Posts Tagged ‘Social Security’

OBR Starts Scaremongering over Projected Cost of NHS over Next Half Century

January 18, 2017

Mike put up a story today about a report from the OBR claiming that the NHS’ budget will have to be increased by £88 bn over the next 50 years. They claim that in order to meet those costs, other parts of the government’s budget would have to be cut. Indeed, the amount of money that would need to be spent on the NHS to meet demand would make the budget generally ‘unsustainable’, according to the report Mike quotes from the Graoniad.

Mike calls this scaremongering, and points out that there are plenty of ways costs could be reduced to acceptable and sustainable levels.

* Like making sure people have access to cheap drugs. Again, this is not something the Tories want. A few years ago, their Health Minister, Alistair Burt, actually filibustered a bill that would have allowed the government to seek new licences on unpatented drugs that would have allowed the NHS to purchase cheaper medicines. As Mike points out, Burt’s obstructive speechifying in parliament added millions to the NHS bill then. All to benefit big pharma against the NHS and the people of this country. Even those with private medical coverage.

* The pressure on beds through bed-blocking by healthy people with nowhere else to go could be solved through more funding for care homes, and raising the social care budget so that family members could care for elderly relatives at home.

* Some healthcare costs will be reduced through ordinary progress, as people become better aware of the risks to their health, and take care to avoid them.

* The costs of healthcare could also be cut by actually reversing the Tories’ attacks on health and safety legislation. Mike also points out that workers’ health can be improved by paying them better, as low pay causes more stress, and damages their mental and physical health. But as he also points out, Conservative supporting bosses get very upset if you point that out to them.

* And you can also cut £22 billion from the NHS’ budget by getting rid of the all the contracts given to private healthcare companies.

Mike states that all that’s needed is the will to try doing things in a better way. Starting by kicking out May and the Tories.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/18/new-scaremongering-over-cost-of-nhs-ignores-vast-possibilities-for-change/

There’s a lot more that could be said here, not least about the OBR itself. I’ve got a feeling it was established by the Tories. Whoever set it up, I am sure that the Office of Budgetary Responsibility was set up to ‘lock-in’ the cuts to government spending by providing a spurious statistical legitimacy to the neoliberal doctrine of limiting government expenditure to the bare minimum. You can see it in the departments’ very name: Budgetary Responsibility. Not ‘Fiscal Effectiveness’ or ‘Efficiency’, but ‘Budgetary Responsibility’. It’s to reinforce the message that spending as little as possible of taxpayers’ money is ‘responsible’. It’s part of the Tory refrain that they represent ‘responsible’ government expenditure as opposed to ‘high-spending’ Labour. Which is a colossal myth. Under the Labour party, as Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis make clear in their NHS-SOS, the NHS was in budget.

This piece by the OBR also comes after the Tories have been rightly under attack for the crisis in the English NHS.

It therefore looks to me very like a Tory department issuing a very dubious budgetary speculation in order to justify the Tory round of cuts and privatisation. My calls it scaremongering, and also says at the beginning of his article that it’s trying to scare people into accepting the health service’s privatisation. He also makes clear that if that’s what they’re trying to do, they’ll have to try a lot harder.

Mike also wonders how much private healthcare will also cost by 2067.

That’s a very good question.

There is now a considerable movement for single-payer health care now in America, despite the intention of the Orange Nazi who’s going to be their next president to repeal Obamacare, and privatise social security, Medicare and Medicaid. The reason’s simple. Private healthcare in America is now massively expensive. It’s now so expensive that about a fifth of Americans can’t afford it. It also costs the American government far more than the NHS. In fact, if you look at the stats, America is one of the most expensive healthcare systems in the developed world.

And one of the most cost-efficient is the NHS. Or was, before Cameron and May took over and started to wreck it.

And in fact, if you look at the comparative stats, you find that Britain spent far less on its health service than other European countries. That was deliberate. It was under the Tories, once again, that Britain stopped funding our state healthcare at the same rate the Europeans funded theirs. Because the Tories have always hated spending money on the NHS.

You saw it a couple of years after the Health Service was introduced by Nye Bevan. A group of right-wing Tory MPs then got up on their hind legs to start shouting that the NHS was too expensive for the country. They lost the argument, but obviously never went away. They came back under Thatcher, and have been running the NHS down ever since.

And it’s because American healthcare is so expensive, that the private healthcare companies have crossed the Atlantic are trying to have our state healthcare privatised. Put simply, they’re having difficulty squeezing any more out of the Americans. So they came over here, and started whispering their blandishments to Tony Blair, who never met a rich, dodgy businessman he didn’t like. They didn’t need to do much persuading for the Tories, as the party of the rich, mendacious and exploitative was already well stocked with people, who stood to make a killing if the NHS was privatised.

And as private healthcare means that unless you can pay, you die, killing is precisely the right word.

This load of stats is sheer propaganda and scaremongering by a Tory-staffed government department for the Tories. Ignore it.

Work to rebuild the NHS.

Kick out the Tories.

May and Hunt must resign. Now!

