote the interests of such powerful businesses at the expense of the public, anyway. But this mechanism would also remove any chance whatsoever of public interests being a consideration in the decision-making process  In short, it will bypass what remains of our democratic process completely.

We have seen already that this mechanism is being used by mining companies elsewhere in the world to sue governments trying to keep them out of protected areas; by banks fighting financial regulation; by a nuclear company contesting Germany’s decision to switch off atomic power. After a big political fight we’ve now been promised plain packaging for cigarettes. But it could be anexed by an offshore arbitration panel. The tobacco company Philip Morris is currently suing the Government in Australia through the same mechanism in another treaty.

In the UK, we already have a highly corporatised Government. These agreements will suppress internet freedom, restrict civil liberties, decimate internal economies, stop developing countries distributing the lowest cost drugs, endanger public healthcare, and hand corporations the right to overturn decisions made by democratic governments in the public interest.

The chief agricultural negotiator for the US is the former Monsanto lobbyist, Islam Siddiqui. If ratified, the TPP would impose punishing regulations that give multinational corporations unprecedented rights to demand taxpayer compensation for policies that corporations deem a barrier to their profits.

It seems to me that our Government has been paving the way for this shortcut to corporocratic hell since they took Office. If you want an idea of what kind of socio-political changes the outlined Agreements will entail, J P Morgan gave us a chilling preview, earlier this year. What J P Morgan made clear is that “socialist” and collectivist inclinations must be removed from political structures; localism must be replaced with strong, central, authority; labour rights must be removed, consensus politics [that’s democracy] must cease to be of concern and the right to protest must be curtailed.

This is an agenda for hard right, corporatist government.

Say goodbye forever to your human rights, to democracy, and to the environment.

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Pictures courtesy of Robert Livingstone

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Please ask your MP to sign the EDM:

TRANSATLANTIC TRADE AND INVESTMENT PARTNERSHIP

Session: 2013-14
Date tabled: 26.11.2013
Primary sponsor: Lucas, Caroline
Sponsors: Meale, Alan Caton, Martin Hopkins, Kelvin Corbyn, Jeremy Flynn, Paul

That this House is concerned about the inclusion of investor-to-state dispute settlements in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP); notes that their inclusion would enable foreign investors to file complaints against a national government whenever investors perceive a violation of their rights and that these complaints are filed directly to international arbitration tribunals and completely bypass national courts and the judicial system; believes there is a real risk that these provisions in the TTIP could overturn years of laws and regulations agreed by democratic institutions on social, environmental and small business policy on both sides of the Atlantic and is of the view that the Government’s assertions about the economic benefits of the trade deal are questionable; further believes that any transatlantic partnership implies a relationship based on mutual trust, respect and shared values, something that the ongoing revelations about US secret services’ surveillance of EU citizens and public representatives up to the highest level has shown to be gravely lacking; therefore calls for investor-to-state dispute settlements to be removed from the TTIP; and further calls on the Government to push for talks on the partnership agreement to be frozen immediately, in order to allow for a full public debate and Parliamentary scrutiny from both Houses of Parliament with a view to establishing whether full transparency and fundamental EU rights and rules can be guaranteed.

Early day motion 793

The Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance (and the Corporate Europe Observatory), which has just been launched, is a European alliance of over 50 civil society organisations. It forwards a proposal to make EU trade and investment policy work for people and the planet, not just the profit interests of a few.

EU – wide campaign to make Trade/Investment Policies work for People not Corporations

Further reading:

The lies behind this transatlantic trade deal

How the EU is making NHS privatisation permanent

THE SECRET TRADE AGREEMENT ABOUT TO COMPLETE THE CORPORATE TAKEOVER OF DEMOCRACY 

Osborne’s bid to end democracy by the back door