Posts Tagged ‘Bank of England’

The Stepford Daughters of Brexit and Slavery and the Emergence of Capitalism

August 15, 2019

Yesterday for our amusement the awesome Kerry Anne Mendoza posted a video on twitter made by two very definitely overprivileged girls talking about the evils of socialism. The two young ladies were Alice and Beatrice Grant, the privately educated granddaughters of the late industrialist and former governor of the Bank of England, Sir Alistair Grant. With their cut-glass accents and glazed, robotic delivery of their lines, they seemed to fit the stereotype of the idiotic Sloane perfectly, right down to the ‘Okay, yah’, pronunciation. Mendoza commented ‘I don’t think this was meant to be a parody, but it’s the perfect roast of the “yah-yah” anti-left.’

Absolutely. In fact, what the girls were describing as socialism was really Communism, completely ignoring democratic socialism, or social democracy – the form of socialism that demands a mixed economy, with a strong welfare state and trade unions, progressive taxation and social mobility. It also ignored anti-authoritarian forms of socialism, like syndicalism, guild socialism or anarcho-Communism. They were also unaware that Marx himself had said that, regarding the interpretations of his views promoted by some of his followers, he wouldn’t be a Marxist.

But it would obviously be too much to expect such extremely rich, public school girls to know any of this. They clearly believed, and had been brought up to believe, the Andrew Roberts line about capitalism being the most wonderful thing every invented, a mechanism that has lifted millions around the world out of poverty. Etc. Except, as Trev, one of the great commenters on Mike’s and this blog, said

If “Capitalism works” why are there a million people using foodbanks in Britain today? Not working that well is it? Why did the Government bail out the Banks using our money? Why did the Banking system collapse in the first place, was it because of Socialism? I don’t find these idiotic spoilt brats in the least bit funny, I feel bloody angry. When was the last time they ate food they found in the street? Bring back the Guillotine!

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/08/14/these-young-ladies-of-brexit-need-to-be-seen-to-be-believed/

The two girls were passionate supporters of the Fuhrage and his wretched party, and were really looking forward to a no-deal Brexit. It shows how out of touch these girls are, as Brexit is already wrecking the British economy, and a no-deal Brexit and subsequent deal with a predatory America would just wipe it out completely. Along with everything that has made post-war Britain great – the NHS and welfare state. But these girls obviously have no connection with working people or, I guess, the many businesses that actually depend on manufacturing and exports. I think the girls’ family is part of financial sector, who stand to make big profits from Brexit, or at least are insulated from its effects because they can move their capital around the globe.

The girls’ views on the EU was similarly moronic. They really do seem to believe that the EU is somehow an oppressive, communistic superstate like the USSR. It wasn’t. And the reason anti-EU socialists, like the late, great Tony Benn distrusted it was partly because in their view it stood for capital and free trade against the interests of the nation state and its working people.

And they also have weird views on slavery and the EU’s attitude to the world’s indigenous peoples. To the comment by David Lammy, the Black Labour politico, who dared to correct Anne Widdecombe for comparing Brexit to the great slave revolts, they tweeted

Lammy being pathetic as usual. The chains of slavery can be intangible, as amply shown in China, the Soviet Union and the EU; to deny that just shows your ignorance and petty hatred for the truth”.

To which Zelo Street commented that there two things there. First of all, it’s best not to tell a Black man he doesn’t understand slavery. And second, the EU isn’t the USSR.

They were also against the Mercosur deal the EU wishes to sign with the South American nations, because these would lead to environmental destruction and the dispossession and exploitation of the indigenous peoples.

As usual the GREED and selfishness of the EU imposes itself using their trade ‘deals’ in the name of cooperation and fake prosperity. The indigenous tribes of the Amazon need our protection not deforestation”.

To which Zelo Street responded with incredulity about how they could claim environmental concern for a party headed by Nigel Farage.

And they went on. And on, going on about how the EU was a threat to civil liberties. And there was more than a touch of racism in their statement that Sadiq Khan should be more concerned to make all Londoners feel safe, not just EU migrants. They also ranted about how Labour had sold out the working class over Brexit in favour of the ‘immoral, money hungry London elite’. Which shows that these ladies have absolutely no sense of irony or any self-awareness whatsoever.

In fact, Zelo Street found them so moronic and robotic, that it dubbed them the Brexit party’s Stepford Daughters, referring to the 70s SF film, the Stepford Wives. Based on the novel by Ira Levin, the films about a community where the men have killed their wives and replaced them with robots.

See:  https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/08/brexit-party-presents-stepford-daughters.html

There’s a lot to take apart with their tweets. And perhaps we shouldn’t be two hard on the girls. They’re only 15 and 17. A lot of young people at that age have stupid views, which they grow out of. But there is one issue that really needs to be challenged.

It’s their assumptions about slavery and the genocide of indigenous peoples. Because this is one massive problem to any assumption that capitalism is automatically good and beneficial.

There’s a very large amount of scholarship, much of it by Black activists and researchers, about slavery and the emergence of European capitalism and the conquest of the Americas. They have argued that European capitalism was greatly assisted by the profits from New World slavery. Caribbean historians like Dr Richard Hart, in his Blacks in Bondage, have shown that transatlantic slavery was a capitalist industry. For the enslaved indigenous peoples and the African men and women, who replaced them when they died out, capitalism certainly did not raise them out of poverty. Rather it has done the opposite – it enslaved them, and kept them in chains until they were able to overthrow it successfully with assistance of European and American abolitionists in the 19th century.

