Children's rights, crime & justice, immigration & asylum, pensions, poverty, youth, ...
Socialists must support Scottish self-determination (Dale Street)
Labours maundy money (Martin Thomas)
The Fragile Middle East peace (Mike Fenwick)
TUC leaders bow down to Blair
All dried up
Ireland, one year after the ceasefire
My Dear Brewer:—
Have just read the majority report of the [Socialist Party] Committee on
Immigration. It is utterly un-socialistic, reactionary, and in truth
What does UKIP stand for?
1. UKIP are a bosses party in favour of tax cuts for the rich. They want to abolish inheritance tax and cut taxes for business. They would axe public services, reduce state pensions, and cut funding to schools and colleges.
2. Nigel Farage claimed £2 million expenses from Europe for the last four years. He registered an off shore Trust Fund in the Isle of Man to avoid paying taxes
The official regulator for the energy industry, Ofgem, reported on 27 March that suppliers’ retail profits — from selling energy to households and businesses — had risen to £1.1 billion in 2012 from £233m in 2009. No austerity for the energy bosses!
It also found “a pattern of suppliers raising prices more rapidly and to a greater extent in response to an increase in costs than they reduce prices in response to a fall in costs”.
On 26 March the coalition government voted through a law to “cap” welfare benefits for future years. Most Labour MPs voted for the “cap”. Only 13 rebelled.
We should instead “cap” the huge pay-outs being made to the rich.
Inequality in Britain has been rising since 1979, and is now soaring. Real wages, on average, are still going down, despite all the talk of economic recovery.
Robin Blackburn, author of Age Shock: How Finance is failing us and other books, comments on pension changes made in George Osborne’s Budget.
I can understand why there has been a reluctance to criticise allowing holders of pension plans to cash out their pension pot rather than being forced to buy an annuity at retirement. In recent years, with miserable interest rates, annuities barely keep pace with inflation.
On 19 March, George Osborne will deliver another cuts budget. He has made clear that the Tories will continue slashing public spending, despite forecasts of economic recovery.
The situation is looking extremely bleak for public services even without new announcements.
Of the cuts in spending already proposed by the government, the Institute for Fiscal Studies reckons 65% of them are still to come. This at a time when key services like the NHS are creaking beneath the pressure of under-funding.
Giant Swiss bank Credit Suisse stands accused of helping US plutocrats avoid tax by, among other things, shredding documents, holding meetings in a secret elevator, and hiding bank statements inside copies of Sports Illustrated.
The same bank also recently agreed to pay the US Securities Exchange Commission $196.5 million for another misdeed: cross-border brokerage and investment advisory services it provided to unregistered US clients.
14 other banks are under investigation by US authorities on the tax-avoidance front.
The top ten per cent in Britain pocket over £300 billion a year. Just a ten per cent tax bite from that flow would be enough to offset all the cuts that the Government is making.
Yet shadow chancellor’s Ed Balls’s minimal proposal to tax fewer of the rich, and more lightly — to raise the top income tax rate from 45% to 50% — has brought an outcry.
Digby Jones, former chief of the bosses’ federation the CBI, and briefly a minister in the last Labour government, squealed that it meant “kicking” those who “create wealth and jobs”.
Just 85 of the world’s richest people have as much wealth as the 3.5 billion people in the poorer half of the world’s population.
Within Britain inequality is not quite as wide as that world-scale gap calculated by Oxfam. But inequality is huge even within Britain. It has been rising ever since the Thatcher days. And the Government is using the economic crisis as a lever to increase it further.
The “personal” problems of Paul Flowers, former chairman of the Co-operative Bank, have created a major political storm.
The Tory press has been scandalised by revelation that Flowers bought and used Class A drugs. Flowers had had to resign as a local councillor over other problems, and had a record of dubious expenses claims.
Earlier this year, the Co-op announced that it had made a pre-tax loss of over £709 million, with the profits it had made in its supermarkets wiped out by bad debts in its banking arm.
Big banks stand accused of rigging the markets for trading between currencies, in which £3 trillion of business — £400 for every child, woman, and man on earth — is done each day.
Through their frantic scramble for speculative super-profits, those banks brought us the 2008 global crash and the economic depression that still blights us.
They have escaped, so far, with mild reprimands. But with their affairs under more scrutiny, scandal after scandal has tumbled into the open.
Not of the princes and prelates with periwigged charioteers
Riding triumphantly laurelled to lap the fat of the years.
Rather the scorned—the rejected—the men hemmed in with the spears;
Tory chancellor George Osborne claims to have an economic recovery. If there is one, it’s not much of one, even in broad capitalist terms. On the latest figures, business investment, the central measure of the accumulation of capital, was down 2.7% on a year previously.
In narrower terms, bosses and bankers have been doing well for a while. Take-home pay for the average boss of a top-hundred (FTSE 100) company was up to £4.3 million in 2012, an increase of 10 per cent on the previous year. In 2010-11, FTSE 100 bosses took an average pay rise of 12%.
