Piece written in 2001 about IMF ‘riots’.

The common theme which is running through the unrest we are seeing over Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East was laid out in this piece about Joseph Stiglitz and the IMF in 2001. This is a very prescient piece.

I do not believe we are seeing uprisings which are about geography, or individual political regimes. I believe that what we are starting to see is the response to an economic system which has caused a great deal of harm in the world. I used to read about the IMF and it’s effects on countries in teh developing world, when I thought I was young and radical. The harm that it caused seemed distant and a concern in terms of ‘standing up for the poor’. The ‘poor’ are not them.

These policies are being seen closer and closer to home, and Ireland is feeling this effect. We are facing our first set of austerity measures, and I think understanding the role of the IMF, the world bank, it’s connections to the banking industry are very important in understanding what is unfolding.

It is relevant to Egypt, to us, to europe, to Ireland and to the people of the USA.

I am not yet qualified to write knowledgeably- but am reading, and watching, and learning.

What will we do to Egypt now?

I don’t write about Foreign Affairs often, mainly because there are those out there who are much more knowledgable than I, but it is difficult to watch scenes like those in Egypt and Tunisia without commenting.

I would like this to be a post asking for solidarity with the Egyptian people who have shown more courage than I could imagine. But I can’t get away from the feeling that the next stage of this is a challenge for us in the West.

For 30 years Mubarak has ruled at the expense of his own people, not for their benefit. But he did not do this alone. It was our need for a presence in the Middle East, Egypt’s geopolitical significance for our various ill advised travails in that region that kept him there. It was our economic system, which allowed the IMF to treat Egypt as a model nation after they imposed barbaric austerity measures on their own people- austerity measures which have lasted 20 years. It is our allowance of banks like Goldman Sachs to demand that they be given the freedom to speculate on food prices, that allowed food prices to rise so far that they are exacerbating the hardship of people in Egypt. It is our need to protect Israel while they terrorise the people of Gaza, that ensures that Egypt must remain in our pocket. And last night, in the comments of John Kerry, William Hague, and President Barack Obama we saw that this is not something we are going to give up easily.

When the people of Egypt cry that they want Mubarak out, what they are crying is for an end to our treatment of them, and their country, as little more than a proxy for us, and our destructive economic system.

I would love to think that now people across that region are rising up, that in the name of the democracy and freedom we pretend to hold dear that we would respect their very clear statement.

Unfortunately, that is not our modus operandi. The difference in coverage from Al JAzeera and the BBC was very telling. With language from the BBC already framing this as people creating instability, preparing us to treat the Egyptian people as potential terrorists-the question is now for us. Are we going to undermine whatever emerges from this situation, and keep a nation unstable until they have installed someone else who will punish their people for our benefit? Will we prop up a dictator who the Egyptian people have clearly said they do not want?  Are we ready to understand that we do not, and never did have, the right to treat entire nations as accessories to further our own interests? TO treat Egypt as a sovereign nation with a right to self determination?

I think not.

It is not Mubarak who will punish the Egyptian people for demanding the things that we pretend to embody. It is us.

So I break with habit, and comment on foreign affairs because I am a British Citizen. And if my government, and the US behave the way they always have, in the face of the courage shown over recent weeks- I want it known that it is not in my name.

Jobless ‘recovery’.

Isn’t a jobless recovery a recovery for our financial system, at the expense of British businesses and people? To pay for the mess they caused?

And what do the hundreds and thousands of people who are being sacrificed to this jobless recovery actually do to recover after their jobs are sacrificed for it? Wait for another bubble to appear? What happens to the mortgage and credit cards that their salaries paid for? The businesses where their money is spent? Did the Conservatives tell the business community what they would be sacrificing for the markets? How does this tie into the bit of the recovery strategy that all parties are agreed on,  the bit where state support for the jobless is slashed.

That isn’t recovery at all. Sounds just like the logical conclusion of 30 years of governments weaning themselves away from any responsibility for the people they represent, and flogging off our good shit, milking money out of the rest of it. What is government for again?

I haven’t blogged about Blair’s latest outing at Chilcot.

..In this article here by Steven Maclean you find some of the things I would have said- had I been articulate enough.

When Tony Blair is asked why we went into Iraq, he goes on about how the ‘perception of risk’ changed after 9/11. There is a name for when the perception of risk changes, and the risk itself doesn’t. Paranoia. And there was nothing that Iraq could have done to prevent the invasion which has devastated the country, and killed 1million of their citizens.

I have gotten to the point where I don’t have the energy to keep saying the same things any more. There are a million questions hanging over our foreign ‘policy’ in the last decade, and it is quite reassuring to know just how many people out there continue to ask them.

Brilliant.

