Posts Tagged ‘Wage Restraint’

‘I’ Newspaper: Some Wages Lower than in 2008

December 14, 2018

Today’s I, for 14th December 2018, has a little piece on page 2 reporting that in some areas of the UK wages are a third lower than they were a decade ago. The article reads

Wages are still a third lower in some parts of the UK than they were a decade ago, according to the Trades Union Congress. Its research suggests that the average worker has lost 11,800 pounds in real earnings since 2008. The biggest declines were in parts of London, Surrey, North Yorkshire and North Wales.

I’m not remotely surprised. Yesterday, Mike put up a piece on his blog laughing at Dominic Raab, who had scored a massive own goal by showing how wages had fallen and still not risen to their previous level under the Tories. It was one of the best pieces of political advertising that Corbyn and Labour could have wished for. But it also raises the question of how Raab could be so stupid that he thought such statistics were something to boast about.

Raab did, because he, and by implication, much of the Tory party, are so out of touch that they know no better. Raab and the others in his wretched party are very middle and upper middle class types, usually from senior management in industry, and particularly the financial sector. All the people they meet come from that same, very narrow social group. And that group welcomes low wages because it means higher profits for them. Plus the fact that the Tories have always promoted their low wage policy since the days of Thatcher by saying that wage restraint is necessary to combat inflation.

They don’t know, and aren’t really interested in knowing people from the less elevated sections of society, who are hit hard by this policy and find it difficult to cope. And so Raab and his fellow profiteers assume that low wages are such a self-evident good, that no-one will ever object if he puts up a graph showing how they’re still low. Because no-one they know, or consider worth knowing, has ever told them otherwise.

I can remember how there was a scandal about low wages back in the early 1990s under John Major. Incomes for some had risen, but those of the poorest sections of society had fallen. The Tories’ response, as satirised in Private Eye, was that someone had to be left behind. I’ve no doubt this attitude still persists. We’ve seen Tory politicos respond more recently to complaints of increasing poverty by arguing that this has nevertheless created Britain’s strong economy (sic). Well, it’s a strong economy that benefits only the super-rich one per cent.

Raab and his cronies are a disgusting, out of touch, predatory and complacent elite. Get them out!

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Ken Surin on How Privatisation Wrecked New Zealand’s Electricity Grid

December 14, 2017

Today’s Counterpunch has a very interesting piece by Ken Surin giving his selective impressions of New Zealand. Throughout the article he calls the country by its Maori name, Aotearoa, and part of the article is about the poverty and marginalisation that is particularly experienced by New Zealand’s indigenous people and Pacific Islanders. He begins the article with his reminiscences of on-pitch violence by the county police and county farmers’ teams when he played university rugby back in the ’60s. This has a tenuous connection to the rest of the article as two of his team mates came from the country. He then goes on to discuss the effects of neoliberalism on New Zealand. Reading his article, I got the impression that New Zealand did not suffer as much as other nations from the neoliberal agenda of privatisation, wage restraint, welfare cuts and rampant deregulation. But at the same time, he argues that it hasn’t done as much as it could either to stop and reverse it.

From this side of the Pacific, one of the most interesting pieces of the article is his description of the way privatisation wrecked the New Zealand electricity network when it was introduced, leading to a power outage, or outages, lasting five weeks.

Aucklanders of a certain age remember the Great Power Outage, symptomatic of their country’s dalliance with neoliberalism, that lasted for 5 weeks from late February 1998.

New Zealand’s electric industry had been deregulated, and the company running Auckland’s grid, Mercury Energy, had been formed in 1992. Mercury promptly downsized its workforce from 1,411 to 600, and skimped on cable maintenance to boost profits. At the time of the Great Power Outage, Mercury Energy was also busy trying to take over another electric utility, again to enhance revenues.

One of several assessments of the handling of the Outage by Mercury Energy and the city’s administration described their response, somewhat charitably, as “ad hoc”. They predicated their responses throughout the crisis on best-case scenarios, and were flummoxed when none materialized.

Practical preparation for worst-case scenarios costs money— duh! – and thus erodes profit margins.

Auckland’s electricity was/is supplied by 4 poorly maintained mega-cables (there have been five serious outages since the 1998 crisis), which failed in quick succession.

Traffic lights stopped working, ventilation systems broke down in the southern hemisphere summer, people were trapped for hours in elevators, food rotted in supermarkets, hospitals had to cancel operations, emergency services were put under extreme pressure, workers had to hike up 20 floors in high-rise buildings to get to their offices, and giant generators had to be flown in from Australia to tide the city over while the mega-cables were repaired over the course of the 5 weeks.

