Posts Tagged ‘Insurance’

Weak and Wobby May Does Massive U-Turn over ‘Dementia Tax’

May 22, 2017

This also shows how much pressure and desperate the Tories are feeling from a resurgent Labour. In her manifesto four days ago, ‘strong and stable’ May said that she intended taking the value of people’s houses into consideration when assessing the amount they would be charged for their social care. This would lead to people having to take out ‘equity release’, in which their houses would be sold and the money used to pay for their care, while allowing them to remain as tenants.

Florence, one of the great commenters to this blog, has pointed out just how nasty this policy is in a comment she posted to an earlier piece I did about it. She wrote

Equity release is not the same as insurance. Using equity release to pay for care is already available and has many times been shown to be the worse possible use of a house for the elderly. They are essentially unpaid mortgages where the interest accrues along with the original debt, so any capital increase in value is eaten up by interest and charges. The resident can be forced out of the house at any time. Instead of banning these deals the May cabal want to force us to use them.

Insurance will only be available to the young and fit or through workplace schemes. No one will insure a retired person.

Not surprisingly, large sections of the population did not welcome having the government force them to sell the homes they saved for throughout their lives. With the result that May has now made a U-Turn so fast, that she’s left skidmarks in the road, if not in her underwear.

It’s a very quick U-Turn indeed, as only this morning various Tory talking heads were appearing on breakfast TV defending it, saying that the Tories were showing resolve in coming to grips with Britain’s aging population. Now she’s telling everyone she’s going to put a cap on the amount they will be expected to pay. Even though her ministers, like Jeremy Hunt, have been saying all week. She’s also gone on the offensive – and to me, she’s always been very offensive – and accused Labour of scaremongering.

But, as various people on social media have noticed, it’s May herself who appears scared. Or ‘frit’, as the former Leaderene used to say in her native Grantham patois.

Mike’s posted up two videos of her speaking, stating that her own fear is evident from her body language and tone of voice.

One person has posted a picture of a backbone, with a note beside it saying ‘Wanted for Theresa May’. Marcus Chown also posted a photograph of a jelly, to show how weak and wobbly May is. Chown’s a scientist and science writer, who’s written for New Scientist, and published a book on the Cosmic Background Radiation, The Afterglow of Creation, far back in the 1990s. But you really don’t need the Hubble Space Telescope or Jodrell Bank to see how desperate May and her fellows now are.

She’s now telling everyone that she’s going to keep her new promise to cap charges for social care. And the Daily Mail, like the Tory lapdog it is, has issued an article hailing her as an ‘honest politician’.

No, no she isn’t. Not remotely.

Among the various promises and pledges she’s broken are her support for ‘Remain’, which has now definitely been ditched in favour of Brexit; her promise to raise National Insurance contributions from the self-employed; she claimed she wanted to put workers in the boardroom – that went very quickly; and her stated resolution not to hold a snap election. Along with a pledge to reduce the sugar content in children’s foods.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/22/dementia-tax-u-turn-theresa-may-is-a-weak-and-wobbly-conservative-in-chaos/

As Mike states in his article, it’s not a complete list.

In fact, May’s party lies frequently and shamelessly. Remember when David Cameron, May’s predecessor, was telling everyone that the Tories would ring-fence NHS spending against cuts? How he, IDS and the rest of the Tory faithful claimed they were trying to protect the NHS for New Labour’s closure of hospitals up and down the country? These policies were ditched almost as soon as Cameron got his foot in No. 10. As was his statement that his would be the ‘greenest’ government of all. That was ditched along with the little windmill outside his house, and replaced with a huge support for fracking and other environmentally destructive policies.

And May’s new pledge about capping the Dementia Tax is, in my opinion, another lie, from a party of liars.

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Nye Bevan Speech about the NHS in Audio and Text

May 10, 2016

This is another piece from Youtube of a clip from a great left-wing politician, Nye Bevan. Bevan was undoubtedly one of the greatest Labour politicians, and was the man, who set up the NHS. In this short clip, he describes his setting up of the health service. He describes it as ‘good Socialism’, and ‘good Christianity too’. He expresses his pride in having created it, pointing out that it was set up when Winston Churchill said the country was bankrupt. He goes on to say that there is no country in the world, capitalist or Communist, that has anything to compare to it. And he states clearly that when he set it up, he had two aims. The first was to make sure that the medical science and arts of healing were available to all, whether they could afford them or not, and that they well to do should pay. He then clarifies this further by stating that in other words, he rejected the insurance principle. ‘After all,’ he says, ‘you can’t have a second class operation because your insurance card isn’t fully paid up’.

