The spending review has been digested a little more now and people have begun to pick over the minutiae, it is of course the first time in many years that we have had the opportunity to see what the 13 years in opposition has really done to Conservative thinking and policy and we now have the answer…. You’re already making up your own jokes aren’t you?!

Many have assessed and commented on components of the spending plan with a great deal more expertise than I can but I would like to look at the actual premise of the whole thing, but not before I have outlined where I fundamentally disagree with the current spending review as outlined.

Firstly there seems little doubt that the poorest 10% are the real scapegoats in this. The benefits system is to be ramped back massively on ideological grounds, this is not a ‘get people back to work’ plan this is a ‘cut the benefits off and they’ll find work somehow’ plan. Iain Duncan Smith has said as much with his getting on the bus comment. Ironically not one week after his ‘bus comment’ Leicestershire County Council put up notices advising that the local bus service to my village would no longer exist. Now I grant you the likely level of unemployment here is potentially lower than in urban areas but for 16 year olds it represents a significant problem. This policy is coupled with the slashing of housing benefit for those out of work long term. This policy has already caused dissension in the ranks of the Conservative party with Boris Johnson, now suddenly the standard bearer for London’s working classes, exclaiming that he will not allow social cleansing on his watch. Conservative sources (by which I include now any Liberals based on their acquiescence) have scoffed and said this will not happen but realistically how can there be any other outcome. Much of the cutting of the benefit system requires jobs to be available for people to fill. There are already an estimated 2.45 million people out of work which represents 7.7%, this will likely be well over 3 million once the public sector cuts are forced through. There is as yet no clear indication that any jobs will be created in the public sector merely an assumption. I remember coming out of school to a job market that had 1.6million unemployed in Summer 1990 rising to 2.5 million by the end of 1991. I was forced to spend many months on the dole, jobs where they existed were short-term and poorly paid with little progressive conditions and most relied on scratchings from manual labour jobs through agencies. You often didn’t know if you’d have a job the next day so you had to get the bus to the agency offices and hope. I couldn’t travel outside my immediate vicinity to look for jobs or go for interviews because I couldn’t afford it. Yes I worked probably a little more than half the time but I received no training, no qualifications, nothing that stood me in any stead for future employment and my savings were entirely exhausted. This in no small part contributed to my being unemployed a couple of years later when I returned from Germany, a country in which I had no problem finding work even in the deepest recession it had seen since the war. At the time I was unqualified but had A levels, in this country I was seen as over-qualified for some jobs and under-qualified for others, by which they meant I was either likely to leave this menial work when I found something better or that I had no work experience at all and they could afford with some many applicants not to take the risk with me. Each full-time job garnered hundreds of applications, I worked once in a factory sticking labels on boxes where I was the least educated of all the temporary staff and all we did was take boxes out of boxes, stick a new barcode over the old one and then put the boxes back into the bigger boxes. There was a chap there with a double first in his degree doing that, if I found it all soul-destroying how did he feel? How would he feel now if he had tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt accumulated getting that double first?

I am troubled that people should be standing by and watching as the least financially able and least enfranchised members of the population are being plunged into ever further ruin and debilitation, in fact I find this even more surprising than the fact that people stood by and let the government plough billions of £s into the errant banking sector with no sanction whatsoever. Did the whole country become so anaesthetised, or is it that so much of the “moral majority” now have bought into the concept of Thatcherism that unless it has a direct effect on them they aren’t interested? What people seem unable to grasp is that the disenfranchisement of such a large section of the population has a massive detrimental effect on a great many others, not those at the very top perhaps but then they are not the majority. Don’t get me wrong I’m not expecting to be able to put forward the solidarity for ones brothers and sisters argument! This is about real tangible problems particularly with regard to social exclusion and crime but with knock-on effects on the proliferation of services and rent prices in particular areas. This is not simply something that will happen to others.

