This graph is nearly three years out of date. If anybody can provide a new version, please feel free to send it in via the comment column.
If you want to know why food banks have proliferated, look to the United States.
That’s where the Conservative Party adopted the policies that lead to food banks; that’s why they have become the UK’s only growth industry.
The policy, adopted by former President George W Bush, was known as ‘starving the beast’, and involved tax breaks for the very rich, creating a deficit in the US Treasury, which made it possible for him to claim public services were costing too much – and then cut public services.
Result: Instant destitution for people who relied on those public services – and the rise of foodbanks.
As in the US, so has it been in the UK.
I warned you about this, years ago.
When austerity was in its infancy in the UK a few years ago and I made my first visit to food banks around the country, the people queueing for help expressed a common anxiety: that this might become the “new normal”. Everyone hoped it wouldn’t yet here we are, in the summer of 2017, and food banks are now ubiquitous. Legions of citizens, including tens of thousands of children, now rely on these stopgap facilities to meet basic nutritional needs. And a recent report alarmingly predicts that their use is likely to rise with the impact of policies such as benefit freezes and the roll out of universal credit. To see how this has happened we need only to look across the Atlantic.
The UK’s journey down the road of dismantling its welfare state and blaming the needy follows closely in the footsteps of the American system and the narrative that has shaped it. While the richest are awarded lavish tax cuts, millions of people are rendered desperate and destitute, and inequality is cemented. This is indeed the “new normal”.
UKIP or U-F-O? If the Purple Peril wants to gain votes it needs to shed the antisocial image it has gained from the antics of people like Janice Atkinson, who had to apologise for a racist remark earlier this week.
At long last, after months in a vacuum after its last set of policies was removed from the Internet as a risk to the party’s popularity, UKIP has unveiled the new plans that will take it to the next general election.
They are a cautious mix. Many are continuations of Coalition policies, while the rest aim to throw out the least popular moves of the last four years.
So the Tory-motivated Bedroom Tax is out, but child benefit would be confined to two children (as Conservatives desire). People who have been employed for a long time and have paid their taxes would receive higher Jobseekers’ Allowance, which is a proposal that Labour has been considering.
Losers would be new migrants into the UK (quelle surprise) who would not be eligible for any benefits at all until they had been paying tax and national insurance for five years – and “people who have made a living out of having children so that they can get more benefits and a bigger house”. This last group has attracted considerable animosity from large swathes of the public for decades but, although it is not mythical, it may be very hard to pin down those who belong to it as the definition depends on intention. What about people who had a larger family because they were in good jobs, which then fell apart?
It seems pensioners would also lose out as, despite having examined the issue of public sector pensions, UKIP’s policy unit “ran away” from it. There will be no relief from the Conservative-led attack on pensioners and the increase in the retirement age will remain, if UKIP ever formed a government.
UKIP’s tax policies have undergone a major overhaul, in recognition of the calamitously regressive decision to ask lower-earners to agree to a huge tax rise in order to subsidise a cut for the massively rich. The flat-rate 31 per cent income tax idea is in the dustbin.
Instead, UKIP has decided to copy the Coalition and follow George W Bush’s ‘Starve The Beast’ policy. That’s right – they want more tax cuts for the super-rich, while the lowest earners including those on the minimum wage would be taken out of tax altogether. The new top tax rate would be 40p in the pound (from 45p at the moment) and earners would have to be making £45,000 a year to pay it (up from £41,865 at the moment).
This means the Treasury would receive far less revenue than it does even today, necessitating spending cuts (as it did in Dubya’s USA and as it has here, although the Tories have cannily failed to admit it). In line with its historically jingoistic stance, UKIP would abolish aid to foreign countries, removing a need for less than one per cent of current UK budgets (gosh).
More seriously, UKIP would abolish the Climate Change Act, whose commitment to environmentally-friendly energy is allegedly costing the country £18 billion every year. Apparently it is more desirable to choke on the fumes from fossil fuels in UKIP’s book.
UKIP also has a plan to introduce a “direct democracy” mechanism allowing the public to organise petitions which, if successful, could result in national referendums. Anyone who has used the current government e-petition system will be wary of this. Successful e-petitions have led to debates in Parliament – which have resulted in no action whatever. That system is a public relations exercise and a waste of time; it seems unlikely that UKIP’s proposal will be any different.
