...a blog by Richard Flowers

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Day 3265: Let's Pre-Budget Review


OK, for starters, when exactly did we get the idea that our economic woes were all the fault of the PUBLIC SECTOR?

Quick recap: the PRIVATE SECTOR banks indulged huge numbers of PRIVATE citizens in running up vast debts shopping on the PRIVATE SECTOR High Street with PRIVATE SECTOR store-cards supported by a PRIVATE SECTOR housing bubble (not irrelevantly connected to UNDER-investment in public housing).

The Government isn't INNOCENT, but if you're going to big up the benefits of the PRIVATE sector, then you've really GOT to admit that it's time they took their share of the BLAME too.

We have ASTRONOMICALLY HIGH Government borrowing because the Government had to BUY SIX BANKS (oh yes, SIX: Northern Rock-and-a-Hard-Place, Halifax, Bank-that-we-own of Scotland, ROYAL Bank-that-we-own of Scotland, Lloyds and the TSB, wot we used to own anyway, which should, at the VERY least, all be separate banks not huge too-fluffing-big-to-fail super-banks) banks that the PRIVATE sector – it turns out – could NOT be trusted to run.

Government tax revenues have fallen (and relatedly benefit costs have risen) because businesses, small AND large, are going BUST up and down the country as a result of private sector banks deciding to shut off the GUSHING MONEY PIPE of cheap credit.

Now, the Government WAS at fault in several KEY ways: most obviously, regulation of banking was poorly targeted and under-funded, with important other concerns being the running of a budget deficit in GOOD years before things turned BAD, and an obsession with centralisation, targeting and micro-management that has diverted public resources – TIME as well as money – from actual service provision and investment in infrastructure into (forgive me, the Honourable Lady Mark) Byzantine bureaucratic systems for collecting statistics.

And the choices that this Hard Labour Government has made have been utterly, utterly RUBBISH.

The OBVIOUS example is wasting BILLIONS of pounds, and more importantly HUNDREDS of LIVES, on an illegal invasion of one Middle-Eastern country and a totally muddled, unfocussed semi-occupation of a Himalayan anarchy.

(Look, if the "aim" – this week – is to destroy terrorist training camps, then you want a specific UN or NATO task force that can strike and withdraw. Remaining bogged down in one place is pointless; the terrorists will – indeed HAVE – just set up their bases somewhere where you are not. e.g. Somalia. If the "aim" is to "build democracy" then forget it. It's impossible. You can establish the rule of law and probably build and – and this is just as important – defend schools and hospitals, but in a much, MUCH smaller area, and maybe, maybe democracy will develop. But you can't wave a fluffy foot and expect it to happen. You end up with a BAD JOKE like this year's Afghan elections, which almost literally gave democracy the finger!)

More subtle has been the sheer BADNESS of their choice to let British industry trickle away, with more and more jobs going to the service sector while the Government relies ever more heavily on the GAMBLING DENS of the City, like some addict hooked on the RISK!

And of course there is the DEMENTED urge to collect and control ever more data, whether it is I.D.iot cards or DNA database or child-abuser-friendly Contact Point or the ruinously expensive, now-abandoned NHS IT project.

But, more than ANYTHING ELSE, the fault of the Government was in ceding control of crucial economic decisions to tiny, powerful, PRIVATE SECTOR elites.

For the last THREE DECADES we have had THATCHERITE Governments that have CONSPIRED with the worst elephants elements of the PRIVATE SECTOR for their own benefit.

In area after area – finance (obviously), media, power generation, supermarkets, transport, housing, utilities, town (and out-of-town) planning, the list goes on and on… and on and on and ON – centralised control is handed over to private sector CARTELS, shutting out democratic oversight, closing down competition and destroying opportunities for "ordinary" people and small businesses.

Far from EGGING these people on, these are PRECISELY the kinds of BIG BULLIES that Liberals ought to be standing up against.

We should NOT be afraid of using the powers of Government to clip the wings of these DANGEROUSLY-big Big Businesses – that is the FUNDAMENTAL error of the Libertarian. Arbitrary power is BAD – yes that INCLUDES arbitrary power of the Government itself. But not JUST the arbitrary power of the Government. To ABANDON us to the mercies of the corporations is a council of DESPAIR.