Unfortunately, the video to the clip just shows the crowd, not Bevan himself. I think it may well have been shot from his vantage point, given the megaphone in the foreground. The text also appears in the eye-catching, but also annoying way in which words seem to randomly appear from all over the screen.

Nevertheless, it’s a great speech, from a truly great man.

When Bevan and Atlee set up the NHS in 1948, Britain was indeed bankrupt, and the Tories tried stalling, if not actually trying to stop it’s establishment altogether, by claiming that the country could not afford it. Just as more recently successive Tory administrations from Thatcher onwards have been telling us that we cannot afford the NHS, and that some services must be cut, or else they will be made more efficient through privatisation. And remember the form Labour peer, who got very shirty after he made a suggestion that people supporting the NHS should pay an extra £8 a month for the privilege, only to be told where he could go? The Tories are busy privatising the NHS piecemeal, accelerating a process begun by Maggie and continued by Bliar and New Labour. They must be stopped.

So remember Nye Bevan and this speech.

Tory MP David Willetts’ Defence of the Welfare State

February 13, 2016

The Tory MP, David Willetts, a member of the ‘One Nation’ group within the party, which had been set up to reconcile the Conservatives with the NHS, wrote a defence of the welfare state in his 1992 book, Modern Conservatism. This is surprising, not only because Willetts was a Tory, but also because he was Thatcher’s former adviser on social security. He wrote

Nobody is very clear why a Conservative should support a welfare state. It seems to fit in with the highmindedness of the Liberals and the egalitarianism of the Labour party. But what is conservative about it? If Conservatives do support it, is this mere political expediency? …

Why have a welfare state: efficiency and community
The are two types of argument for a welfare state. Neither is exclusively conservative, but they both tie in closely with two crucial elements of conservative philosophy – the belief in markets and the commitment to community.

The market argument for welfare state is that it contributes to the successful working of a capitalist economy … [for instance] the development of unemployment benefit and retirement pensions contributes to economic efficiency by making it easier for firms to shed labour and to recruit new workers from a pool. Health care and education both raise the quality of a nation’s ‘human capital’ …

We may have explained the need for some of the fundamental services of a welfare state, but we still need to show why the state has such a big role in financing and organising them. This is where the next stage of the efficiency argument comes in. If there are voluntary, private schemes they encounter the problem of adverse selection – the tendency to get the bad risks … Commercial insurers are trying to do the very opposite and only accept what they would regard as the good risks. The logic of this drives the government to intervene and require everyone to take out insurance at the same premium. At this point we … have, in effect, invented state-run national insurance…

The efficiency argument [can] be stated in an even more rarefied form: it is difficult for a homeless family to be fit, or for a homeless child to do well at school, and this, in the long run, is an economic cost – which makes it rational for us to step in.

Rather than develop even more ingenious economic arguments for the welfare state, there comes a point when we really have to confront a simple moral obligation towards fellow members of our community. Regardless of whether people in need have been reckless or feckless or unlucky and unfortunate there comes a point when the exact explanation of how they became destitute ceases to matter. They have a claim on us simply by virtue of being compatriots. The welfare state is an expression of solidarity with our fellow citizens.

The market and community arguments together explain the remarkable consensus in most advanced Western nations that some sort of welfare state is both necessary and desirable. They explain why a Conservative can support the welfare state and also provide grounds for criticising particular institutional arrangements if they are not living up to those principles…

Mutual Insurance
It is when one turns to the role of the welfare state in redistributing resources that political differences emerge. For socialists the welfare state is perhaps the most powerful tool available to achieve their objective of equality … And because many people think this must be the rationale for the welfare state, they assume that anti-egalitarian conservatives must also be anti-welfare state.

There is a different view of the working of a welfare state. For the conservative it is an enormous mutual insurance scheme, covering us against ill-health, unemployment and loss of earning power in old age… We think of the welfare state as redistributing resources to others. But if, instead, we think of our own relationship to the welfare state during our lives, it is clear that what it really does is to reallocate those resources through the different stages of the life cycle. In this way resources are taken from us when we are working, and we are given command over resources when we are being educated, or unemployed, or sick or retired.

In Margaret Jones and Rodney Lowe, From Beveridge to Blair: The First Fifty Years of Britain’s Welfare State 1948-98 (Manchester: Manchester University Press 2002).

Willetts is right about one of the best arguments for the welfare state being the moral duty towards one’s fellow citizens. It’s one of the major distinctions between British and Continental Socialism, and particularly between the Labour and Communist parties. Lenin and the Soviet Communists tended to sneer at the moral arguments for socialism and their adherents. Economic and sociological arguments, such as those marshalled by Fabians like Sidney and Beatrice Webb, are important but ultimately not as persuasive the moral imperative to make sure the poorest and weakest in society are properly protected and receive their due share.