All in all, this is a good manifesto for a party considering Coalition with the Conservatives.
However, with UKIP registering only around 12 per cent in polls for the general election, it is likely that the party’s best result will be a gain of only between three and six seats.
If UKIP really wants to be the “people’s army” its campaigners suggested during the European elections, it will have to come much closer to what the people want.
It seems Yr Obdt Srvt has become the victim of DWP game-playing that shows contempt for sick and disabled benefit claimants whose lives are threatened by poor decision-making.
You may be familiar with the following saying (or at least with the fact that George W Bush wasn’t): “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”
I mention this as a precursor to the following story, for reasons that should become clear.
Back in May, I sent another Freedom of Information request to the Department for Work and Pensions, again asking for an update of the ad-hoc statistical release Incapacity Benefits: Deaths of Recipients from mid-2012 (long-term readers will be aware a previous request was refused as “vexatious”).
In it, I pointed out: “A response to a previous Freedom of Information request (FOI 2013-IR665) stated that ‘Whilst we currently have no plans to directly update the ad hoc report on “Incapacity Benefits: Deaths of Recipients” published on 9th July 2012, the Department does monitor requests we receive for new statistics and consider whether we can produce and release analysis that will helpfully inform public debate. The Department is therefore looking at this issue with a view to seeing what statistics could be produced on a regular basis.’
“It went on to state that ‘the balance of the public interest test falls in favour of withholding this information. As I have explained above, statistics on this issue will be published in due course.’
“I have studied DWP release schedules extensively and in the 11 months since I made my request, I have found no publication of statistics on this issue… Was the DWP’s statement that ‘statistics on this issue… will be published in due course’ made in error?
“If this is the case, then there can be no public interest argument against disclosure of this information in response to either my previous request or any future request, as it is not set to be published as part of the DWP’s current schedule. I remind you that this is time-sensitive information; it is important that the data becomes public knowledge as soon as it is available, in order to inform government policy and avoid preventable fatalities in the future.”
If this was not the case, I continued, then – as at midday on May 28 this year, what was the date on which it is planned that the DWP will be publishing figures from November 2011 to those which are most up-to-date?
If no date of publication was set down, I concluded, then the DWP had a duty to provide an update, to me, immediately.
I reminded the Department’s FOI officers that an email from the DWP to the Information Commissioner’s office, dated October 21, 2013, stated that “we can confirm that the Department does hold, and could provide within the cost limit… the information requested.”
The substantive issue: A DWP statistical release in 2012 showed that more than 200 people were dying every week as a result of Iain Duncan Smith’s changes to assessment procedures for incapacity benefits – either they were put into groups where unreasonable demands were placed on them or the stress and anxiety of constant re-assessment was too much for their bodies to take. Many were driven to suicide.
Apart from acknowledging receipt, the DWP ignored my request. I therefore invoked my right to have it reconsidered, immediately after the legally-prescribed period ran out. By this time the DWP was already breaking the law.
Apart from acknowledging receipt, the DWP ignored my reconsideration request. Are you getting angry about this yet? Remember, it is about deaths caused by government policy. I therefore notified the Information Commissioner and requested a ruling on this matter.
The Commission responded late last month, saying the DWP had 10 working days to get a response back to me. Tomorrow was the deadline and the response arrived today.
You’re really not going to like it.
“Unfortunately there was a mistake in the response you were sent for FOI 2013-IR665. Due to an administrative error an Annex A (about the Public Interest Test) appeared at the very end of the letter. It was not intended for this response and as such there is no mention of it anywhere in the main letter.
“So the answer to your first question ‘Was the DWP’s statement that ‘statistics on this issue [incapacity benefits: deaths of recipients] will be published in due course’ made in error?’ with respect to the reply you received is yes. That statement was not intended to be part of the response and was therefore made in error. We therefore attach a corrected copy of the reply to FOI 2013-IR665 and apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
That is not good enough. There was no way I could have read that response without believing that I was being told updated statistics were to be published in the future; any other interpretation would have defied common sense.
Also, it makes a nonsense of what was said in the body of the response – that the DWP was working on releasing figures on a regular basis.
