Thursday 19 May 2011

Kindergarten Debate

I love a good comment thread. I've just spent a happy hour or so laughing at silly people.

Nonetheless, there is a serious side that (leaving aside my own personal amusement) we really ought to address before we land up in the deepest mess in living memory.

Ditzy-Debate No.1 Labour spent all the money. We are teetering on the edge of a Greek or Portugese debt-precipice that will destroy us if we don't scrap every last bit of social progress made in the last 30 years. 

Every indicator proves this to be a lie. Until the credit crunch, Labour had a lower deficit as a proportion of GDP  than 6 out of the 7 G7 countries. Spending had been largely well controlled for over a decade and our debt and deficit were entirely manageable. A global credit crunch gave us two options : Prop up the banks with eye-watering wads of cash, or face the total collapse of our financial systems. Our debt is largely held within the UK and is nothing whatsoever like Portugal or Greece on any measure. Economists of every political persuasion are clear that cutting too fast before recovery is established is at best the risk of all time and at worse, disastrous.

IF Geroge Osborne were to say : "The credit crunch has left us with a serious financial situation that needs addressing and it is my view that cutting fast and deep is the best way to get out of the mess" His argument would have some validity. It would still be contentious, but it would be honest.

Ditzy-Debate No.2 "We don't need to cut the deficit at all. We can make tax dodgers pay their fair share, spend our way out of trouble and all our problems will be solved."  

This is clearly just as bonkers. If tax dodging were so easy to address, then capitalism alone would not be enough to save the dodgy dodgers. Sure, we might be able to rake in a few billion here and there, but we'd still be left with a whole pile of deficit. No-one ever argued that cuts were unnecessary. The argument ought to be about when it is safe to tighten our belts and just how much belt-tightening can be avoided by stimulating growth.

Ditzy-Debate No.3 - The state is bloated and lazy. It traps people in poverty and suffocates innovation. 

Anyone who has ever worked for a large, private, multi-national corporation knows that bloated laziness exists wherever people do. As does brilliance. The NHS, our education providers and our police service innovate and improve every day. Some Private companies waste money quicker than I could say "Business-flight-to-America" or "Meeting-with-buffet-to-discuss-previous-meeting". The fact that seemingly intelligent people think that cuts of 27% (local councils) or 37% (NHS Trusts) can be found by cutting management, bureaucracy and paper clips never ceases to amaze me.

Ditzy-Debate No.4 Conservatives are evil lying cheats who just want to kill off a few of the weakest to put more money in fat-cats pockets/Labour are resentful, jealous militants who want to take money from hard-working taxpayers to feather their own nest and support an army of scroungers and skivers.

It does politics no favours to make these arguments. It just feeds the destructive "They're all the same" myth. Most politicians go into politics to make things better. They just have different ideas on how to go about it. If we insist on such a shallow debate, then we have only ourselves to blame when the public vote for "none of the above"

Ditzy-Debate No.5 Ken Clarke thinks rape isn't serious/Chris Huhne must go for fibbing about speeding/William Hague seems to get on well with his SPAD/Lord Strathclyde had sex with a constituent/Miliband brothers split over leadership. 

We are just incapable of talking about anything sensibly. Race-to-the-bottom gutter thinking that has nothing whatever to do with whether or not the "disgraced" minister does a good job or not. I seem to recall Gordon Brown even got the blame for a volcano erupting in Iceland. We really have to get a grip.

Every time I read any of the above arguments, I immediately dismiss those who make them as utter lollipops. They contribute nothing to running our country well. They mis-inform and divide and allow gross pillock-hood to flourish.

These are important times. Huge decisions are at stake and whatever the outcome, our lives are about to change entirely. All of us. Rich and poor, public and private sector. Can we not actually try to find the best solutions and leave playground chants to the 6 year olds?


  1. Sue

    sorry, but you have two No 3's in there. Just takes a bit of the shine off an excellent and witty piece of work.

    you can tell me to eff off if you want, any time.

    I do like your stuff, wish I had that special talent.

    If this should be done other than by a post I can delete this one, can't I ?

    usual best wishes

  2. I knew Chris M would like the canine description (I aim to please).

    Yes I think that rushing around in the political arena shouting 'four legs good, two legs bad' is unlikely to be a successful ploy to winning the next general election. Unfortunately that's exactly what EM did yesterday at PMQs and chose totally the wrong target to boot.

    I think the target of this blog's campaign has to be on precise unravelling of the various decisions that are being made about health spending.

    We must remember that the Government has committed to increasing it in real terms, so that's the first port of call (a difficult target with inflation so high).

    The next target is to decipher whether the money being spent is not being switched from benefits to patients to the pockets of suppliers.

    Agreed Chris?

  3. I know little to nothing about economics (just started reading economics for dummies) but I feel strongly that the rich should pay, after all they are the ones that benefited from the boom time. Why should we have to tighten our belts at all?

    I don't think the rich being adept at tax evasion doesn't mean new laws shouldn't be created and more resources and effort shouldn't be put into putting a stop to their behaviour.

    Infinite economic growth in a finite world is madness anyway, the party is almost over.

  4. "Ditzy-Debate No.4 Conservatives are evil lying cheats who just want to kill off a few of the weakest to put more money in fat-cats pockets"

    Can't see what's not true about this statement.

    They are evil lying cheats. Their "benefit reforms" have already killed some of the weakest and will kill many more in the future, as will their plans for the NHS. Everything they do is to make the rich even richer at the expense of the poor. To cause uneccessary pain and suffering to the weakest and most in need of help in society to enrich the wealthiest is indeed evil.