Harsh jokes were made about Auckland’s Third World electricity grid. One example: what did Aucklanders use before candles and oil lamps? Answer: electricity.

The mayor, whose city was becoming a laughing stock, and whose competence was questioned as the crisis dragged on, lost his bid for reelection soon afterwards, while Mercury’s CEO died of a heart attack at his desk.

Neoliberalism can be death-dealing, even for its beneficiaries and overseers.

See: https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/12/14/selective-impressions-of-the-new-zealand-aotearoa-conjuncture/

And other economists have pointed out that neoliberalism has been no more successful elsewhere. The American author of Zombie Economics, a Harvard economist, has pointed out that privatisation has not brought in the investment the electricity industry has needed, and resulted in worse performance than when they were state owned.

The Tories and corporate apologists for private industry like to go on about how terrible the British nationalised industries were in trying to put people off voting for Jeremy Corbyn and Labour, who have promised to renationalise electricity and the railway network. A few days ago the I newspaper in their selection of quotes from elsewhere in the press had a paragraph from the Spectator’s Karren Bradey banging on about this, before stating that Corbyn was a ‘Communist’ who was hanging on to an outmoded theory because of ‘weird beliefs’. Which I would say is, with the exception of the term ‘Communist’, a fair description of most Conservatives and other cultists for the free market. They are indeed continuing to support a grotty, failed ideology long past its sell-by date for their own weird reasons. This is an effective rebuttal to their claims.

He also describes how the introduction of neoliberalism into New Zealand wrecked the economy, and created more poverty while cutting taxes for the rich:

The New Zealand economy duly tanked– shrinking by 1% between 1985 and 1992, while productivity stagnated at below 1% between 1984 and 1993, and inflation remained at around 9% a year. Foreign debt quadrupled, and the country’s credit rating was downgraded twice. Taxes were cut for top earners (from 66% to 33%), while benefits were reduced by up to 30% for the poorest families. The number of poor grew by around 35% between 1989 and 1992.

This is exactly what we’ve experienced in this country during these seven years of Tory rule. And New Zealand and Britain aren’t going to be the only nations who’ve suffered these effects. They’re general, right across the globe. Neoliberalism is responsible for these problems. Except if you’re Theresa May and the Tories, who’ll bleat constantly about how all it’s all due to the last, ‘high-spending’ Labour government.

Rubbish. Neoliberalism is an utter and complete failure. It’s promoted by the Tories as it makes the rich even richer while keeping the rest of us poor and desperate. It’s time it was ended and a proper Labour government under Corbyn was elected.

Hillary Clinton to Appear on Graham Norton Show Tonight – But Will He Ask Her About Corrupt Uranium Deal?

October 20, 2017

I’ve been posting various articles this week attacking Hillary Clinton and the lies she’s been spinning as she promotes her book, What Happened. This is her account of how she failed to be elected the first female president of the US in 2016, losing to the fake-tanned, bewigged maniac now determined to plunge us all into a new Cold War. Killary was in Australia one week, where one Ozzie journo caught her telling five whoppers when she was interviewed on ABC. She has since come to England, where she’s been speaking at the South Bank Centre and at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature.

She’s going to appear on the Graham Norton Show tonight, Friday 20th October 2017, at 10.35 pm. The blurb for the programme on page 114 of the Radio Times states

Hillary Clinton talks to Graham about the US presidential campaign, as detailed in her book What Happened. Jeff Goldblum, Gerard Butler and Jack Whitelaw join her on the sofa.

Another piece on the previous page, 113, adds rather more information.

This time last year Hillary Clinton had her heart set on the Oval Office and probably expected to spend her evenings on a White House sofa. How on earth has she ended up on Graham Norton’s couch instead? She’ll tell him “What Happened” while discussing her new book about her annus horribilis.

Here’s hoping Clinton doesn’t try to describe 2016 after a glass or two of Norton’s house reserve, though. He’s never one to resist a red, white and blue gag.