And it means one of two things: Either the DWP was lying then, when it said work was progressing on what could be published, or it is lying now, by saying the information about the public interest test was included in error.
Either way, it seems clear that the intention was to stop my request from progressing any further.
Let’s move on to the really insulting part. Today’s response states, and I quote verbatim:
“We can confirm that we do intend to publish further statistics on this topic and these will answer a majority of your questions. As the statistics are intended for future publication this information is exempt from disclosure under the terms of Section 22 (Information intended for future publication) of the FOIA. This exemption is qualified, and is therefore subject to a public interest test. The public interest test is where the Department considers whether the balance of the public interest falls in favour of withholding or disclosing the information requested.
“Arguments in favour of disclosure: There are public interest arguments in favour of disclosure of this information at the present time. Disclosure would for example improve transparency in the operations of the Department.
“Arguments against disclosure: There are public interest arguments against disclosure of this information at the present time. These arguments include that it is in the public interest to adhere to the existing publication process for official statistics, which includes time for the data to be collated and properly verified.
“It is also in the public interest to ensure that the publication of official information is a properly planned and managed process, to ensure that the data are accurate once placed into the public domain. It is also in the public interest to ensure that the information is available to all members of the public at the same time, and premature publication could undermine the principle of making the information available to all at the same time through the official publication process.
“On this occasion, the balance of the public interest test falls in favour of withholding this information. As explained above, statistics on this issue will be published in due course.
“We do not have a planned publication date at this stage but we will pre-announce the agreed date.”
That’s right – having apologised for misleading me into believing that updated information was to be produced when it wasn’t, the DWP went on to say that updated information was to be produced, but it wasn’t going to provide that information to me – even though no publication date has been set – for precisely the same reasons, to the letter, for which it had just apologised.
I get the impression that someone in Caxton House is trying to be funny.
What a big joke – to put off a Freedom of Information request about thousands of needless deaths with an excuse that has already been used wrongly, on the basis that it was wrong then but it isn’t now.
No. Not funny.
Pants: Iain Duncan Smith
The situation is reminiscent of one mentioned in an article earlier today, wherein someone blew the whistle on Iain Duncan Smith’s expenses claim for underwear so he called her into a meeting and reduced her to tears with a show of belligerence. The substantive issue was of no interest to the man we call RTU (Returned To Unit); his only worry was that it should be hidden from the public. The same applies here.
As mentioned at the start: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. I won’t be fooled again.
The information is held by the DWP, and could be provided easily enough.
The public interest test cannot be applied to my request as the DWP has not proved that statistics on this issue will be published in due course. For this to apply, a publication date would have to have been provided in the response and none was forthcoming.
Therefore I conclude that the DWP’s response is false and will be appealing to the Information Commissioner again – and to the First-Tier Tribunal if necessary. The tribunal is likely to take a very dim view of this as, after a previous hearing, its members stated that “we have considerable sympathy for the appellant”.
We have to prove that these people are not above the law.
How does one mark the passing of Peter O’Toole, if not by watching Lawrence of Arabia? It was his first film role and, some say, his greatest.
I’m sure I cannot be the only one to have drawn comparisons between T.E. Lawrence, as played by the great O’Toole on the silver screen, and David Cameron – who behaved like a tool when he said of British forces in Afghanistan, “Misson accomplished”.
In the film, Lawrence is shunned by his colleagues in the British military because of his unconventional ways, but accepted by the Arabs – firstly because he is able to quote the Koran to them, secondly because he goes out of his way to accomplish feats that seem impossible (like rescuing one of his Arab friends from The Sun’s Anvil) in order to give them hope of military success, and thirdly because he achieves these things for their good, not his own.
David Cameron is a different matter. Unlike Lawrence, he is not an original thinker – or indeed any other kind of leader. He is a follower. British military policy in Afghanistan was not his policy, and he made no effort to take control of it. He has made no effort to understand the admittedly-complicated history and culture of a country that has rightly been described as “troubled”, although few people bother to remember that much of that trouble has been caused by invaders including the British. And if he has gone out of his way, it was to avoid actions of distinction. But he’s happy to take the credit for everything that has been done.
This is why, when Cameron said the mission in Afghanistan will have been accomplished by the time the last British troops leave in 2014, so many commentators jeered.
