Posts Tagged ‘Tax Credits’

End Workfare Now! Part 1

June 20, 2017

This is the text of another pamphlet I wrote a year or so ago against the highly exploitative workfare industry. As the pamphlet explains, workfare, or ‘welfare to work’, is the system that provides industry with cheap, unemployed temporary labour under the guise of getting the jobless back into work by giving them work experience. If the unemployed person refuses, he or she is thrown off benefit.

These temporary jobs go nowhere, and it’s been proven that the unemployed are actually far better off looking for jobs on their own than using workfare. And it’s very similar to other systems of supposed voluntary work and forced labour, such as the labour colonies set up in Britain in 1905, the Reichsarbeitsdienst in Nazi Germany, and the use of forced labour against the ‘arbeitscheu’ – the ‘workshy’, as well as the compulsory manual labour required of all citizens in Mao’s china during the Cultural Revolution, and the Gulags in Stalin’s Russia.

Mike over at Vox Political has blogged against it, so has Johnny Void and the Angry Yorkshireman of Another Angry Voice, and many other left-wing bloggers. It’s another squalid policy which New Labour and the Tories took over from Reagan and Bill Clinton.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised to get rid of the work capability tests. I hope also that under him, the Labour party will also get rid of this vile policy, so that big corporations like Poundland and supermarkets like Tesco’s will have to take on workers and pay them a decent wage, rather than exploiting desperate and jobless workers supplied by the Thatcherite corporate state.

End Workfare Now!

Workfare is one of the most exploitative aspects of the contemporary assault on the welfare state and the unemployed. It was advocated in the 1980s by the Republicans under Ronald Reagan in America, and in Britain by Thatcher’s Conservatives. In 1979 the Tory party ranted about the need to ‘restore the will to work’. Geoffrey Howe, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, declared that ‘The Government and the vast majority of the British people want hard work and initiative to be properly rewarded and are vexed by disincentives to work’. At its heart is the attitude that the unemployed should be forced to work for their benefits, as otherwise they are getting ‘something for nothing’. Very many bloggers and activists for the poor and unemployed, including Vox Political, Johnny Void, Another Angry Voice, and myself have denounced it as another form of slavery. It’s used to provide state-subsidised, cheap labour for big business and charities, including influential Tory donors like Sainsbury’s. And at times it crosses the line into true slavery. Under the sanctions system, an unemployed person is still required to perform workfare, even if the jobcentre has sanctioned them, so that they are not receiving benefits. Workfare recipients – or victims – have no control over where they are allocated or what jobs they do. The government was challenged in the courts by a geology graduate, who was forced to work in Poundland. The young woman stated that she did not object to performing unpaid work. She, however, had wanted to work in a museum, and if memory serves me correctly, had indeed got a place at one. She was, however, unable to take up her unpaid position there because of the Jobcentre’s insistence she labour for Poundland instead. A young man also sued the government, after he was sanctioned for his refusal to do 30 hours a week unpaid labour for six months for the Community Action Programme. The High and Appeal Courts ruled in the young people’s favour. They judged that the government had indeed acted illegally, as the law did not contain any stipulations for when and how such work was to be performed.

Iain Duncan Smith, the notorious head of the Department of Work and Pensions, was outraged. He called the decision ‘rubbish’ and said, ‘There are a group of people out there who think they are too good for this kind of stuff .. People who think it is their right take benefit and do nothing for it – those days are over.’ This is rich coming from IDS, who was taking over a million pounds in farm subsidies from the EU. Eventually, Smith got sick of the criticism he was taking for the government’s welfare policies, and flounced off early in 2016 moaning about how unfair it all was that he should get the blame, when the notorious Work Capability Tests inflicted on the elderly and disabled were introduced by New labour.

Those forced into workfare are in no sense free workers, and it similarly makes a nonsense of the pretense that this somehow constitutes ‘voluntary work’, as this has been presented by the government and some of the participating charities

The political scientist Guy Standing is also extremely critical of workfare in his book, A Precariat Charter, demanding its abolition and making a series of solid arguments against it. He states that it was first introduced in America by the Republicans in Wisconsin, and then expanded nationally to the rest of the US by Bill Clinton in his Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. It was part of his campaign to ‘end welfare as we know it’. Single parents receiving social assistance were required to take low-paying jobs after two years. Legislation was also passed barring people from receiving welfare payments for more than five years in their entire lives.