And among some left-wing West Indians, there’s still bitterness towards America for its constant interference in the Caribbean and Central and South America. America did overthrow liberal and progressive regimes across the world, and especially in the New World, when these dared to challenge the domination of American corporations. The overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz’s democratic socialist regime in Guatemala is a case in point. Arbenz was overthrown because he dared to nationalise the banana plantations. Which upset the American United Fruit Company, who got their government to overthrow him in coup. He was replaced by a brutal Fascistic dictatorship that kept the plantation workers as virtual slaves. And the Americans also interfered in Jamaican politics. They were absolutely opposed to the Jamaican Labour party politician, Michael Manley, becoming his nation’s Prime Minister, and so did everything they could to stop him. Including cutting trade.

And then there’s the enslavement and genocide of the indigenous peoples.

Before Columbus landed in the New World, South America had a population of about seven million. There were one million people in the Caribbean. I think there were similar numbers in North America. But the indigenous peoples were enslaved and worked to death. They were also decimated through diseases carried by Europeans, to which they had no immunity. The Taino people were driven to extinction. The Caribs, from whom the region takes its name, were able to survive on a reservation granted to them in the 18th century by the British after centuries of determined resistance. The conquest of the New World was a real horror story.

And Britain also profited from the enslavement of indigenous peoples. I doubt the girls have heard of it, but one of the scandals that rocked British imperialism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was that of the Putomayo Indians of South America. They had been enslaved by British rubber corporations. It was this abuse of a subject people that turned the Irish patriot, Roger Casement, from a British civil servant to an ardent Nationalist.

On the other side of the world, in the Pacific, British imperialism also managed to dispossess an entire Polynesian people and trash their island. This was in the 1920s. The island was rich in mineral deposits, and so moved the indigenous people out, ultimately relocating them to Fiji. Their island was then strip-mined, leaving it a barren, uninhabitable rock. In the 1980s the survivors were trying to sue the government over their maltreatment, but with no success.

This is what unfettered British imperialism and capitalism did. And what I’ve no doubt Farage and other far right British politicians would like to do again without the restraints of international law. It’s why I believe that, whatever the demerits of the Mercosur agreement are, it’s probably better than what individual nations would do without the restraint of the EU.

The girls are right to be concerned about the fate of indigenous peoples. But they are profoundly wrong in their absolute, uninformed belief that unregulated capitalism will benefit them.

It doesn’t. It enslaves, dehumanises and dispossesses. Which is why we need international organisations like the EU, and why the Brexit party isn’t just a danger to Britain, but to the world’s weaker, developing nations and their indigenous peoples.

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Now Tories Troubled by Split

February 21, 2019

Yesterday, a group of three MPs, Sarah Wollaston, Heidi Allen and Anna Soubry, defected from the Tory party to join the Independent corporation, that had split from Labour.

At their press conference they gave three reasons why they had left. Heidi Allen said she was disgusted with the suffering the party had inflicted and its lack of benevolence. For Sarah Wollaston, it was the harm the Tories had done to the manufacturing industry. And for Anna Soubry it was the way her former party had wrecked the country with their massively inept handling of Brexit. Or it might have been Wollaston, who was most concerned about Brexit, and Soubry about the destruction of Britain’s manufacturing sector under the Tories. This is how the reasons for their departure was presented on one of the short videos on YouTube, although I got the impression from listening to Heidi Allen speaking on the 45 minute long video of their press conference put out by Channel 4 News that she was also concerned about Brexit and the attack on manufacturing, as she also ran her own manufacturing firm.

The Tories, who had previously been gleefully exploiting Chuka Umunna and company’s split from the Labour party, were left outraged in their turn. Hunt gave a speech saying how much he regretted the departure of such valued colleagues. Other Tory functionaries demanded that the Splitters should now call a bye-election. Just like the real supporters and activists in the Labour party have been demanding Umunna and his coteries of bitter Blairites do.

I don’t know how sincere Allen and her two colleagues are about the suffering caused by the Tory party. She made a number of speeches saying how upset she was by the suffering caused by her former party’s wretched welfare reforms, but voted for them all the same. So in her case it was, as Mike pointed out, a case of crocodile tears. She may be genuine, and that after years of dutifully following the party line her conscience has won at last. Or it may simply be that, like some other Tories, she’s just worried that the electorate will punish the Tories for the misery they’ve inflicted at the next election.

I think the three’s statement that they’re concerned about British manufacturing and the devastating effects of Brexit are rather more genuine. Margaret Thatcher and Blair in his turn ignored the manufacturing sector. One members of Thatcher’s cabinet, who was the only member in it from that sector of the economy, described how he couldn’t get Thatcher to understand that a strong pound would harm British manufacturing by making our products more expensive. She also uncritically accepted as an article of her neoliberal, free market dogma, that failing firms and industries should be allowed to go under, and should not be given government assistance. Which contrasted with Labour’s promotion of the National Enterprise Boards and state assistance for British industry, where the government would help firms acquire plant and equipment.

And as a good Thatcherite, Blair also adopted her destructive attitude to British industry. He was also quite happy to see British manufacturing collapse. Instead, its place at the heart of the British economy would be taken by the financial sector and the service industries. Deanne Julius, a leading official at the Bank of England, recruited from America, actually said that Britain should give up its manufacturing industry, and simply concentrate on the service industries.

The result has been that vast swathes of traditional British industry have been destroyed by Thatcherism, including mining. Which was done simply to destroy the miners’ union, so they could never overthrow a Tory government as they had Heath’s. However, as Ha Joon-Chang has shown in his book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, manufacturing is still an extremely important part of the British economy. It looks weak simply because it hasn’t expanded as much as the other sectors of the British economy. But if it went, the British economy would collapse completely.