As with so much, you are not going to hear the unvarnished truth from Clinton because, to paraphrase the old Hollywood line, ‘she can’t handle the truth.’ The simple truth is that many ordinary, working Americans were sick and tired of the poverty and massive income inequality the Reaganite neoliberalism championed by her and Bill had created. They were sick and tired about public programmes being cut, while money was poured into the banks and big businesses that were already bloated from public money anyway, and which had profited massively from the economic mess they’d created. They were sick and tired of American imperialism, of seeing their finest young men and women sent off to kill and be killed in countries which, with the exception of Afghanistan, had not attacked America on the orders of a lying president, just as Brits are sick and tired of the same neoliberal policies and the same militarism heavily promoted by the Clinton’s fan and George Dubya’s poodle over here, Tony Blair. These wars are being fought not to defend America or promote democracy, but simply to despoil and loot these other nations for the benefit of western, chiefly American, multinationals.

She lost because Americans were sick of rising medical bills, which a growing number simply can’t afford, even after Obamacare. And far from being the traditional image of the welfare recipient as an unemployed scrounger, the majority of these poor around the developed world are working people, who are now paid so poorly thanks to Thatcherite doctrines of pay restraint, that they have to work two or three jobs simply to keep their heads above water, go on welfare, or, in Britain, subsist using food banks.

And the American public, Blacks and Whites, also remembered how she exaggerated the threat of crime by young Black men, in order to push through highly punitive legislation that now sees something half of the Black American male population go to the slammer. For the profit of the privatised prison system, of course.

American women saw through her faux-feminism, in which she tried to present herself as campaigning for all women, when in fact she was a bog-standard corporate insider, despite her repeated claims that she had to be an outsider, ’cause she was female. Killary represented nobody but herself and the other, rich, entitled women like her. She was perceived as massively corrupt, massively insincere, and profoundly unsympathetic to the plight of ordinary working people.

But Killary can’t handle any of this, and so has been running round blaming everyone but herself. She’s blamed Bernie Sanders, the genuinely left-wing Democrat she and the head of the Democratic National Convention, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, stitched up and from whom she stole the nomination. She’s also blamed the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, who was a stronger feminist figure. Both she and Bernie promised Americans Medicare for all. She’s blamed it on a culture of misogyny. While this does exist, her claim that she was being bullied because of her gender by Sanders’ supporters is another lie.

And she’s also ramped up international tension by blaming the Russians. Because WikiLeaks published internal Democrat party documents showing just how corrupt she was. She’s claimed that Russian hackers were responsible for this, when in fact the former British diplomat, who took custody of them for WikiLeaks, said that they came from a Democrat Party insider.

And Killary has absolutely no business screaming at others and accusing them of corrupt dealings with Putin’s Russia, when this is exactly what she and her husband and the chief himself, Barack Obama, did. A little while ago, the New York Times broke the story that before she signed off on a deal, which saw uranium mines in Kazakhstan and a fifth of the uranium processing industry in America itself taken over by a consortium of Russian companies, the Clinton Foundation received $145 million from individuals connected with these companies. And her husband, Bill, was given $500,000 for a speech he gave to a Russian bank.

One of her aides, Brodnitz, pointed out in an internal document for her campaign that this affair would damage her electoral chances, and put people off voting for her. Now the American paper, the Hill, has also published a piece reporting that the FBI was investigating her and Bill for two years for this, but the Department of Justice only decided to release the details to the public after the deal had gone through. Thus, Obama had actively connived at preventing her and Bill’s possible prosecution for it, until after the deal had been made. And very profitable it was too for her and Bill, though possibly not for the American taxpayer.

In the video below, the American comedian Jimmy Dore and his co-hosts, Ron Placone and Steffi Zamorano, the Miserable Liberal, discuss this latest revelation of Killary’s corruption and double-dealing.

This is just more evidence that Bernie should have got the nomination. If he had, he would have been the far stronger opponent to Trump. And we just could now have a genuinely progressive, Democratic government. This would, in turn, have been a filip to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party over here, as well as genuine left-wingers and Socialists elsewhere in the world.

But this would have been too much for the corporate hawks running Congress to stomach, so they gave it instead to Killary. Who then lost to an even worse candidate, Trump, but one who was better at articulating popular American hopes and fears than she was.

I like Graham Norton. He’s a genial host, although I’ve long stopped watching his show. I dare say he’ll get Killary to talk at length about her book, and she’ll spin and lie about the reasons she lost, just like she’s been lying to interviewers and the paying public all over America, Australia, Britain and the rest of the civilised world. I dare say that Norton will ask her some awkward-ish questions, but they won’t be so awkward that they’ll embarrass her or stop her making similar appearances in the future.

But I doubt very much he’ll ask her about her very real corruption scandals, like the above relationship with the Russians or the handsome payments she got from Wall Street in return for protecting them from further regulation.