Cameron is currently saying that the mission was to build up security in Afghanistan, to ensure it cannot become a haven for terrorists again, after our forces leave. This might seem reasonable if it were not merely the latest in a long list of mission statements provided for Afghanistan over the incredible 12 years since we arrived there in 2001.
Others, according to The Guardian, include “removing Al Qaida’s bases, eradicating poppy cultivation, educating girls and helping forge a form of democracy”. While we cannot comment on the first of these, the others either failed abjectly or have become the subjects of fierce controversy. The government of Hamid Karzai has long been criticised as corrupt.
Cameron’s choice of words also creates an unhealthy comparison with Iraq, which fell into chaos for a considerable period after then-US President George W Bush declared “mission accomplished” there.
Even the comedy Prime Minister’s attempt to put the soundbite across to the media seemed hesitant. “The purpose of our mission was always to build an Afghanistan and Afghan security forces that were capable of maintaining a basic level of security so this country never again became a haven for terrorist training camps,” he said.
“That has been the most important part of the mission… The absolute driving part of the mission is the basic level of security so that it doesn’t become a haven for terror. That is the mission, that was the mission and I think we will have accomplished that mission,” he added, unravelling completely by the end. He mentioned security three times, “haven for terror” twice, and the mission no less than six times!
And the experts disagreed. The British ambassador to Kabul from 2010-12, William Paytey, said: “Afghanistan has got a long way to go and it could be many decades before we see real peace there.”
Flinging around the bling: Someone should have told David Cameron that he shouldn’t surround himself with gold when he’s rubbing the proles’ noses in unlimited austerity. The horse impression may also have been ill-judged.
David Cameron must think we are a nation of fools.
He came into office by the back door after failing to convince a majority of British citizens that his pal Gideon’s George’s plan to starve the economy of money would magically refill the Treasury’s empty coffers. Three and a half years of relentless pro-Tory propaganda from the tabloids later, and he tells us – at an opulent banquet, no less! – that austerity is here to stay.
Isn’t that because his policies have been a disaster, then?
Yes. But a disaster for us, not him or his bankster/financier/corporate masters.
As this blog stated more than a year ago, “people need to understand that the Coalition government’s fiscal strategy isn’t about reducing the national deficit at all. If it was, we would not have had a big tax break for the richest in society as part of the last budget. It’s a strategy to axe public services, selling off to rich corporations any that might be capable of yielding a profit. George W Bush followed this policy in the United States a few years ago; it’s called ‘starving the beast’.”
Look this up on Wikipedia and you will find that it involves cutting taxes in order to deprive the government of revenue in a deliberate effort to force reduced spending. In the USA, we are told, “the short- and medium-term effect of the strategy has dramatically increased the United States’ public debt rather than reduce spending”.
Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson’s tax-cutting plan was expected to be funded by lower government spending on social security and healthcare – and it is important that people here in the UK should see the similarities between that and the Coalition government’s privatisation of the National Health Service (we’re told the NHS is a registered company now), along with its many attacks on people who claim social security benefits.
We’ve had tax cuts for the very rich – the so-called “millionaire’s tax cut” that brought the top rate of Income Tax down from 50 per cent to 45 per cent. Corporation Tax is coming down from 28 per cent to 21 per cent while the corporations that write UK tax policy are using it to facilitate tax avoidance schemes. And the poorest workers in the country are being fooled into believing they are getting a good deal out of the policy of raising the tax threshold to £10,000 per year.
Let’s look at that. Nick Clegg wants to raise it still further, so that nobody is taxed on earnings below £10,500 per year, but this means the Treasury will be starved of £1 billion. That’s a lot of money. Meanwhile, the deficit – and the debt – keeps rising.
We’ve had almost no change in the national deficit, year on year. Michael Meacher’s latest blog entry tells us, “the UK debt overhang is growing, not reducing… the budget deficit is not going down appreciably either. In 2011 it was £118bn and in 2012 this had hardly fallen at all at £115bn. The 40% cut in public spending budgets and the £18bn cut in benefits and hence in consumer demand, plus the £40bn further intended cuts after 2015, has produced searing pain, yet next to [no] improvement in the national accounts which was supposed to be the whole aim of the exercise.”
