Tag Archives: George Monbiot

May 2015 is not the time to stop voting tactically – Mainly Macro

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Anyone voting Green (or failing to vote) in a seat that Labour can win but the Greens cannot will in part be responsible for the consequences of a future Conservative government, writes Professor Simon Wren-Lewis in his latest Mainly Macro post.

Syriza has won the Greek election, which is the result I hoped for. For some this heralds the death of neoliberalism. To celebrate, George Monbiot – whose journalism consistently tells me more than most other journalists – says that here in the UK we should no longer vote tactically, but instead vote for what we want. What dangerous nonsense!

Anyone who votes Green in any seat where Labour has a chance to win, aside from maybe a few seats where the Greens have a chance (more realistically one or two), is voting for a Conservative government… (Not voting in a seat Labour has a chance to win is almost as bad.) This is going to be a tight election, so it matters.

There is a huge difference between Labour and Conservative fiscal plans beyond 2015. It is quite possible that we will see very little additional fiscal tightening under Labour, and a lot more public investment.

Monbiot says “Fearful voting shifts the whole polity to the right.” Where is the evidence for that? Neoliberalism did not triumph because the left decided to compromise. Yes Greece voted for Syriza, but only when half of its young people were stuck in unemployment. Is that the future that he hopes for by abandoning tactical voting?

Monbiot described voting No in the Scottish referendum as “an astonishing act of self-harm”: no matter that the SNP tried to deceive the electorate that they would at all times be better off independent; a sorry claim given what has subsequently happened to the oil price. No doubt some said in 2010 that a future Labour government would be much the same as a Conservative government.

This is an article that re-states many of the themes Vox Political has been exploring over the last few weeks: The victory of Syriza and its implications for the future; the realities of voting Green in the UK; the facts about Labour policy; and the deceptions of the Scottish Nationalist Party.

Please visit Mainly Macro for the important details.

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Cameron’s Corporate Tax Cuts – RealFare

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This article is highlighted more for the image, which puts the point across more than anything else: after it was made clear that the Conservative-led Coalition would cut the deficit using a mixture of tax rises and spending cuts, Cameron went back on that by offering huge tax cuts to his rich and corporate friends, while forcing huge spending cuts on the workers and the poor.

The RealFare article, from which the image is taken, quotes a George Monbiot article from 2011 which set the scene for what has happened since.

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The biggest threat to democracy since World War II – and they tried to keep it secret

Corporate trade a-greed-ment: Notice that this image of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has mighty corporations straddling the Atlantic while the 'little' people - the populations they are treading on - are nowhere to be seen. [Picture: FT]

Corporate trade a-greed-ment: Notice that this image of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has mighty corporations straddling the Atlantic while the ‘little’ people – the populations they are treading on – are nowhere to be seen. [Picture: FT]

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is bitter pill for anyone to swallow, if they have spent any time defending Britain’s membership of the European Union.

The partnership between the EU and the United States would open America to the kind of free trade deals that have been going on in Europe ever since the original Economic Community was formed – but there is a problem.

It isn’t a problem for businesses; they are in line to get a deal better than anything ever experienced in the world of trade. Citizens and national governments, on the other hand – you, me, and the people who represent us – will be railroaded.

This is because the agreement includes a device called ‘investor-state dispute settlement’, which allows corporate entities to sue governments, overruling domestic courts and the will of Parliaments.

In other words, this could be the biggest threat to democracy since World War II.

In the UK, it could be used by shale mining companies to ensure that the government could not keep them out of protected areas, by banks fighting financial regulation, and by cigarette companies fighting the imposition of plain packaging for cigarettes. How do we know? Because these things are already happening elsewhere in the world.

If a product had been banned by a country’s regulators, the manufacturer will be able to sue them, forcing that state to pay compensation or let the product in – even if this undermines health and safety laws in that country.

It seems that domestic courts are deemed likely to be biased or lack independence, but nobody has explained why they think the secretive arbitration panels composed of corporate lawyers will be impartial. Common sense says they’ll rule for the profit, every time.