Reichwing Watch: How the Billionaires Brainwashed America

November 16, 2016

This is another excellent video from Reichwing Watch. Entitled Peasants for Plutocracy: How the Billionaires Brainwashed America, it’s about how wealthy industrialists, like the multi-billionaire Koch brothers, created modern Libertarianism and a stream of fake grassroots ‘astroturf’ organisations, in order to attack and roll back Roosevelt’s New Deal and the limited welfare state it introduced. And one of the many fake populist organisations the Koch brothers have set up is the Tea Party movement, despite the Kochs publicly distancing themselves from it.

The documentary begins with footage from an old black and white American Cold War propaganda movie, showing earnest young people from the middle decades of the last century discussing the nature of capitalism. It then moves on to Noam Chomsky’s own, very different perspective on an economy founded on private enterprise. Chomsky states that there has never been a purely capitalist economy. Were one to be established, it would very soon collapse, and so what we have now is state capitalism, with the state playing a very large role in keeping capitalism viable. He states that the alternative to this system is the one believed in by 19th century workers, in that the people, who worked in the mills should own the mills. He also states that they also believed that wage labour was little different from slavery, except in that it was temporary. This belief was so widespread that it was even accepted by the Republican party. The alternative to capitalism is genuinely democratic self-management. This conflicts with the existing power structure, which therefore does everything it can to make it seem unthinkable.

Libertarianism was founded in America in 1946/7 by an executive from the Chamber of Commerce in the form of the Foundation for Economic Education. This was basically a gigantic business lobby, financed by the heads of Fortune 500 companies, who also sat on its board. It’s goal was to destroy Roosevelt’s New Deal. Vice-President Wallace in an op-ed column in the New York Times stated that while its members posed as super-patriots, they wanted to roll back freedom and capture both state and economic power. The video also quotes Milton Friedman, the great advocate of Monetarism and free market economics, on capitalism as the system which offers the worst service at the highest possible profit. To be a good businessman, you have to be as mean and rotten as you can. And this view of capitalism goes back to Adam Smith. There is a clip of Mark Ames, the author of Going Postal, answering a question on why the media is so incurious about the true origins of Libertarianism. He states that they aren’t curious for the same reason the American media didn’t inquire into the true nature of the non-existent WMDs. It shows just how much propaganda and corruption there is in the American media.

The documentary then moves on to the Tea Party, the radical anti-tax movement, whose members deliberately hark back to the Boston Tea Party to the point of dressing up in 18th century costume. This section begins with clips of Fox News praising the Tea Party. This is then followed by Noam Chomsky on how people dread filling out their annual tax returns because they’ve been taught to see taxation as the state stealing their money. This is true in dictatorships. But in true democracy, it should be viewed differently, as the people at last being able to put into practice the plan in which everyone was involved in formulating. However, this frightens big business more than social security as it involves a functioning democracy. As a result, there is a concerted, and very successful campaign, to get people to fear big government.

The idea of the Tea Party was first aired by the CNBC reporter Rick Santilli in an on-air rant. Most of the Party’s members are normal, middle class Americans with little personal involvement in political campaigning. It is also officially a bi-partisan movement against government waste. But the real nature of the Tea Party was shown in the 2010 Tea Party Declaration of Independence, which stated that the Party’s aims were small government and a free market economy. In fact, the movement was effectively founded by the Koch brothers, Charles and David Koch. Back in the 1980s, David Koch was the Libertarian Party’s vice-president. The Libertarian Party’s 1980 platform stated that they intended to abolish just about every regulatory body and the welfare system. They intended to abolish the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Authority, Occupational Health and Safety Administration, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, National Labor Relations Board, the FBI, CIA, Federal Reserve, Social Security, Welfare, the public (state) schools, and taxation. They abandoned this tactic, however, after pouring $2 million of their money into it, only to get one per cent of the vote. So in 1984 they founded the first of their wretched astroturf organisation, Citizens for a Sound Economy. The name was meant to make it appear to be a grassroots movement. However, their 1998 financial statement shows that it was funded entirely by wealthy businessmen like the Kochs. In 2004 the CSE split into two – Freedom Works, and Americans for Prosperity. The AFP holds an annual convention in Arlington, Virginia, attended by some of its 800,000 members. It was the AFP and the Kochs who were the real organising force behind the Tea Party. Within hours of Santilli’s rant, he had been given a list of 1/2 million names by the Kochs. Although the Koch’s have publicly distanced themselves from the Tea Party, the clip for this section of the documentary shows numerous delegates at the convention standing up to declare how they had organised Tea Parties in their states. But it isn’t only the AFP that does this. Freedom Works, which has nothing to do with the Kochs, also funds and organises the Tea Parties.

Mark Crispin Miller, an expert on propaganda, analysing these astroturf organisations makes the point that for propaganda to be effective, it must not seem like propaganda. It must seem to come either from a respected, neutral source, or from the people themselves. Hence the creation of these fake astroturf organisations.

