Saturday, 23 June 2012

The Slippery Slope to Fascism?

The NHS has been opened up to competition, the modern parlance for privatisation. Mr. Gove, the education secretary, expects the majority of schools to become Academies and given the figure is roughly 40% now, he is clearly not mistaken. Academies are the effective privatisation of education where millions of pounds of public assets are given away to private organisations. Welfare reforms are likely to mean that those under the age of twenty-five are not entitled to housing benefit, and since as a group they are significantly more likely to suffer from unemployment, they have been condemned to destitution. If a person is in this situation, they are then told they must work for free in order to receive any financial assistance at all. So the young people of Britain have the following to look forward to: a life with few prospects since their school will be an Academy, teaching pointless courses in order to make their results look good, while the government bring in a qualification which is not open to them and is the only thing that employers and education providers will take seriously; they will have vastly reduced healthcare should they need it since private companies will not provide that which is not profitable (don’t believe me? 225 previously widely available treatments have already been rationed or withdrawn since the passing of the Health and Social Care Bill due to cost-effectiveness); they will have to live with their parents (or on the streets) until they are at least 25 since housing prices have been inflated by the irresponsible financial sector and they no longer qualify for any kind of help; But more than that, since they don’t qualify for the elitest vision of education or employment on offer they will be forced to work for free. Although, perhaps or government will develop some sort of compund where they can stay and contribute to society? "Work Camps" perhaps?

All of this is apparently justified by our flagging economy which is only flagging because bankers, who did have access to these benefits, wrote too many cheques they couldn’t cash. They created money that didn’t exist and lent it to people that couldn’t pay it back. Why? Because they wanted to improve their share prices and increase their already monstrous bonuses. Our government decided that the banks who had been allowed to grow to gargantuan sizes in a rush of de-regulation since 1979 were so big that their failure would damage our economy beyond repair. Money was poured in to save the ailing institutions (the government has so far borrowed £124bn according to the Guardian) and it is the poor who will be footing the bill. Schemes like Jimmy Carr’s K2 and non-domicile status favoured by Tory donors costs HMRC £70bn annually according to the New Statesman.  Meanwhile the increase in ‘stealth taxes’, such as VAT and duty, hit the poorest disproportionately hard since the extra money on the things they pay for make up a larger percentage of their income. For the same reason it is this group who will be hit hardest by cuts to public services since if they were more affluent they would be able to demand the higher quality provisions on offer to the wealthy few. But even these figures are a distraction, a smoke screen to obscure the true intentions of our ruling elites. Ideologically they are opposed to the idea of a public sector. They are now doing whatever they can to ensure that money that has been earmarked to ensure we all have a minimum basic standard of living ends up in the hands of the wealthy few.

So, what is the economic case for these cuts? Those few will tell us that they are necessary for the prosperity of our nation, and that the prosperity of our nation benefits all of us. The Tories will tell us that the growth of business is critical to kick-starting our stalled economy. Well let’s examine that idea. I have talked in the past about the US where 93% of economic growth feeds only the wealthiest 1% of the population, and indeed record corporate profits of $1.97tn were accompanied by real wage falls and rising unemployment during the third quarter of 2011. In Britain there has been a 21% increase in corporate profits since the third quarter of 2009. “But what about the trickle-down effect?”I hear you say. Frankly, it no longer exists, if it ever did. Unemployment here too has been steadily rising although this is a side issue in that employee compensation only accounts for 54% of GDP (down from 65% in the mid 1970’s) with the rest going to you-know-where. In short, although the situation is getting worse for employees in that their real pay has fallen by approximately 2% since mid 2010 according to the TUC, they haven’t been getting a fair deal since the 70s. Still we are given platitudes, small business growth - the endeavours of entrepreneurs - will save us. Sadly small businesses are currently in decline too, with over 50 failing every day according to the Mail on-line, this is strictly a corporate zone. If the government were genuinely serious about encouraging growth in small businesses it would be using a progressive taxation system where larger businesses pay a higher percentage of tax on their profits so that smaller businesses have more income to invest and develop, instead of the flat rate corporation tax currently in place. This flat rate system benefits the larger organisations - who already have advantages in terms of large scale efficiencies - because of their ability to transfer money beyond the tax system. Some even manage broker deals to avoid paying at all. Vodafone for example, which according to Forbes saw UK profits grow from £1.2bn to £1.3bn while it’s tax bill fell from £140m to zero in the same period.

As further rebuttal to the justifications for austerity , the UK is currently in debt to the tune of 66% of GDP. This sounds a lot until you consider the fact that our national debt was over 100% of GDP [continuously] between 1912 and 1961, a period which saw the birth of our welfare state. Indeed for only 50 of the last 300 years has our national debt been lower as a percentage of GDP than it is today. So then, we are being asked to sacrifice critical services and social mobility in the name of economic problems and promised progress which are at best ill-considered and at worst outright lies. Very quickly we have to start cutting through the spin and propaganda. If your life chances are determined by the economic situation of your parents, you are not free. If you are forced to work for nothing and a company profits from that, you are not free. If the actions of an unelected government acting without a mandate and outside of the written promises upon which its election campaign was based can destroy your life without consultation or remorse, then you are a slave to their whim. This is not hyperbole; 32 people die every week in our country having been declared fit to work. They die from cancer, from heart disease and from any other number of illnesses that our government’s system routinely ignores since it views its citizens only in the light of their value to the economy.

Culturally we are unwilling or unable to oppose this tyranny.  Not because we think it’s fair, and not because we are happy about it. But because we have a proud sense of responsibility and a strong moral compass. Teachers will say they don’t want to harm the prospects of their students, doctors will say any action they take will hurt patients. Private sector employees will not want to harm the companies they work for, and the media will tell us industrial action won’t work because this is the only way out of our economic mess. In response to that I would argue how quickly alternative ideas are generated when the wealth of the elite is threatened, as has been the case in the past. Teachers, your students will be better served by the creation of a fairer society within which they can both contribute and benefit through hard work, rather than being locked out on the day of their birth. Doctors and nurses, how many more people will suffer and die as a result of the stripping of the NHS, one of the most efficient healthcare systems in the world? If we do not do something, that is if we allow this pattern to continue, how many more rights will we lose? How much more will our real wages fall as corporate profits continue to rise? How long will we accept being second class citizens in a society that profits from our toil, before we demand the right to guaranteed reasonable living standards and the opportunity to affect our own futures? How long before we demand to be free and equal members of a democratic society again?

Fascism is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as:
extreme right-wing, authoritarian, or intolerant views or practices
This regime is right-wing, authoritarian and intolerant of the needs of the vast majority of our populace. We are clearly short of anything seen in Nazi Germany, but if we do nothing, how long will it take for this creeping elitism to morph into fully fledged fascism. And will we ever manage to change it back?