Willett’s statement that the welfare state allows firms to get rid of staff easier, and frees up the labour market, is to my mind repulsive, but it might convince some businesspeople of the value of the welfare state as a worthwhile social investment.

Willetts wrote this nearly a quarter of century ago, however, and despite his arguments successive right-wing administrations are busy destroying the welfare state. This was certainly the case under Thatcher, and it’s continued under Major, Bliar and New Labour, and the current Tory administration. Jeremy Hunt and the other Tories wish to privatise the NHS by stealth, and thanks to aIDS nearly 590 disabled people have died of starvation or by their own hand, and 239,000 suffered severe mental illness.

Yet the Tories continue to maintain the sham illusion that somehow they are the party of the poor, and support the welfare state.

This is a lie. And any decent people in the Tories, who genuinely believe in the welfare state have two options. They should either stand up to Cameron and force him and his vile crew of old Etonian bruisers and butchers out, and instead elect a leadership that would have horrified Maggie by being wringing ‘wet’ in mould of Harold MacMillan and Rab Butler; or they should leave. Preferably they should also either join or vote for one of the opposition parties.

If they are genuinely supporters of the welfare state, then they must realise that they have absolutely no place in Cameron’s Tory party. Cameron’s a bog-standard Neoliberal with Hayek’s contempt for the poor. And anyone genuinely on the side of the poor, the sick and disabled should want to get rid of him and his clique.

Private Eye from 1995 on Unum and Peter Lilley in the Tory Government

April 13, 2015

As the left-wing blogs have repeatedly pointed out, the Tories’ welfare reforms, in which the disabled are assessed and routinely denied benefit for being supposedly ‘fit for work’, are based on the quack pseudoscience of the American insurance giant, Unum. It’s pet doctors dreamed up the profitable idea that any and every kind of work was useful in helping the sick and disabled to recover. This was enthusiastically taken over by the Tories and New Labour, as it justified throwing hundreds of thousands off disability benefit on the spurious grounds that they could work.

The results have been horrendous. Severely mentally ill people have been driven to the point of suicide by the threat of losing their benefits. Doctors and psychiatrists have seen increased numbers coming to them suffering from stress due to assessments. Critically ill people, including those dying of cancer, have been told that their benefits have been stopped, as they are well enough to work.

In his ‘Footnotes’ column in Private Eye’s issue for Friday, 16th June 1995, Paul Foot published this article on Unum, which had been brought into John Major’s Tory government by Peter Lilley. Here it is:

Doctor On Call

To help him in his bid to save £2 billion a year by slashing the benefits of disabled people, Peter Lilley, social services secretary, has hired the vice-president of a big multinational private insurance company which is using the benefit cuts to boost its sales.

Overcoming the xenophobia to which he so often gives voice at Tory party conferences, Mr Lilley has appointed an American.

Founded in Portland, Maine, in 1848, the Unum Corporation describes itself as “the world’s leading light in disability insurance”. Unum Ltd, its British arm, is based in Dorking, Surrey. It issued its annual report last September, when chairman Ward E. Graffam enthused about “exciting developments” in Britain.

He explained: “The impending changes to the State ill-health benefits system heralded in the November 1993 Budget will create unique sales opportunities across the entire disability market and we will be launching a concerted effort to harness the potential in these.” In January, the full extent of Lilley’s plans to replace invalidity benefit with incapacity benefit revealed to the Commons. Estimated “savings” for the year 1996-97 were £410 million; for 1996-97 £1.2 billion; and for 1997-98 an astonishing £1.7 billion.

Obviously, with so much less government money going to sick and disabled people, the opportunities for private disability insurance were enormous. No longer could people rely on benefit income if they became ill or disabled. They would have to fend for themselves. Accordingly, UNUM Ltd, as its chairman had promised, “launched a concerted effort to harness the potential”. In April this year, a glamorous and expensive advertising campaign coincided with the new rules for incapacity benefit.

One UNUM ad warned: “April 13, unlucky for some. Because tomorrow the new rules on state incapacity benefit announced in the 1993 autumn budget come into effect. Which means that if you fall ill and have to rely on state incapacity benefit, you could be in serious trouble”. Lurid tables estimating weekly outgoings for an average family at £276, and benefit under the new rules at £100, urged people to “protect yourself with a Long Term Disability policy from UNUM”.