After its foundation in the late 1940s, modern Libertarianism was forged in the late 1960s and ’70s by Charles Koch and Murray Rothbard. Libertarianism had previously been the ideology of the John Birch Society, a group harking back to the 19th century. Koch and Rothbard married this economic extreme liberalism, with the political liberalism of the hippy counterculture. They realised that the hippies hated the state, objecting to the police, drug laws, CIA and the Vietnam war. Ayn Rand, who is now credited as one of the great founders of Libertarianism for her extreme capitalist beliefs, despised them. The film has a photo of her, next to a long quote in which she describes Libertarianism as a mixture of capitalism and anarchism ‘worse than anything the New Left has proposed. It’s a mockery of philosophy and ideology. They sling slogans and try to ride on two different bandwagons… I could deal with a Marxist with a greater chance of reaching some kind of understanding, and with much greater respect.’

The documentary also goes on to show the very selective attitude towards drugs and democracy held by the two best-known American Libertarian politicos, Ron and Rand Paul. Despite the Libertarians’ supposedly pro-marijuana stance, the Pauls aren’t actually in favour of legalising it or any other drugs. They’re just in favour of devolving the authority to ban it to the individual states. If the federal government sends you to prison for weed, that, to them, is despotism. If its the individual state, it’s liberty.

And there’s a very telling place piece of footage where Ron Paul talks calmly about what a threat democracy is. He states clearly that democracy is dangerous, because it means mob rule, and privileges the majority over the minority. At this point the video breaks the conversation to show a caption pointing out that the Constitution was framed by a small group of wealthy plutocrats, not ‘we the people’. This is then followed by an American government film showing a sliding scale for societies showing their positions between the poles of democracy to despotism, which is equated with minority rule. The video shows another political scientist explaining that government and elites have always feared democracy, because when the people make their voices heard, they make the wrong decisions. Hence they are keen to create what Walter Lipmann in the 1920s called ‘manufacturing consent’. Real decisions are made by the elites. The people themselves are only allowed to participate as consumers. They are granted methods, which allow them to ratify the decisions of their masters, but denied the ability to inform themselves, organise and act for themselves.

While Libertarianism is far more popular in America than it is over here, this is another video that’s very relevant to British politics. There are Libertarians over here, who’ve adopted the extreme free-market views of von Hayek and his fellows. One of the Torygraph columnists was particularly vocal in his support for their doctrines. Modern Tory ideology has also taken over much from them. Margaret Thatcher was chiefly backed by the Libertarians in the Tory party, such as the National Association For Freedom, which understandably changed its name to the Freedom Foundation. The illegal rave culture of the late 1980s and 1990s, for example, operated out of part of Tory Central Office, just as Maggie Thatcher and John Major were trying to ban it and criminalise ‘music with a repetitive beat’. Virginian Bottomley appeared in the Mail on Sunday back in the early 1990s raving about how wonderful it would be to replace the police force with private security firms, hired by neighbourhoods themselves. That’s another Libertarian policy. It comes straight from Murray Rothbard. Rothbard also wanted to privatise the courts, arguing that justice would still operate, as communities would voluntarily submit to the fairest court as an impartial and non-coercive way of maintain the peace and keeping down crime. The speaker in this part of the video describes Koch and Rothbard as ‘cretins’. Of course, it’s a colossally stupid idea, which not even the Tory party wanted to back. Mind you, that’s probably because they’re all in favour of authoritarianism and state power when its wielded by the elite.

I’ve no doubt most of the Libertarians in this country also believe that they’re participating in some kind of grassroots, countercultural movement, unaware that this is all about the corporate elite trying to seize more power for themselves, undermine genuine democracy, and keep the masses poor, denied welfare support, state education, and, in Britain, destroying the NHS, the system of state healthcare that has kept this country healthy for nearly 70 years.

Libertarians do see themselves as anarchists, though anarcho-individualists, rather than collectivists like the anarcho-syndicalists or Communists. They aren’t. This is purely about expanding corporate power at the expense of the state and the ordinary citizens it protects and who it is supposed to represent and legislate for. And it in practice it is just as brutal as the authoritarianism it claims to oppose. In the 1980s the Freedom Association became notorious on the left because of its support for the death squads in Central America, also supported by that other Libertarian hero, Ronald Reagan.

Libertarianism is a brutal lie. It represents freedom only for the rich. For the rest of us, it means precisely the opposite.

Pinochet, Hillary Clinton, and Theresa May’s Proposal for Worker Directors

July 30, 2016

I found this very interesting paragraph in a piece by Michael Hudson ‘Obama Said Hillary Will Continue His Legacy. And She Will!’ in this weekend’s collection of Counterpunch articles:

Obama’s brilliant demagogy left many eyes glazed over in admiration. Nobody is better at false sincerity while misrepresenting reality so shamelessly. Probably few caught the threatening hint he dropped about Hillary’s plan for corporations to share their profits with their workers. This sounds to me like the Pinochet plan to privatize Social Security by turning it into exploitative ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Programs). The idea is that wage withholding would be steered to buy into the company’s stock – bidding it up in the process. Employees then would end up holding an empty bag, as occurred recently with the Chicago Tribune. That seems to be the great “reform” to “save” Social Security that her Wall Street patrons are thinking up.