As for Brexit, the past few weeks have seen company after company leave the UK because of the Tory party’s incompetence. They’re leaving because we haven’t reached a trade agreement with EU, and so the tariff barriers that will be erected after Britain leaves will make it difficult for them to sell their products after our departure. The latest firm to announce it was closing down its British plant has been Honda in Swindon. When this goes, so do 3,500 jobs.

But I doubt that this will concern those in the Tory party demanding a hard Brexit, like the odious Jacob Rees-Mogg. The financial sector has also been hit, with various banks and international financial regulators announcing that they will leave Britain for Dublin, Paris and the Netherlands. But this doesn’t seem to dismay Mogg and his comrades. They seem to be all financiers, who make their money through investing in companies around the world. And so the destruction of the British manufacturing sector simply doesn’t affect them. They’ll get their money anyway.

The Tory party is seriously split over Brexit. It was to call the Eurosceptics’ bluff that Cameron called the referendum in the first place. He was so confident that people would vote ‘remain’ that he didn’t do any proper campaigning. The result was that he was astonished when the ‘Leave’ vote prevailed. But I gather that the Tories were on the edge of splitting years before, when Tony Blair was in power. Blair stole their policies, and indeed moved further right than the Tories had dared. The party was also split between the Tory paternalists and Thatcherites, and the rural sector, which believed that British agriculture and country communities were being ignored. I’ve heard it said that if Brown had won the 2010 election, the Tories would have collapsed completely, and would have tried to rebrand themselves instead as the English Nationalists. This has the ring of truth, as I do remember one opinion piece in the Heil actually recommending that the party thus rename itself.

I hope that the departure of Allen, Wollaston and Soubry will spark a series of other defections from the Tories and bring about the party’s much-need demise. It’s brought nothing but misery and poverty to Britain’s working people since Thatcher came to power in 1979. And even if the party doesn’t collapse completely, I want there to be so many defections that at the least it causes the collapse of May’s vile, malignant, destructive government.

Corbyn Attacks May for Laughing at Poor Wage Growth

December 5, 2018

This is a great little video from RT. It’s only less than half a minute long, but it shows Jeremy Corbyn tearing into Theresa May for laughing about the smallness of the rise in wages.

Corbyn says

The chief economist at the Bank of England describes the last decade as a lost decade for wages and well the Prime Minister might laugh at this, it’s the reality of peoples’ lives! It’s the reality of peoples’ lives!

It ends with the House in uproar and Bercow crying “Order! Order!”

But Corbyn’s right, as you can see when the video shows May and her wretched gang shaking their heads with their stupid, facetious smiles on their face. They’re no doubt trying to show that they don’t take his accusation seriously, but it instead shows that Corbyn is absolutely right. They don’t take ordinary peoples’ misery seriously. You could see that on a previous video, where Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith had a good guffaw as one woman told her story of how the bedroom tax had left her in poverty and despair. And May herself has done this before, when Corbyn has read out the letters he’s had from people describing how they’ve been left worse off – much worse off – due to the government’s benefit cuts.

They have no sympathy for the poor. Not a shred. All the care about is cutting taxes for the rich. Ordinary people are simply raw material for corporate capitalism, either as a workforce, who are to be kept on low wages to increase profits, or as consumers to be exploited. Like when the government privatizes the healthcare and educational systems, so that private medical firms and academy chains can get big profits from government contracts before the whole lot is privatized completely and they can exploit everyone through private hospital and insurance charges and school fees.

That snide, smug grin is the real face of Tweezer and her cabinet. They’ve got to go. All of them. NOW!

EU Tells Tweezer Unwelcome Fact, So Bojo Spout Nonsense as Distraction

January 20, 2018

More spin and misdirection from the Tories. Yesterday, Mike put up a piece commenting on Bojo’s bizarre utterance about building a channel bridge. He doesn’t like the Chunnel, you see, and thought that a bridge would be much better. This drew down a barrage of criticism from everyone, who had any connection or knew anything about the shipping industry. 500 ships go through the straights of Dover daily, and so the construction of the bridge, if not the structure itself, would cause massive disruption to international shipping. This was pointed out by one of the shipping associations.

The idea’s a complete non-starter.

But as Mike points out, it looks like a clever piece of misdirection on the Tories’ part. Tweezer had been told earlier that day by the EU that Brexit would mean the financial sector leaving London. This is absolutely true. The EU financial regulatory body has packed up and moved to Paris, another international financial organisation has sought pastures new overseas, and Frankfurt ‘Manhattan’ Am Main is doing its level best to encourage financial houses to relocate there.

But the Tories, and Blairite Labour, are handsomely support by the financial sector, and govern on their behalf. One Tory industrialist, who actually came from manufacturing, has said that he couldn’t get Thatcher to understand that a strong pound damaged British exports abroad. And under Blair we were told that British manufacturing was finished, and we shall concentrate on getting jobs and supporting the financial and service sectors. Deanne Julius, who was given a high-ranking post at the Bank of England after working in various American banks, actually said that we should concentrate on servicing American industry. Which shows you which way the Americans think the ‘Special Relationship’ goes.

Bojo is known for uttering nonsense, and saying things that are stupid and controversial. It seems the Tories have weaponised this. And so when the EU told Tweezer the unwelcome news, which would upset her backers in the financial sector, someone it seems prodded Bojo to make a stupid comment. Thus the bilge about a Channel Bridge, which got everyone talking about that, rather than the boring, but very real threat, that the City of London was going to be decimated by Brexit.

