Posts Tagged ‘Public Sector’

Coughlan Tears into the Embittered Snowflakes of the Daily Heil’s ‘Comments’

December 20, 2017

Perhaps this is another way of dealing with the Daily Mail and its pernicious influence on our politics and culture. As well as refuting its lies and scare stories, perhaps we should also mock its readership when they write in to express resentful, envious and sneering views about those they deem not to be as deserving as themselves. As in the comments Coughlan reads out here, which seem to be all by members of the older generation attacking the younger for not grinning and putting up with snow and cold weather like they had to in their youth.

Coughlan’s a stand-up comedian, who has put up a lot of really great stuff on his YouTube channel tearing the Far Right into gory chunks, and defending anti-racism and anti-sexism from the manosphere and, well, people pretty much like these. He starts out by noting how the various figures on the extreme right have been moaning about how hard done by they are. Like Milo Yiannopolis losing his job, Nigel Farage complaining that he’s ‘dirt poor’ despite earning £90,000 a year, and Anne Coulter that she’s single. As Coulter is viciously critical of anyone even slightly to her left, and so right-wing that she thinks that women shouldn’t have the vote, it’s probably no surprise that eligible men aren’t queuing up at her door. Be warned – Coughlan’s language is colourful – he’s an edgy, modern comedian – and he makes some coarse jokes at Coulter’s and Farage’s expense.

In this video he tackles the comments posted on the Daily Mail’s site on the subject of schools having to close because of the snow. The Mail stated hysterically that ‘hundreds’ of schools had been forced to close. He rightly points out that this is nothing. There are thousand upon thousands of schools in the UK, so it’s hardly the mass chaos the Heil is trying to paint it. And then come the comments. They all seem to come from older readers, disgusted at the wimpishness of today’s generation, and harking back to their youth when they still had to go to school in the snow, to endure unheated, literally freezing classrooms and outdoor urinals(!). Oh yes, and one of them complains that the reason the schools are close is because otherwise the children will be able to sue them for accidents. So we’re back to the old, right-wing canard about health and safety legislation.

Coughlan observes that these embittered curmudgeons sound very much like the ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ sketch from Monty Python. You remember the one: four Yorkshiremen in very elegant dinner suits, smoking cigars and drinking brandy, compete with each other to make the most extreme claims of the poverty they suffered when they were children. So he goes on to read out the comments in a spoof ‘northern’/’Yorkshire’ accent.

He also points out occasionally where these poor, resentful souls are wrong and haven’t remembered things properly. For example, one of them claims that schools never closed for snow when he was young. Wrong. Coughlan remembers when they did. I went to school in the ’70s and ’80s, and they certainly closed when we had very severe weather round about 81, 82-ish. And like Coughlan, I remember listening to the radio to see if our school would be one of those, which would not be opening that day. In this particular instance, school was open and we had to go in as normal. But not for long. After waiting in our coats in class while the staff debated what to do, we were all finally sent home. Trudging through town to the bus stop, I can remember one of the workers from one of the firms we passed asking us we weren’t in school, clearly thinking we were bunking off. So we told him the truth – that school had been cancelled. He simply replied with ‘Oh, all right,’ and got back to work.

Back to the Daily Mail, the comments here show something of the ugly attitude of the Mail’s readers. They clearly see themselves as unfairly treated by history or circumstances, and resent young people for apparently enjoying better treatment or conditions than themselves. And they very definitely see themselves as more deserving. They come across very much like the sneering elderly Harry Enfield used to lampoon on his show. ‘These young people, they don’t know they’re born’. ‘No’. ‘I say to them, ‘Do you know you’re born”. That was one of Enfield’s comments about this type of sad old soul.

Most of the older people I’ve met have expressed the exact opposite views to these people. I’ve been told by retired people, that they wouldn’t like to be young today for various reasons. A few years ago this was because of the threat of drugs. Or the dangers of the Net, and paedophiles and bullying on social media. I’d also include the terrible unemployment rate, the mass poverty created by the wage freeze and exploitative working conditions, like zero hours contracts. As well as the crushing weight of student debt and the housing crisis, which means that many will never get to own their own home. At very many levels, young people today are worse off, sometimes very much worse off, than their predecessors.

And most of the older generation know this, and are sympathetic. Most people, I think, actually want their children and grandchildren to enjoy a higher standard of living than them, and not to have to suffer the same awful conditions they had. Like grotty, freezing toilets.

Except the Daily Mail. They seem to see themselves as being so much more worthy than everyone else, and bitterly jealous of any indulgent or simply better treatment of the younger generation. Hence the sneering at them as ‘snowflakes’. Not that this attitude is confined merely to this subject. It runs through the Mail’s readership as a whole, and the people they attack and sneer at for being supposedly more privileged than they are include public sector workers, trade unionists, teachers, single parents, those on benefits, and Blacks and Asians. Because ‘political correctness’. It’s a seething mass of right-wing resentment, stirred up against anyone the Tories and the Mail decide should be the next target to keep ordinary people divided and fighting against each other, rather than wake up and realise that the people, who are really keeping them poor, are the Tories. The Tories stir up and use this jealousy and resentment in order to garner support for destroying more of the welfare state, and passing more legislation making jobs even more precarious.