Now ask yourself a question: Have you ever heard about this?

Chances are that you haven’t – unless you have read articles by George Monbiot (one in The Guardian this week prompted this piece) or have insider knowledge.

The European Commission has done its utmost to keep the issue from becoming public knowledge. Negotiations on the trade and investment partnership have involved 119 behind-closed-doors meetings with corporations and their lobbyists (please note that last point, all you supporters of the government’s so-called Transparency of Lobbying Bill), and just eight with civil society groups. Now that concerned citizens have started to publicise the facts, the Commission has apparently worked out a way to calm us down with a “dedicated communications operation” to “manage stakeholders, social media and transparency” by claiming that the deal is about “delivering growth and jobs” and will not “undermine regulation and existing levels of protection in areas like health, safety and the environment” – meaning it will do precisely the opposite.

Your Coalition government appears to be all for it. Kenneth Clarke reckons it is “Scrooge-like” to inflate concerns about investor protection and ignore the potential economic gains – but if the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement is any yardstick, exports will drop and thousands of jobs will be lost.

Green MP Caroline Lucas has published an early day motion on the issue – signed by a total of seven fellow Parliamentarians so far.

Labour MEPs are doing their best to cut the ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ out of the agreement, but they are fighting a lonely battle against the massed forces of greed.

So now ask yourself a second question: Why is the European Commission lying to Britain when we are already halfway out of the door?

Britain is not happy with the European Union or its place within that organisation. People think too much of their national sovereignty – their country’s freedom to do what it wants – is being stripped away by faceless bureaucrats who do not have the best interests of the population at heart. Now the European Commission is trying to foist this upon us.

For Eurosceptics in Parliament – of all political hues – this is a gift. For those of us who accept that we are better off in Europe – as it is currently constituted and without the new trade agreement – it is a poisoned pill.

Are we being pushed into a position where we have to choose between two evils that could have been avoided, if only our leaders had had an ounce of political will and an inch of backbone?

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Toughen international tax laws, says Osborne – ‘cos we won’t in Britain!

Would you trust this man to stop tax evasion and avoidance? No? Good – because he won’t.

George Osborne really thinks we’re all stupid, doesn’t he?

Today he got together with his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schauble, to say co-operation between countries is needed to close loopholes that have allowed high-profile firms like Starbucks and Google to pay next to nothing in Corporation Tax.

They told a G20 meeting of finance ministers in Mexico to help identify possible gaps in tax laws.

Just wait one nit-picking moment, Mr 0!

I remember an article by the great George Monbiot (who happens to be almost a neighbour of mine) about the effects of a couple of minor adjustments to the tax acts of 1988 and 2009 – that meant companies in the UK pay nothing at all on money made by their foreign branches and may claim the expense of funding their foreign branches against tax paid in the UK.

The measures meant any UK company that did not outsource its staff or funnel its earnings through a tax haven would find itself at a competitive disadvantage.

So you see Starbucks and Google have been doing (more or less) exactly what these changes in UK tax law intended them to do – and Gideon’s pose with Schauble is just so much hot air and posturing.

Mr Monbiot went on to say the following: “Our political system protects and enriches a fantastically wealthy elite, much of whose money is, as a result of their interesting tax and transfer arrangements, in effect stolen from poorer countries, and poorer citizens of their own countries.

“Ours is a semi-criminal money-laundering economy, legitimised by the pomp of the lord mayor’s show and multiple layers of defence in government. Politically irrelevant, economically invisible, the rest of us inhabit the margins of the system.

“Governments ensure that we are thrown enough scraps to keep us quiet, while the ultra-rich get on with the serious business of looting the global economy and crushing attempts to hold them to account.”

Not only is Mr 0 shafting us (and by “us” I include anyone with a business that isn’t big enough to indulge in the shady practices listed above); he’s passing the buck onto Johnny Foreigner to put things right (in the certain knowledge that it isn’t going to happen).

Well, Gideon, that’s just too bad because I reckon I’ve caught you red-handed.

Right?