And I expect that as more unpleasant news comes out about the effects of Brexit, we can expect more stupidity from Bojo to take the heat away from his party, and the mistress he barely supports.

Philip Hammond Wants to Turn Britain into Neoliberal Tax Haven for the Rich

January 19, 2017

This is more evidence of the Tories’ obsession with turning Britain into ‘America junior’. On Sunday Mike over at Vox Political put up a piece about the current chancellor, Philip Hammond’s interview with the German newspaper, Welt am Sonntag, in which he said that if Britain could not gain access to European markets after Brexit, it would allow the country to turn away from the European political and economic model. Instead of following the ‘European-style’ social model, with high taxation and regulation, Britain would become ‘something different’.

Mike called this Tory stupidity and arrogance at its worst, and he’s right. Britain cannot win a trade war with Europe. Europe constitutes more than half of the market for Britain’s exports. And every time Theresa May opens her trap about Brexit, investors take fright and the pound plummets to a new level. Mike’s article quotes Jeremy Corbyn as saying that he expected the majority of MPs to be worried about Hammond’s ideas. And he’s right. Mike predicts that Hammond’s idea would result in massive unemployment, as exclusion from the European market means that demands for our products would fall. Furthermore, the low taxation Hammond so glowingly looks forward to would mean that the state would receive less. Mike doesn’t point out what that means, but it’s fairly obvious: state expenditure would immediately slashed, meaning even more welfare cuts, the further rationing and privatisation of the NHS and the education system.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/15/seriously-philip-hammond-youd-cripple-our-economy-for-some-anti-eu-sabre-rattling/

Of course, this is precisely what the Tories have wanted ever since Thatcher. They want to make Britain more like the USA, with its private healthcare system and minimal welfare provision. It’s an economy which has traditionally been based on low taxes, although under Bush the people of America actually started paying nearly the same amount in tax as the people in this country because of the vast military expenditure. At least, that’s what I was told by American friends. However, Bush made a series of tax cuts, followed by Obama with more promised by Trump, which will deprive the poor of even further employment protection and welfare benefits in favour of massive tax cuts for the rich. Just like Cameron and May have done and are doing for the Tories.

Hammond’s moronic idea is not original either. It’s just a continuation of Cameron’s attempts to stop the EU extending its financial regulations over Britain, so that London could become the centre of the global fraud that constitutes offshore banking.

It also shows the absolute ignorance and contempt of Thatcherite economists for the manufacturing industry. Thatcher’s cabinet was dominated by people from the financial sector, as was Blair’s, Broon’s, and, I assume, Cameron’s and May’s. There was one cabinet member, whose background was in manufacturing, who tried to point out to Thatcher that her pursuit of a strong pound would harm British manufacturing industry, as it would make our products more expensive than our foreign competitors. But she couldn’t understand this basic economic fact. As for Tony Blair, he rejected the manufacturing sector, as it was economic dogma during his tenure of No. 10 that the financial sector would become the major industry in the UK. We were supposed to be a ‘post-industrial economy’. Deanne Julius, one of the experts at the Bank of England, and a former officer with one of the big American banks, actually said that we should give up manufacturing and concentrate on the service sector. Manufacturing industry, she believed, should be left to the Americans.

Ha-Joon Chang has pointed out in his books how wrong this attitude is. Britain is still very dependent on its manufacturing industries. These are less significant than they were, because they have not grown as much as the financial and service sectors, but are still very important parts of our economy. If this part of our economy contracts even further, it will be disastrous for the British economy as a whole.

Not that you will hear that from the Blairites or the Tories. New Labour was very keen not to be seen as the party of high state regulation. During the ‘prawn cocktail offensive’ in the late ’80s, Broon and Mo Mowlam went round the City reassuring the bankers that New Labour would adopt a ‘light touch’ attitude to regulating the financial sector.

And we can all see how well that paid off, with the great financial crash of 2008. We’re still paying for that. Not the bankers, not the big industrialists, but the ordinary people of Britain, who are seeing are tax bills go up, our welfare benefits and employment rights taken away, and the NHS sold off to private contractors, all to give the 1 per cent even more tax breaks.

And last Sunday, Philip Hammond told the German press he wanted more of the same, but much worse.

This shows his and May’s attitude to Britain’s working people. They are to be forced into even more precarity, with fewer opportunities for employment and massive poverty. Because Hammond wants to make his bankster friends in the City even richer.

And defend the NHS. May and Hunt should resign. Now.

John McConnell Promises National Investment Bank and £500 Billion Credit for UK

July 19, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has put up another piece today, which reports that Jeremy Corbyn’s deputy, John McConnell, has promised to set up a National Investment Bank, tied in with a network of regional banks, to regenerate Britain’s communities and revive Britain’s industries after years of neglect. The bank is based on the German Development Bank. In addition, he promised £500 billion of investment. This follows Owen Smith’s promise when launching his leadership campaign this week end, to introduce a British ‘New Deal’, and an investment programme of £200 billion.

See Mike’s article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/18/labour-pledges-national-investment-bank-to-mobilise-500bn/

Both McConnell and Smith are right about investment in British firms by the British state being sorely needed. But McConnell is absolutely correct about the necessity of a special British investment bank to channel the money and provide the necessary credit. It’s been needed for decades. The authors of the 1s987 book, Socialist Enterprise, noted that the British financial sector was structured into investing abroad, and recommended the creation of such a bank. Neil Kinnock, in his 1987 book, Making Our Way, recognised the need for it. G.D.H. Cole, in his book, Great Britain in the Post-War World, written as long ago as 1942, recommended a similar radical reform of the banking industry. That should tell you how desperately it’s needed, and why McConnell is right.