David Cameron, unsurprisingly, was also a fan of the Wisconsin system, and wanted to introduce it over here. In 2007 he made a speech to the Tory faithful at the party conference, proclaiming ‘We will say to people that if you are offered a job and it’s a fair job and one that you can do and you refuse it, you shouldn’t get any welfare.’ This became part of Coalition policy towards the unemployed when they took power after the 2010 elections.’ Two years later, in 2012, Boris Johnson, speaking as mayor of London, declared that he was going to use EU money from the Social Fund to force young adults between 18 and 24 to perform 13 weeks of labour without pay if they were unemployed. In June that year David Cameron also declared that there was a need to end ‘the nonsense of paying people more to stay at home than to get a job – and finally making sure that work really pays. Ed Miliband’s Labour party also joined in. Liam Byrne, the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, declared that

Labour would ensure that no adult will be able to live on the dole for over two years and no young person for over a year. They will be offered a real job with real training, real prospects and real responsibility … People would have to take this responsibility or lose benefits.

This was echoed by Ed Balls, who said

A One Nation approach to welfare reform means government has a responsibility to help people into work and support for those who cannot. But those who can work must be required to take up jobs or lose benefits as such – no ifs or buts.

Forced Labour for the Unemployed in History

Standing traces the antecedents of workfare back to the English poor law of 1536 and the French Ordonnance de Moulins of twenty years later, which obliged unemployed vagabonds to accept any job that was offered them. He states that the direct ancestor is the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, the infamous legislation that, under the notion of ‘less eligibility’, stipulated that those receiving support were to be incarcerated in the workhouse, where conditions were deliberately made much harsher in order to deter people from seeking state
support, rather than paid work. This attitude is also reflected in contemporary attitudes that, in order to ‘make work pay’, have demanded that welfare support should be much less than that received for paid work. This has meant that welfare payments have become progressively less as the various measure to make the labour market more flexible – like zero hours contracts – drove down wages. The workhouse system was supplemented in 1905 by the Unemployed Workmen Act, supported, amongst others, by Winston Churchill. This directed unemployed young men into labour, so that they should not be ‘idle’ and be ‘under control’. Nor were leading members of the early Labour party averse to the use of force. Sidney and Beatrice Webb, two of the founders of the Fabian Society, were also in favour of sending the unemployed to ‘labour colonies’, chillingly close to the forced labour camps which became such as feature of the Nazi and Communist regimes. Weimar Germany in the 1920s and ’30s also developed a system of voluntary work to deal with the problems of mass unemployment. This was taken over by the Nazis and became compulsory for all Germans from 19-25 as the Reicharbeitsdienst, or Imperial Labour Service It was mainly used to supply labour for German agriculature. Because of its universal nature, the Reicharbeitsdienst had no stigma attached to it, and indeed was seen as part of the new, classless Germany that was being created by Hitler. In a speech to the Service’s workers, Hitler declared that there would be no leader, who had not worked his way up through their ranks. Much harsher was the Nazi’s treatment of the serially unemployed. They were declared arbeitscheu – the German word, which forms the basis of the English ‘workshy’. These individuals were sent to the concentration camps, where they were identified with a special badge on their pyjamas, just like those marking out Jews, gay men, Socialists and trade unionists, and so on.

Liam Byrne also harked back to the Webbs to support his argument for workfare as Labour party policy. He stated

If you go back to the Webb report, they were proposing detention colonies for people refusing to take work … All the way through our history there has been an insistence on the responsibility to work if you can. Labour shouldn’t be any different now. We have always been the party of the responsibility to work as well.

The Workfare Scheme

The result of this is that many unemployed people have been placed on the Mandatory Work Activity – MWA – scheme, which requires them to perform four weeks of unpaid work for a particular company, organisation or charity. The scheme also includes the disabled. Those now judged capable of performing some work are placed in the Work-Related Activity group, and required perform some unpaid labour in order to gain ‘experience’. If they do not do so, they may lose up to 70 per cent of their benefits.

This has created immense fear among the unemployed and disabled. Standing quotes one man with cerebral palsy, who was so afraid of being sanctioned for not performing the mandatory work, that he felt physically sick. Mental health professionals – psychiatrists and psychologists, have also released reports attacking the detrimental effect the stress of these tests are having on the mentally ill. So far they have estimated that upwards of a quarter of a million people with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety have had their condition made worse – sometimes very much worse – through the stress of taking these tests.

The system also affects those in low-paid part-time jobs or on zero hours contracts. These must prove that they are looking for more working hours or a better paid job. If they do not do so, they may lose benefits or tax credits. In 2013 the Tory-Lib Dem government made it even harder for people to claim tax credits by raising the number of working hours a week, for which tax credits could not be claimed, from 16 to 24.

