Tag Archives: output

Vote Tory for a tiny economy, terrible jobs and no welfare state


No doubt some of you will scream that this post is overdramatizing, but the consequences of further fiscal consolidation (that’s austerity to most of us), as laid out in Professor Simon Wren-Lewis’s latest Mainly Macro article, seem undeniable.

He tells us the National Institute has used the model NIGEM to analyse the macroeconomic impact of the different political parties’ fiscal plans post-2015, which is published in the latest Review. (Chris Giles has a FT write-up.) The result: The more fiscal austerity you undertake, and if monetary policy fails to perfectly offset the impact on demand, the lower output will be.

You don’t need a crystal ball to see what this means, if we get another Conservative, or Tory-led, government. Lower output means a lower tax take, therefore less money to spend on the NHS and welfare benefits (areas like Defence and International Development will always have funds – we can’t let ourselves go defenceless and we must continue our programmes of cultural imperialism, after all).

So further Tory austerity instantly implies the imposition of even harsher standards of qualification for state benefits, pushing even more vulnerable, sick and disabled people off the books and into their graves. We’ve all known that voting Tory is an endorsement of state-sponsored suicide but it’s time we all owned up to it.

It means the sale of the National Health Service in England to private companies will be accelerated, with consequent impacts on the amount of grant funding for the health service in the other UK countries; the service will continue to worsen and even more deaths will be the result.

But the Tories will want to pretend to the media that all is well, which means an increased push to get people into part-time, temporary or zero-hours work, and an increased number of benefit claimants being funnelled into work activity programmes that, in fact, reduce the number of available jobs. The resulting low-pay economy is exactly what the Conservatives want; the workers will be kept down and the employers can pocket the profits.

Nobody in the government or even the Bank of England will tell you this because, it seems, they haven’t done any analysis and won’t make any such forecasts.

The Office for Budget Irresponsibility is not allowed to look at alternative fiscal policies in the short term and must therefore put the bravest possible face on what is offered to it – that is why every single forecast to come out of that organisation has been hopelessly optimistic.

We’re back to evidenceless policies again. The Tories are saying “everything will be okay”, because – for them – it will be. They and their rich friends will have loads of cash. Who cares that the entire infrastructure of the United Kingdom – and the British way of life – will be dismantled and disappearing from under them?

Think this is overexaggerating? Let’s go back to Prof Wren-Lewis and examine the Tories’ record. He writes: “If you go back to 2010, the OBR’s main forecast didn’t look too bad: the recovery was continuing, and interest rates were able to rise as a result.

“But good policy does not just look at central projections, but it also looks at risks. Then, the risks were asymmetric: if the recovery became too strong, interest rates could always rise further too cool things, but if the recovery did not happen, interest rates would be stuck at their lower bound and monetary policy would be unable to keep the recovery on track.

“In 2010 and beyond that downside risk came to pass [bolding mine], and the recovery was delayed. Fiscal policy put the economy in a position where it was particularly vulnerable to downside risks, which is why it was an entirely foreseeable mistake.

“Exactly this point applies to 2015 and beyond. The problem with further fiscal consolidation while interest rates remain at their lower bound is that it makes the economy much more vulnerable to downside risks.”

In other words, it seems Conservative policy, as set down by History graduate and towel-folder George Osborne, deliberately weakened this country’s ability to recover from the crash of 2008 and afterwards.

How secure is you job? How safe are your savings?

Do you really want to risk them on more Tory bungling?

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Private company given contract to harass the long-term sick

The pretext: These are the figures showing the amount of working time lost to companies in the UK because of illness. Remember that these figures have halved in the last decade.

The pretext: These are the figures showing the estimated amount of long-term illness in the UK per year. Remember that these figures have halved in the last decade.

The Department for Work and Pensions is setting up a new “service” offering “advice” to people who are off work with an illness for more than four weeks.

No reference is made to improving people’s health.

It should also be noted that sickness absence in the UK is among the lowest in Europe, and has halved over the past decade.

The announcement was made on the BBC News website shortly after midnight. Nothing has appeared on the Government’s own website so it seems the Corporation has gone back to being Westminster’s poodle again – breaking news for the government in order to give spin doctors time to assess the reaction and then write a press release that is more acceptable to the public.

The Health and Work Service will be a privately-run operation covering England, Wales and Scotland, offering “non-compulsory” medical assessments and “treatment plans”. This is reminiscent of the way Universal Jobmatch was introduced to jobseekers as a “non-compulsory” service – which many thousands of people have been bullied and harassed into joining.

The scheme will allow employers or GPs to refer employees for a “work-focused occupational health assessment”, according to the BBC report. So this means the employee has no say in whether to go on the scheme – it is down to bosses and doctors. You are invited to consider whether this represents another great step forward in the Conservative Party’s claims to be crusading for patient choice.

The story says workers will be allowed to refuse assessment or to follow any course of action that is recommended but, again, we have the example of Universal Jobmatch.

The “assessment” is meant to identify the issues preventing an employee from returning to work and draw up a plan for them, their GP and their employer, showing how that person can be “helped” back more quickly.

One is forced to question the efficacy of such a system, if faced with illnesses or diseases that must receive medical treatment.

You don’t talk someone better – the huge number of people who have died while going through the DWP’s Employment and Support Allowance sickness denial machine has proved that.

The government has made its aim in setting up the new scheme perfectly clear, saying employers will “save money” by having fewer staff off sick – possibly saving companies up to £70 million a year in reduced sickness pay and related costs.

The DWP says people will return to work earlier. This seems like a pie-in-the-sky aspiration, as illness does not go away in accordance with a timetable. This means the Department’s other claims – that there will be a reduction in lost working days and increased economic output – are also pipe dreams.

It is far more likely that sick people will be forced back to work before they are better – leading to an increased chance that illnesses will spread among workforces, there will be more lost working days and lowered economic output.

The Trades Union Congress, while supporting schemes that could help people back into work, agreed (with me) that this one creates a danger that people will be forced back to work before they are well.

Finally, any company involved in the scheme should be aware that it is unlikely to make a profit from it. Look at the effect on other firms of involvement with DWP schemes: Welfare-to-work provider A4e has reported a pre-tax loss of £11.5 million in the year to March 31, 2013 – up from a £2.1 million loss the year before. Turnover dropped from £194 million to £167 million.

So now we can say very clearly to all private companies:

Working for the Coalition government doesn’t pay.

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