Hudson’s article is a sustained demolition of the liberal image Shrillary and the rest of the establishment Democrat Party have promoted. She is not remotely on the side of the increasingly impoverished Middle and working classes, but a neoliberal corporatist concerned with promoting the profits of her donors in Wall Street and Big Business at the expense of ordinary Americans. She stands for more austerity, further cuts to education and welfare programmes, including Medicare, and the TTP and TTIP free trade agreements, that threaten to outsource more American jobs.

She’s also an extremely militaristic hawk, who has supported a series of bloody interventions from Iraq, Libya, and Syria to Honduras. She promises a further escalation of American military action around the globe. To divert attention from the corrupt machinations in her favour by the Democrat party machine, headed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, she has attacked Putin for supposedly hacking into the Democrat’s computer, which held details of these underhand deals. She’s also using Trump’s friendship with the Russian leader to attack him, in which Hudson sees as a return to the Red-baiting antics of the McCarthy era. He describes how she has appealed to Republic voters against those of Bernie Sanders and the progressive Left. And how Bernie Sanders has also ill-served his own supporters by endorsing her, despite the fact that she stands for everything he opposes.

Hudson also makes the wider point that many, if not most of the policy positions Hillary adopts are exactly the same as Obama. Obama was no radical: he described himself as a ‘moderate Republican’. The only radical feature about him was his ethnicity. He was Black, and this constituted a liberal point in his favour, just as Shrillary’s biological femininity is a point in hers. But Hudson makes the point that Shrillary’s biological gender is irrelevant to her politics. She does not embody the traditional female characteristics of empathy, but a very masculine aggressive militarism, in which she is ‘one of the boys’ with the other army hawks.

See http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/07/29/obama-said-hillary-will-continue-his-legacy-and-indeed-she-will/

There is much here that parallels the political situation over here in Blighty. Owen Smith and the Blairites in Labour are also neoliberals, standing for austerity, welfare cuts, aggressive militarism and pursuing the aims and enrichment of the super-rich at the expense of the poor. It’s not even remotely surprising, as Blair modelled his New Labour project on Bill Clinton’s New Democrats. And both parties based their electoral strategy on trying to win over Conservative voters through the adoption of corporatist, anti-working class policies.

But the piece also indicated very strong parallels with Theresa May’s Conservatives. They’re even more corporatist than New Labour, but May announced when she entered No 10 that she was in favour of workers on companies’ boards of directors. This is a radical socialist policy. It’s one so radical, that leftwing Labour MPs like Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone were ruthlessly pilloried for endorsing it in the 1970s and 1980s. Now May, an arch capitalist, says she’s in favour of it.

She clearly isn’t, at least as far as it is conventionally considered. It may well be, as I’ve said before, just rhetoric, a piece of left-wing guff to make her sound more progressive than she actually is. David Cameron, her predecessor, did the same before he became prime minister. He and Ian Duncan Smith opposed New Labour’s welfare cuts, including the privatisation of the NHS, and made noises about supporting Green policies. Cameron’s political mentor, Anthony Blonde, claimed that neoliberalism had failed, and that the Tory party would support pro-worker policies in his book, Red Tory. He even made approving noises about the great 19th century Russian Anarchist, Peter Kropotkin.

Except that it was all rubbish. Once in power, the Green policies were swiftly jettisoned and fracking and nuclear power wholeheartedly endorsed. Neoliberalism was declared to be the only way forward. And he made deeper cuts under his austerity campaign than Labour, and, if anything, stepped up the privatisation of the NHS.

It looks like May is repeating that strategy: first appear a bit left, then, when your position has been consolidated, get rid of it all and carry on as normal.

But it may be that she does mean something about worker directors. If she does, it won’t be for the welfare of the working class. Hudson states that Hillary’s call for profit-sharing sounds like Pinochet’s attempts to privatise social security through turning it into a employee share scheme. Something like this is also likely over here with May’s worker directors. The Tory party has already tried to promote one scheme, by which workers were able to acquire shares in their company, if they signed away their employment rights. It looks very much to me that May will try something similar under the pretense of introducing industrial democracy. If she ever does anything like that at all in the first place, that is.

Vox Political on the Labourist Owen Smith on Newsnight

July 27, 2016

Mike the other day also put up a piece on Owen Smith’s performance on BBC’s Newsnight. Mike and a number of other opponents of Blairite neoliberalism found it a cheering experience. It wasn’t quite a car crash, but, according to Mike, there were still some heavy swerves. He also observed that although Smudger mostly managed to control himself over Corbyn, he still felt constrained to sneer at him for his perceived lack of patriotism, and claimed that Corbyn had only had just over half the votes in the election, far underestimating the amount of support Corbyn had and has.

What I found particularly telling was the way Smiffy refused to use the word ‘Socialism’. He instead used the term ‘Labourism’ instead, to the manifest incredulity of the interviewer. In actual fact, historians of the Labour party and political scientists have for a long time made a distinction between ‘socialism’ and ‘labourism’. Socialism means the collective ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange. It can take many different forms, from co-operatives through to state ownership, or collective ownership by trade unions, as in Syndicalism. It may also involve different degrees, from complete nationalism, as in the former Soviet Union, to a mixed economy, as in Britain and most other western European countries before Thatcher and the Neoliberal devastation of our public life.