Konnolsky
58 minutes ago
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Hello! Here in Smolensk butcher’s shop we very impress by George Osborne. And not just because of his bad boy sex appeal. (Like James Franco. With Gladstone bag. And spreadsheet. And Rowan Atkinson’s face.) No. We marvel at quality of his economic insight.

Some Osborne supporters worry at shrinkage of UK economy. Monetary Policy Committee freeze interest rates. Grant Shapps want inspire young people into work, saying if he can do it, so can anyone (even if so binge-drink lobotomised they lack elementary systems of language and reason). Vince Cable has try raise money for business by sell his soul, though spokesperson for JMB (Joint Mephistophelean Bank) say price depressed by Lib Dem soul surplus and Simon Hughes attempts to sell, buy back, then sell again. (“We’re not a pawnshop,” sniff Collateralised Death Obligations expert, Mr BL Zabub.) And Eric Pickles seek foster pie-consumption boom, Tennents Export-led recovery, and, in drive to reduce energy costs, has been farming his own wind.

But they not understand Osborne wisdom. George heed Good Book. “If eye is make offendings at you, then it is rip out already” as translation of King James Bible into Russian and then back into English say. George understand best way get rid economic problems is eradicate economy. He know massive cutting of public expenditure, civil service layoffs and rise in VAT will complete work done by banks and reduce whole of Britain to Stone Age conditions, currently only preserved in heritage communities of North East. George complain publicly about impact of snow on economy, but really he delighted and pray for more blizzards. Russian Interior Ministry say UK Treasury is buying thousands of hectares of Siberian tundra to relocate to Britain and transform ecosystem. Siberian earth will be kept frozen by look Sayeeda Warsi give “Question Time” audience.

And what is purpose of all this enlightened destruction? Policy induce further decline in value of sterling, to encourage foreign investment. China will buy rump of UK car industry. My country will continue acquiring BP. India will complete its monopoly of all UK IT and telecoms. And this help everyone. As China becomes most successful economy in world, and India and Russia also grow in power, competitive advantage of lower wages in their economies will fade. But they and other countries will want to offshore many activities to cheap labour destinations. So instead of using Africa or Brazil, everyone will employ workers in Palaeolithic post-Osborne economy of UK.

And Australian News Corporation, through UK-based outlet News International, show the way. Now all relevant ownership decisions are made by complete and utter Jeremy, News Corp easily fulfil ambition to buy all of UK media. News Corp already got Stone Age values Stone Age economy need. But now we see they move with times. Take Andy Gray. He paradigm for Cro Magnon worldview essential for new/ancient Britain and News Corp jobs – Sun journalist, football pundit, future Government Communications Director. But shocking revelations of how much he paid, inconsistent with inflation-based policy goal of eroding UK living standards, made sacking inevitable. His departure signal end of old-fashioned football punditry model of pay massively disproportionate to worth, and prepare for News Corp exploitation of alignment of low quality and low pay in new Osborne miracle economy. As News Corp empire expand, it need armies of ill-informed, boorish and bigoted men. Their shock at receiving wages lower than those of Mumbai call-centre will be offset by massive job satisfaction of writing, saying, and broadcasting any old crap that go through their heads. And women will have many job opportunities too, especially in sport, where there will be adverts for Office Talent, “hands on” Personal Assistants, and those able to “front up cup coverage”. Melanie Phillips will be in charge of diversity, while ambitious young ladies will be needed for Sky’s new 24 hour naked football coverage, Sky Sports Nudes.

Britain, which led Industrial Revolution, only to give way to Germany, America and now China, will again become workshop of the world. Through gradual enrichment of benign and grateful overseas investors, it will steadily build up its power. Britain will again become dominant global economic force, in about 350 years, when a grateful people will erect statues to visionary Osborne, who, with his Little Red Budget Book, ensured many flowers would come to bloom by laying waste the earth.

Chavs, travellers, gypsies, pikeys…

”I am totally liberal. I eat fairtrade, I object to gender inequality, I challenge racism whenever I see it…..and as long as you dress how I dress, think how I think,  value what I value, shop where I shop, I am completely accepting. I totally believe in the working class’s rights! Fairness! Solidarity!

Chavs, gypsies, travellers, and pikeys though. (Not the proper Romany people obviously, what a rich history….) You have to worry about their kids. 6 year olds with spray tan?  All that glitter, someone should call social services. And you can’t trust em. What about the women? Someone should protect those women from the evils of patriarchy, for their own sake. They need to know the way they dress is not their choice, I’ll tell em. Put em in the way of some nice clothes..you can dress ethically for so little these days. If they just made ‘better choices’ they could be just like us…. We need to teach them to educate themselves, give them aspirations…And someone should do something about those unsightly places they live, what about the neighbours property prices. And have you seen Jeremy Kyle lately, it’s clear evidence there is a problem isn’t it….”