In truth I could sit and nit-pick at all the minutiae in the actual spending review but realistically it is simply a classic piece of conservative thinking entrenched in the new phenomena of disaster capitalism. So you may ask if you don’t want to cut public spending how do you solve the problem of the deficit? Let us start by taking the uncontentious points, not merely the ones that no-one seems to be arguing over as that can often be a red herring but the points that appear, at least according to the sources we have at our disposal, to be factually accurate. The over-arching point in this regard is the central one, we as a country are in a lot of debt. This is nothing new of course most countries in the developed world are in debt, the USA is in massive debt and generally speaking the issue is the amount of debt and the confidence of people that you remain in your depth. Being in this level of debt mean that a great deal of government expenditure must be on repaying interest on this debt and this indeed is a waste of taxpayers money and better if reduced to as little as possible. So let us start from a benign presence that we are all in agreement that some of the debt has to go. Now we reach the large crossroads, how are we going to pay for it? The main political parties have spent most of the year vying to contend to be the party that would cut most off the public sector so whatever Labour’s bleating now might have us believe they would have done the same had they won the election, they said so, many times. What is not talked about anywhere in mainstream politics are the alternative methods of reducing the debt ie by raising revenue.

Naturally one would not expect the rich to wish to have to pay more money that’s why they’re rich but if you come at the problem with the ideology that those most able to pay should shoulder the greatest burden then this can be the only starting point. Closing tax loopholes would save the country a substantial amount of money, an estimated £1.6m from Gideon “We’re in this together” Osborne for starters. If the rich feel aggrieved by this then point out that the amount they will have to give to the taxman will be mitigated by the lack of huge fees to shit hot accountants so the only people with legitimate complaint are the accountants and this is a shame, for them, but if I had to choose between butchering the education sector and butchering the accounting sector I would naturally put my personal ideology to one side and look at what was best for the country and I think it would b a safe bet for education to win out every time.

Once one has closed the tax loopholes one must then gravitate to the next fairest form of levy which is income tax an this must be put up. This is always unpopular as people notice a hit every month in their pay packet so politicians frequently shirk from it, furthermore it tends to hit the rich the hardest and they employ lots of people to ensure that doesn’t happen so the rich people in government tend not to like to harm their own. Income tax though is one of the only methods one can be sure of a fair distribution because almost all the other forms of levy do not take into account someone’s ability to pay.

In addition to this I believe the Robin Hood Tax would also be a fair way of levying money, a small percentage on each transaction is a very very small step to making the banking sector redress some of the balance from the absolutely scandalous fiasco they have presided over that we have then paid for. The bankers are not cowed and contrite far from it, anyone who saw BBC’s Question Time last week will have witnessed an odious hedge fund manager telling a labour politician that the baking sector did not benefit from the situation it was the politicians who benefited and that they had made the mistake in misjudging the situation and to prove it had been voted out of office whilst he, the hedge fund manager, remained in place. After my initial dumbfoundedness at the sheer crassness of the comment I semi-consigned it to the bin because of its ridiculous revisionist interpretation of the facts however it is worth bearing in mind in the context of a banking sector that is still paying itself vast salaries, bonuses, pension contributions whilst at the same time sitting around Tories and “Liberals” nodding wisely when cuts are being talked about across the public sector.

The public sector does need reform. People need to rediscover their motivation and feel sufficiently part of things that they have a stake in it. There needs to be a redressing of the balance between those who work in the public sector and those who manage those who work in the public sector to put the emphasis back on the indians rather than the chiefs. This is the unique thing about the public sector with which the private sector cannot compete. Public servants work for all of us which includes they themselves and they therefore have a stake in what they are doing. Many in the private sector has argued, I believed fallaciously, that the public sector has an inevitable level of incompetence and waste. They cite absentee levels as one such example. What they fail to point out is that a great many people in the private sector don’t get paid when they are absent and long-term absence is likely to result in dismissal. The public sector absentee level is such because it is declared, people have the time off they require and then return to work, for anyone to believe that it would be better to roll the clock back and to force people back to work too early because they cannot afford to stay away strikes me as lunacy.

Song Of The Day ~ Solar Powered People – Awhile

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