Crucial to the new rules were tougher medical tests to find out if people really are incapacitated. The Benefits Agency Medical Services (BAMS) recruited a new corps of doctors to carry out new “all-work tests”. The basic change in the tests was simple. In the past, disabled or sick people were entitled to benefit if they could no longer do their job. From now on, people are entitled to benefit only if they can do no work at all.

The new medical tests were fundamental to the “savings” Lilley hoped for. If the tests were too lax – if doctors were allowed to slide into sentimental slackness in assessing peoples’ ability to do any work at all – the whole purpose of the tests would be thwarted. So Lilley’s department set up an “incapacity benefit medical valuation group” to “monitor and validate the quality standards for the doctors involved in the all-work assessments”.

The most famous member of the group is Dr John Le Cascio, second vice-p0resident of the Unum Corporation, who has recently be seconded to the company’s British arm. Dr Le Cascio was also invited last year by Lilley’s department to help in the extensive training of doctors in the new techniques of testing. The DSS stresses that “the doctors don’t decide the incapacity benefit – that is done by an adjudication officer”. No doubt; but the officer makes a decision on the expert medical information provided the tests.

No press release was issued about Dr Le Cascio’s appointment. No one told taxpayers that the DSS is shelling out £40,000 to Unum Ltd for Dr Le Cascio’s services in the year from October 1994 to September this year. A DSS spokeswoman explained: “This comes down basically to a daily rate of £440 a day. That’s cheap for a consultancy, actually”.

The Eye asked Dr Le Cascio if he agreed there was an absolutely obvious conflict of interest in his position as validator and monitor of tests for a benefit, the cutting of which was being exploited to the full by the advertisements for his company. He replied:

“Well, I don’t feel that way of course, and if I did I wouldn’t have accepted the job. I was brought in for a specific reason, and that is to teach some of the medical principles which are contained in the design of the new test – that’s what I do, that’s my area of expertise. I’m a technical person and I can do that. To me, there is no sort of conflict as long as I do that job. I feel comfortable doing it, and I assume that those in the department feel comfortable with my contribution. The reason they’ve turned to me is because the commercial insurers have been working with this sort of valuation system for a long time and that’s where the knowledge lies.’

It was thus Peter Lilley and the Tories, who introduced Unum and the wretched work capability assessment. New Labour retained and expanded them, but the ultimately responsibility lie with the Tories. And the results have been horrendous. Mike estimated that about 52,000 people a year have been killed through benefit sanctions.

All so Lilley could persecute the poor and sick, and his friends in private insurance could make a quick buck.

Metamorphosis: Another Comic Attacking Farage

April 4, 2015

Earlier this week I put up a post about reports in the Belfast Telegraph and ITV that 2000 AD was planning to skewer Farage in a forthcoming Judge Dredd strip. This will pit the hardest lawman in Mega-City One against the corrupt, racist politico, Bilious Barrage.

Now it seems that the Independent also is publishing their comic strip attack on the Purple Duce. I found this piece posted on the SlatUKIP site, reporting a piece in the Independent about the launch of the Metamorphosis comic strip, by one of their cartoonists. The strip seems to take Kafka’s novel, Metamorphosis, and puts an extra spin on it to turn it into a modern parable about racism.

Kafka’s novel is about a man, who wakes up one day to find that he has been transformed over night into a beetle. In this strip, giant intelligent cockroaches have appeared, and are being victimised in same way as foreign immigrants are in contemporary Britain. There is even an anti-cockroach party, UCOC, led by a politician, who looks exactly like Farage. Here’s the link.

http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/metamorphosis-an-exclusive-satirical-comic-we-recommend-you-read–eJlV0wWby1b

Apart from Kafka, the strip also seems influenced by Art Spiegelman’s Maus. This was an alternative comic narrating the experiences of Spiegelman’s father and the situation of the Jews in the Third Reich as an animal fable. The Jews were mice, the Germans cats, and the Poles were pigs. The Independent’s Metamorphosis seems to be following Spiegelman in using comics to combat racism, and animals as metaphors for the different racial groups.

A little while ago I posted a piece lamenting the absence of underground and alternative comics tackling the great issues of modern Britain. Now it seems they’re coming back. And that can only be a good thing, so here’s to more of them, and more power to their artists’ satirical elbows.

Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Disability

While this comic book uses Kafka’s idea of transformation into an insect as a metaphor for racism, the original novel can be read as a parable about disability. Though Kafka himself spoke and wrote in German, the novel’s title in Czech is Zuk, which literally means ‘beetle’, but can also mean anything loathsome or disgusting. Kafka was a clerk working in the insurance department, and his novels of labyrinthine bureaucracy are basically fantastic extrapolations from the real bureaucracy in which he worked.