The Mail’s a disgrace. It promotes nothing but hatred, ignorance and bigotry, for a corrupt, exploitative party. A party that should have been voted out of power long ago, and whose lies and threadbare excuses are becoming even more evident by the day.

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Basu and Stuckler on the Rise in Suicide in Britain due to Austerity

July 20, 2016

Body Economic Pic

A few days ago, I blogged about the book The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills, by the medical researchers David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu. This book examines how recessions and austerity programmes affect people’s health. Where governments invest in social security safety nets and a welfare state, public health can even improve during a recession. Where they don’t, and actually cut services, public health can decline disastrously.

In one chapter, they discuss schemes piloted in Sweden in actively getting people back to work, concluding that these have had a real, positive effect in maintaining that country’s health when it suffered the recession. They contrast the experience of the Scandinavia countries, with Britain, where MPs were uninterested in implementing similar reforms over here, and made matters worse by cutting the welfare state and support for industry. They write

With all of this evidence accumulating I favor of ALMPs (Swedish-style ‘back to work’ programmes), we were eager to translate these data into practice. After we published our research in 2009 about the benefits of ALMPs, we were invited to the British House of Commons and the Swedish Parliament to present our date and recommendations.

The responses were remarkable – that is, remarkably dissimilar-in the two countries. When presented with the data that unemployment led to a rise in suicides, and that ALMPs could help mitigate the risks, the Swedish members of Parliament were unsurprised. One member asked: “Why are telling us what we already know?” But when we presented the same data in the UK, in July 2009, to the House of Commons, the reaction was that the government was “already doing all it could to reduce unemployment.”

When the Conservative government came into power in 2010, the UK response became even worse. In 2012, the British Medical Journal published our paper showing that UK suicides had risen by more than 1,000 between 2007 and 2010 above pre-existing trends, corresponding to the continued rise in unemployment. Reporters soon contacted the UK Department of Health for a response. it’s spokesman told the Independent newspaper: “Losing a loved one [tpo suicide] can be devastating and we want to make sure that we are doing all we can to prevent suicide by giving people the right support when they need it most. We will shortly be publishing our new suicide prevention strategy, which brings together expertise across healthcare, criminal justice and transport to maintain or even decrease the current rates of suicide.” This sounded encouraging. But then the Health Department spokesman continued: “However, suicide rates in England have been at a historical low and remain unchanged since 2005. The department uses three-year rolling averages for monitoring purposes, in order to avoid focusing unnecessarily on fluctuations instead of the underlying trend.”

By now, this tactic should sound familiar: averaging-out deaths is the same the technique The Economist used to cover up death rates in Russia. When using rolling averages, any large jump in death rates can seem like a smooth bump in the road instead of a shocking spike (indeed, the Department appeared to have chosen the three-year period specifically for this end, instead of some other date range like five years). The Department’s comments were criticised by several university professors and statisticians, after which the statement quickly disappeared from their Internet webpage.

If it wanted to help its people, the British government could learn much from Sweden’s experience. The UK would of course need to invest more in ALMPs and stop job losses from happening. but the Conservative government was doing precisely the opposite: austerity was creating an active labour-destroying programme. The data revealed that the austerity programme cut public-sector jobs in the most deprived regions of the country. Moreover, it was implementing policies that made it easier for the private sector to lay off people during the recession. As one unusually blunt 2010 report commissioned by the government explained, “some people will be dismissed simply because their employer doesn’t like them,” but argued that this is a “price worth paying” to boost the economy, though the logic of how mass unemployment would drive economic growth was left unexplained.

The consequences of the UK’s real-world experiment with austerity soon became tragically apparent in its suicide data. As in the US, the Great Recession in the UK featured an initial spike in unemployment and job losses in 2007. As employment began to recover in 2009, suicides began to fall. But the following year, when the Conservative government came to power, the UK began a massive austerity programme, which in 2012 alone cut 270,000 public-sector jobs. The UK then experienced a second wave of “austerity suicides” in 2012. (pp. 119-121).

This is a savage indictment of the stupidity, callousness and sheer, culpable cruelty behind the Tories austerity programme. And numerous bloggers, from Stilloaks, Tom Pride, Mike over at Vox Political, Another Angry Voice, DPAC, Johnny Void and so many, many others have blogged about the people behind the deaths, many of whom took their lives because of the government’s daft regime of benefit sanctions.

It’s time to end this grotesque charade of murderous neoliberal policies, justified with lies, and get rid of the Tories and their counterparts in the parliamentary Labour party. That’s if we want a happier, healthier and more prosperous Britain, not a country of burdened wage-slaves, deceived and exploited for the benefit of the corporate elite.