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Thursday, 26 February 2015

As the rich blame our parents and grandparents, we say, "Pay your fuc*ing taxes!"

The truth?  Or the Jeremy Vine version of "well off pensioners stealing our children's future?"

I have just been listening to Jeremy Vine talk about the “divide between the old and young.” 

I feel the right and the powerful are using this conversation to divert us from the real reasons for rising inequality in the UK. Vine, and others, broadcast to, in my opinion, what they hope is an uninformed electorate, the “facts” that young people nowadays are having difficulty in getting on to the housing ladder, that their pay is much lower than previous generations and that the older people have better pensions than those of us still in work, or those just setting off on their career path will have in the future. 

Vine - diverting and dividing?

These "facts" may be facts, but the fact they are being related as one leading to the other is a dreadful tory tactic of diverting and dividing and conquering the working class. This is the case in the media discourse on immigration etc.  Racism, sectarianism and sexism, three of the oldest ways of dividing and diverting us from the real robbers have limited reach nowadays, so the tories must create other, new divisions n order to pit people against each other and conquer all of what the UK has for them and their billionaire pals.

Our pensioners, it is implied, are sucking the country dry with their post-war settlement pensions (along with Muslims, single mums, those on benefits, the disabled, women... etc). This of course, is a huge diversion from the fact that a tiny proportion of rich people  are hording money “offshore” and in Switzerland and refusing to pay a fair share of the resources they have used working people to take.  Tax avoidance and all of its related robbery, are huge.  In comparison, the blamed, so called welfare fiddles are minute -  almost infinitesimally so.

Vine, of course, willnot, like the other media outlets, take responsibility for the divisiveness of this discourse they are quite plainly creating. And they certainly do not want to discuss the real reasons for the inequalities they highlight. In fact today, Tuesday 24th February, Vine told a man not to bother talking about the Bankers and their bonuses and their destruction of our economy, as that would be raised as a separate issue later. It most certainly is not a separate issue, though they want you to separate it from the real stress our welfare system is under because of the bank heist, and tax grab of 2008 and of course before and after that economic crash.

This discourse is, of course, linked to the tory and Liberal Democrats attacks on our welfare system (with the tacit approval of the feckless neo-liberal agenda supporting Labour Party).

Our welfare and wealth and power sharing British system was at it’s height in the seventies, when in 1976, equality in the UK was at its, well, most equal. Inequality in the UK, because of the adherence to Thatcherite, almost Victorian standards of liberalist economic policies is reaching levels nowadays not seen since the days of the Victorian little match girl – a Christmas tale we never see on our TV’s anymore – but one I saw as a child of the seventies more often than the Dickensian Christmas Carol that offers charity as a solution, and we know nowadays that Food Banks and charitable cooked geese are not a solution. How many hidden little matchgirls are there nowadays, dragged into a system in which in some of the wealthiest houses, as was mentioned last week in the TV series Modern times, Welcome to Mayfair, take from them their passports and force them into indentured slavery? 

That programme, by the way, was extraordinary. Criticised by the Telegraph and other posho papers as aimless, but in my opinion a valuable piece of TV as rather than poverty porn, it was a window on the aimless, and money hording, powerful – all totally free of the concept of money – but all extremely powerful and protective of their ignorant, privileged lives even to the point that a NHS doctor feels he can say to a camera that one of his patients is an indentured slave, but doesn’t seem to have been able to go to the Police? Surely this inability of a Doctor to report this human right abuse has echoes in the protection of Sir James Wilson Vincent "Jimmy" Savile, OBE, KCSG?

Telegraph review here - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/tv-and-radio-reviews/11412509/Modern-Times-Welcome-to-Mayfair-review-what-was-the-point.html )

Welcome to Mayfair: NHS Doctor revealed indentured slavery... did anyone notice?
We need more of these programmes that put the spotlight on “our betters” as they idiotically and without thought spend thousands of pounds on a night out, yet see fit, and feel it is their right, to have slaves.

We need more documentaries that show the injustices and inequality rife in the UK. But the problem with inequality, it means that the film makers and our media is filled full of "the establishment." Working class voices, it seems, are only those affected by private school boys and girls as a rebellion or after studying us plebs in order to play them in a drama. Our actors and journalists come from a shrinking breeding stock. 