In Metamorphosis, the hero’s transformation renders him unable to work, and he eventually either dies or commits suicide, because he is an increasing drain on his family. This could be seen as a metaphor for the all-too real predicament the disabled and their families ended up in 19th century Bohemia, when accident or disease rendered them unable to make a living.

Which is basically another good reason for why no-one should ever vote UKIP. Farage, Nuttall and the rest of stormtroopers would like to see the welfare state completely removed and the NHS privatised. Various Kipper politicos have made monstrous comments about the disabled, and denied the right of disabled children to be born.

This morning I reblogged another great piece from Tom Pride on the Nazi ideas of the Kippers’ European ally, Janusz Korwin-Mikke. This particularly Nazi has stated that the disabled should not be on television, which should be reserved for the strong, healthy and able-bodied. He also announced that supporting the disabled hadn’t yet spread to Africa, which was why they were going to become so much stronger than Europeans. In his view, this will lead to them invading and massacring us.

It’s bog-standard, 19th century eugenics crap, and could almost have come straight from Hitler himself, or any of the biology textbooks published in the Third Reich. It’s particularly ironic coming from a Pole, as the Nazis viewed all the Slavonic peoples of eastern Europe – Poles, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Russians, Czechs and Slovaks, among many others, as sub-humans. They were to be enslaved and worked to death after the Nazis conquered their countries. As well as the extermination of the Jews and Gypsies, the Nazis were also responsible for horrific atrocities against these peoples, including in Poland.

Farage made an alliance with Korwin-Mikke’s party to get EU money by forming a voting bloc of extreme Right-wing and anti-EU parties within the European parliament. It shows a cynical absence of any kind of morality, and the underlying Fascism behind Farage’s democratic façade.

Vox Political on the Day of Action against Maximus

March 2, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has also published a piece supporting the day of action against the new administrators of the Work Capability Test, Maximus,It’s time to take a stand against the Coalition’s new benefit-reduction enforcer. This gives the location of the protest in Cardiff and Edinburgh. It begins

Today’s the day, people! It’s time to show the government what you think of its new Work Capability Assessment company – Maximus.

Demonstrations against the American insurance provider, which is said to have a long history of denying the existence of medical disability in claimants (in order to avoid paying out on claims), are taking place up and down the United Kingdom.

This writer has been asked to mention the campaign outside the Atos/Maximus assessment centre on St Agnes Road, Heath, Cardiff CF14 4YJ, taking place between 1pm and 4pm. Readers from Cardiff or parts nearby are urged to go along and show the strength of their feelings about this firm.

The main demonstration is in London, at the address in the image at the top of this article.

In Edinburgh, it is at Argyle House, 3 Lady Lawson Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9SJ.

Maximus has been hired by the Coalition Government after ending the contract with Atos due to “significant quality failures”. The contract is worth no less than £595 million over three years – nearly £200 million per year. No doubt public sector employees could have provided the service cheaply and more efficiently but right-wing ministers like the Tories always prefer contracting-out; it means they have someone to blame when things go wrong.

He points out that the company has been involved in a number of costly fraud cases in America, where it was sued by the government for falsifying Medicare claims, and for discrimination against the disabled. He points out that claimants and disability groups and campaigners here are upset that the government has hired this company, as it shows they have reneged on the duty of care the government owes to the disabled. He points out that the disabled and those suffering from long-term illness have also paid their taxes, and so are owed their benefits.

And as Johnny Void has said in the article I’ve just reblogged, Maximus in Australia are no better. They too have been caught falsifying benefits in order to get people sanctioned.

Mike’s article is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/02/its-time-to-take-a-stand-against-the-coalitions-new-benefit-reduction-enforcer/. There’s also a link to DPAC, so you can see if there’s a protest against them in your area you could join.

Cameron’s So Tory Supermarket

March 1, 2015

I found this video over at Vox Political. You know the latest ad for Money Supermarket, featuring a man, whose bum and legs suddenly become that of a woman, and who then dances down the street amazing and astonishing passers-by? Huff Post comedy have reworked it as ‘Tory Supermarket’. They’ve superimposed Cameron’s head on the man’s. And as he waves his bottom around, various Tory policies come out of it, like ‘Tax cuts for the rich’, and ‘Backdoor Privatisation of the NHS’. I found it hilariously grotesque and very, very true. Here it is.

The Fake Anti-Corporatism of Fuehrer Farage

November 27, 2014

There are several pieces of interest in this fortnight’s edition of Private Eye. One of these, on page 5, is the item Landing on Mayfair, which demolishes the claim by UKIP’s generalissimo earlier this month (November 2014) that he and his party stand for ‘radical change’ from ‘corporatist politics’. The Eye states that it must therefore have been a totally different Nigel Farage, who in May last year – 2013 – went to an exclusive party in Mayfair at the offices of the hedge fund Odey Asset Management, hosted by Crispin Odey and attended by a number of City financiers.

