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Imperial Wizard Chris Barker says there has been a surge in “white pride” – and I can’t believe I’m typing these words. “Imperial Wizard”? Does he think he’s playing Dungeons and Dragons? (With apologies to D&D afficionados.) [Image: Univision.]
Is this really the kind of revival Donald Trump wants the United States to support?
From where This Writer is sitting, the answer seems to be: Yes.
Trump withdrew his condemnation of white supremacists in Charlottesville at the first available opportunity and, whether applications to join the KKK have increased or not, it – and organisations like it – are capitalising on the publicity they are receiving.
That is unacceptable. If Trump won’t speak out against people who provoke hatred against their fellow citizens on grounds of colour, race, religion or sexual orientation, then he is not representing his country – only a small fraction of it.
Isn’t that enough to have him removed from office?
The Ku Klux Klan has grown faster since Donald Trump’s inauguration than any time in recent memory, a Klan leader has claimed.
“I’ve been doing this for over 20 years and I haven’t seen the Klan grow at the pace it’s growing now,” Chris Barker, an Imperial Wizard of the KKK, told The Independent. “I mean, it’s even hard to keep track of the numbers you’ve got ’cause there’s so many coming in.”
Mr Barker said that after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville he received 50 applications to join his group in one day. The next day, he received 80.
Mr Barker leads the Loyal White Knights of the KKK, which has less than 200 members. As one of the most active Klan groups in the US, the group takes part in “activism” such as burning crosses, advocating for the murder of immigrants, and distributing leaflets claiming, among other things, “transgender is an abomination”.
Patients are meant to wait no longer than 18 weeks after being referred for planned care in hospital, such as an operation [Image: sturti/Getty Images].
A Conservative-run NHS means you have to wait for care.
Why? Because then they can sell private health insurance to you as a way to jump the queue.
What a slimy gang of snake-oil salespeople.
The number of patients waiting for planned surgery in an NHS hospital in England has topped 4 million for the first time in a decade, official performance statistics show.
The breaching of the 4 million barrier for the first time since the waiting time target was introduced in August 2007 will raise fresh questions about the government’s stewardship of the health service. Critics will seize on it as evidence that Theresa May is giving the NHS too little money to help it cope with an unprecedented rise in demand for healthcare.
NHS England said on Thursday that 3.83 million people were on the waiting list for non-urgent hospital care in July, a slight increase on 3.81 million in June. However, it admitted that once estimates were factored in for how many patients were waiting at six hospital trusts that did not submit data for the referral to treatment (RTT) scheme, the total had gone over 4 million.
What a relief to see Ed Miliband putting out a New Year message that clearly shows, not only that he understands the problems facing his Labour Party, but he also understands how to frame his appeal to the people.
One fact that has become perfectly clear over the last year or so is that many readers of this blog have serious doubts about Mr Miliband and the party he leads. The perception is that he has been seduced by the Tory ‘deficit reduction’ narrative.
This writer has held concerns that Mr Miliband did not realise that the only argument he really needs to use is that of history – that it was the Labour Party that set the UK on three decades of continual growth after World War II.
How refreshing, then, to hear the Labour leader say: “This coming year we mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, when our parents and grandparents overcame the most daunting odds to rebuild.
“After the war – badly battered and deeply in debt – Britain rose again.
“We built the NHS, a modern welfare state, homes for people to live in, and still dealt with our debts.
“We set the stage for a generation of progress for working people.
“Today’s challenges are different – but if we could walk through those fires, we surely can meet the problems of our time.”
He’s right, but there will be critics who won’t accept these words. They’ll say that the answer lies in further austerity – in withdrawing the cash that forms the lifeblood of the British economy and is needed to bring growth to the system as it flows through. They’re wrong, but to understand why, we need to examine the historical context provided by Mr Miliband.
So let’s put some flesh on the bones provided by his speech.
“UK national debt peaked in the late 1940s at over 230% of GDP. From the early 1950s to early 1990s, we see a consistent decrease in the debt to GDP,” according to the Economics Help website.
It continues: “The main reason UK debt to GDP fell in the post-war period was the sustained period of economic growth and near full employment until the late 1970s. This growth saw rising real incomes which in turn led to higher tax revenues and falling debt to GDP ratios.”