Han-Joon Chang, in his book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, argues in one of his chapters that it simply isn’t true that we are living in a post-industrial society. Britain still has a manufacturing industry, and it’s still immensely important. It only appears unimportant, because it hasn’t grown as much as the financial sector. It is, however, still of fundamentally vital importance to our economy.

All of this, of course, will be unwelcome news to the Tory party and New Labour. Both of these turned to subsidising and supporting the financial sector as an alternative to, and at the expensive of, manufacturing. One of the functionaries Blair appointed to the Bank of England was an American banker, Deanne Julius, who stated that Britain should give up manufacturing products and leave that to America. As for the Conservatives, half of their funding at the last election came from the City of London. They have no interest and absolutely no desire to aid a British manufacturing revival. Not if it means having to spend government money, rather than rely on a bail-out by a foreign firm.

Way back in the 1970s the late Tony Benn tried something similar. The government set up various zones, and schemes in which firms could receive government grants to renovate and modernise plant and equipment. I don’t think it was taken up, and British firms continued to lag behind their foreign competitors. And the result has been the decimation of British industry in the decades since Thatcher took power.

McConnell and Benn stand for British industry, and investment to create real jobs and economic growth. All Maggie Thatcher did was cut, and hope foreign firms would come in to invest in what was left. All the while favouring the financial sector and her friends in the City. It also shows the hollowness of the Tories’ claim to represent British industry. They don’t. Labour represents industry, and the people who work in it. The Tories simply represent capital and those, who own it. The very people, who seem to enjoy increased bonuses and share options by cutting down to the point of destroying the very firms they manage.

Vox Political: Bank of England Economist Says High Executive Pay Damages Economy

May 19, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has posted a piece about the remarks by Andy Haldane, the Chief Economist at the Bank of England, that Britain’s economy is being damaged by exorbitantly high executive pay. An article in the Independent notes that the average pay of FTSE 100 bosses is now 150 times that of the average UK worker. The Indie then went on to say

This large and growing remuneration gap, Mr Haldane said, “drive[s] a wedge between management and employees…that in turn erodes social capital. A company, like a country, whose physical and social capital is being eroded is one whose wealth-creation capacity is being impaired.”

Social capital refers to trust and relationships in a society and Mr Haldane argued this matters “every bit as much to wealth and well-being” as financial capital such as stocks and shares and other such assets.

It also reported that there have been a number of shareholder rebellions against the high pay awarded to chief executives.

Mike comments

Trust between bosses and employees is at an all-time low – not helped by Conservative Government policies that trample on workers and try to reduce their rights and remuneration. Look at the junior doctors’ strike for an example.

Mr Haldane is saying the direct result of this is harm to the economy, and we can see that this is true.

Why would any worker want to provide a high-quality product for an employer who is ripping them off?

And if they lose their job, why would the next worker want to provide a high-quality product for an employer who is paying them less than the last worker (because they can)?

Go read Mike’s piece at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/19/highly-paid-bosses-are-harming-the-economy-says-bank-of-england-bigwig/ for more information and his very relevant remarks.

Chang Capitalism Book pic

The Korean-born economist, Ha-Joon Chang tackles this problem in his book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism in the chapter ‘Thing 14 US Managers Are Over-Priced’. Chang concentrates on American managers because they are paid a whopping 300-400 times that of the average American blue-collar Jose or Josie. They are paid way more than the managers of comparable companies elsewhere in the world, including Japan. The chapter is an attack on the Neo-Liberal attitude that if the managers are paid so much more than their counterparts elsewhere in the world, and their workforce, it must be because their performance is somehow worth it in the market economy. Chang shows that this is not the case. He argues that US managers now are not more efficient and effective than they were a generation ago, when they were only paid 30 to 40 times more than their workers. And they certainly aren’t worth that money compared to their European and Japanese competitors, who are actually beating them.

Finally, he discusses the damage such executive pay actually does to the wider economy. He argues that the managerial class now has so much power through their contacts in government and their grossly inflated pay that even when they fail, they are not punished, but instead rewarded. They most they receive are extremely generous severance packages. And the people who have to suffer, ultimately, to pay for their bloated salaries are the workers and the taxpayers, who have had to bail out the banks. He writes

Despite this, little is done to check excessive and biased (in that failures are hardly punished) executive pay packages because the managerial classes in the US and Britain have become so powerful, not least because of the fat paycheques they have been getting over the last few decades. They have come to control the boardrooms, through interlocking directorship and manipulation of information that they provide to independent directors, and as a result few boards of directors question the level and the structure of executive pay set by the CEO. High and rising dividend payments also keep the shareholders happy. By flexing their economic muscle, the managerial classes have gained enormous influence over the political sphere, including the supposedly centre-left parties such as Britain’s New Labour and America’s Democratic Party. Especially in the US, many private sector CEOs end up running government departments. Most importantly, they have used their economic and political influence to spread the free-market ideology that says that whatever exists must be there because it the most efficient.

The power of this managerial class has been most vividly demonstrated by the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. When the American and the British governments injected astronomical sums of taxpayers’ money into troubled financial institutions in the autumn of 2008, few of the managers who were responsible for their institutions failure were punished. Yes, a small number of CEOs have lost their jobs, but few of those who have remained in their jobs have taken a serious pay cut and there has been an enormous, and effective, resistance to the attempt by the US Congress to put a cap on pay of the managers of financial firms receiving taxpayers’ money. The British government refused to do anything about the £15-20 million pensions payout (which gives him around £700,000 yearly income) to the disgraced former boss of the R.B.S. (Royal Bank of Scotland), Sir Fred Goodwin, although the intense negative publicity forced him subsequently to return £4 million. The fact that the British and the American taxpayers, who have become the shareholders of the bailed-out financial institutions, cannot even punish their now-employees for poor performance and force them to accept a more efficient compensation scheme shows the extent of power that the managerial class now possesses in these countries.