Boring as we are, we play a game in our house. If an actor or journalist or film maker catches our eye, we Wikipedia them to see if they are as working class, or ordinary as they seem to be making out. A huge amount of times, those people turn out to be privately educated and from money – or at the very least, from middle class, well supported backgrounds. Rarely do you find someone who has come from a scheme. And if you do, they are Andrew Neill, who sold out years ago – or to be fair – feels he was served well by access to a grammar school. 

What these people don’t seem to add up – these working class people who made it in the sixties and seventies because of the post war consensus, is that they had free education, they had access to work, they had adequate council housing in order to help them get on to their feet, they had welfare payments during their free university holidays and times “between jobs,” and even more- they had grants that paid for accommodation and food and beer and fun. Now, of course I’m not saying here “those older people had it better than us – let’s take away their winter fuel allowance," like the conversation Jeremy facilitated and guided. Remember in order to pay for these things, we had real jobs, generating real taxes and the rich were taxed at higher rates – and the rich, with some notable exceptions, knew we were all in this together and although their high earnings were taxed at a high rate, they were still able to afford private jets, Rolls Royces etc. (some preferred to swan off to America, a place built on massive poverty and racism, in order to pay less).  Some money did filter down to those who needed it, unlike nowadays as Iain Duncan Smith’s dreadful smashing up of the welfare system drives some of our most vulnerable to suicide. Jonathan Ross and the stars of The Last Leg said it last week… 

Giving a tin of beans or two to a foodbank may make people feel good – but it Is no solution to inequality. A tenner to Red nose day while wearing a funny wig won’t change the world - just some selected, mediated "deserving" vulnerable person. But the tories and their acolytes are changing the UK media discourse to “that poor person has a wee bit more than me,” rather than "hey, look at that guy buying an island and a £500 million massive liner with exocet missiles and calling it a yacht!"

The sense of entitlement of these people is incredible – and leads to the likes of the indentured, imprisoned slaves they feel they deserve. Just remember when you see Prince Charles wax lyrical about some injustice, he chooses how much tax he pays. 

And he pays someone to dress him. 

And just try to think with each exposed robbery through the banks, how many times we hear, “Oh, yes, that was back then – it was rife, then.” 

This is now. 

Every week we here of another "then," that came after 2008.  What are they doing to divert billions to offshore accounts now

How many are involved in invisible schemes NOW that skirt the type of robbery HSBC was caught carrying out after 2008?  After their apologies for 2008? I worked in an accountants office in 1984… these things were happening then. Lots of it was exposed in 2008/9 and now it seems, the perpetrators, rather than clean up their big bonused act, found new ways to not pay their way.

The media and its hugely rich owners and political intermediaries feed on the creation of scapegoats. Scapegoating immigrants, Jews, black people, Muslims, Catholics, women, the lowest paid, the poor etc, and those scapegoats are now slowly and insidiously being joined by our fathers and grandfathers who fought and died for a fairer system that is being at times, almost imperceptibly smashed by those who feel they could be richer without the equality in the twentieth century the working class almost gained.

Martin McKee and David Stuckler’s immensely important document from 2011, “The assault on Universalism; How to dismantle a Welfare State,” shows just how far we’ve come down the line to having our NHS and welfare stripped, when published just four years ago it seemed that it was almost scaremongering. 

We know that isn’t the case now.

They wrote about the setting up of our welfare system, back in the forties, 

“Sir William Beveridge called for a national fight against the five “giant evils” of want, disease, ignorance, squalor, and idleness. His call secured support from across the political spectrum. Although he sat in the House of Commons as a Liberal, his plans were implemented by a Labour government, and continued under successive Conservative ones. The reasons for such wide ranging support varied but, for many ordinary people, the fundamental role of the welfare state was to give them security should their world collapse around them. There were good reasons to seek security. The British people had just emerged from a war that had shown that, regardless ofhow high they were on the social ladder, they could fall to the bottom in an instant. The death and destruction of war were not the only threats; a serious illness could blight a family’s prospects. People wanted to be sure that they would not be on their own if disaster struck, and they were prepared to ensure this through taxes and insurance contributions. They were, literally, “all in it together,” accepting rationing of food and fuel to guarantee that in the face of austerity, everyone had access to the essentials.”