Mr Dr Vince says break up the super-banks but we don't go NEARLY FAR ENOUGH!

It is within the power of banks to support business, innovation, and people. But it's far, far better at a LOCAL level, where the bank manager KNOWS the businesses and the people. So make the banks SMALLER and MORE LOCAL!

And why stop at BANKS? There is a crisis of local newspapers, we are told. But the cause, the papers won't admit, is the national papers centralising their operations to London. (It's not JUST the Murdock Evil Empire – anyone remember the MANCHESTER Grauniad?)

Natural monopolies should be held on TRUST as a PUBLIC GOOD, not allowed to be milked like giant CASH COWS; that's why we need a POST OFFICE, that's why we need a BBC. What we DON'T need is an identikit Tesco in every town, turning our urban landscape into a WASTELAND.

Oh, but Tesco pass their saving on to their customers – sure, but only at the expense of wiping out all other businesses, impoverishing our communities and bankrupting our farmers. Every little HURTS.

But it is ALSO the job of Government to EMPOWER people, to encourage and support and enable, to shield us when we hurt, to pick us up when we fall.

Nothing, but nothing, but NOTHING drives me further into WILD ELEPHANT RAGE than seeing smug, self-satisfied and, above all, RICH Conservatory politicians and Conservatory-voting businesspersons and Conservatory-supporting media hangers-on BLAMING THE POOR, worse blaming the very people that this private sector-made disaster has MADE POOR, saying that Government "wastes" too much money on benefits, saying that we should cut the huge benefit bill in order to balance the budget.

We live in one of the richest – and luckiest – islands on the face of this planet, green and beautiful, gifted with extraordinary natural resources, a generous climate, abundant wind-energy should we choose to harness it, not to mention the almost-unparalleled inheritance from giants of science and technology that placed us at the very front of industrial development and an enormously rich cultural tapestry from the many, many peoples – Britons, Celts, Romans, Vikings, Normans, Huguenots, Jews, Chinese, Jamaicans, and Polish Plumbers and all – who have so generously chosen this country, of all countries, to come to.

To say that there is almost ANYTHING that we "cannot afford" is beyond ridiculous; to say that we cannot afford to support the weakest and worst off is verging on the OBSCENE.

(A Tory Troll responds to Ms Pollyanna Toytown with a braying "we'll abolish the 1.5 billion pound inheritance tax cut if you abolish the 50 billion pound benefit bill".

"Yes," someone replies "and then the people on benefits will die of hypothermia you total, total badword".)

And while I'm at it, Master Gideon Oboe insists that his inheritance policies are so that people who work hard can be allowed to leave something to their children. Well that's LAUDABLE – so how about THIS as a policy: you can leave ANYTHING you want to ANYONE you want with NO tax at all… but anything that you INHERIT is taxable at 100% on your death.

Look, we KNOW what is going to happen WHICHEVER Conservatory Party, Red or Blue, gets in: they are going to put up VAT and slash benefits. And we've SEEN the model for this because the Conservatories did it the LAST time they got their sticky fingers on the levers of power: it STALLS recovery and PROLONGS recession.

So now we are offered – as though this is ALL the choice there is – the chance to pick one of:
    Option A: a grumpy monomaniac obsessed with total control from the centre who has spent our way into an ever-deepening black hole and yet left us with less actual ownership of our lives than we have had in a hundred years
    Option B: a hollow (trick) cyclist with chauffeur-driven shoes whose main aims, as much as his vaguely enunciated policies can be made out, are to reduce the burden of Government for his own rich clique
There has GOT to be a better choice than THAT! That is NO CHOICE at all!



Andrew Hickey said...

*applauds vociferously*

This is one of the best pieces I've seen from you in a while. I just wish more people (even in our own party, let alone the others!) could see things this way...

(Oh, and tell your daddies I'm not ignoring their emails, and will reply when I get a chance, probably tomorrow night).

Richard Gadsden said...

SEVEN Banks, not SIX. I know you're a very young fluffy elephant, but, I'm sure your daddies remember National Westminster.