Archive for the ‘Money’ Category

Natalie Bennett: We need a Massive Transformation

September 24, 2014

natben2015Green Party leader Natalie Bennett writes that Ed Miliband’s speech did not signal a break with the past and that his focus on green technology is too narrow.

Increasingly, when you talk to people around Britain about the lives of their children and grandchildren, their outlook is negative. They might not always have worked out an explanation of what’s wrong, but they’re sensing, entirely correctly, that we’ve got a society headed in all of the wrong directions: economically, socially, and environmentally.

They’re reflecting the still enormous levels of youth under-employment: young people employed on zero-hours contracts, graduates working as bar-tenders and shelf-stackers. And that the 1% keep getting richer while more and more of the rest of us struggle; even the formerly comfortable are no longer certain that they won’t end up in the food bank queue. And, as tens of thousands showed in marches around the country last weekend, they understand that climate change – and other environmental damage, to our seas and rivers, our lost biodiversity, the degradation of our soils – is a clear and present danger.

We need a massive transformation.

But there’s no sign that the Labour Party, on the evidence of its conference so far, understands that. Real change isn’t on its agenda; a bit of tinkering is about as far as it stretches.

Take the example of the £8 an hour minimum wage by 2020 promise. That’s a 25 pence per year increase over the course of the next parliament, starting from the grossly inadequate base of our current minimum wage, the value of which the former Labour government allowed to slide, a trend the Tory-Lib Dem coalition has continued and enhanced.

Contrast that to the Green Party policy I announced a couple of weeks ago: making the minimum wage a Living Wage immediately and increasing it above inflation after that so that it reaches £10 an hour by 2020.

This isn’t a bidding war: it’s an argument about a principle that there’s strong evidence the British public supports – work should pay enough money to live on.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said yesterday: “when the economy grows, the wages of everyday working people should grow at the same rate”. That seems to mean he’s content to maintain the current deeply unequal, historically extreme, division between the few high-paid workers and the rest of us. Contrast that to the Green Party, which says the top paid worker in an organisation shouldn’t be paid more than 10 times the lowest paid.

There’s grave concern about our National Health Service – I saw that when I walked for a day on the People’s March for the NHS. We know we need more medical staff, more support staff, more resources in general for the NHS. The offer from Miliband of an extra £2.5 billion is therefore welcome.

But this is from the party that, when last in government, ran wild with the disastrous Private Finance Initiative that will over its lifetime cost you and I billions, that raced ahead with the disastrous Tory model of competition. The Green Party, by contrast, says that the profit motive has no place in healthcare, and backs the transformatory principles of proposed NHS Reinstatement Bill.

And that mansion tax that’s to raise some of the cash for the NHS under Labour’s plans? Well once again it’s a pale imitation of our far more broad-reaching wealth tax – which recognises that rich individuals gain their wealth from our society, benefit from its services, and should make a fair contribution to their maintenance.

Then look at the cut in child benefit. It was, observers generally considered, an attempt to demonstrate Labour’s “fiscal probity”. Or alternatively, you could consider it, as many did, as a continuation of the Tory-Lib Dem policy of making the poor and disadvantaged, particularly women and children, pay for the errors, the fraud and the recklessness of the financial sector. No real change here – in fact no change at all, but a further bowing to the Conservative narrative that blames government spending for the debt and the deficit, when in fact we should be blaming the bankers.

And where were the words from Miliband about reining in the still out-of-control banking system, of tackling what even insiders are calling the continuing extreme fragility of the financial sector?

There were some positives in Miliband’s speech, and the broader conference, in terms of somewhat more substantial environmental changes. The focus on energy conservation, particularly home insulation, is welcome – the Green Party has long been saying that reducing demand is central to resolving the energy conundrum. Although this isn’t “new” money – it’s been taken from other areas of infrastructure spending, where much is needed. The backing for the one million climate jobs agenda is also welcome.

But the focus remains narrow – on “green technology”. Focusing on conservation, on renewable energy and a smart grid are essential steps, but they are only a fraction of the environmental essentials. What is needed is a modal shift in transport towards walking and cycling that would improve our health, and clean up our air and cut congestion. We need a return of food production and manufacturing to Britain to create jobs and dramatically reduce supply lines. These are the kind of changes that have to be a key part of the mix.