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Guy Standing’s Arguments against Workfare: Part 1

August 8, 2016

Workfare is one of the most exploitative aspects of the contemporary assault on the welfare state and the unemployed. It was advocated in the 1980s by the Republicans under Ronald Reagan in America, and in Britain by Thatcher’s Conservatives. At its heart is the attitude that the unemployed should be forced to work for their benefits, as otherwise they are getting ‘something for nothing’. Very many bloggers and activists for the poor and unemployed, including Mike over at Vox Political, Johnny Void, the Angry Yorkshireman, and myself have denounced it as another form of slavery. It’s used to provide state-subsidised, cheap labour for big business and charities, including influential Tory donors like Sainsbury’s. And at times it crosses the line into true slavery. Under the sanctions system, an unemployed person is still required to perform workfare, even if the jobcentre has sanctioned them, so that they are not receiving benefits. Workfare recipients – or victims – have no control over where they are allocated or what jobs they do. The government was challenged in the courts by a geology graduate, who was forced to work in Poundland. The young woman stated that she did not object to performing unpaid work. She, however, had wanted to work in a museum, and if memory serves me correctly, had indeed got a place at one. She was, however, unable to take up her unpaid position there because of the Jobcentre’s insistence she labour for Poundland instead. A young man also sued the government, after he was sanctioned for his refusal to do 30 hours a week unpaid labour for six months for the Community Action Programme. The High and Appeal Courts ruled in the young people’s favour. They judged that the government had indeed acted illegally, as the law did not contain any stipulations for when and how such work was to be performed.

Iain Duncan Smith, the notorious head of the Department of Work and Pensions, was outraged. He called the decision ‘rubbish’ and said, ‘There are a group of people out there who think they are too good for this kind of stuff .. People who think it is their right take benefit and do nothing for it – those days are over.’ This is rich coming from IDS, who was taking over a million pounds in farm subsidies from the EU. Eventually, Smith got sick of the criticism he was taking for the government’s welfare policies, and flounced off early in 2016 moaning about how unfair it all was that he should get the blame, when the notorious Work Capability Tests inflicted on the elderly and disabled were introduced by New labour.

They are in no sense free workers, and it similarly makes a nonsense of the pretense that this somehow constitutes ‘voluntary work’, as this has been presented by the government and some of the participating charities.

The political scientist Guy Standing is also extremely critical of workfare in his book, A Precariat Charter, demanding its abolition and making a series of solid arguments against it. He states that it was first introduced in America by the Republicans in Wisconsin, and then expanded nationally to the rest of the US by Bill Clinton in his Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. It was part of his campaign to ‘end welfare as we know it’. Single parents receiving social assistance were required to take low-paying jobs after two years. Legislation was also passed barring people from receiving welfare payments for more than five years in their entire lives.

David Cameron, unsurprisingly, was also a fan of the Wisconsin system, and wanted to introduce it over here. In 2007 he made a speech to the Tory faithful at the party conference, proclaiming ‘We will say to people that if you are offered a job and it’s a fair job and one that you can do and you refuse it, you shouldn’t get any welfare.’ This became part of Coalition policy towards the unemployed when they took power after the 2010 elections. Two years later, in 2012, Boris Johnson, speaking as mayor of London, declared that he was going to use EU money from the Social Fund to force young adults between 18 and 24 to perform 13 weeks of labour without pay if they were unemployed.

Ed Miliband’s Labour party also joined in. Liam Byrne, the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, declared that

Labour would ensure that no adult will be able to live on the dole for over two years and no young person for over a year. They will be offered a real job with real training, real prospects and real responsibility … People would have to take this responsibility or lose benefits.

This was echoed by Ed Balls, who said

A One Nation approach to welfare reform means government has a responsibility to help people into work and support for those who cannot. But those who can work must be required to take up jobs or lose benefits as such – no ifs or buts.

Standing traces the antecedents of workfare back to the English poor law of 1536 and the French Ordonnance de Moulins of twenty years later, which obliged unemployed vagabonds to accept any job that was offered them. He states that the direct ancestor is the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, the infamous legislation that, under the notion of ‘less eligibility’, stipulated that those receiving support were to be incarcerated in the workhouse, where conditions were deliberately made much harsher in order to deter people from seeking state support, rather than paid work. This attitude is also reflected in contemporary attitudes that, in order to ‘make work pay’, have demanded that welfare support should be much less than that received for paid work. This has meant that welfare payments have become progressively less as the various measure to make the labour market more flexible – like zero hours contracts – drove down wages. The workhouse system was supplemented in 1905 by the Unemployed Workmen Act, supported, amongst others, by Winston Churchill. This directed unemployed young men into labour, so that they should not be ‘idle’ and be ‘under control’. Nor were leading members of the early Labour party averse to the use of force. Sidney and Beatrice Webb, two of the founders of the Fabian Society, were also in favour of sending the unemployed to ‘labour colonies’, chillingly close to the forced labour camps which became such as feature of the Nazi and Communist regimes. Liam Byrne also harked back to the Webbs to support his argument for workfare as Labour party policy. He stated

If you go back to the Webb report, they were proposing detention colonies for people refusing to take work … All the way through our history there has been an insistence on the responsibility to work if you can. Labour shouldn’t be any different now. We have always been the party of the responsibility to work as well.