“Sustained economic growth” – Ed Balls has made it clear that he intends to stimulate the economy, if Labour is elected into government in May (despite the interruptions of such interviewers as Martha Kearney on BBC Radio 4’s The World At One – she insisted that such plans were irrelevant in the short term and demanded that he tell her what he was going to cut, completely missing the point).
We all know the Conservative-led Coalition ran a policy that stalled the economy for three years. The only reasons it is improving now are the fact that every economic downturn eventually reaches its lowest point and picks up again, plus the economic bubble that George Osborne created in the housing market.
“Near full employment” – Labour has made a return to full employment one of its policy goals. Detractors will say we’re close to that already; the difference is that Labour intends to achieve this with what this blog considers to be proper jobs – not zero-hours contracts or part-time fiddles.
“Rising real incomes” – Under the Coalition, incomes have stagnated, with most families having to endure a real-terms income drop of £1,600 while the richest one per cent have doubled their wealth. Labour plans to raise the minimum wage and push for the Living Wage wherever possible – as a start in its programme to cut income inequality.
“Higher tax revenues” – George Osborne has affected surprise that his policies have led to lower Income Tax returns, but it seems clear that this is an act; the plan was to engineer a drop in tax receipts, in order to justify further cuts to social security and public services. Labour’s plan would reverse this trend.
“Falling debt to GDP ratios” – The Conservative-led Coalition has overseen a catastrophic increase in the National Debt, while continually claiming that the economy is safe with them; because of this, we can look on the 2015 General Election as a measure of our own gullibility. Labour’s plan would bring prosperity back to the UK, allowing us to pay off our debts – just as we did after the Second World War.
Needless to say, the BBC Newsreport of Mr Miliband’s speech completely missed all of these points.
Back to Economics Help: “Note – Debt to GDP fell, despite higher real government spending on the newly formed welfare state and national health service. In fact government spending as a percentage of GDP rose from around 35 per cent of GDP in the early 1950s to the high 40 per cents in the 1970s.”
You see, debt isn’t a problem if you’ve got the economic strength to deal with it. The Coalition has weakened the country; Labour would build up our muscle again.
Another feature of the post-war period was high tax rates – but perhaps that’s a story for another time.
Miliband’s message is a solid statement of hope for the future. Cynics will try to shoot him down – but they’ll need far more substantial arguments than any seen so far.
The BBC is reporting that the UK economy has grown by 2.6 per cent in the last year – less than the 3 per cent originally thought. In the third quarter of 2014 the increase was 0.6 per cent.
“So what?” you’re probably asking. “Isn’t 2.6 per cent enough?” Well, it’s certainly much better than the limbo days of 2011-13 when the economy was in and out of the red and Ed Balls’ claim that it had “flatlined” was literally true.
The lower growth has been attributed to smaller government and business investment than had previously been expected, and higher imports.
There’s nothing to be done about the increase in the balance of payments deficit (that’s the difference between import costs and export takings) to 27 billion – especially if both government and business investment is down; it seems that Britain simply has nothing to sell.
So much for the “nation of shopkeepers” as Napoleon Bonaparte (among others) famously described us!
Perhaps George Osborne has restricted government investment in order to meet his (revised-revised – and probably revised again) deficit reduction target for 2014-15. If so, he’s even more of a short-sighted fool than we all thought because this will cause greater harm in the long run.
And there’s also the impending crash when the property bubble created by Osborne’s artificially-engineered housing boom pops. Help to Buy and Funding for Lending stimulated the economy when the private sector ignored Gideon’s call for help, but won’t go on forever.
But what does all this mean for the average person on the street?
Not much, it turns out.
All this talk of economic improvement may sound good – indeed, it is intended to do so. But it hasn’t translated into any improvement in living standards. They’ve been plummeting ever since the Conservative-led Coalition government took office.
Tories are bad for the nation’s living standards. So are Liberal Democrats.
Household incomes have dropped by a massive £1,600 every year – a huge amount for the poorest to bear and a considerable inconvenience for those of middle incomes as well.
Pay rises have been non-existent or below the level, even of CPI inflation – which doesn’t take into account all the costs that households must bear. That’s why the Tories and Liberal Democrats switched to using it as their main indicator back in 2010.
Where are all the new full-time jobs?
The only people to benefit from any economic upturn have been the corporate bosses and the Conservative Party (thanks to donations from the corporate bosses).