Labourism, on the other hand, simply means anything that benefits organised labour. For a couple of decades after its foundation, there was a tension in the Labour party between the trade unions, or some of the elements in the trade unions, and the various Socialist bodies. Some of the trade union members wanted the Labour party to concentrate on protecting union rights, such as the right to strike and picket, and fighting to obtain better wages for working people. Furthermore, under Lloyd George’s introduction of the first, preliminary foundations of the welfare state, trade unions could serve as the official bodies for the administration of the social security and healthcare schemes, along with private insurance companies. This has been described as a ‘labourist’ policy, as it was designed to help working people, but was not a socialist measure in that it did not involve the state or collective ownership.

I was also told by a friend last week that the Labour party has removed the term ‘Socialism’ from its constitution. I’m not surprised. Blair was not a Socialist by any stretch of the imagination. He got rid of Clause 4, the clause in the Labour party’s constitution that pledged the party to nationalisation and collective ownership. I’m not surprised that New Labour, in order to endear itself to all those darling swing voters and the aspirant middle classes, as well as rich donors, dropped the ‘socialist’ label as well.

But Smudger isn’t a labourist, either. Blair and New Labour hated and distrusted the trade unions, and have done everything they can to deny them any effective power to oppose the increasingly punitive and exploitative employment legislation. Legislation introduced not just by the Tories, but by the Labour right. Blair and Brown talked rubbish about the need to support flexible labour market policies as well as social justice. In practice, the Warmonger and his grumpy sidekick jettisoned social justice, as again, swing voters, the aspirant middle class, and the media barons, like Murdoch, all had the vapours when faced with it.

So Smiff isn’t a Socialist, nor proper labour. He didn’t oppose the Tory welfare cuts, and I doubt very much that he wants to anything about the employment legislation that is driving people in this country into poverty – the zero hours and short employment contracts, the proliferation of unpaid internships, workfare and all the rest of the vile schemes designed to make working people as poor and as desperate as possible.

He and the rest of New Labour – Progress, Saving Labour and the rest, are bog-standard Tories, and nothing else. They should leave the party and cross the floor to their true political home.

Beveridge’s Outline Scheme for Social Security in the Report

May 3, 2016

I found this piece, the Heads of a Scheme for Social Security, of 11th December 1941, in Derek Fraser’s The Evolution of the British Welfare State: A History of Social Policy Since the Industrial Revolution (London: MacMillan Press Ltd 1973). In it, Beveridge lays out the various welfare benefits, which came to form the basis of the post-War Welfare State. The document runs as follows:

1. Assumptions: No satisfactory scheme of social security can be devised [except on the] following assumptions:

A. A national health service for prevention and comprehensive treatment available to all members of the community.

B. Universal children’s allowances for all children up to 14 or if in full-time education up to 16.

C. Full use of powers of the state to maintain employment and to reduce unemployment to seasonal, cyclical and interval unemployment, that is to say to unemployment suitable to treatment by cash allowances.

2. Unified Social Security: On these three assumptions, a scheme for social security is outlined below, providing for each member of the community basic provision appropriate to all his needs, in return for a single compulsory contribution.

3.Principle of Scheme: The principle of the Social Security Scheme is to ensure for every one income up to subsistence level, in return for compulsory contributions, expecting him to make voluntary provision to ensure income that he desired beyond this. One consequence of this principle is that no means test of any kind can be applied to the benefits of the Scheme. Another is that the Scheme does not guarantee a standard of life beyond subsistence level; men whose powers of earning diminish must adjust themselves to that change.

3. Needs: The needs to be covered are of seven kinds, including as one the composite needs of a married woman.

C. Childhood, provided for by allowances till 14 of it in full-time education, till 16.
O. Old Age, including premature old age, met by pension beginning from 65 for man and 60 for woman normally, but beginning earlier for proved permanent invalidity.
D. Disability, that is to say inability through illness or accident to pursue a gainful occupation, met by disability and invalidity benefits.
U. Unemployment, that is to say, inability to obtain paid employment by a person dependent on it and physically fit for it, met by unemployment benefits.
F. Funeral Expenses of self or any person for whom responsible, met by funeral grant.
L. Loss in Gainful Occupation other than Employment, e.g. bankruptcy, fire, theft., met by loss grant.
M. Marriage Needs of a Woman, including provision for:
1. Setting up of a home, met by furnishing grant.
2. Maternity met by maternity grant in all cases, and in the case of a period before and after confinement.
3. Interruption of husband’s earning, by his disability or unemployment, met by dependent benefit.
4. Widowhood, met by pension at various rates corresponding to nees and by credit of contributions for unemployment and disability.
5. Separation, i.e. end of husband’s maintenance by desertion or legal separation, met by adaptation of widowhood pensions.
6. Old Age, met by pension at 60, with provision for antedating if husbands earning capacity is stopped by old age.
7. Incapacity for household duties, met by grant to meet expenses of paid help in illness.
8. Funeral grant for self or any person for whom responsible after separation from husband. (pp. 265-7).