Markets weed out inefficient practices, but only when no one has sufficient power to manipulate them. Moreover, even if they are eventually weeded out, one-sided managerial compensation packages impose huge costs on the rest of the economy while they last. The workers have to be constantly squeezed through downward pressure on wages, casualization of employment and permanent downsizing, so that the managers can generate enough extra profits to distribute to the shareholders and keep them from raising issues with high executive pay (for more on this, see Thing 2). Having to maximise dividends to keep the shareholders quiet, investment is minimized, weakening the company’s long-term productive capabilities. When combined with excessive managerial pay, this puts the American and British firms at a disadvantage in international competition, eventually costing the workers their jobs. Finally, when things go wrong on a large scale, as in the 2008 financial crisis, taxpayers are forced to bail out the failed companies, while the managers who created the failure get off almost scot-free.

When the managerial classes in the US and, to a lesser extent Britain, possess such economic, political and ideological power that they can manipulate the market and pass on the negative consequences of their actions to other people, it is an illusion to think that executive pay is something whose optimal levels and structures are going to be, and should be, determined by the market. (pp. 155-6).

George Monbiot on the Political Power of the Supermarkets

April 20, 2016

As well as documenting the pernicious economic and social effects of the supermarkets, as they force out small business people and exploit their suppliers through some highly manipulative contracts and trading practices, Monbiot also discusses the political power of these vast corporate chains. He details the various chief executives and senior managers, who were given important political posts by New Labour and the Tories, and the various lobbying organisations they have set up to further their already extensive political influence. This goes on for several pages, but considering the immense power the supermarkets still hold, I think it’s worth reproducing this section of the chapter in full. Monbiot writes:

No commercial sector is better represented in British politics than the supermarkets. David Sainsbury, the chain’s former chief executive and the richest man in Britain, is a minister at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which oversees competition policy. Tesco executives inhabit no fewer than six government task forces, including the DTI’s Competitiveness Advisory Group. A Tesco executive also sits on both the United Kingdom Eco-labelling Board and, alongside a representative of Marks and Spencer, the government’s Advisory Committee on Packaging. The superstores have lobbied to ensure that regulations in both areas remain as ‘flexible’ as possible. Andrew Stone, Managing Director of Marks and Spencer, was made a life peer soon after Labour took office. the official spokesperson for the four biggest supermarkets at the British Retail Consortium is Baroness Thornton, a Labour peer and Director of the Labour Women’s Network, and previous Chair of the Greater London Labour Party. Delegates to the 1998 Labour Party Conference wore identification badges sponsored and labelled by Somerfield. While Tesco gave £12m to the government’s Millennium Dome, David Sainsbury (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) has personally donated a total of £5m to the Labour Party.

The Sainsbury family has long been blessed with a direct line to power. While David Sainsbury, a Labour peer, is one of the businessmen closest to Tony Blair, his cousin and predecessor as chairman of the firm, the Conservative peer Sir John Sainsbury (now Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover), appears to have been Margaret Thatcher’s most frequent confidant. His brother, Sir Tim Sainsbury, another member of the Sainsbury board, was a Conservative MP who once held the same government post as David Sainsbury does today.

The opposition is unlikely to challenge the superstores’ power. The shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, who – if he took office – would be responsible for most of the decisions affecting the supermarket chains, is Archie Norman, previously the Chief Executive of Asda. Francis Maude, the shadow Foreign Secretary, was one of Asda’s non-executive directors.

The supermarkets conduct much of their lobbying through their trade association, the British Retail Consortium. According to its Director General, ‘BRC is no longer an organisation that simply reacts to Government proposed legislation or White Papers but sets out to help shape them. By creating significant links with special advisers, policy specialists and the leading think tanks, the intention is to work in a non-confrontational way so we are involved at the beginning of any legislative process.

Its tactics appear to be successful. it has persuaded the government to allow 41-tonne lorries on to British roads and to consider its request for 44-tone trucks to be permitted in a few years’ time. It claims to have played an important role in the government’s decision not to tax out-of-town car parking spaces. Speakers at the BRC’s annual dinner have included the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, the Conservative Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, John Major and Tony Blair. the Consortium’s submission on the minimum wage ‘was read by Chancellor Gordon Brown, the Treasury and the Bank of England’ and was ‘influential in persuading the Government and the Low Pay Commission’ to hold the level down to £3.60 per hour and introduce a separate, lower rate ‘not just for young people, but for returners to the labour market’. The consortium successfully lobbied the government to introduce amendments to the Competition Bill to permit ‘vertical agreements’ of the kind the superstores strike with their suppliers.

The BRC is also ‘ready to shape the Brussels agenda in the same way it does the UK Government agenda’. In Europe it has lobbied for ‘flexible’ consumer guarantees and against the European legislation requiring companies to inform and consult their workers. It has influenced European food safety standards and defended its members against the European requirement that the pesticides used on the foods they sell should be listed on the packaging. It has succeeded in keeping the definition of ‘free range’ as broad as possible.