 

Whatever.

 

 

 

 

 

Politicians who have sex.

I generally don’t see what relevance a politician’s sex life has to their job. To be honest, not only do I not think it is relevant, I don’t think my stomach could cope with more than a passing thought about it.

So when I read about Lord Strathclyde having sex with a ‘penniless single mum’ I could have just let it pass without comment(as I usually do). But our coalition have made sex and morality about sex very relevant.

Under the pretext of ‘incentivising marriage’ the Conservative led government has brought in policies which not only remove the benefits that allowed women to work, remove the legal aid that allows them to challenge poor treatment at work, and protect their financial interests in divorce, but fine women who try to seek child support, if it is felt they did not have justification for not continuing to fuck the father of their child. This makes Lord Strathclyde’s actions very relevant.

When the poorest women in the country, are about to be made much poorer, and pushed out of work and their communities on the understanding that their poverty will teach them about the importance of marriage and those good old family values- then I get to comment.

I don’t know the woman, she might be a twat. Her reproductive status, her relationship status and a tabloid article give me little room to cmment. And I can’t see why I would want to. Her actions, and her sex life are as irrelevant to me, as mine is to the Conservative government.

However. Conservative policy is very clear. And the moral authority they have bestowed on themselves, to impose devasting consequence on women because they are not fucking the person they procreated with, make this is an issue worth comment. Not because anyone had sex. But because of the hardship this government is about to push families into, justified with that moral authority.

If you claim moral authority, is generally a good idea that you have it. Back to basics part 2. They don’t learn.

Who are the new working class? Or the ‘squeezed middle’? And who is left behind?

Lately, lots of people have been talking about class. I read these debates, and I kind of get what they are trying to say, but it doesn’t bear any relation to what I see when I look around. People are really complicated. I have friends who could be described as ‘working class’ but would be mortified to hear themselves described so. Friends who will identify as working class, because their grandmother once chomped on an eccles cake before she got into interior design. I don’t identify with the working class culture that I hear mythologised, I grew up on council estates under Thatcher. Work did not define those communities. It’s dissapearance did.

What I see around me, is a generation of people who weren’t born into those class boxes  Higer education has been open for quite a while-the so called working class got educated and learned to expect education. Education changing our self image but not economic status. That expensive education is now a basic requirement for all but the lowest paid skilled work.

Entire communities who would have been defined as working class, survive but are now considered deprived. Our credit based growth came on the back of the loss of industry that created work, and then excluded them entirely. Leaving little but state support. Those that stayed in those communities, viewed as having made the wrong choices. Creating the so called chav’ culture we are all supposed to despise.

Identity politics has been complicated by the economic system we have had since the late 70’s,  and the ability to rapidly share information. A complex fluid culture that doesn’t fit into tightly defined boxes and certainly not boxes people see themselves in.. Socio economic distinctions, reace, gender, sexuality and even old class snobbery still exist-but one thing unites us all.

Debt and the importance of our relationship with credit.

The invisible burden.Our place in society defined by how much we owe, or can borrow not how much we have.

THe tories use the term ‘decent hardworking people’ because everyone defines themselves as that. Well actually, close examination reveals that the ‘decent hardworking people’ the tories talk about, are in debt. The myth of ownership and individualism creating shame at the debt our economy required, that shame allowing people to be told that this economic policy is necesary.

Contrary to popular opinion, the credit boom still hasn’t played out. In a country where wages have not risen that far, house prices have. We have a personal debt bubble of 3 times our GDP. We are maxed out. It isn’t just that banks aren’t lending, people can’t afford to borrow any more.

It is the norm that a significant portion of your salary will be going to credit payments, whatever you do. Servicing the debt necessary for fear of being blacklisted from participating in our credit based society. Car payments, mortgages, credit card payments, even mobile phone contracts.

Tax credits have allowed people to ignore the suppression of their wages. And have made mortgages that shouldn’t have been considered, affordable. Low interest rates, and easily available credit made lifelong loans of 6-7 times your household income the norm. Outrageous numbers that bear no relation to what you can earn, now an expected debt burden to a family. You know you are struggling when your credit card is being used to pay your essentials not when your savings run out. Throughout the income scale. Regardless of class. Regardless of their political affiliation. People haven’t stopped spending and started saving. People have stopped spending cos their earnings are servicing their debt..

When you lose your job or get sick, the inadequacy of the welfare state isn’t the biggest problem, your mortgage and your credit cards are. The thing that will keep you in poverty when you fall, is debt. Exclusion from the credit market very difficult to undo. When you sign on, you are signing on so your credit insurance will pay, not for the measly £67 the welfare state allows you to survive on. The jobcentre keeping you in line, for your credit card company and your mortgage. Jobcentres keeping you in line for the bank.