Announcing the new prosecution guidelines for so-called “benefit cheats”, Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said: “benefit and tax fraudsters cost the taxpayer [£9.1 billion every year]”.
Benefit fraudsters, the new guidelines insist, should therefore should be sentenced under laws which carry a maximum jail term of ten years. What Starmer did not say was that benefit fraud accounts for just £26.9 million, or 0.3%, of the £9.1 billion total.
Real wages in Britain have dropped further, and for a longer time, than since records began. The wage share of total income has dwindled since the mid 70s. It has dropped even further since 2010, although usually in economic slumps the wage-share recovers a bit (because profits rise faster in booms, fall faster in slumps).
The merry-go-round of high finance stalled in 2007-8, throwing off and injuring millions of people.
Chancellor George Osborne is anxious to start it up again, and to stage some privatisations in the run-up to the 2015 general election as distraction from the economic gloom.
In 2008 governments across the world, including the most conservative and neo-liberal of them, stepped in to nationalise and bail out banks and financial institutions, and thus to steady the merry-go-round.
At the G8 summit in Northern Ireland on 17-18 June, a start was announced for talks on a free trade deal between the USA and the European Union.
The talks will take two years at least, and may not produce a deal. They were able even to start only because a fudge was devised on France’s demands to have its “cultural exception” (measures which protect, for example, French film production) declared off-limits.
Campaigners in Britain have been demanding that the NHS be declared equally off-limits.
George Osborne is due to announce his latest spending review on 26 June, the day before the first regional strike in teachers’ industrial action over pay, pensions, and workload.
A report by the charity Oxfam, published ahead of EU talks on tax evasion, shows that there is £12 trillion hidden in tax havens around the world.
This figure is enough to eliminate “extreme poverty” worldwide, twice over. The figure represents a daily loss of £156 billion. Two thirds of the amount is stored in EU tax havens, including Luxemburg, Andorra, and Malta. £4.7 trillion of the total sits in British Overseas Territories or Crown Dependencies.
Share prices are going up. Profits are increasing. Top bosses' pay is soaring. And child poverty is rising almost as fast.
According to a new report from the conservative Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS): "Tax and benefit reforms introduced since April 2010 can account for almost all of the increase in child poverty projected over the next few years using the absolute low-income measure; using the relative low-income measure, child poverty would actually have fallen in the absence of reforms as a result of falls in median income".
Andrew Gamble is professor of politics at Cambridge University, and author of the major left-wing analysis of Thatcherism, The Free Economy and the Strong State.
He spoke to Martin Thomas from Solidarity about Thatcher and her legacy.
The vocal Tories at the Daily Mail were pleased about chancellor George Osborne’s 20 March budget.
There was “no Lib Dem drivel about mansion taxes”, they crowed.
And a scheduled rise in fuel duty was scrapped, leading the Mail to “hope this is the end of the Coalition’s economically crippling obsession with global warming”.
The Mail conceded that “this Budget will seriously harm the living standards of public employees. And... the public sector... is really being clobbered”.
The curve of Britain’s economic output shows a sharp decline from mid-2008 to mid-2009. Then from mid-2009 to late 2010 there was a slight recovery.
Since the coalition government’s social cuts have started kicking in, from late 2010, output has mostly stagnated or declined further.
The government’s own Office of Budgetary Responsibility felt obliged on 8 March to write to David Cameron saying that, contrary to Cameron’s claims, the OBR was sure that public spending cuts had reduced overall output, and might have reduced it more than the OBR thought.
According to Labour leader Ed Miliband, speaking on 14 February: “Over the last three decades or so, less than 15 pence of every additional pound Britain has made has gone to an entire half of the population... 24 pence in every pound has gone to the top 1 per cent of earners”.
Inequality soared under the Tories, continued to increase under Blair and Brown, and is zooming under the coalition.
The policies Ed Miliband proposed in that speech would come nowhere near reversing that trend.
Recently, I co-authored a book on online campaigning for trade unions and self-published it using a print-on-demand service called CreateSpace.
CreateSpace is a subsidiary of Amazon, the giant online retailer, and any book you publish there is automatically available for sale on the Amazon websites. It was a great option as it cost nothing and allowed us to reach a very large global audience.
Law professor Sol Picciotto has proposed a new approach to stop tax avoidance by transnational corporations (TNCs).
Over a third of all world trade is within TNCs. That gives them enormous scope to manage their affairs so that their profits appear, and are taxed, in the lowest-tax parts of the world.
Starbucks, Google, and Amazon all use this scope so as to pay very little tax in the UK.
Socialists object to this; and so do ordinary capitalist governments. There have been many efforts by governments, since the 1930s, to fix the problem, none of them effective.
The Financial Times reports that one European state has broken ranks with the neo-liberal consensus and started Keynesian policies of extra state spending rather than cuts to deal with the crisis.
It is... the solidly right-wing government in Sweden. It has announced plans to spend SKr23bn to boost growth, and said it will invest more if the downturn gets worse.