The result of this is that many unemployed people have been placed on the Mandatory Work Activity – MWA – scheme, which requires them to perform four weeks of unpaid work for a particular company, organisation or charity. The scheme also includes the disabled. Those now judged capable of performing some work are placed in the Work-Related Activity group, and required perform some unpaid labour in order to gain ‘experience’. If they do not do so, they may lose up to 70 per cent of their benefits.

This has created immense fear among the unemployed and disabled. Standing quotes one man with cerebral palsy, who was so afraid of being sanctioned for not performing the mandatory work, that he felt physically sick.

The system also affects those in low-paid part-time jobs or on zero hours contracts. These must prove that they are looking for more working hours or a better paid job. If they do not do so, they may lose benefits or tax credits. In 2013 the Tory-Lib Dem government made it even harder for people to claim tax credits by raising the number of working hours a week, for which tax credits could not be claimed, from 16 to 24.

Baroness Meacher on Austerity and Suicide

June 1, 2016

This is a short extract from a much longer interview on RT’s Going Underground, in which Baroness Meacher, a crossbench peer and former social worker, discusses her work organising the House of Lord’s blocks against the government’s attempts to remove £4.4 billion worth of tax credits from the working poor.

In this piece she talks about how she believes that the suicide rate will rise, specifically mentioning the poverty caused by rent rises. More people are being dragged to court for their inability to pay the rent. They are then convicted, and so have further court costs and fees added to their debts. Many of those so tried and convicted are disabled. The result, she predicts, will be that sadly more people will die by their own hand.

This is appalling, but I have no doubt that she’s correct, and this will happen unless this vile government is stopped. 590 people have already died in poverty due to the government stopping their disability benefit, thanks to the ‘welfare to work’ tests. Many of these, if you read the stats and biographies produced by Stilloaks and other disability rights bloggers and activists, were by their own hand. According to psychiatrists and psychologists, 290,000 people suffering from anxiety and depression have seen their mental state become worse.

This alone is a savage indictment of the lawless, vindictive, punitive and cruel attitude of Dave Cameron to the poorest in our society.

The Young Turks Examine Trump’s Alternative to Obamacare; and How It’ll Hurt the Poor

March 7, 2016

Donald Trump has been loudly proclaiming throughout his campaign that he’ll repeal Obamacare and replace it with his new, improved system. In this clip The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur, John Iadarola and Jimmy Dore go through his proposals to show how some of his ideas, which superficially sound good, will leave for the poor and long-term sick much worse off.

First off, Trump intends to repeal the mandate obliging the insurance companies to provide insurance for everyone. They note that this is a policy that not even the other Republicans wanted to be seen endorsing. Indeed, they were all for the mandate when it was a Republican policy. As soon as it was adopted by Obama, a Democrat, they turned against it. And Trump was just as fickle. They argue that he never in fact knew what the mandate was when he telling everyone that he supported it. When he found out that the other Republicans were against it, then he joined them and attacked it as well.

Trump’s proposed reforms would also remove the obligation of the insurance underwriters to charge the same for those with expensive or long-term illnesses. It would allow them to charge more for those with pre-existing illnesses.

They make the point that Trump was telling everyone that under his healthcare plans, no-one would be left to die in the street. But this is what his policies would lead to. They also point out that he doesn’t spell out what the consequences of this policies would be on his website, but it’s clear from reading the conditions he lays out for his health care plan that these are what would result. They also point out that Trump could say more or less anything, no matter how nonsensical or contradictory, provided he shouted it and used an insult. The only person, who actually bothered to tackle him about this in any detail was Marco Rubio, and then Trump folded, as he didn’t have an answer. Of course none of the Republicans have any idea what they’d replace Obamacare with. The only person who does is Bernie Sanders, who wants a system like the socialised medical services in Europe.

Trump also promises that he’ll make the cost of medical care tax-deductible. This looks good, but it’s another way of giving money to the rich and depriving the poor and middle class. It’s largely only the rich that itemise their taxes, which is one of the requirements of this part of Trump’s health care plans. Also, the poor and the middle class don’t actually make enough money to be able to pay enough in tax for deductions for the costs of medical care to be possible. It’s why Obamacare actually has tax credits for the poor and middle class. So this is another way in which the poor will lose out in favour of the rich if Trump gets in.