I realise that its assumption about gender roles now seem dated and sexist, with the assumption that the husband goes out to work while the mother stays at home to raise the family. However, regardless of its flaws and the continuation of poverty after the foundation of Welfare State, the system of payments laid out here by Beveridge did have immense success in tackling poverty.

And since the 1980s they’ve been under attack by the Tories. Under Thatcher and Major, the system of welfare grants that previously operated were replaced by loans. Welfare payments have also been increasingly cut, and conditions deliberately imposed so that increasingly fewer people are considered eligible for them. This has also been extended to disability payments, with the result that 590 people have died of starvation, poverty, neglect or suicide thanks to the cuts made by the Tories and their Lib-Dem enablers at the last parliament. And over a quarter of a million more psychologically vulnerable people have seen their condition made worse.

And thanks to these attacks on the welfare state and the abandoning of the Keynsian goal of full employment, 4.7 million people in our immensely rich country are now in ‘food poverty’.

Please remember this when you go to vote on Thursday. And don’t vote for the Tories or Liberal Democrats.

Secular Talk: Harvard Poll Shows 51 Per Cent American Millennials Don’t Support Capitalism

April 28, 2016

In this piece from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski discusses the astonishing news that according to the Washington Post, just over half of American young adults don’t support capitalism. The papers reports that a poll by Harvard University of young people aged between 19 and 29 found that 51% of them did not support capitalism. Only 33% said they supported Socialism, however.

Kulinski states that this finding made him wonder if they were even more liberal than he was. He states that he’s not a Communist, and is largely opposed to it, although many of his viewers are Communists. He’s in favour of the mixture of Socialism and capitalism found mainly in the Scandinavian countries, and to a lesser extent elsewhere in Europe. He then goes on to consider that maybe most of the people polled are also in favour of such a mixed economy, but that the questions were badly worded so as to make them sound like they were in favour of total nationalisation when they weren’t.

America is one of the most capitalist nations on Earth, so it’s amazing how far leftward the country has moved. This might have something to do with the fact that for decades, the free market capitalism espoused and so militantly promoted by Reagan, Bushes snr and jnr, Bill Clinton et al hasn’t delivered. Unemployment is growing. The TPP has resulted in more jobs being exported abroad. 20 per cent of Americans could not afford healthcare before the introduction of Obamacare, and the Republicans have fought tooth and nail to repeal that. In many ways, Obama’s a Conservative politician. He receives much of his funding from Wall Street, Obamacare was originally a Conservative idea from Richard Nixon’s administration, supported by Newt Gingrich, amongst others. On gun control he’s hardly more restrictive than George Dubya. But that hasn’t stopped the Republicans screaming that he’s everything from a Communist to a Nazi to a radical Muslim. The accusations are ridiculous, and so are they for making them.

And much of this corruption come from the corporate funding of politics. Corporations fund politicians’ campaigns, so that their policies reflect those of their big business sponsors, rather than the American people. 80 per cent of Americans want gun control. Very many others don’t want to see cuts to Medicaid and social security. But the politicians don’t want gun control, and are doing everything they can to cut the Medicaid and social security budget.

And as a result of all this, the approval rating for Congress fluctuates from 9% to 20%. And a Harvard study declared that America was an oligarchy, rather than a proper, functioning democracy.

This has no doubt got America’s corporate masters hopping mad. You can expect even more of them to start putting pressure on our politicos in Britain to start privatising even more stuff, like the Health Service, so they have a few more nice little earners should Bernie Sanders, or someone very like him, get in. Which now seems increasingly possible.

And I dare say that the Tories over here are also worried. After all, they’ve taken much of their free market ideology from the American Republicans and Libertarians. The same goes for the Blairites in the Labour party. They took over the Chicago school’s nonsense, and followed Bill Clinton’s line in refashioning the Democrat party to look like a slightly paler version of the Republicans. Blair and the leading lights of New Labour were a part of the Reaganite network, the British-American Project for the Successor Generation. If capitalism, or at least, its free market variant is looking increasingly rocky in the American homeland, then you can bet that its cheerleaders and supporters are grimly contemplating the fact that this anti-free market mood might just cross the Atlantic and come over here.

And that will be no bad thing. Frankly, the day can’t come soon enough.

Secular Talk on Obama’s Warning Against Democrat Party Becoming Left-Wing ‘Tea Party’

April 25, 2016

Barack Obama last week made a speech warning Democrats against becoming a ‘left-wing Tea Party’. He told the party that they should not adopt policies that would alienate the general public. He also argued that they should not go along with path the Republicans were much further along of adopting more extreme policies and positions. This was a system where you had to compromise, and sometimes you had to take half-loaves. When that happened, it was not because someone had sold you out.

Secular Talk’s Kyle Kulinski takes very strong exception to this statement, and shows not just why it’s wrong, but also how it supports those who are basically right-wing corporatists like Shrillary and Obama. The Democrats do not have extreme positions that alienate voters, and their most extreme candidates – Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, would be considered centrist in most European countries. He states that if you talk to someone from Denmark, they’d say that Bernie Sanders was almost Conservative. Eighty per cent of Americans want the minimum wage to be raised. Free universal healthcare – Medicaid for all – is supported by 51 per cent. Sixty per cent of Americans do not want cuts to the social security and Medicaid budgets. But this is not reflected in official Democrat policy.