So how, as McKee and Stuckler’s document is entitled, do you destroy the welfare state? I don’t apologise for taking chunks from this document here.

They goes on to explain how American society is very different from ours. If you are at the bottom of society, you are most probably black, so welfare is seen as being something that is there to help people you, as someone from the majority and more affluent white society, can never be. Regardless of how far down the pecking order, in a system that is still trying to recover from a segregationalist, racist recent history, you are not “one of them.” You are not at the bottom if you are white, and at the bottom.  And society through racism and ghettoisation can easily be divided into deserving and undeserving poor.

American society also blames poverty on laziness. And over a third of social spending comes from voluntary giving which goes to whoever the rich deem as deserving, rather than a democratically elected government and consensus.

American society, with its two party system and huge geographical area, has never developed a good union network. Countries with strong unions have better welfare systems and less inequality.

“The USA does not offer a system of mutual security. Instead it provides a basic safety net, albeit an increasingly threadbare one. The advantage of the American system, if you are rich, is that you can pay much less in taxes. Indeed, the low tax/low welfare system is so skewed that a billionaire will pay a much smaller proportion of income in taxes than the poorest paid workers, so that effectively the poor are subsidising the rich. By contrast, in Scandinavia, taxes are high but, in return, the rich obtain a comprehensive package of high quality benefits either free or at minimal cost, including child care, healthcare, social care, and university education. There is a clear trade-off: you pay higher taxes but you get more back in return (as well as living in a more harmonious, safer society).”

So how do the tories go about dismantling our welfare state? Our NHS? Our education system?

Essential Reading: McKee and Stuckler... 

First create identifiable groups of undeserving poor people. Second create a discourse in which the rich see little flowing back from their taxes. Third, smash the unions and portray them as self interested organisations rather than organisations that have benefited society as a whole.

And finally, as Ronald Reagan did it in the eighties – introduce policies that have little effect now, but will come to fruition further down the line.

The press, filled with tales of scroungers, asylum seekers, immigrants, associated with welfare, creates the narrative of deserving and undeserving poor. More dangerously relatively recently, lots of this has been associated with Muslims.

And of course, universal benefits are attacked. Child benefit is removed from middle class mothers, and free tv licenses and bus passes are placed under scrutiny. Universal education is attacked – and to do this, the tories had to divert people from the real reason we educated our children for free – the benefit to all – to the whole of society and change the narrative to one of “university is not beneficial for everyone”.

And as the next generation starts to earn, of course as they are saddled with student debt as they try to pay a mortgage etc, they will question why they pay taxes at all.

“The Mirrlees Review on the tax system, commissioned by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, has highlighted what it sees as an anomaly, whereby many of life’s necessities, such as food, as well as things that make life a bit more civilised, such as books, are free from value added tax. It argues that this universal policy should be redressed and, if it causes hardship, then the poor (although it admittedly does not preface this with “undeserving” but by now most readers will get the message) should receive subsidies to help them. Once again, the ordinary shopper will ask why they should be paying taxes. The direction of travel should now be clear.”

Who benefits from this dismantling? Certainly not the poor, McKee concludes, but neither do the middle classes as more of the services they recieved for free or subsidised are atomised into private services they are deemed to be able to afford. The Jeremy Vines and others will continue to ask questions such as “should well off pensioners get free travel passes if they are multi millionaires?” The fact is the multi millionaire won’t use his or her free travel pass, but EVERYONE who needs it will definitely get it, regardless of circumstances or change of circumstances. And a welfare system that ensures no-one falls off, including middle class pensioners, is of course, much more desirable to the system in the US that victimises the poor. 

And there is our battle line.  What do we want to have?  A system of blame, built on an atomised working class pitted against its constituent parts?  Or a system that will catch you if you fall and support you when you are vulnerable?

We have moved some distance from the social democratic model of the post war consensus. And I would argue that of course, social democracy is not enough. But we should not be standing by watching the rich dismantle our parent's and grandparent's  - our gains – and we should not buy into the deserving poor and undeserving poor, old and young, Muslim, immigrant, native, single mothers or scrounging disabled and sick people. Everyone deserves their share. And when people fall off the ladder, everyone deserves to have cushions and help while they recover and are helped back up again.

Each according to their need. “Pay your fu*king taxes.”

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