Saturday, 20 April 2013

We Control The Politics Of The Future

Imagine that you attend a rock concert in a football stadium. You wheel in by the thousand, brandishing your coveted tickets and take your seats, waiting for the moment that the concert is due to start. Whether you are satisfied or disappointed by the outcome is a subjective matter. You did nothing personally to prepare for the concert other than buy a ticket, so you may get what you expected as a passive spectator. You did not first have to organise the venue, the dates, hire the stage equipment, employ the constructors, the electricians, the sound engineers, the lighting, the security the promotion etc. You only had to buy a ticket because the organisers did the work before you sat down at your concert seat. The point is that lots had to happen before the event. Your ticket (vote) endorsed the end product.

So now consider an article telling Labour leader Ed Miliband to start to build support for the 2015 election . In many ways it seems that certain groups and political activists are just starting to wake up to the Saturn / Pluto cycle that I have been talking about for years. In a nutshell, the Saturn (structure of society) / Pluto (evolution of society) renews itself around every 33 years. The last time it happened it was Margaret Thatcher who read the zeitgeist and knew that outmoded practices and failing policies in the UK had to be destroyed in order to build for better societal structure that prospered.

Just like our imaginary concert, Margaret Thatcher was working tirelessly many years before the Saturn / Pluto cycle began, but crucially she was utilising the cycle at its most potent and malleable time, which is from the point of the previous conjunction. In the run up to Mrs Thatcher’s time, the Saturn / Pluto conjunction began on 11 August 1947 at 13 degrees of Leo. This was a post-war conjunction that had to deal with a great many restructuring projects including the NHS and the Welfare State. When Saturn returned to 13 degrees of Leo it was September 1976. The United Kingdom was known as the sick man of Europe because it’s economic structure was burdened by Nationalisation, unions capable of bringing down governments, an unfair tax system and failing industry. Within a few years, the Conservative party swept to power in 1979 and began to implement the policies they had said they would implement. By the start of the conjunction in 1982, the structures were fairly well known, even if we had no idea at the time where they would actually lead.

For a while the new policies appeared to work (They were certainly a better alternative than doing nothing or letting the old system fester and poison us all) and the difference to the majority of the British people (in tandem with no credible alternative) were reflected in the three general elections that Margaret Thatcher headed. The Labour party, who naturally shared an affinity with the unions, who were being clobbered under this new regime, had no credible alternative to run the country and languished as an ineffective opposition for many years.

But political ideology started to get in the way of common sense that began to affect the people in the wrong way and the opposition Labour party suddenly woke up to the notion that they could no longer cling to the outmoded far left wing views of days gone by. The Saturn / Pluto cycle is, of course, a global cycle. By the first Saturn / Pluto square in 1993 there was the first attempt at blowing up the World Trade Centre. Back home, the European Economic Community opened its borders to allow free trade. The world was changing significantly, according to the policies developed at the Saturn / Pluto conjunction  and Conservative ideology favoured deregulation, free markets and hands off government. The conservative policies suited many people but not the three million who became unemployed as a result and the many who began to feel insecure about their personal status. What Margaret Thatcher had achieved in the beginning was necessary (not popular) to bring stability and prosperity to the UK shores. But what she did later was pure ideology. Now there were only the more affluent that felt better off. In short, the balance of power shifted because of self serving ideological myopia.

However, when Tony Blair took over the reigns in 1997, he did not seek to reverse Margaret Thatcher’s achievements; indeed it would have been backward and very expensive to attempt it. The world had moved on since the days of miners strikes, three-day weeks and the infamous ‘winter of discontent’

Mr Blair started to redress the balance of power in favour of the ordinary average wage earner. Creating jobs was a top priority. What he had tapped into was the same zeitgeist that Margaret Thatcher had tapped into but the Conservative government had lost along the way (along with Margaret Thatcher herself). He read correctly the mood of the people, possibly unaware that the financial garden was becoming overgrown with unwelcome weeds.

It was after Tony Blair’s departure that the credit crunch hit. But this was within the flowering part of the Saturn / Pluto cycle where we could now see the potential that had been created way back in 1982. Gordon Brown (Prime Minister after Tony Blair) was not the visionary needed to find a way through this most troubling of times. He could not see the similarities that began to emanate from what will be seen historically as an economic crisis of global proportions, far worse than the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Where the UK was regarded as the sick man of Europe, the infection of financial globalisation had spread a rush of greed right across the world and Europe as a whole became sick. History has yet to decide if the whole of the Eurozone experiment is terminal.

So from the UK perspective, we are now (2013 at the time of writing) back at the same point in the evolutionary cycle of Saturn / Pluto as Margaret Thatcher was in 1976. The 1982 conjunction occurred on 8 November 1982 at 27 degrees of Libra. Saturn hit the same degree area in December 2011, which triggered the critical phase of the time span we have to do something about that which does not work, is outmoded and dying and what needs to be destroyed to build anew. This means that whoever wins the general election in 2015, will be the person to set the UKs structural agenda for the 33 years starting at the new Saturn / Pluto conjunction in January 2020. But if the understanding of the zeitgeist is poor, the 2015 government will be either short lived or will be ineffective. Someone has to come forward with the right policies before the next conjunction and there is no sign of it at this time.