That limited approach to the environment reflects the broader problem, identified by many observers, with the overall tone of this Labour conference. There’s been no break with the past, no signs of a search for a new model that takes us forward from our current economy that has clearly failed

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Greens demonstrate support for fairer trade rules

March 5, 2014

Banana

As Green Party members agree a motion at their Spring conference to oppose a new Transatlantic Trade agreement, green campaigners have been out across the South West supporting fairer trade rules through their involvement in Fairtrade Fortnight.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is an agreement between the EU and the US, currently under negotiation in the European Parliament. Greens say, if passed, this agreement will weaken environmental protection, workers’ rights, health and animal-welfare rules. The Green Party passed a motion at their Spring conference in Liverpool to campaign against TTIP and Greens in the European Parliament are also actively opposing the agreement.

Meanwhile, across the South West Green, campaigners have been reiterating their support for Fairtrade above Free Trade. In Devon, Stephen Best, a Fairtrade banana producer from St Lucia, has been working with Exeter based Green Party member Andrew Bell to deliver conferences in schools highlighting the benefits of Fairtrade. Mr Bell said:

“Stephen’s passion for Fairtrade and what it has achieved for his community in St Lucia is highly evident to anyone who meets him. Fairtrade has literally been the saviour of banana production in the country. After the World Trade Organisation, backed by the US, changed trading rules giving American banana corporations’ greater power, small scale banana producers in the Winward Islands faced obliteration. However, Fairtrade came to the rescue offering a guaranteed minimum price for bananas and a ‘Fairtrade Premium’ – an extra sum of money which the wider community can choose how to spend. But corporate power never gives up, and now we see a new threat in the form of TTIP.”

Speaking at the Green Party conference in Liverpool, leader Natalie Bennet made clear to delegates the distinctive, principled stand Greens are making against TTIP:

“TTIP would blow apart the power of our democratic decision making. The deal provides corporations with new rights to sue the Government for legislating in the public interest – that’s definitely not acting for the common good. It’s not surprising, really, when we hear Lib Dems trumpeting the proposed US-EU free trade deal as some kind of economic saviour. The Lib Dems are the lapdogs of corporate Europe, while the Tories are its war horses.”

What’s wrong with Capitalism?

January 16, 2014

East Midlands Green Party Blog

Vote Green if you feel you are not benefiting from capitalism.

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Communism, welfare state – what’s the next big idea?

April 2, 2013

emergency food bank coventryMost of the world’s people are decent, honest and kind. Most of those who dominate us are inveterate bastards. This is the conclusion I’ve reached after many years of journalism. Writing on Black Monday, as the British government’s full-spectrum attack on the lives of the poor commences, the thought keeps returning to me.

“With a most inhuman cruelty, they who have put out the people’s eyes reproach them of their blindness.” This government, whose mismanagement of the economy has forced so many into the arms of the state, blames the sick, the unemployed, the underpaid for a crisis caused by the feral elite – and punishes them accordingly. Most of those affected by the bedroom tax, introduced today, are disabled. Thousands will be driven from their homes, and many more pushed towards destitution. Relief for the poor from council tax will be clipped; legal aid for civil cases cut off. Yet at the end of this week those making more than £150,000 a year will have their income tax cut.

Two days later, benefit payments for the poorest will be cut in real terms. A week after that, thousands of families who live in towns and boroughs where property prices are high will be forced out of their homes by the total benefits cap. What we are witnessing is raw economic warfare by the rich against the poor.

So the age-old question comes knocking: why does the decent majority allow itself to be governed by a brutal, antisocial minority? Part of the reason is that the minority controls the story. As John Harris explained in the Guardian, large numbers (including many who depend on it) have been persuaded that most recipients of social security are feckless, profligate fraudsters. Despite everything that has happened over the last two years, Rupert Murdoch, Lord Rothermere and the other media barons still seem to be running the country. Their relentless propaganda, using exceptional and shocking cases to characterise an entire social class, remains highly effective. Divide and rule is as potent as it has ever been.