Government is not the only realm in which the influence of superstores and their employees raises public concern. Sainsbury, for example, is a sponsor of the Soil Association, which regulates organic standards in Britain. In 1998, the Sunday Times alleged that a chemist from Sainsbury’s presented much of the case for the preservative sodium nitrate to the government’s United Kingdom Register of Organic Food Standards. The chemical is banned from organic produce in Germany and Holland, partly because, in large doses, it has been linked to cancer. What the Sunday Times did not discover, however, was that one of the members of the register is Robert Duxbury, an employee of J. Sainsbury Plc. Sainsbury was also one of the three sponsors of the Town and Country Planning Association’s inquiry into the future of planning, a subject in which the superstore chain has more than a passing interest. The Chairman of the Post Office, Neville Bain, is also a non-executive director of Safeway. This causes alarm to some of the people campaigning to keep post offices on the high street and out of the superstores.

In 1999,. the government published the first of its ‘annual reports’, which would tell the nation how well it was doing. It was launched not in Westminster, but in the Kensington Tesco’s. The Prime Minister’s office had given the supermarket chain an exclusive contract to sell it. It officially entered the public domain when Jack Cunningham, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, handed a copy of the head of Tesco. (Captive State, pp. 203-206).

So Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s and the rest are involved in making sure that road and planning policy reflects their interests, as does employment and agricultural legislation. They have ensured that a known carcinogen is permitted as a pesticide in this country, and have campaigned to keep the minimum wage low. It is therefore absolutely no surprise that the same exploitative gang have been so keen to back workfare. One of the personal stories recounted on the Boycott Workfare website is from someone who was taken on by the supermarkets. At the end of their official stint, they were asked by their boss to stay on. When they asked if they would be paid, their boss stated quite openly that there was no need for him to do so, when he could simply get more unpaid labour from workfare.

Britain is rapidly descending into a corporate oligarchy like America, and the supermarkets are at the centre of this mess of political corruption. It’s about time they were cleaned out, along with the rest of the corporatists occupying government posts.

Private Eye on Libel Judges and their Connection to the Tories

March 15, 2016

In their issue for the 2nd – 15th May 2014, Private Eye ran a piece on the way several prominent judges had been allowed to judge a libel case by the Tories against the Sunday Times exposing a lobbying scandal, when those judges were either themselves members of the Conservative party, or had close family members who were.

In the Courts
It’s a Family Affair

How many judges on the libel bench have family connections to the Tory party, and why don’t they declare them when hearing political cases?

The Eye asks because the libel action by former Tory treasurer Peter Cruddas against the Sunday Times is unearthing a family tree of judges’ brothers and sons who work for, stand for or give money to the Conservative party.

Cruddas sued after he med Jonathan Calvert and Heidi Blake, Sunday Times undercover reporters who were posing as agents of foreign financiers in 2012. The headline “Tory treasurer charges £250,000 to meet PM” followed their meeting.

Mr Justice Tugendhat hit the Sunday Times with a damning judgment. Blake had told the court she found it “quite shameful for the prime minister to tout himself to businesses who pay to have their photograph taken”. Tugendhat used her words to conclude that she had a motive to injure Cruddas.

The paper was guilty of libel and malicious falsehood for saying that Cruddas was a corrupt man, who offered opportunities to influence government policy through meetings with ministers in return for foreign donations, knowing that payment of the money would breach UK electoral law.

Tugendhat did not declare that his son, Tom Tugendhat, was committed Conservative, who has been selected to stand in Tonbridge and Malling, one of the safest Tory seats in the country. Nor did the judge mention that his brother, Christopher Tugendhat, is a Conservative peer and former MP. Nor did he declare that Michael Ashcroft, the former Tory chairman and a prominent supporter of Cruddas, had hired him when he was still a barrister and praised Tugendhat as “arguably the greatest legal expert in the country on privacy”.

The Sunday Times applied for the right to appeal. In November last year, Lady Justice Sharp refused to allow the application. The Sunday Times pressed on and asked for a hearing. Lady Sharp was due to hear the case last month, but just before it began, word spread among journalists and lawyers of Tugendhat’s family connections.

The day before the hearing, Lady Sharp contacted the paper and said it may want to know that, like Tugendhat, she also had a brother who was a prominent Conservative.

And so she does. Richard Sharp is a former head of private equity for Goldman Sachs. He is on the board of a right-wing think tank, the Centre for Policy Studies, which campaigns against a mansion tax for wealthy homeowners and in favour of zero-hours contracts for poor workers.

Last year, the Wall Street Journal estimated that Richard Sharp’s personal fortune was £90m. Sharp has personally donated tens of thousands to the Tory party and Tory politicians. Sharp has personally donated tens of thousands to the Tory party and Tory politicians. In 2007, he moved from Goldman Sachs to chair the lobbying and PR firm Huntsworth Plc, which also donates to the Tory party.

The chancellor, George Osborne, appointed Sharp to the Bank of England’s financial policy committee in 2013. Baroness Sarah Hogg was the Treasury’s representative at his interview. She is the wife of Douglas Hogg, a Tory MP, and was an adviser to Ken Clarke when he was Tory chancellor. Sharp is the first committee member in the Bank of England’s history to have been a party donor.

Richard Sharp and Dame Justice Sharp’s father was Eric Sharp, whom Keith Joseph, the then Conservative industry secretary, appointed as chairman of the newly privatised Cable and Wireless in 1980. The Thatcher government gave him a peerage in 1989.

Offering advice on when judges should stand down (“recuse themselves”) because of conflicts of interest, the appeal court said in 2006 that “if in any case there is real ground for doubt, that doubt should be resolved in favour of recusal”.

At the last minute, Sharp offered to stand down after she had already heard one appeal, an offer the Sunday Times gratefully acceped. Mr Justice Tugendhat never offered to stand down, and did not tell the Sunday Times about his family connections. No doubt he didn’t think he needed to under the law as it stands-which explains why many feel the law should be reviewed.