The article then gives the details of the amount of sums big business, and particularly the financial sector, has given to UKIP. Harwood Capital Management’s boss Christopher Mills donated £50,000. Odey gave £22,000, and Arron Banks, the insurance tycoon, has promised a cool £1 million. Furthermore, UKIP’s treasurer is Stuart Wheeler, a former Tory, and the inventor of ‘spread betting’. He has also given £197,300 to the party.

UKIP and the Nazis’ Rhetoric against Big Business

I’ve blogged in the past about the similarity between UKIP and the Nazis in their election campaigning. Both are parties of the Right, who disguise their real policies in order to appeal to as broad an electoral base as possible. Hitler was in no way a Socialist, but he stressed anti-capitalist policies, rhetoric and imagery in order to win over working class voters, who would otherwise vote for the Socialist parties. It’s the reason why members of the Tory extreme Right now, like Daniel Hannan, try to present the Nazis as Socialists, and refer to the ‘Left-wing’ BNP.

Farage’s attack on corporatism is another parallel between UKIP and the Nazis’ electoral strategy. Historians of the Nazis have pointed out that Hitler also posed as the protector of the German working class from exploitation by big business when campaigning in working class, Socialist strongholds. In one speech, Hitler proclaimed that when the Nazis seized power, they would throw the coffers and money chests of the rich out into the street. He then went on to reassure the crowd that only Jewish businesses would be affected, and proper German enterprises would be left untouched and in peace. It was a policy that became horrific reality with Kristallnacht and the persecution of the Jews in the Holocaust.

In fact, Hitler actively sought funding from German business. This was originally from small and medium-sized industries, which feared attack and disruption from the unions and organised labour. Hitler then expanded his campaign to gain the complicity of big business during the Third Reich. An official from the financial sector became the head of the Nazi business cartel. Just before the Nazi seizure of power, the Machtergreifung, Hitler spoke to a meeting of German business leaders in order to gain their support. He declared that only under a personal dictatorship would German industry prosper and benefit from protection from Socialism and the trade unions.

Now Farage is not an anti-Semite, and has ostensibly tried to distance his party from the Fascist Right. Nevertheless, his party is populist, ultra-nationalist and extremely Right-wing, and like the Nazis covers up its true polices against the working class with a façade of anti-capitalist rhetoric, while doing precisely the opposite.

From 2011: Private Eye on Unum’s Role in Shaping Government Welfare Policy

April 10, 2014

This is from the Eye for the 11th – 24th November 2011:

McGarry Unum pic

Jack McGarry, Chief Executive at Unum.

Welfare Reform

Mutual Benefits

Tricky questions are again being asked about the profits American insurance giant Unum stands to make from its massive media push on income protection cover, promoted as the answer to the latest tough welfare reforms.

Pulling stunts like persuading six bloggers to live for a week on the current average benefit of £95 and then write about it, Jack Mcgarry, chief executive at Unum UK (pictured), earlier this year warned: “The government’s welfare reform bill will seek to tighten the gateway to benefits for those people unable to work due to sickness or injury. Each year up to 1m people in the UK become disabled and the reforms mean that working people will be able to rely less on state benefits to maintain the standard of living they were used to prior to their illness”.

Well, Unum should know. Behind the scenes it has been helping Tory and Labour governments slash the benefits of disabled and sick people for years – going right back to Peter Lilley’s social security “Incapacity for Work” reforms of 1994. Lilley hired John Le Cascio, then vice-president of Unum, to advise on “claims management”. Le Cascio also sat on the “medical evaluation group”, which – according to Professor Jonathan Rutherford in the academic journal Soundings – was set upt to design and enforce more stringent medical tests.

At the same time, the UK wing of Unum was launching what it boasted was “a concerted effort to harness the potential” from predicted cuts in benefits, urging people to protect themselves with a “long-term disability policy from Unum”.

The Eye first questioned Unum about the possibility of a serious conflict of interest back in 1995. Dr Le Cascio said he didn’t “feel that way” and wouldn’t have taken the government job if he thought there was a conflict. That, of course, was ten years before Unum was found guilty in the US of “systematically violating” insurance regulations and fraudulently denying or “low-balling” claims using phony medical reports, misrepresentation and biased investigations (see Ad Nauseam, last Eye).