It is also important to note that the effect of raising the tax threshold for poorer people has been completely negated by other changes in government benefits for people on low incomes, unemployment or incapacity support; in fact they are worse off.
It is against that background – tax cuts for the very rich and the corporates, “searing” pain for the poor and worsening national debt – that David Cameron announced, at the gold-trimmed Lord Mayor’s Banquet, “We are sticking to the task. But that doesn’t just mean making difficult decisions on public spending… it means building a leaner, more efficient state. We need to do more with less. Not just now, but permanently.”
At last he has admitted the point of the last three and a half pointless years. He has been starving the Treasury of the cash it needs to balance the books, and now he feels able to tell us that it isn’t going to happen unless public services are cut drastically.
He must be so happy.
Presumably he hasn’t realised that he has just told the British public that his policies, those of his political party and the Coalition of which it is a part, have been an abject disaster for the people of the United Kingdom.
He promised that he would get the deficit down; he failed.
He promised that the measures he took would be applied equally to everyone, from the highest-earners to the lowest; they weren’t.
Now he has promised to build a leaner, more efficient state, using examples from education and health, whose funding has been ring-fenced throughout his period in office; he is lying.
It is time, now, for serious-minded people to draw a line below the selfish policies of the last 30 years and start thinking about government for all the people once again.
When governments talk about making cuts, they’re not talking about help for the rich. Social or economic programmes, supported by taxes, are only ever put in place to level a playing field that would otherwise be tilted against the poor or disadvantaged. Removing such programmes means a less equal society; one that is more UNfair.
Remember that when Cameron and his cronies – especially people like Iain Duncan Smith and Esther McVey – talk about making Britain a fairer place to live and work.
Their words carry about as much weight as their leader’s 2010 election promises.
George Osborne’s claim that his nonsense policies have magically turned the economy around, coupled with his equally-preposterous claim that the UK needs another seven years of austerity before he can balance the books – provides a fine example of the duality at the heart of Conservative economic policy.
He needs to convince you that his choices have made a difference and the nation’s fortunes are changing, but he also need to convince you that we’re in a terrible mess – or he won’t have an excuse to continue cutting more public services and selling them into the private sector so his rich friends can use them to fleece you.
The two claims are not only contradictory of each other – they are self-contradictory. The evidence shows that Osborne’s policies delayed the recovery, rather than encouraging it, and the ‘Starve The Beast’ plan he cribbed from George W Bush has long been recognised as harmful to any country’s economic health; by cutting services he is starving the economy of the liquidity that is its lifeblood.
(This is a point worth remembering: Whenever a TV news reporter says Osborne or the government want to make cuts in order to “save” money, they mean the government will be “taking money out of the economy” – which will consequently be worth less. As a result, some people will have to become poorer. Can you guess who?)
Before we congratulate Osborne in ways that are anything like as effusive as David Cameron’s endorsement earlier this week, let’s look at the facts: According to Martin Wolf in the Financial Times, in three and a half years, the UK’s economic performance has improved by just 2.2 per cent – against a prediction of 8.2 per cent by his pet Office of Budget (Ir)Responsibility. In the second quarter of 2013, Gross Domestic Product was 3.3 per cent below its pre-crisis peak and 18 per cent below its 1980-2007 trend, making this the slowest British recovery on record.
Osborne and the Conservatives point proudly to the strong increase in private-sector jobs but, as Mr Wolf states, “this is hardly something to boast about”. While employment – on paper – is at an all-time high, productivity has fallen back to the level it reached in 2005. What does this say about the quality of the jobs that are being filled? Are they high-quality, long-term, well-paid careers, or are they part-time, zero-hours, throwaway fillers? We all know the answer to that. Average wages have been cut by nine per cent, in real terms, since 2010 – and they are still falling.
Even by the standards of other crisis-hit, high-income economies, the UK’s performance has been dismal, says Mr Wolf, pointing to work by Spencer Dale and James Talbot of the Bank of England. This indicates that the Eurozone has performed just as badly – but the difference is that the Eurozone countries do not have control of every economic lever that is available to them; Britain does.