When you look at the way earnings are distributed, you see that actually the highest earners ARE paying their fair share of tax. Those who are paid by salary. It is only when you move into the realms of company directors, payment by dividend and shares, and bonuses that find a problem. Corporation tax is where you find people avoiding their fair share- not PAYE. 

Those salaries which havent increased are paying mortgages which have. Servicing debt. Tax credits are currently subsidising house prices and wages quite a long way up the ladder. In the US this is manifesting itself with ever increasing numbers of middle class people using food stamps(helpfully administered for profit by JP MOrgan Chase) and losing their homes. In Britain we have had tax credits and relative stability- so we haven’t had to consider this. The much criticised unsustainable welfare spending subsidising this, has been one of the key protectors against the the crisis the conservatives are perpetuating. A crisis that hasn’t blown up yet.

The new working class is not flatcaps and whippets. There appear to be three distinctions. Those who keep their assets away from public hands. Those earning and in debt. And those exluded entirely.. The new working class is those paid by salary, who are in debt. It is not work that defines us, it is credit and an inability to minimise your tax obligations.

The net of undeserving, as I am so fond of saying, has never been cast so wide. Now it is all public sector workers. Teachers, professionals. Look at the relationship of the average house price to the average salary.

The so called working class and middle classs have kind of merged and just got shafted.

THe people who until recently thought they were working to provide services that were necessary, are now being told that not only have they had their wages suppressed, but they are undeserving of their pensions, their jobs, and recognition of the contribution they made. And they have mortgages and havent paid into an alternative pension.  People whose skills are no longer seen as essntial for credit based growth, no matter how essential they are for the society we live in. Our small businesses dying as banks suffocate them by withholding the credit that they are forced to treat as their lifeblood. People whose wages now need subsidy for rent, and childcare are not our lowest paid workers or just public sector, but people on average and above average salaries.

Students are protesting because their very education, is now a ticket to a lifetime of servicing debt. An average mortgage and university education will leave people who would never have imagined such an amount of money, hundreds and thousands in debt before they start. The jobs they educated themselves to do, dissapearing in favour of part time unstable jobs, that won’t ever allow them to release themselves from this burden.

I saw Elizabeth Warren talking about the middle classes in america. She defined an american middle class, by credit. By debt. And in doing so, spoke to the people who were watching with me, in a way they understood. In a way they identify themselves. In way they wouldn’t, if that description had been about class or ideology. And I realised that was what was wrong with all this debate.

We are spending so much time looking for definitions of society, that  might not exist, or have faded and become confused or make people self exclude- that we aren’t even bothering to look at society as it is now- and ask whether those definitions are relevant any more. Which would be fine, if it wasn’t leading us to ignore the very clear economic distinctions that have developed.

Those looking to redefine class as the basis for a political ‘movement’ could do worse than look at how much the country owes, in relation to what it earns. And have a think ab
ou
t what that means in terms of people’s lives. 

Anyway- this is middle of the night musings. I will read back in the morning and probably delete!haha

 

 

Alan Johnson resigns and Ed Balls is back baby…

Alan Johnson has resigned for personal reasons. About 12 personal reasons. Oh wait…20…11…9. He personally waited for his economics primer, and the snow hampered Amazon deliveries. Anyway, in a parliament where competent economic opposition is just about the only function Labour should be filling, we now have Ed Balls as Shadow Chancellor.

Now, I am no fan of Ed Balls. I was a social worker during his tenure as Children’s Minister(during Baby P and the introduction of some fucking disastrous computer systems). But he sounds competent economically,and I bet George Osborne is slightly more concerned about him than Johnson. Here’s hoping Mr.Balls can say the things that need to be said about how to tackle this economic situation. Because the thing he is going to need to do is address what went wrong under his watch in the Treasury. I really hope his ego will let him do that.

But I would offer Ed Miliband a bit of advice. Watch your back. Balls looks like the cat that got the cream, and am sure he is counting his steps to the PM role. I don’t think he has suddenly lost all the things that led to the need to freeze him out.Still, it’s not like it’s in either of their personal interests to be divided at mo. A bully at dispatch box will be useful on a policy by policy basis, and there isn’t an election likely for ages.

In the meantime Yvette Cooper is Shadow Home Secretary. Just the place for someone with extensive understanding of economics and how it relates to social policy…… I do wonder if Ed’s return to the fold will result in her being sidelined long term. That would be a shame.

 

PS I completely plagiarised ‘About 12 personal reasons. Oh wait…20…11…9.”- (It was @davidschneider. Still he won’t read this, and will never know)