Fast-forward 16 years, and plus ca change. Unum’s tarnished reputation has done nothing to diminish its influence here and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is still denying there’s anything amiss about Unum’s more meddling. In a lengthy reply last month to Norman Lamb, Nick Clegg’s chief adviser, the DWP neatly skirted questions about whether Unum was advising on welfare reform and about its unlawful activities in the US.

Yet Unum executives sat on both the mental health and physical function “technical working groups” set up under the Labour government in 2006, which reviewed and finally came up with the new, stricter “work compatibility assessments”, introduced for new claimants in 2008. In fact Unum and Atos, the huge French outsourcing company that holds the government’s multimillion contract to conduct the widely criticised assessments on behalf of the DWP (see in the Back, last Eye), were the only for-profit companies represented on the groups. Unum chief executive McGarry has now been appointed to the expert panel reviewing the sickness absence from work system announced by the government in February.

Prof Rutherford wrote that Unum had also been “building its influence” in a variety of ways over a number of years. He said that in 2001 Le Cascio was a key player at a ground-breaking conference at Woodstock near Oxford, title “Malingering and Illness Deception”. Malcolm Wicks, Labour work minister at the time, and Mansel Aylward, then chief medical officer at the DWP, were among the 39 delegates.

In the same year, Unum launched a public private partnership to act as a pressure group to extend influence in policymaking. And in 2004 it opened the £1.5m UnumProvident Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University. (The Centre has since be renamed and Unum says it no longer provides any funding – no doubt because of claims that academic integrity could be called into question by its influence).

Unum has been lobbying, sitting on expert groups and hosting meetings at party conferences of all colours ever since. And lo and behold, in May this year, Unum’s then medical officer Prof Michael O’Donnell jumped ship to become chief medical officer at Atos. He barely had time to catch his breath before giving evidence to the Commons committee looking at the welfare reform bill.

But Unum is once again denying any conflict of interest “since our current work with the DWP and our marketing campaign are different”. It said its current consultation work is about helping people return to work and its advertising campaign was educational and does not support tightening benefit changes.

Meanwhile disability activists who have fallen foul and been forced to appeal cuts in DWP benefits based on flawed Atos assessments, and campaigning groups like Black Triangle, think the whole thing stinks and are urging MPs to investigate.

So Unum is, like Maximus, another private contractor hired to implement government welfare policies, a company with a history of corruption in the US. And like many of the other companies involved in the government’s welfare reforms, it helps formulate the very same policies from which it stands to make a profit. Meanwhile, the sick and disabled are thrown off benefits due to their advice. And, as you’d expect, they’ve even got a connection of the past masters of cruelty, fraud and corrupt influence, Atos.

Graduate Underemployment Today and in 19th Century Germany

March 19, 2014

Graduate Jobs diagram

Diagram of the various sectors of the economy employing graduates. The vast majority are ‘jobs graduates end up doing’.

Taken from ‘Graduates Aren’t What They Used To Be’ at http://www.workcomms.com/graduates/whitepapers/graduates/.

Yesterday’s I newspaper carried an article about the massive underemployment of educated workers, including graduates. These were workers performing jobs for which they were too highly qualified. In some parts of the North, the article stated, the number of skilled and educated workers in lower skilled jobs was around 50 per cent.

I am not remotely surprised. There has been a massive expansion in further and higher education from 1980s onwards. During Tony Blair’s administration, approving Fleet Street columnists like Polly Toynbee saw this as a major positive step. Britain was not only going to be better educated, but this would provide the skilled, intellectual workforce of tomorrow to fuel British industry. Computer skills in particular were in great demand, and there was much optimistic talk about the immense value of the knowledge economy. All this was, of course, just before the Dot.com bubble exploded, thus following in the long line of massively over-hyped investments schemes like the South Sea bubble and John Law’s Louisiana scheme. The only difference with that those was that instead of the being in some remote part of the Earth, the property being developed was in cyberspace.

In all of this there seems to have been little thought to how these graduates were going to be employed afterwards, nor how they were supposed to create the expected new jobs. It seems to have been simply assumed that the clerical, managerial or entrepreneurial sectors of industry would expand to take them on.

This simply did not occur, so that instead, educated, often highly educated people were forced to find work for which they were overqualified, simply to put food on the table. The SF novelist, Spider Robinson, in the foreword to his collection of short stories, Callaghan’s Crazy Crosstime Bar, describes how the only job he could get after leaving Uni was as a nightwatchman at a building site ‘Looking at a hole in the ground to make sure nobody stole it’. Other graduates have found themselves flipping burgers. Not only are these jobs wasting their talents, but the entry of graduates into them has put additional employment pressure on low qualified workers, for whom this is only type of job they can do.