  5. [b]Obama Middle East speech which was good he praised the Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi,[/b]
    mohamed was a Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire on December 17, 2010, in protest of the confiscation of his wares and the harassment and humiliation that was allegedly inflicted on him by a municipal official and her aides. His act became the catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution, inciting demonstrations and riots throughout Tunisia in protest of social and political issues in the country. Anger and violence intensified following Bouazizi's death, leading then-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to step down on January 14, 2011, after 23 years in power.

    The success of the Tunisian protests sparked protests in several other Arab countries, including a similar revolution in Egypt, and an ongoing civil war in Libya. The protests included several men who emulated Bouazizi's act of self-immolation, in an attempt to bring an end to their own autocratic governments. Those men and Bouazizi were hailed by some Arab commentators as "heroic martyrs of a new Middle Eastern revolution.

    [b]We must remember him says obama[/b]

    Indeed we should and it should be a lesson to all government's to make sure that their citizens have a voice at least we have mp's but their are some who are very slack we need to get rid of those ASAP and root them out

    We also need to have the government of the day to show respect and to treat with respect those in need and those whose health is poor and not to beat them with a stick every time they talk about them on the news etc

    We dont wont to see any sick or disabled people who have to act like Mohamed Bouazizi and set fire to themselves so that justice can be served but it may just come to that as the pressure builds which will be to much for some

  6. Is not the High Court decision on Brum a fillip?

  7. Good post.

    I disagree with you somewhat on number 4, though. There are shades of truth to those stereotypes - party funding sources, lobbying groups and so forth. Cameron and Osborne in particular are so politically minded that you could probably predict their behaviour to a tee using public choice theory.

  8. Cant agree with you on no.2.We had a year of positive growth during which the deficit was coming down:that is how to reduce it,through growth.And many economists agree with me.In addition,a gradually implimented land tax applied to the rich would help to meet the pre-
    recession deficit(38bn)and perhaps go further.
    Many of your own points imply there is no need for haste regarding the deficit.What we have is deficit hysteria whipped up as an excuse to impliment a long-held idealogical dream.

  9. Well try to make head or tails of this email sent to me by Steve

    DLA cuts – who will lose out?

    Dear fourbanks,

    The DWP have now published much more detail about how they intend to assess people for personal independence payment (PIP), the replacement for disability living allowance (DLA) for working age claimants. And it’s already clear who some of the people most likely to face DLA cuts are.

    Current claimants aren’t actually due to be forced off DLA and assessed for PIP until 2013, but the DWP is in a hurry to get the regulations in place and let Atos start creating new software and preparing for the mass migration. So they have now published a list of the activities and descriptors that will be used to decide who gets an award of PIP and at what rates.

    PIP awards will be based on the number of points you score for the different daily living and mobility activities. The assessment procedure is very similar to the one used for employment and support allowance. Unfortunately this will include filling out a questionnaire and then, for most claimants, having to attend a medical at an Atos examination centre where a doctor or nurse will use a computer programme to assess you.

    We don’t yet know the scores for descriptors - except for details of which activities will be high, medium or low scoring - but then neither does the DWP. First they have to try out the new system on ‘volunteers’ who already get DLA, so they can fiddle with the scores until they can be sure that their target of a 20% reduction in payments is going to be achieved.

    But we do know enough to be able to say which current DLA claimants are most likely to lose out under PIP, simply from knowing which activities will and won’t be taken into account. For example, it’s clear that claims where problems moving around indoors are a major factor will be less likely to succeed under PIP. The same looks to be true of claims that rely heavily on night-time care needs, claims where supervision is the main issue and many others.

    It’s important to make it clear that these are only draft assessment criteria. But given that the DWP have already started testing them and intend to have the whole system worked out and published by October, it seems unlikely that they will be keen to make any dramatic changes.

    It looks like 2013 -2014 will be especially difficult for claimants and advisors alike as a number of ‘reforms’ will all be taking place at once. Amongst other things, claimants will be being transferred from incapacity benefit to employment and support allowance, from employment and support allowance to universal credit and from DLA to PIP. Then there’s the possible abolition of the social fund and of council tax benefit too, both being replaced by a babel of individual local authority schemes.

    Meanwhile, in order to cope with the avalanche of extra work the ‘reforms’ will create, Jobcentre Plus are . . . closing offices and getting rid of thousands of staff.

    Perhaps it was this knowledge that there will be so many empty desks in Jobcentre Plus offices that prompted Chris Grayling to tell MPs that he is trying to persuade Citizens Advice Bureaux to move into them. Could this ever be a good idea? Tell us what you think.

    No doubt in preparation for the huge number of appeals that the enforced transfer of DLA claimants is likely to produce, the tribunals service will be recruiting disability wing members for DLA tribunals in November. Anyone who is disabled or who has knowledge of disability through their work can apply. You need to be available for a minimum number of sessions a year and you get paid a reasonable amount per session – I don’t know how much it is now but I believe it used to be over £100 a session. You can register to be sent an email when the recruitment process begins.

    You are welcome to reproduce this newsletter on your blog, website, forum or newsletter.

    You can also read this newsletter online.

    Good luck,

    Steve Donnison

  10. Excellent article Sue. Couldn't have said it better myself.

    Sadly I think that most people just aren't interested enough to go beyond the lazy stereotypes on all sides. Not everyone can be obssessed politicos like you and me.

    I just hope that there are roughly equal mad stereotypes on both sides and so they sort of cancel out and we get the same result as though we actually had informed decision making.

    Call me a raging optimist. . .