And finally there’s Trump’s plans to let people in one state be able to buy insurance in another. The Turks here point out that instead of promoting competition, what’ll happen is that all the insurance companies will move to the state with the lowest taxes and least regulations, like Delaware. The result will actually be less competition between firms, and less legal protection for insurance policy holders.

So Trumpcare will result in more people being uninsured and uninsurable. It won’t stop people dying in the street from lack of medical care. But on the other hand, it will benefit the rich while fooling the poor into thinking he’s doing something for them. Just like Conservatives and Republicans have done down the years.

SPEye Joe Shows that Tax Credit Cuts Will Increase Welfare Bill

November 3, 2015

Joe’s argument is that at the moment, there’s £24 billion of welfare benefits going unclaimed, a large chunk of which is Housing Benefit. This will have to be paid as part of the government’s Universal Credit, and people facing cuts in their tax credits will automatically turn to looking at what other benefits they can claim instead.

He describes the Tories’ calculations as like those made on the back of fag packets, or the harebrained schemes concocted by Top Cat. The article begins:

Will the tax credit cut of £4bn cost up to £20bn per year more?

Yes as households will now by consequence claim what they are entitled to in other unclaimed benefits and the tax credit (TC) policy will end up costing much more in overall welfare cost.

The policy is so back of a fag packet that it may as well have been developed by TC himself above – though of Top Cat and Benny the Ball I couldn’t say for definite which one is Osborne and which one is IDS. Cameron, however, is clearly Officer Dibble waving the truncheon of financial privilege as he will surely do soon!

Once again we find the Conservatives zeal on “welfare” resulting in a policy that is ill-conceived and ends up costing more: Just like the combined HB reforms of bedroom tax, benefit cap, LHA and SAR caps which collectively cost £1 billion more per year according to the IFS; the same think tank whose report into Tax Credits now has to be considered by the Conservatives.

The tax credit household is surely the definition of the “hardworking family” that politicians love to state and in taking away tax credits which give an incentive to work the system now provides a disincentive to take up work. So by way of consequence will tax credit households now seek to claim the minimum £24 billion per year that goes unclaimed in welfare to compensate for the tax credit cuts?

In political terms attacking the low paid -the epitome of political rhetoric in the “hardworking family” – was always mindblowingly stupid and perhaps only serves to show how untouchable the Conservatives believe they are in their megalomania on welfare issues; or conversely, it exposes just how little scrutiny and opposition their welfare policies have had to date!

Now benefit claimants having access to unclaimed benefit money is what should happen. But with this government, I’m not so sure. The reason why most of this money is unclaimed is probably because the government has made it very difficult for anyone to find out what is available and just what they are entitled to. It’s an old tactic going all the way back to Thatcher and Major. Cuts would be made, information on benefits either withheld or otherwise difficult to acquire, and then at an election, lo! and behold! The government starts telling people how much benefit money is going unclaimed, and then starts boasting about how its committed to supporting the poor. Despite having done everything in its power to cut benefits over the previous four or five years.

I’ve reblogged Mike’s article about 300,000 people suddenly being sanctioned without warning, because the letters they were supposed to receive informing them of their sanction and how to appeal against it had not been sent out, due to an ‘administrative error’. How very convenient! I expect something similar will happen to information about what other benefits are available to cash-strapped claimants very soon.

As for Top Cat, I used to love that cartoon when I was a lad. Yeah, it was sort of a junior version of Sergeant Bilko with anthropomorphised cats, but it was funny, and cheered up many tea-time for children back in the ’70s. Unlike the Tories, who would like to put them back up chimneys as sweeps, where they belong, in line with their policy of bringing back Victorian values. So far, these seem to be hypocrisy, mass poverty, starvation, and rickets.

Tory Lies Alert! House of Lords Purpose to Check Taxation, Not Laws

November 1, 2015

Tory Lies Drawing

I’ve come to the conclusion that the Tory party is constitutionally incapable of telling the truth. They’re so used to lying that they’d tell the public that Paris is the capital of Luxembourg, or that Schleswig-Holstein was a type of beer brewed in Iowa, and that Boris Johnson was Qahless, Emperor of the Klingons, if they could get away with it. Or if one of their paymasters in big business paid them.

Last week they were firmly trounced by the House of Lords, which threw out their plans to cut tax credit for the very poorest families. As a result, they’ve thrown their teddies out their prams, and promised to go round the Lord’s to give them a good kicking. David Cameron started ranting about how ‘undemocratic’ the House was, and how he was going to flood it with good and loyal Tories, who would all vote his way in future, so there!

