Neo-Cons and the opportunity gifted by austerity…

trickle down economics

What do you do when faced with a broken economy?

Let us examine a couple of options;

Firstly, we might decide that something has been going wrong with the way we run our lives. We might realise that our lifestyles have become skewed towards debt-driven consumerism, buoyed by a false sense of prosperity caused by rising house prices for those already comfortably situated on the property ladder. We have become a country who have stopped producing things but are addicted to imported gadgets whose pending obsolescence is measured in months even before we get them out of the box.

Over the last 20 years there has been a revolution in the banking and financial sectors. A thousand new ‘products’ offering new ways to borrow. Billions have been generated on paper, and a few rich people have benefited hugely. However, much of the activity is like some kind of confidence trick. It is not related to any real life events, it is just a shuffling of decimal points, the blink blink of binary code. It means nothing to ordinary people. Until it all goes wrong that is.

What can we learn from all this?

  • Can we break the debt cycle, move to more simple ways of living?
  • Can we consume less, share more, recycle, make products that last?
  • Can we protect the weakest from the consequences of failed capitalist experiments?
  • Can we develop a housing market not based on me-first insular ownership battles? Is renting or shared ownership a bad thing?
  • Can we tax more where appropriate, and make sure that the taxes are actually paid?
  • Can we start to make decisions based on sustainability, not just talk about doing so?
  • Can we stop talking about ‘market forces’ as the only human motivation possible to generate mass action. As if money was the only human capital of any value.

Perhaps in the mess of all this, there is a way to mend not just or economy, but for our culture to flourish anew…

The trouble is, there seems to be no real sign that this kind of agenda suits those in power. They seem to be more interested in option B;

The problem with the economy is not one of over consumption, it is caused by excessive public spending. It is caused by welfare systems that breed inefficiency and dependency. It is caused by a lack of fluidity in certain flows of capital around the markets. The proper response should be as follows;

  • Cut public spending.
  • Slash welfare budgets, slash health care spending.
  • Support these unpopular moves with a blame game- stories of benefit scroungers and immigrants coming here to fill our social housing and claim our benefits.
  • Cut taxes to business to encourage productivity.
  • Attack power of unions.
  • Slash at any external power that has a human rights agenda. It will be a threat to the freedom of the market.

Option B, for most of the last 50 years, has not been a politically acceptable option, not even in the height of the Thatcher years. However, the current economic ‘crisis’ seems to have turned all this on its head. Neo Conservatives have an opportunity to move forward an agenda that they have never had before- mostly because organised collective opposition has been so weak.

If you want to see any kind of evidence of this, check out the news. The Tory party conference is in full swing, and a rather nasty, negative set of policies are being touted;

Repeal the Human Rights Act.

Make people on Benefits do ‘voluntary’ work.

Stop immigrants receiving health care and benefits in this country.

No sign whatsoever of option A. There is no money in it for those who are already rich on the benefits of the system that got us into this mess.

Mad ain’t it?


A good start…

I watched Obama’s inauguration yesterday with interest, but considerable detachment. American politics always seem so different from our own- the hype, the necessity of huge financial resources and all sorts of power-brokeridge that we can only just guess at. Americans seem to have a reverence and deference for (and towards) whoever hold the office of President that British people never feel for their rulers.

I am also scarred by 1997, when the incoming Labour government promised so much in the UK, after so many damaging years of Tory government. I remember the hope for something new and genuinely different. And the creeping realisation that Blair’s government seemed unable to ever elevate principle over popularism and the manipulation of image.

But Obama made a good start. I enjoyed the moment when his jaw set a little firmer and he began to talk about how his government would have a totally different human rights agenda. The Camera cut to a close up of out-going president Bush.

Then today, I heard that one of the Obama’s first acts as President- on his first day in Office, was to suspend all the ‘trials’ of inmates currently contained in the infamous Guantanamo bay (Here is what the Guardian had to say.)

He had promised as much- so it should not have been a surprise

I have posted some thought previously on Guantanamo bay- here.

In particular, some thoughts about Omar Khadir, the 15 year old boy abducted and held in Guantanamo bay ‘interrogation centre’ . It is his trial that has been suspended today following the Presidents intervention. Here is footage from his interrogation, released by his defence team-

A good start Mr President.