He states very strongly that Obama ‘doth protest too much’ when he claims that not having progressive policies is not due to politicians having sold out their political base. Both Hillary and Obama are heavily subsidised by Wall Street, and their policies reflect the concerns of the corporate donors, not want America, or at least, the Democrat base, wants. And so Obamacare, which was a Right-wing policy dreamed up by Richard Nixon, and supported by a whole raft of Republicans, including Newt Gingrich, is the furthest left America goes. But not to universal Medicaid. By the standards of everyone else in the world, Obama’s not ‘left-wing’. He’s centre-right.

Kulinski notes that there is a problem with authoritarian leftism, such as the demands for ‘safe spaces’ at colleges, and intolerant attempts to clamp down on free speech. But Obama’s not talking about that. He’s talking about policy. And the problem is that the corporatist system that pays him and Hillary so well is preventing America from developing the welfare network adopted by just about everywhere else in the world.

I’ve decided to reblog this, because it was noticeable that Obama during his visit to Britain last week met with Cameron, made his comments about why Britain should stay in the EU, but did not meet Jeremy Corbyn.

And I’m not surprised. Corbyn’s too left-wing for him. Obama is a creature of the corporatist system. That’s shown in his policies and his support for Shrillary. Corbyn represents the same threat to that right-wing anti-democratic business stance as Bernie Sanders does back in the Land of the Free. Hence the very telling snub.

G.D.H. Cole on the Demand for Welfare Reform and Its Use by the Tories

March 8, 2016

I found this piece by the radical Socialist G.D.H. Cole on the rising demand for the introduction of increased welfare provision in his 1942 book, Great Britain in the Post-War World (London: Victor Gollancz 1942).

Social reformers naturally echo this mood. The greater part of the progressive legislation of recent years has had to do with the removal or mitigation of the terrible insecurity which besets the lives of men; and programmes of progressive parties follow the same trend. Old age pensions, workmen’s pensions, health insurance, unemployment insurance, widow’s pensions, the assistance board, and many more specialised reforms are examples of the growth of what is sometimes called ‘eleemosynary’ legislation; and the demands for family allowances, guaranteed minimum wages, a national medical service, and a general tuning up of the existing social services figure largely in the reconstruction programmes of advanced parties, and seem likely to appeal to conservative opinion as well, as still the best way of foiling demands for more radical social change. it is widely felt that as long as capitalism can continue to make the concessions in the direction of social security, a large part of the electorate will rest content with the general structure of things as they are, and the more fundamental proposals for social change will meet with no great response among the main body of the people. (pp. 136-7).

Cole was writing while Beveridge was still working on his Report, and that passage shows the great demand there was from working people for what became the Welfare State. He’s also right in that the left wing of the Tory party did support it, although there was still opposition to it within Tory ranks. And Owen Jones made much the same point as Cole in his book Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, when he described how a Tory MP visiting Oxford confessed that his party hung on to power by conceding ‘just enough’ to satisfy the working class hunger for change.

Since then, the Tories have found, following Thatcher, that they were able to repeal all the reforms that have benefited the working class over the past half-century and more, and since Thatcher have been trying to privatise the health service. It stands in the way of corporate profit, and they have learned that they can roll back welfare provision if they maintain the illusion that they are somehow retaining or reforming it at the same time.

And so they’re destroying not just the health service and the welfare state, and plunging millions into poverty, in order to restore the corporate order and social hierarchy.

The Young Turks on Fox News Attacking Obama’s Plan for Free Community College Tuition

February 24, 2016

This is another example of a policy by the Democrats that should be taken up over here. And of the right-wing rage that would accompany it if it ever was. The clip comes from a year ago (2015) and shows Steve Doocy and the rest of Fox and Friends getting very annoyed with Obama. That in itself is no surprise. What is interesting is the reason this time round. Obama had the sheer audacity to state that he was going to make federal funds available to pay for two years’ tuition at community colleges. The federal authorities would pay for three-quarters’ of the tuition fees for those two years, and the individual state would be required to pay the rest. This would mean, according to one of the pundits on the TYT panel, that Americans would save on $15,000 tuition fees each year for those two years.

Doocy on Fox and Friends can’t stand it. He states that he’s only just finished paying off his college fees, and doesn’t see why anyone else should get the chance of a free higher education. The Fox panel also shout that if you’ve just got a baby now, you’re not just going to pay for their education, but someone else’s as well. Students shouldn’t have the right to a free education, because nothing is free.

The Turks’ panel of John Iadarola, Dave Rubin, Jimmy Dore and R.J. Eskow give that attitude very short-shrift. They point out that the estimated $60 billion it’s supposedly going to cost is actually the total amount the American state spends on education. They also point out that investing in education is the way Finland actually boosted its economy by educating its people. They also make the point that the money is better spent on education, which will also ultimately benefit everyone in the areas the students in which the students are studying, than just simply giving it to millionaires in the form of tax cuts.