The German Socialist leader Karl Kautsky remarked on a similar process occurring in late 19th century Germany. He remarked on the way the industrialisation of the country from feudalism to capitalism had encouraged the expansion of higher education. However, the new generation of graduates found that the expansion of education had deprived them of their privileged status, and they became white-collar workers, members of the working class. Kautsky wrote

Clearly the capitalist mode of production requires a massive intelligentsia. The educational facilities of the feudal state were incapable of catering for that need. Thus the bourgeois regime has always been in favour of improving and expanding not only elementary but also higher education. This was supposed to promote not only the development of production, but also to lessen class conflict; given that higher education was a way of gaining access to the professional world, it seemed self-0evident that the universal expansion of higher education would integrate the proletariat into the bourgeoisie.

But the bourgeois standard of life only becomes a necessary correlate of higher education when the latter is a privilege. When it becomes universal, far from integrating the proletariat into the bourgeoisie, it degrades him to a ‘white-collar worker’, to a proletarian. That too is one of the manifestations of the immiseration of the mass of people.

He then proceeds to describe how the intelligentsia of his day tried to block the entry into higher education of underprivileged groups, like women, Jews and the working class.

The strongest opposition to the education of women is expressed by university professors and students, and by the leading scientists. It is they who exclude the Jewish intelligentsia from all competition for position in the professional world, and who go to great lengths to make higher education more expensive and hence inaccessible to the poor.

Karl Kautsky, ‘The Revisionist Controversy’ in Patrick Goode, Karl Kautsky: Selected Writings (London: Macmillan 1983) 20.

The situation in Britain today is almost completely the opposite. There are now more women at university than men, and there are a number of campaigns to encourage women to take up traditionally male-dominated subjects, like engineering and science. Furthermore, most universities are extremely keen to encourage enrolment by members of ethnic or religious minorities. Furthermore, when student fees were introduced, the universities were worried that it would lead to education becoming the preserve of a privileged few. University administrators, in my experience, have also welcomed the greater opportunity of people from less privileged groups to go to university.

However, the massive expansion of tuition fees by the Tories and their Tory Democrat allies certainly seems to indicate that they see higher education as something that should remain the exclusive privilege of the upper and upper middle classes. Unable to oppose openly the idea that university education should be open to more than just a narrow elite, it appears that Cameron and Clegg, both blue-blooded aristos, are trying to price it out of the reach of the working and lower middle classes.

They also seem to see students as a further reservoir of debt slaves. With student debt now going up to 27,000 or more, I did read recently of the Coalition plan to sell their debts to private industry. Where once upon a time education was free, now it seems that not only is it extremely expensive, but students themselves are seen as a lucrative investment by the insurance industry.

In Germany graduate and university discontent led eventually to strong support for the Nazi party in the last years of the Weimar period and the years of the Nazi seizure of power. In Britain very few graduates have any sympathy for the Fascist radical Right, and racism and militant anti-feminism would not be welcome. Instead there is growing graduate poverty and discontent, as former students join their less-skilled fellows in poorly paid, unrewarding jobs, with the additional worries about paying off their student debt. Their needs should also be addressed by the politicos along with the rest of the working population. Unfortunately, as Tony Benn remarked about Maggie’s prime ministry,

Despite the fact that we have been told that this is an entrepreneurial society, Britain has an utter contempt for skill. If one talks to people who dig coal and drive trains, or to doctors, nurses, dentists or toolmakers, one discovers that no one in Britain is interested in them. The whole of the so-called entrepreneurial society is focused on the City news that we get in every bulletin which tells us what has happened to £ sterling to three decimal points against the basket of European currencies. Skill is what built this country’s strength, but it has been treated with contempt.

There is an immense reservoir of talent, which is vastly underused in this country. For all the talk about expanding the knowledge economy, promoting science and creating a workforce with the skills needed by industry, there is little interest in actually using such a skilled workforce, and the Tory attitude seems to regard them merely as a suitably remunerative investment for the insurance industry. This has to change. We should be creating a nation, which can and does employ such people, or develop schemes by which they themselves can create the industries for which they have skills. I cannot see this happening under a government that sees no value in education beyond its monetary value, and indeed even views it as a threat when in the hands of anyone outside the privileged ranks of the aristocratic few.

I’ve taken the words of the speech from Another Angry Voice’s post, Tony Benn and Neoliberal Orthodoxy. This article, and other quotations from the speech, is at http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/tony-benn-and-neoliberal-orthodoxy.html.

Alternatively, a video of the speech can also be seen at Guy Debord’s Cat’s post ‘There’s only One Tony Benn’, which is at http://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/theres-only-one-tony-benn/.