Osborne claims that high global inflation and the performance of the Eurozone have impacted on the UK; Mr Wolf’s assertion is that austerity is the reason for this disappointment – and Osborne was just as much a cheerleader for austerity in Europe as he has been for it in the UK. Furthermore, as the Labour Party pointed out in its report, “David Cameron’s out of touch, you’re out of pocket” (2013), inflation in other G7 countries has been lower than in the UK, indicating that high global prices have little to do with the problem.
“Yes, but,” says Osborne, “austerity has kept interest rates down.” Did it? Did it really? In that case, interest rates would have been kept low because of the promise (in 2010) that borrowing would be brought down by 2015. When the Coalition came to power, Osborne said he expected to borrow a total of £322 billion by 2015. In March this year, that figure had risen to £564 billion – an increase of 75 per cent! Meanwhile the deadline for the national debt to start falling has slipped from 2014-15 back to 2017-18 and the level at which the debt was expected to hit its peak has jumped from 70.3 per cent of GDP to 85.6 per cent. The deficit has been stuck at £120 billion a year for the last two financial years, despite the repeated claims that it has been cut by one-third. None of this has affected long-term interest rates and neither did the loss of the UK’s AAA credit rating in February this year.
As Professor Malcolm Sawyer notes in Fiscal Austerity: The ‘cure’ which makes the patient worse (Centre for Labour and Social Studies, May 2012), “It is well-known that a government can always service debt provided that it is denominated in its own currency. At the limit the UK government can ‘print the money’ in order to service the debt: this would not take form of literally ‘printing money’ but rather the Central Bank being a willing purchaser of government debt in exchange for money.” This is what is happening at the moment. Our debt is in UK pounds, and we can always service it. Our creditors know that, so they remain happy to continue financing it.
“With interest rates at the zero bound, austerity weakened the economy relative to what might otherwise have happened,” wrote Mr Wolf.
“Nobody thought recovery would never happen under austerity, merely that it would be damagingly delayed… This has been an unnecessarily protracted slump. It is good that recovery is here, though it is far too soon to tell its quality and durability. But this does not justify what remains a large unforced error.”
Looking to the future, Osborne has reacted to the new barrage of Labour policies, all of which have been carefully costed against savings in current budget areas, with a series of rushed measures that are entirely unfunded. Remember that, next time a Conservative accuses Labour of borrowing and spending!
The married couples’ allowance, worth less than £4 per week (and less than £2 if you’re on a low income) is unfunded. The promised fuel duty freeze is unfunded. These will cost more than £2 billion and no source has been identified.
And what about the £12 billion stage two of the housing ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, that Osborne rushed forward to this month?
He has pulled £14 billion out of nowhere, but still expects us to believe he will resume his stalled deficit cuts by £35 billion by 2015, £42 billion by 2017-18 and £43 billion by 2020, in order to create a budget surplus.
All the while, he is promising “improved living standards for this generation and the next”. For whom? These cuts must come from somewhere, and they mean removing a cumulative total of £120 billion from the economy each year by 2020. That has to come from somewhere.
Look at the amount by which bosses’ pay in FTSE100 companies has increased in the last three years – 32 per cent, while average worker pay has dropped by nine per cent.
Do you really think the “Have-yachts” will be paying for these cuts?
In it, he responds to comments from his Coalition government’s own Business Secretary, Vince Cable, suggesting the government could consider borrowing more – at, let’s remember, the lowest interest rates in British history – to inject some growth into the economy.
Cable’s remarks are eminently sensible – which is, of course, why Cameron is believed to be moving so quickly to counter them. The fact is that austerity never – ever – brought a country out of debt. Investment is the key. Investment needs money. If you don’t have money, you borrow it from someone who does. Then you pay them back – with interest from your profits. ‘Speculate to accumulate’, as the saying goes. It’s how most Conservatives and Tory voters made their money but Cameron – and his sidekick 0sborne, let’s not forget – inherited theirs and therefore, we may reasonably deduce, know nothing whatsoever about it.
A decent definition of ‘Starve the Beast’ economic theory is that it is a fiscal strategy to create or increase existing budget deficits via tax cuts to force future reductions in the size of government.
This is clearly what Cameron and his cronies are doing – and the Liberal Democrats are helping them all the way, no matter what Cable says about it. It’s why they’ve borrowed more money in the last two and a half years than the Labour Party did in three terms of office (as a recent meme puts it).