And yar, boo, sucks to the rest of us.

Have I Got News For You on Friday pointed out that the House of Lords already has 800 or so members. This is large enough without the further 100 Cameron is planning to pack in there.

They also showed a clip of a Tory official, giving his learned opinion on the constitutional origins and purpose of the House of Lords. By ‘ learned opinion’, I do, of course, mean ‘lies’.

The official stated that the purpose of the House of Lords was simply to revise legislation. It’s scope was strictly limited to taxation. The House of Lords had exceeded the scope of its functions, and needed to be reformed. QED.

Not quite.

The House of Lords is basically a remnant of the feudal grand council, going all the way back to the witangemot, in Anglo-Saxon times, which monarchs called to advise them. It is not limited to examining matters of taxation, and has always had the power to throw out legislation. It may only do this three times. It constitutional purpose is to examine and amend legislation passed by the Lower House, in accordance with the theory of the separation of powers. It is also designed to act as a constitutional check on the power of the monarchy.

It was the House of Commons that was originally set up to examine matters of taxation. It was established by Simon de Montfort during the thirteenth century. The English Crown wanted to raise taxes, and the aristocracy refused to do so unless they had a say in how it was spent. The House of Commons is basically one section of the feudal grand council, which has been amended so that its members are elected, rather than sit by hereditary right or the monarch’s pleasure. And its constitutional function was to check the oligarchic power of the Lords.

Of course, the Tories have absolutely no objections to oligarchy, and really want to bring it all back. Hence their reforms to the registration process, which will leave about ten million people disenfranchised. They do, however, have a problem with members of the House of Lords, who suddenly wake up and do their constitutional duty, rather than simply collecting their expenses and going home. Hence all the fury from the Tory benches.

Not everyone was taken by the guff the Tories have been spouting about the origins of parliament and the British constitution. On the clip shown by Have I Got News For You, the lady MP standing next to the Tory was most spectacularly unimpressed, as his lies flowed out of him. She responded by pulling faces. It’s probably the best response possible to this latest barrage of Tory lies.

Of course, they’re hoping that people will be taken in by it. After all, they’ve always considered themselves the natural party of government, and Tory clubs up and down the country have called themselves ‘Constitutional Clubs’. This assault on the constitution and the British people’s constitutional liberties shows that they aren’t. But they won’t tell you that, just more lies.

Oliver Cameron Plans to Purge Parliament

October 28, 2015

Since the Lord’s threw out Cameron and co.’s plans to end tax credit for the low paid, he and Tories have muttering about how ‘undemocratic’ they are and how the Upper House needs to be reformed. Among those to join in the fulminations against the Lord’s was Bojo. According to the Tories, the Lord’s are only there to advise on amendments to legislation.

Not quite. They’re part of the system of checks and balances that were built in the British constitution. Part of this is the separation of powers – the legislative should be separate from the executive, and all that. They have always had the power to block legislation, but if I recall correctly they can only do so three times. Nor is their objections to legislation passed by a Tory dominated parliament anything even remotely unique. I can remember when the Lord’s under Thatcher regularly blocked her bills, causing her to rant even more about ‘Wets’.

Cameron’s ignorance of the British constitution isn’t surprising. This is, after all, the man, who said he didn’t know what the Magna Carta was on American TV. He probably thinks ‘constitutional checks’ should be spelt with ‘que’ in the second word, and are what he and his lackeys get paid by corporations for passing laws in their interests. Like all the Tory MPs, who blocked attempts to curb tobacco and alcohol advertising, because they sat on the board, or received donations, from the breweries and companies like British American Tobacco.

As for reforming the House of Lords, this is another piece of Tory hypocrisy. Remember when Tony Blair introduced his reforms for the House of Lords, so that the second chamber received ‘people’s peers’ nominated by Blair himself? The Tory press ranted at the time about this foul attack on the British constitution. The Lords, according to some on the right, like Roger Scruton, if memory serves, were held to be supremely fitted for their role, as they had been brought up to it through breeding and education. It was almost a eugenics argument, that somehow the peerage were all members of some master race. I’m sure that’s how they view themselves, but it certainly not obvious from some of the prize items on display in Cameron’s cabinet. Like that scion of the Baronet of Ballymoney, George Osborne.

There were even dark comparisons with Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell also attacked the English constitution by getting rid of the House of Lords, and altering the conduct of elections so as to exclude his enemies in the lower house. Quite apart from killing half the population of Ireland. He virtually ruled as a military dictator until his death and the restoration of the monarchy.