As for the line that present-day students shouldn’t have it, because it didn’t exist way back when, Iadarola states that this is a profoundly un-American attitude. He states that when American introduced Social Security, nobody argued against it’s introduction because, hey, their aunt had to scrimp and save and go without, so why should others have it easy. Or they came to America as indentured servants or slaves, so why should indentured servitude or slavery be ended. People generally want things to be better for the next generation than they are now, not the same or worse. And in the case of education, they certainly don’t agree that something that important, where primary and secondary education are free, should also be made more expensive to stop people taking it up.

As for Steve Doocy, they point out that he’s 58 years old, and attended one of the better American universities. He’d therefore still have to pay his tuition fees if this came in, because he did not go to Community College. Their producer also makes the point that Doocy was at College in the 1970s, so there’s no way he has only just paid off his student debt. And they also argue that the average student debt is so large, $20-30,000, that the only way students can afford to pay it off is for the luck 0.1% to become Fox News presenters.

I’ve reblogged this because British students are now in the same position since Bliar’s government introduced tuition fees, and the Lib-Dem-Tory Coalition hiked them up massively. In the case of Bliar, he was a member of the British-American Project, a Reaganite initiative for schooling the next generation of British politicians. He and the other leaders of New Labour were impressed with Reaganite American attitudes and policies. In the case of Cameron and Clegg, they’re Thatcherite toffs, who resent the working classes getting above themselves and having opportunities which they feel should rightly belong solely to the well-heeled. And it is a Thatcherite policy. I can remember it being discussed when the Iron Lady was doing her best to destroy everything decent in British political culture. Mind you, there were certain figures in the Labour party even then, who supported it, like David Cox, the Labour MP for Hartcliffe in Bristol.

It’s slightly ironic that as British politics has moved to the right with New Labour, so parts of the Democrats have moved to the Left. This particular policy is rather more left-wing, for example, than the current policy in Britain.

I’ve also reblogged this because I’ve also heard the refrain directed against certain policies over this side of the Atlantic, that people shouldn’t have particular benefits, ’cause ‘we never had it in our day.’ And the reply should be the same: it’s not an argument, as people should want to make things better, as The Young Turks have said about education above.

Secular Talk on Marco Rubio’s Claim that the Republicans ‘Are Not the Party of the Rich’

February 21, 2016

It seems that Marco Rubio, one of the Republican presidential candidates, has taken a leaf out of the Conservatives’ book from over here in Blighty. He gave a speech claiming that the idea that the Republicans were the party of the rich, and the Democrats were the party of the middle class and workers was ‘the biggest lie’. This is pretty much the line the Tories are peddling over this side of the Atlantic. Cameron has been loudly yelling that the Conservatives are now the true party of aspiring working people. So in the interests of attacking Conservatives on both sides of the Pond, here’s what Secular Talk’s Kyle Kulinski says about Rubio’s claim.

He points out that their claim to be the party of the poor is based on their campaign for tax cuts. The idea is that once people start earning, they’ll keep more of what they earn through the cuts in taxes the Republicans have given them. Except when the Republicans talk about tax cuts, they don’t mean for the poor. Kulinski points out that Obama cut taxes for 90 per cent of Americans and raised taxes on the rich. By contrast, McCain cut taxes, but only for the rich.

He also points out that the idea that a flat rate tax is a fair tax is also a myth, as in effect it actually raises taxes for the poor. Once you do the numbers, it’s always a regressive tax, according to economists. For example, if the Republicans say that they’re going to replace taxes with a flat rate of 15% for everyone, it sounds fair. However, in practice it’s a rise in taxes for everyone with an income under $50,000. It’s another tax cut to the rich.

Furthermore, the Democrats are more likely to spend money on safety net programmes, which benefit the poor and middle class, like Medicare, Medicaid, social security and so on. The Republicans, by contrast, don’t really want to spend money on any of that, except when it’s bailing out their corporate donors. Then the Republican attitude that capitalism is virtuous because it punishes the bad and rewards the good goes out the window. The banks wrecked themselves and trashed the economy, and the Republicans couldn’t rush in fast enough to give them money, because they paid for their campaigns.

This is all true, and applies pretty much to the Tories and Labour over here. The Tories are all about cutting welfare spending. These are welfare programmes that actually help the poor, and the working and middle classes. Not the rich. Under the Tories, the tax burden for the poor has actually risen as tax cuts have benefited the rich. And the Tories over here also like to talk about flat rate taxes. Remember when they were loudly hailing the ‘Community Charge’ – Maggie’s poll tax as ‘democratic’, because everyone paid the same? It was a flat rate, and so in effect raised taxes for working people. Some of the Tories were naturally enthusiastic about it, because it meant they paid the same tax for their mansions as ordinary people in their semi-detached and terraced homes.

And as for the ‘aspiration’ the Tories are making much of, social mobility has stopped. It was pretty much stagnant under Bliar and New Labour, and Clinton in America. It’s completely stopped now. All due to Neoliberal economic policies.

So Rubio, the Republicans and Cameron’s Conservatives are all wrong. They are the party of the rich, and the Democrats and Labour are the party of the poor and middle class. Don’t be taken in by the propaganda that it’s otherwise.