But I’ve come to believe that there’s also something deeper at work: that most of the world’s people live with the legacy of slavery. Even in a nominal democracy like the United Kingdom, most people were more or less in bondage until little more than a century ago: on near-starvation wages, fired at will, threatened with extreme punishment if they dissented, forbidden to vote. They lived in great and justified fear of authority, and the fear has persisted, passed down across the five or six generations that separate us and reinforced now by renewed insecurity, snowballing inequality, partisan policing.

Any movement that seeks to challenge the power of the elite needs to ask itself what it takes to shake people out of this state. And the answer seems inescapable – hope. Those who govern on behalf of billionaires are threatened only when confronted by the power of a transformative idea.

A century and more ago the idea was communism. Even in the form in which Marx and Engels presented it, its problems are evident: the simplistic binary system into which they tried to force society; their brutal dismissal of anyone who did not fit this dialectic (“social scum”, “bribed tool[s] of reactionary intrigue”); their reinvention of Plato’s guardian-philosophers, who would “represent and take care of the future” of the proletariat; the unprecedented power over human life they granted to the state; the millenarian myth of a final resolution to the struggle for power. But their promise of another world electrified people who had, until then, believed that there was no alternative.

Seventy years ago, in the UK, the transformative idea was freedom from want and fear through the creation of a social security system and a National Health Service. It swept a Labour government to power which was able, despite far tougher economic circumstances than today’s, to create a fair society from a smashed, divided nation. This is the achievement which – through a series of sudden, spectacular and unmandated strikes – Cameron’s government is now demolishing.

So where do we look for the idea that can make hope more powerful than fear? Not to the Labour party. If Ed Miliband cannot bring himself even to oppose a bill which retrospectively denies compensation to cheated jobseekers, the most we can expect from him is a low-alcohol conservatism of the kind that doused all aspiration under Tony Blair.

Last week I ran a small online poll, asking people to nominate inspiring, transfiguring ideas. The two mentioned most often were land value taxation and a basic income. As it happens, both are championed by the Green party. On this and other measures, its policies are by a long way more progressive than Labour’s.

I discussed land value taxation in a recent column. A basic income (also known as a citizen’s income) gives everyone, rich and poor, without means-testing or conditions, a guaranteed sum every week. It replaces some but not all benefits (there would, for instance, be extra payments for pensioners and people with disabilities). It banishes the fear and insecurity now stalking the poorer half of the population. Economic survival becomes a right, not a privilege.

A basic income removes the stigma of benefits while also breaking open what politicians call the welfare trap. Because taking work would not reduce your entitlement to social security, there would be no disincentive to find a job – all the money you earn is extra income. The poor are not forced by desperation into the arms of unscrupulous employers: people will work if conditions are good and pay fair, but will refuse to be treated like mules. It redresses the wild imbalance in bargaining power that the current system exacerbates. It could do more than any other measure to dislodge the emotional legacy of serfdom. It would be financed by progressive taxation – in fact it meshes well with land value tax.

These ideas require courage: the courage to confront the government, the opposition, the plutocrats, the media, the suspicions of a wary electorate. But without proposals on this scale, progressive politics is dead. They strike that precious spark, so seldom kindled in this age of triangulation and timidity – the spark of hope.

Twitter: @georgemonbiot

A fully referenced version of this article can be found at monbiot.com

Source:
George Monbiot
The Guardian

TIME FOR ‘PLAN G’: STOP FAILED AUSTERITY AND INVEST IN THE BILLION POUND GREEN ECONOMY

March 22, 2013

CarolineRESPONDING TO THE BUDGET ANNOUNCEMENT, GREEN MP CAROLINE LUCAS (BRIGHTON PAVILION) SAID: “Amidst the tax breaks for shale gas and boastful roadbuilding pledges, there is one huge green economy-shaped hole in this flailing Chancellor’s Budget.

“With the UK’s green economy now worth over £120bn – 9% of GDP – providing nearly a million jobs and generating a third of our most recent economic growth according to the CBI, it is completely inexplicable that George Osborne keeps pretending it doesn’t exist.