And they will cut the machinery of this country’s government down to the marrow, for no better reason than their own personal enrichment and the fact that it will create huge problems for any government that follows them in 2015.
The BBC report contains excerpts of what Cameron was expected to say in a speech today (Thursday). These deserve interpretation, as their meaning is not entirely clear at first glance:
“I know some people think it is being stubborn to stick to a plan. That somehow this is just about making the numbers add up.” He’s setting us all up with a false premise. We don’t think he’s being stubborn; we know his real plan isn’t what he has been trying to sell us. It’s about cutting the state to nothing, impoverishing the vast majority of us in the process and enriching his cronies. This is why, crucially, the numbers don’t add up at all.
“The very moment when we’re just getting some signs that we can turn our economy round and make our country a success is the very moment to hold firm to the path we have set.” So the present moment, with the loss of our ‘AAA’ credit rating, high street shop chains dropping like flies and his own political party regularly being dropped to third place in by-elections, would definitely not be that time.
“And yes, the path ahead is tough – but be in no doubt, the decisions we make now will set the course of our economic future for years to come.” This is absolutely true. The decisions he makes now will set the course of our economic future for years to come. What a shame nobody seems able, or willing in the case of the Liberal Democrats, to stop him.
“And while some would falter and plunge us back into the abyss, we will stick to the course.” He is projecting the effects of his own actions onto his political opponents. He knows perfectly well that it is his course that will lead us straight to that metaphorical abyss – if he hasn’t pitched us over into it already.
The BBC article goes on to say that he will point to the creation of a million extra private sector jobs – a claim that has been debunked many, many times since he first made it. Private sector jobs have been created, but nowhere near a million of them! Also the terms under which people are being employed are appalling.
It is typical of the kind of ridiculous babble to which he and his lieutenants have subjected us for nearly three years now – a period in which our situation has never – not once – offered even the appearance of improvement.
This blog reported only a few days ago that Cameron had been put on notice by his own party – improve or lose the leadership.
The sooner those backbenchers follow through on this threat, the better.
Now that the Olympics are over and everybody’s having a rest from medal-counting (don’t forget the Paralympics will be starting soon, though, providing the opportunity to do it all over again), may I just take this opportunity to ask readers in the USA, just what the blazes is going on with your Presidential candidates?
A few years ago, your economy was devastated by comedy president George W Bush, with a policy known as ‘starving the beast’. For those with short memories, this involved tax breaks for the very rich, creating a deficit in the US Treasury, which made it possible for him to claim public services were costing too much – and then cut public services.
Bush left the White House in 2009 to pursue his career in stand-up comedy (and sank without a trace) but his ideas were taken up on my side of the Atlantic by one David Cameron and his bestie, George Osborne.
They realised that, after the credit crunch of 2008, there wasn’t enough money coming into the British Treasury to pay for public services and launched their policy of fiscal austerity on the UK’s already-depressed economy. The tax breaks for the very rich arrived a few years later.
Now, back in the States, you have a new Republican Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, who – and please, correct me if I’m wrong – wants to starve the beast all over again.
Mr Romney wants to impose tax cuts for the very rich, but has no plan to offset the effect of these cuts by closing other tax loopholes or the like.
As one influential commentator has it: “Romney is just intending to blow up the deficit to lavish favours on the wealthy, then use it as an excuse to savage Social Security and Medicare.”
He claims there will be fabulous growth effects.
Seeing as Mr Romney’s policy seems so similar to Mr Osborne’s, lets look at what’s happened here in Blighty since fiscal austerity started biting, shall we?
From the moment Osborne’s first spending review (a mini-budget in late 2010) took effect, the economy flatlined. Since the beginning of 2012 it went back into recession in a big way, knocking a whole one per cent off GDP.
Meanwhile, the Coalition (Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties) has cut taxes for the very rich but also raised the amount people can earn without being taxed. This inevitably means less revenue for the Treasury. Services are already being cut and they’re discussing ways to cut further than previously planned.
Does anybody really think those poor people who’ve been lifted out of tax are going to be better off for the loss of the public services they need?
Do any US citizens reading this seriously think that lower and middle-class people in your country are going to benefit from the loss of public services that will be required to make your ultra-rich even richer?
And what’s the incumbent, President Obama, going to do? Are his budget plans any better?
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