Now Cameron, from the party that has always defended aristocratic privilege, has decided that the House that enshrines the privilege is ‘undemocratic’ and needs to be reformed. How things change! There are further comparisons with Cromwell. The Lord Protector also hated and abolished the Anglican Church. Cameron has also had a battle with the churches. In the case of Cromwell, it was because the Church of England was, in his opinion, too close to that of Rome. Cameron is much less sectarian – he’s been under fire from just about all of them, because of the terrible effects of his reforms on the poor.

As for being a democratically elected lower house, even that claim is dubious. Much of the country stayed away from the polls, meaning that the result would be invalid under the government’s trade union legislation. Further reforms from the Tories could lead to as many as 10 million people losing their right to vote. The anti-racist organisation, Hope Not Hate, has started a campaign to get people to register. See their report at http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/voter-registration-report/.

So this is just more hypocrisy and attacks on democracy and the constitution from a party, which has always hated the proles voting, and really can’t stand it when their own side, the Toffs, side with them.

For many British, and particularly Irish historians, Cromwell was a figure of hatred and revulsion, a proto-Fascist military dictator, complete with short hair cut and the goose-step. Cameron is becoming increasingly like him. How long before he starts calling himself ‘Lord Protector’, after the great revolutionary?

More Lies from Osborne – ‘We’re Working for a High Wage Economy’

October 28, 2015

Is George Osborne capable of uttering even one sentence without lying? From the evidence presented on last night’s news, it appears he finds even this basic exercise in honesty difficult. Osbo and the Tories are furious that the Lords had the temerity to throw out their cut in tax credits for the low paid. In an interview on the Beeb’s Six O’clock news last night, Osbo sought to reassure working Britain his plan to make the poor pay more tax so the rich don’t have to was right and good. During his spiel he mouthed this sentence

‘We’re working for a low-welfare, high-pay economy’.

This is clearly a half-truth, if not in part an outright lie. Yes, it’s true they’re working for a low welfare society. They’ve cut benefits left, right and centre, making the poor even poorer and driving many into poverty and destitution. But a high pay economy? Really?

No. Not really. Not at all. The Tories have been urging wage restraint since before Thatcher’s time. It’s following the great Tory idol that they and the Blairites have adopted a policy of keeping wages at or below the rate of inflation. The only time they got close to advocating high wages was when the election was looming, and Cameron went around telling employers to pay their workers more. This vanished shortly after they won, and in any case, the employers comprehensively ignored it. They never meant it in the first place, though I don’t doubt that it’ll be swallowed hook, line and sinker by the people who read the Sun, Sport and Express.

In the meantime, the Tories will just keep lying to us. I’d say that the mendacity of this government is truly astonishing, but the sheer level of lying done by them has exceeded my boggle factor, so that nothing they do now surprises me. Disgusts and appals, but not surprises.

Radical Balladry: Folk Protest Songs against the Credit Trap

May 31, 2014

On Thursday I published a post about the way the Bulgarian peasants’ party, BANU, attempted to provide reasonable credit from banks lent to peasant credit cooperatives as a way of destroying the moneylenders that had plagued Bulgarian rural society, as a result of whom hundreds of villages had found themselves in serious debt. I suggested that we needed something similar to act against usurers, such as Wonga and the other payday loan companies. Thousands of people in Britain have now also found themselves heavily in debt because of the way they have been forced to rely on such companies, as well as criminal loan sharks, because of low wages and the repeated slashing of benefits by successive governments. People have also been caught in the credit trap through the absurdly easy terms on which it was available during the boom years. Advertisers must share their responsibility for this, has the television adverts for the services of Wonga and the various credit cards suggest that this is all free money, which the borrower doesn’t need to worry about paying back. It’s a seductive message, and all too many people have been taken in and deceived by it.

Jess has also commented on this post with her encyclopaedic knowledge of the long tradition of radical British folk music. She notes that there was an outcry at the way many people were finding themselves in debt through hire purchase when this was introduced in the 1950s. Then as now, Right-wing think tanks attempted to justify the creation of easily available credit, which could lead the poor and vulnerable into a never-ending cycle of debt. This indeed occurred, and was bitterly criticised in song by Graham Gouldman and Jeff Beck. Jess writes

“Britain too in the 21st century has seen the return of the loan shark and moneylender as thousands, perhaps millions, have got into serious debt. Some of this has been through the absurdly easy credit that was offered in the boom years, ”

The availability of ‘absurdly easy credit’ was one of the cornerstones of the neo-liberal agenda.