This means that, instead of asking, “So what? Isn’t 2.6 per cent enough?” you would be better-advised to ask:
“So what? When do I get my share?”
The answer is: “Under the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats?
David Cameron can thump the table, stamp his feet and shout all he likes …. he’s been caught out in a lie and now the pigeons have come home to roost!
When you have an (unelected) prime minister and a chancellor of the exchequer (who doesn’t even know his seven times table), who have manipulated and lied about the economy, they shouldn’t be surprised when they are forced to live up to their fiction.
The EU have asked the UK to pay £1.7 billion pounds because… the UK economy has improved.
If the economy HAD improved to the extent that CaMORON says it has, then this payment would not be too much of a problem.
There has indeed been an improvement in the economy, but only because of factors such as the money from activities such as drug use and prostitution being used to bolster the figures.
Prostitution and illegal drugs are contributing around £10 billion a year to the British economy, according to official data released last May (source ONS)
More than half of that – £5.3 billion – is attributable to prostitution*, according to estimated figures from the Office for National Statistics. Illegal drugs are worth £4.4bn.
Britain has to pay. No ifs, no buts. The adjustment is “automatic”.
* Vox Political should make a correction here. Yesterday this blog stated that sex slumps when the Tories are in office. Clearly this should be amended; it is only legal sex that drops off when Tories are in charge. Draw your own conclusions.
George Osborne: He knows how to find prostitutes and drugs but his Treasury has yet to receive any tax from them.
Reuters reckons the Coalition government could be heading for happy days after the ONS said the economy grew faster in 2011 and 2012 than previously estimated.
“The Office for National Statistics is revamping how it calculates the size of Britain’s economy, and… the revisions… show the economy grew more strongly than thought in the years after Britain’s coalition government came to power in 2010,” the news agency enthusiastically transmitted.
Unfortunately you have to look further down to find out how everybody was spending their money. Under a paragraph admitting that one revision meant corporate investment in research was now a benefit rather than a cost (how does that work?) we came down to the nitty-gritty.
“They also include more eye-catching changes, such as estimates of the activity of prostitutes and drug dealers.”
In other words, not only is this revision an example of figure-diddling on a grand scale, it’s an example of an altogether more tangible kind of diddling as well!
Has this boosted the UK’s tax take for 2011 or 2012? No.
Has this helped reduce the UK’s national deficit for 2011 or 2012? No.
Pimps and pushers tend not to submit tax returns, you see (at least, not for that).
Should you pay any attention to the claim that we’re all better off than we thought we were? No.
The new figures merely show that – along with the biggest businesses – the only people making any money back in 2011 and 2012 were the worst criminals – those who exploited others in the sex industry and those who squeezed money out of drug addicts.
Some might say there is little difference between them. Don’t forget George Osborne changed the rules to make the UK a nice, comfy tax haven for his fatcat friends.
Reuters – and the ONS – should be ashamed of themselves for trying to pull the wool over our eyes in such an offensive way. This retroactive sleight-of-hand means absolutely nothing for the economy of the United Kingdom and the people struggling to improve it for the benefit of the many, rather than the few.
Apparently the Tories are hoping the boosted figures will persuade gullible voters to give them another chance at government in May 2015. Fat chance!
All you have to do to debunk this ridiculous charade is ask George Osborne where the money went – because it didn’t go into the Treasury.
And no – we can be fairly certain that (most of) it didn’t go up his nose.
[Image: David Symonds for The Guardian, in February this year.]
Britain has returned to prosperity, with the economy finally nudging beyond its pre-crisis peak, according to official figures.
Well, that’s a relief, isn’t it? Next time you’re in the supermarket looking for bargains or mark-downs because you can’t afford the kind of groceries you had in 2008, you can at least console yourself that we’re all doing better than we were back then.
The hundreds of thousands of poor souls who have to scrape by on handouts from food banks will, no doubt, be bolstered by the knowledge that Britain is back on its feet.
And the relatives of those who did not survive Iain Duncan Smith’s brutal purge of benefit claimants can be comforted by the thought that they did not die in vain.
NO! Of course not! Gross domestic product might be up 3.1 per cent on last year but it’s got nothing to do with most of the population! In real terms, you’re £1,600 per year worse-off!