Instead of going before Sharp, the Sunday Times’ appeal was heard by Lord Justice Maurice Kay and Lord Justice Laws on 16th April. Laws said the Sunday Times had to persuade the court that Tugendhat “went wrong on the facts to a radical degree. That is a tall order on any view, and it is right to note that the trial judge in this case [Tugendhat] has a wealth of experience in the field of defamation.”

For all that, Laws found the Cruddas case “unusual and in some ways troubling”. There were “some singular features” about it.

It was clear that the journalists, posing as representatives of foreign financiers, made it plain their interest in approaching the respondent was entirely commercial, Laws said. He had “an uneasy sense” that Tugendhat might not, “despite his painstaking treatment of the case”, have confronted the realities of the exchanges between the journalists and Mr Cruddas.

The Eye’s artice states that the trial was continuing.

This article does indeed suggest that the Conservative party, or at least its individual members, are not above sitting in judgment in cases where there is a clear conflict of interest and their own political views may cause them to give an unjust judgment. This could be easily construed as another Tory attack on freedom of the press.

Apart from the libel case, there is also the matter of George Osborne’s appoint of a Conservative donor, Richard Sharp, to the committee of the Bank of England. If you’re looking for another parallel with Fascism, the Nazis set up vast corporations in order to control and ‘coordinate’ industry with Nazi policy. The boards included members of the Nazi party.

From 2013: Private Eye on Energy Miss-selling and Connections to Banks

March 22, 2015

One of the other scandals to have hit this country is overcharging and miss-selling by the energy companies. The majority of people in this country would like to see the power companies renationalised. It has, however, become the modern economic dogma that as much of the economy should be in private hands as possible, ever since they were privatised, along with gas and water, by the Tories. Nevertheless, public outrage has been so intense that Cameron recently made a few gestures towards getting energy prices. Much more optimistic is Ed Miliband’s pledge to lower electricity prices and to make sure that they stay down and affordable.

In their edition for 19th April – 2nd May 2013, Private Eye published this article on Scottish and Southern Energy’s miss-selling. They also revealed the involvement of senior bankers, including officials from the Bank of England, who should have been guarding against such fraud.

Energy Miss-Selling
Fried Rice

The shockwave caused by the record £10.tm fine for Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), punished by regulators for lying to customers about non-existent savings, has reached all the way to the Bank of England.

According to Ofgen, there was a “woeful catalogue of failure” by SSE managers, who allowed “a culture of miss-selling to continue. They weren’t doing enough to prevent sharp selling practices from their selling agents. They actually provided misleading sales scripts.”

All this is very embarrassing for Lady Susan Rice, SSE Group’s senior independent director, who has been on the SSE board since 2003 – and since 2007 has also been a director of the Bank of England where, somewhat alarmingly as a seasoned blind-eye turner, she chairs the audit and risk committee.

“Independent” directors are meant to ask uncomfortable questions that puncture “groupthink”. But this clearly didn’t happen at SSE, which caused “substantial harm” to its customers, Ofgem says. “Failings did not just take place on the doorstep but also in the management.”

Attempts to rein in misbehaviour were also ineffective. While “SSE terminated doorstep sales in July 2011, failure in telephone and in-store sales persisted”. SSE staff were given sales scripts which claimed that switching to SSE was “just like the government intended”. One dishonest spiel ran: “What I’m here to do today is show you a government thing called deregulation which results in your energy prices being lowered by doing nothing at all.” The false claims actually led to bigger bills for customers.

“Lady Susan Rice is, and will continue to be, a highly valued director on the Court of the Bank of England,” was the reply when the Eye asked if the SSE scandal meant she should perhaps resign from her Threadneedle Street Post.

Rice was appointed at SSE thanks to her other job as managing director of Lloyds in Scotland, which she fits in between sitting on Scottish first minister Alex Salmond’s council of economic advisers, chairing the Edinburgh Festivals forum and the city’s book festival, chairing the Chartered Banker Professional Standards Board and sitting on the Oxford Said Business School advisory council. Not to mention the National Galleries Scotland’s patrons committee and something called the Finance Group on Climate Change.

Busy bee Rice isn’t the only member of the miss-selling SSE’s board with a banking background. Chairman Lord Robert Smith was a director of Standard Chartered, which was fined $340m for money laundering in deals with Iran – and like Rice he has a government job, too; last May Nick Clegg announced that he would lead the government-funded Green Investment Bank. He is also chairing the 2014 Commonwealth Games Organising Committee.

Also paying less attention that he should have been as SSE was Richard Gillingwater, a director (£54,000 last year) since 2007. Eye readers will remember him as chief executive of the government’s Shareholder Executive when it oversaw the sale of taxpayer-owned development fund CDC’s fund management arm, Actis, to its former managers for a pittance. Gillingwater is now chairman of CDC itself and has just retired as dean of the Cass business school, teaching up-and-coming suits, er, how to run businesses properly.

In other words, the culture of miss-selling in the banking sector, which led to the collapse of Northern Rock, and the present global economic crisis, spread to the energy companies, on whose boards bankers sat. Contributing to the banking crisis was the fact that the ‘independent’ directors there, who were supposed to check miss-selling and misconduct there, did no such thing. They turned a blind eye, just as Rice turned a blind eye to miss-selling by Scottish and Southern Energy.

Deregulation has not caused energy prices to come down, just as it the deregulation of the banks did not lead to improved and responsible trading. Anything but. It’s time these sectors were cleaned up. And Miliband is a far better bet to do this, than either the Tories or their Lib Dem sycophants. They won’t do anything at all.