“Given the huge potential of green industries and clean energy generation to provide British jobs and prosperity, as well as the obvious environmental benefits they will deliver, it’s time to drop austerity and go for Plan G.

“There’s no doubt that the cuts have failed – now we need urgent investment in nationwide green infrastructure to stabilise the economy, tackle the environmental crisis and deliver clean and secure energy for the future.”

TAX BREAKS FOR SHALE GAS “A COSTLY GAMBLE”

LUCAS CONTINUED: “This should also mean the Chancellor ditching his irrational obsession with gas. It’s outrageous that the Government is willing to gift yet more tax breaks to companies drilling for hard-to-reach shale – a costly gamble that risks keeping the UK addicted to polluting fossil fuels at precisely the time we should be leaving them in the ground.

“A Government which really cared about bringing energy bills under control and improving energy security would put its money on renewables – where the costs are predictable and falling – and agree to recycle carbon tax revenue into a jobs-rich energy efficiency programme, rather than deepening our dependence on gas, where prices are set to keep rising.

“Going all-out for offshore wind, for example, instead would save £20bn by 2030, create 70,000 more jobs, and lead to both lower climate emissions and lower fuel bills.

“And with the new nuclear facility at Hinkley announced yesterday expected to come with a £14bn price tag, this Government should urgently think again before ploughing ahead with its deeply misguided nuclear strategy. For the cost of one nuclear reactor, it’s estimated that 7 million households could be lifted out of fuel poverty.

“With the negotiations for a strike price for nuclear operators getting on for double the current price of electricity – to be paid by households and businesses already struggling with high bills – it’s clear that the main beneficiaries of this policy will be EDF and the French state.”

CORPORATIONS GET TAX CUTS AS MILLIONS STRUGGLE WITH RISING HOUSEHOLD BILLS

“With the Joseph Rowntree Foundation warning that tax rises, welfare cuts, and wages freezes will push over 7 million children below the breadline in the next two years, it’s scandalous that this millionaire Government is still so reluctant to make the richest in our society pay their fair share of tax.

“While millions across the country struggle to pay rising household bills, the Government is cutting tax for corporations like Amazon, Starbucks and Google – when they choose to pay it at all – to 25% next month, 23% by 2014 then 20% the year after.

“The General Anti Avoidance Rule announced today will not be enough to stop the tax dodgers, as the tax QCs Graham Aaronson who worked it up has admitted it will be “narrowly focused”, and apply only to the “most egregious tax avoidance schemes”.

“If the Government was really serious about cracking down on tax avoidance and evasion, including shutting down tax havens, it would have supported my Private Members Bill requiring all companies to publish what they earn.

“It would also seek a strong international agreement to force all multinationals to report their tax practices transparently. HMRC has a duty to prosecute multinational companies who do not pay their taxes in the UK and it’s right that offenders are publically named and shamed.”

Green Party calls for strong curbs on payday loans

March 2, 2013

thCAXCKLY1Green Party conference has called on the government to strongly regulate payday loans, which it called “modern day loan sharking”.
Since 2008, the number and size of companies charging eye-watering levels of interest has exploded, with more and more individuals with poor credit scores taking out such loans.
Every year 1.2 million Britons turn to payday loans and £1.2 billion is borrowed, often at around 2500% interest a year. Citizens Advice is reporting that 10% of the people coming to it with debt problems now have payday loans*.
The Green Party is calling for the capping of short-term loan rates at reasonable levels linked to the Bank of England interest rate, and demanded that companies make sufficient credit checks, with the threat of severe penalties if they fail to comply.

Camden Green Party member Benali Hamdache, the motion`s proposer: said “The ethics and practices of payday loan companies are of grave concern.
“They are preying on people with poor credit ratings and precarious financial situations.
“Clearly everyone needs access to credit. The rise of these lenders is the result not only of inadequate regulation, but also the failure of the government to adequately support and provide a healthy climate for credit unions and other ethical lenders.”

“The runaway profiteering off the back of the vulnerable must end. I am proud that the Green Party is the first party with firm commitments to limit the extortionate charges on payday loans.”

http://www.mirror.co.uk/money/personal-finance/debt-charities-warn-escalating-payday-1705779