The Conservatives who have been running the economy since 2010 have re-balanced it, just as they said they would – but they lied about the way it would be re-balanced and as a result the money is going to the people who least deserve it; the super-rich and the bankers who caused the crash in the first place.
You can be sure that the mainstream media won’t be telling you that, though.
Even some of the figures they are prepare to use are enough to cast doubt on the whole process. The UK economy is forecast to be the fastest-growing among the G7 developed nations according to the IMF (as reported by the BBC) – but our export growth since 2010 puts us below all but one of the other G7 nations, according to Ed Balls in The Guardian.
“Since most international trade is in goods and not in services, once the proportion of the economy devoted to producing internationally tradable goods drops below about 15 per cent, it becomes more and more difficult to combine a reasonable rate of growth and full employment with a sustainable balance of payments position,” he writes.
“In the UK, the proportion of GDP coming from manufacturing is now barely above 10 per cent. Hardly surprising then that we have not had a foreign trade surplus balance since 1982 – over thirty years ago – while our share of world trade which was 10.7 per cent in 1950 had fallen by 2012 to no more than 2.6 per cent.”
All of this seems to be good business sense. It also runs contrary to successive governments’ economic policies for the past 35 years, ever since the neoliberal government of Margaret Thatcher took over in 1979.
As this blog has explained, Thatcher and her buddies Nicholas Ridley and Keith Joseph were determined to undermine the confidence then enjoyed by the people who actually worked for a living, because it was harming the ability of the idle rich – shareholders, bosses… bankers – to increase their own undeserved profits; improvements in working-class living standards were holding back their greed.
In order to hammer the workers back into the Stone Age, they deliberately destroyed the UK’s manufacturing and exporting capability and blamed it on the unions.
That is why we have had a foreign trade deficit since 1982. That is why our share of world trade is less than one-third of what it was in 1950 (under a Labour government, notice). That is why unemployment has rocketed, even though the true level goes unrecognised as governments have rigged the figures to suit themselves.
(The current wheeze has the government failing to count as unemployed anyone on Universal Credit, anyone on Workfare/Mandatory Work Activity and anyone who whose benefit has been sanctioned – among many other groups – for example.)
You may wish to argue that the economy is fine – after all, that’s what everybody is saying, including the Office for National Statistics.
Not according to Mr Mills: “The current improvement in our economic performance, based on buttressing consumer confidence by boosting asset values fuelled by yet more borrowing, is all to unlikely to last.”
(He means the housing bubble created by George Osborne’s ‘Help to Buy’ scheme will burst soon, and then the economy will be right up the creek because the whole edifice is based on more borrowing at a time when Osborne has been claiming he is paying down the deficit.)
Ed Balls has got the right idea – at least, on the face of it. In his Guardian article he states: “We are not going to deliver a balanced, investment-led recovery that benefits all working people with the same old Tory economics,” and he’s right.
“Hoping tax cuts at the very top will trickle down, a race to the bottom on wages, Treasury opposition to a proper industrial strategy, and flirting with exit from the European Union cannot be the right prescription for Britain.” Right again – although our contract with Europe must be renegotiated and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement would be a disaster for the UK if we signed it.
But none of that affects you, does it? It’s all too far away, controlled by people we’ve never met. That’s why Balls focuses on what a Labour government would do for ordinary people: “expanding free childcare, introducing a lower 10p starting rate of tax, raising the minimum wage and ending the exploitative use of zero-hours contracts. We need to create more good jobs and ensure young people have the skills they need to succeed.”
And how do the people respond to these workmanlike proposals?
“You intend to continue the Tories’ destructive ‘austerity’ policies.”
“The economy isn’t fixed but you broke it.”
There was one comment suggesting that all the main parties are the same now, which – it has been suggested – was what Lynton Crosby told David Cameron to spread if he wanted to win the next election.
Very few of the comments under the Guardian piece have anything to do with what Balls actually wrote; they harp on about New Labour’s record (erroneously), they conflate Labour’s vow not to increase borrowing with an imaginary plan to continue Tory austerity policies… in fact they do all they can to discredit him.
Not because his information is wrong but because they have heard rumours about him that have put them off.
It’s as if people don’t want their situation to improve.
Until we can address that problem – which is one of perception – we’ll keep going around in circles while the exploiters laugh.
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