The real debt to future generations

An action dubbed East 4 West – Grenfell Solidarity, took place on 27 June. It involved 22 lots of residents in tower blocks mainly across East London hanging out a banner to express their solidarity with the residents of Grenfell Tower. (Twenty two because one for each residential floor in Grenfell Tower).
It was not generally reported as far as I can tell but it does indicate how quickly a movement can be formed. The interesting part is not so much that these tower blocks were hanging out banners – although that in itself requires organisation – but that there was an organisation formed very quickly to do it.

As is now more and more evident to everyone, efforts to put the budget in equilibrium have precisely the opposite effect on society in general. Am I alone in feeling that this could be the start of a greater engagement in the democratic process?

I was also struck by a short piece on radio 4 , where an ex firefighter who lives in a Manchester tower block went to see his tenant management company to ask about the fire systems. Without demur they proudly gave him an envelope with all the details. He was astonished when he read it and and is now apparently working on a structured reply to tell them the alterations they need to make to bring the fire prevention up to standard. So it rather looks as though Grenfel Tower was not the only accident waiting to happen.

As an aside I remember when I ran a company, I was appalled that I was all of a sudden supposed to be an expert in fire protection as well. Of course the idea is that you go to the ‘market’ to hire in that skill, but how do you know the people you hire in possess the correct knowledge?- or are not just on commission? Or do you just say ‘looks good to me’? (I’ve been in a fire so I can say I didn’t follow this last option, but others might have been less diligent). The stupidity is that no authority seems regularly to check anything until after you’ve had a fire.

There is now controversy about who will run the inquiry into the Grenfell fire and whether its remit will be wide enough. The Fraud Squad are investigating the fire alarm firm, which is certainly worrying. But I cannot agree with George Monbiot’s otherwise excellent exposé of red tape – and the clique that likes to run the country – where he says that  “A public inquiry where the government chooses charges, judge and jury puts the bonfire of regulations outside the frame. An independent commission is needed.” But I think that is long grass territory. The inquiry can establish the causes of the fire and the reasons for its rapid spread. Apart from the inadequate response from Kensington & Chelsea Council, the principle reason for a wide remit is to show that deregulation is life threatening. A conclusion I think most have already reached, and indeed, this is suggested by the reversal, by the Government, of the abolition of the requirement to have sprinklers in new schools.

It would certainly make us feel good to have an inquiry that, in due course, concluded that because the Conservatives do not wish to leave any financial debt for ‘future generations’, those generations are to be left instead with pot-holed roads, homes that are fire hazards, hospitals that are obsolete, schools that are falling apart and a shortage of trained doctors.

And that’s a real debt.

But surely that is already obvious.


Deceit NOT Ignorance

I feel I must draw attention to the blog by Simon Wren Lewis on Monday this week. It is well worth a read throughout. But it also contains this withering indictment of ‘our’ government. It is a devastating comment, particularly for an Oxford academic and a – hardly revolutionary – ex civil servant.

“Some may disapprove of the language I use here. Should a normally sober Oxford macroeconomist talk about political parties deliberately deceiving the electorate? It is not a view I have adopted lightly, but when a Chancellor repeatedly argues that public spending must be cut to meet deficit targets at the same time as reducing inheritance or corporation tax, or a Prime Minister continually repeats the lie that immigration reduces access to public services, what other conclusion can you come to? They could get away with this deceit because academic economists (the majority of whom know that austerity would reduce output, and that immigration improves the public finances) are largely ignored by the media.”

Which is something the BBC particularly, and indeed anyone who ever again votes Conservative will have to explain.

Brexit – Reasons for Resentment

Following the suggestions for the reasons to remain a summary of the reasons to leave the EU might also be useful, though I would suggest there are not, in fact, any compelling reasons to leave, and so I prefer reasons for resentment.

They seem to comprise three basic ideas: the democratic deficit, too much red tape and too much immigration.

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Fire – how did it come to this?

The devastating fire in North Kensington must have had us all thinking of 9/11. And yet this was a preventable, (in all likelihood) accidental fire in what is supposed to be the fifth richest nation on earth.

Personally I feel deeply ashamed that such an appalling inferno, in which at least 17 people perished, can happen in 2017 and in municipally owned housing in one of the richest boroughs in the country.

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Partisanship and the End of Politics (the coming of the neo-feudal state)

Since the US electorate (or more accurately, electoral college) put a reality TV personality and real estate mogul into the White House late last year I’ve become a committed viewer of a number of US news and current affairs programmes. Several of these – such and The Rachel Maddow Show and The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell (both on MSNBC) – have seen a significant increase in their viewing figures since Donald Trump became President. In the case of the former this has much to do with Maddow’s dogged and impressive reporting into possible relations between the Trump campaign and Russia, and in the latter case because of O’Donnell’s forensic and frequently scathing criticisms of Trump and his White House team. O’Donnell speaks from experience, having been Senior Advisor to Senator Patrick Moynihan and Chief of Staff for several Senate committees in the 1990s. He was also a writer for The West Wing. And with daily revelations of Trump/Russia links continuing unabated, Maddow, O’Donnell, and many more in the news and current affairs community in the US – that Trump insists are ‘the fake news’ – certainly have plenty to keep them busy for many months to come.

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Los Lobos -‘The Wolves’

The Tories have recently come out with two ‘ideas’ that involve financialisation packaged as ‘social benefit.’  These two bits of financial engineering will, no doubt, increase private debt and encourage more bubbling of housing. The first is their intention to build more council housing that is paid for by the future sale of the houses based on anticipation of their increase in value.  The second is the funding of social care through the use of assets above £100,000.  For most people this will be in the form of a house which will have to be re-mortgaged via a ‘financial product’ (hold crucifixes aloft), then, when the owner has died, the family or relatives will have to sell the house and pay the costs with interest.  In short:  more wealth extraction from the community.  Given present household debt is at 130% of GDP this does not look good.

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The challenge to Europe and its Democracy

We are more aware today of the need for change within the EU than any time during the last ten years. Since 2010 the Euro Group, which is made up of European Finance Ministers, has successfully sidelined the elected European Parliament. In effect the Euro group operates outside of the Treaties and is no longer accountable to either National or European Parliaments.
The Euro Group now controls all economic policy, the supervision of private banks the rescue packages given to failing states, like Greece, and policy on Austerity.

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