Way back in 1958 the IEA published their apologia for the money-lending industry ‘Hire Purchase in a Free Society’ [Harris, Naylor & Seldon]

A typical IEA publication of the period, it contains a few gems;

“Social Impact;
Criticism of hire purchase has not come only from moralists who condemn the practice on the grounds that it ensnares people into debts they cannot afford to repay’ morphs into, with an aside from Walter Greenwood’s condemnation of ‘tick’ in ‘Love on The Dole’ to the assertion that;

“Harry [the character condemned by supposedly old-fashioned notions of debt as a weekly ‘mill-stone around the debtors’ neck’ got his new suit…”

Just how deeply the tally-man was disliked, generally, is suggested in this song from Graham Gouldman, (recorded with great reluctance by Jeff Beck)

“To our house on a Friday
A man calls every week
We give him a pound
When he calls on his round

To our house on a Friday
A man calls every week
We give and we get
And we’re always in debt

With his plan he carries all we’re needing
With his plan most anything is ours
He’s the Tallyman, oh yeah
He’s the Tallyman

Shoes and socks, hard wearing for the children
Village frocks all in the latest style
From the Tallyman, oh yeah
From the Tallyman

To our house on a Friday
A man calls every week
We’ve made him a friend
So he’s here to the end

From cradle to grave
We expect him to say
Here’s tick to the end
So we’ve made him a friend
Here’s tick to the end
So we’ve made him a friend”

[Beck objected to Mickie Most’s insistence on a ‘catchy’ follow-up to ‘Silver Lining’ and hated the production, rather than Graham Gouldman’s lyrics]

The debt problem is likely to become even more severe with the government’s cuts to the buffer amount of money allowed to families before they are considered to have been overpaid tax credit, and the use of private debt collectors to pursue the poor, who have been mistakenly overpaid. So this is another song that could reasonably be revived and adapted to suit the new conditions created by Wonga and the like, and now the Inland Revenue.

As for the latter, one of the experts on Japanese monster movies on TV – I think it may have been the great Phil Jupitus – once said that the only time you ever heard cheering during a Godzilla movie was when the epic fire-breathing radio-active dragon from the depths trashed the headquarters of their Inland Revenue in Tokyo. If only something similar would happen to the house of whichever vicious Tory apparatchik dreamed up this bill.

Godzilla

Godzilla: First the Japanese Inland Revenue offices in Tokyo, but will he trash Osbo? We live in hope!

Tax Credits and Debt Collection Agencies: Peachy’s Comment

May 31, 2014

In my last post, I put up Leoni al-Ajeel’s personal account of her problems with the authorities claiming that she had been overpaid tax credits on Mike’s piece on this problem over at Vox Political. The Coalition has passed legislation providing for the use of debt collection agencies against those the bureaucrats at Whitehall have deemed to have been overpaid them. The original legislation regarding overpaid tax credits provided for a buffer to give claimants the benefit of the doubt and so allow for the possibility that calculations they had been overpaid may in fact be mistaken. This leeway has been scaled back, according to Mike, to £5,000, making many more people vulnerable to claims and mistakes by the Inland Revenue.

It has seemed to very many of the commenters on Mike’s blog that this was another attempt by the government to exploit the poor, and also to deter them from claiming benefit by creating the fear of the official persecution that would ensue if they did so, and were then pursued by the authorities for debt. As well as Leoni al-Ajeel’s personal account of persecution by the authorities, another commenter, Peachy, has also posted a comment I feel is worth repeating here. Not only do they give their personal experience, but they also cite history and literature – Frank McCourt’s critically praised Angela’s Ashes– to show how the fear of debt has been used to keep the poor from claiming benefits that would raise them out of poverty. She writes

Creating the fear of claiming a benefit: I remember discussing that problem at college, and how it led to atrocious suffering during the American Depression of the first part of the 20th century, and how resolving that was one of the top things FDR had to address. I also remember reading about it in Angela’s Ashes, and how it encouraged families into extreme deprivation that was harmful to their very life chances.

Increasingly I am suspicious: the people most at risk of falling into this trap are the self employed, whose wages are paid not by annual agreement, but by how many calls they get offering work. I have some experience of this with my husband, and how those already established in a field view the newcomers (even those completely out of their area), as infringing on their basic right to own an entire market and speciality. Given that both Tories and UKIP are the parties of this attitude, it seems logical that there are links in this policy.

Pull up the ladder boys: make the rich secure and the poor poorer.

(It’s also irrefutable proof that there is no intention to promote work in reality, as I well remember having to refuse overtime I would have liked in the fear it would cause a tax credit overpayment).

It’s another example of the Tory and Tory Democrat’s attempts to keep the working and lower middle classes in their place. The time is long overdue that this was stopped, and the Tories and their Lib Dem collaborators kicked out.