And this is the warning that Tony Blair has given to Ed Miliband, along with other politically interested groups. Be in no doubt that another government under David Cameron would be a disaster. He has given the UK some terrible medicine but, keeping with the metaphor of the medical profession, has demonstrated a callous bedside manner along with it. The people did not cause the debt crisis, so there is plenty of room for argument to insist that the people who caused the crisis should be the ones paying for it. The Liberal Democrats (the minor part of the coalition government) may yet hold the key to a new coalition.

In the meantime, we have to look beyond the debt crisis and to put in place policies that will return the world to a more sustainable structure. The Internet movements like the “99 percent” and “Occupy” are clear signposts as to where the hole in the system needs fixing. But it has to be done outside of political dogma and ideology - and Ed Miliband has to start listening to the zeitgeist instead of those with purely left-wing interests.

Ed Miliband himself has mentioned the need to curb short term politics, which is a great start in terms of thinking and the Saturn / Pluto cycle calls for bold and sustainable policies designed to evolve over a generation. And one of the biggest challenges to whoever becomes the next UK Prime Minister involves developing a new kind of political thinking that will impact way beyond the lifetime of that government.

So here are a few pointers to Ed, or whoever wants to be Prime Minister in 2015

First - simplify. The economic dance around tax and corporate responsibility has opened the gates for a plethora of abuse and ways to get around badly written tax laws. Successive governments have pandered to wealthy benefactors and business in order to promote growth and prosperity. But after 33 years it is only the corporations, the banks and the rich who enjoy growth and prosperity. Simplify the tax system. Simplify the welfare system. Make life easier for everyone.

Second - stop tinkering. Any number of Chancellor’s of the Exchequer have added on a penny here and a penny there so that, if the average wage person is any better off at all, it might buy a pint of beer in order to celebrate the windfall. This is the very kind of short term politics that must stop. Simplify the income tax, national insurance, VAT, corporation tax, rates, licences and so on. People see money hemorrhage from their income at every turn. The first chancellor to stop playing pointless financial lego with our personal money will probably go down in history as a great man.

Third - Make essential services not-for-profit companies. Nationalisation did not work. Privatisation is proving to be increasingly more expensive and unaffordable and open to so much abuse. The ordinary average wage person should not be squeezed between the choice of heating and eating. There are thousands of people in fuel poverty. Gas, electricity and water should be without any profit element. This current Saturn / Pluto cycle has demonstrated clearly the greed and the abuse that comes with the ever growing demand for profit. And while we are at the notion of not-for-profit companies (who will still have to pay some taxes) the same should be applied to railway track safety and maintenance and the maintenance of public buildings. If there were ever a need to put money into infrastructure, it would be spending money to set up not-for-profit companies who are not hell bent on legally ripping off the tax payer with extortionate maintenance rates (See PFI for hospitals as a great example). Share holders just make anything attached to it more expensive. The same goes for our National Health Service; some things should never be privatised.

Fourth - The zeitgeist already speaks of a ‘living wage’. I heard Michael Howard (former conservative leader) argue on ‘Question Time’ BBC1 (18 April 2013) that if the UK was to raise the minimum wage it would stop businesses from employing people. Apparently he also argued the same point about the introduction of the minimum wage before it was first introduced. This is the attitude of many business employers who put profit before people. It is the wrong perspective, which clearly should be not of the prospective employer but the employee who will receive this wage. If the wage is not a living wage it can only be viewed as poverty employment. In my opinion, if an employer cannot afford to pay a living wage, then the employer is not in a position to employ. It is crazy in the 21st century to argue for slave wages, which anything below the living wage must be considered as such, irrespective of much lower wages in developing countries. Employers would have wages subjected to a ‘race to the bottom’ mentality. There is one thing to be competitive but quite another to promote oppression on the back of profit. Therefore the way to profitability should be discovered through a route other than continued poverty and the minimum wage should be at the level of the living wage as soon as possible.

Fifth - if there is a minimum wage perhaps there ought to be a maximum wage. Anyone who can afford to buy a family house with one year’s salary can achieve what the average person would spend 30 years on a mortgage to achieve. Is it right for some people to get million pound bonuses, share deals and extraordinary pensions for the single reason of taking more money out of circulation and into the hands of a tiny, and very rich, minority? It has been this sort of practice that generated the angina effect on the circulation of the world’s capitalist system and created the 99 percent who rummage around with just 1 percent of the world’s money. If we do not learn this lesson I am positive that we will be back in 33 years time, talking about the same problem.

So there is a simple template for the new Saturn / Pluto cycle that, if not Ed Miliband then someone else to tap into, must be addressed. Simplify. Stop silly tinkering that makes no difference. Look after the essentials. Give people a proper liveable wage and stop the very rich and powerful from keeping the rest of us in poverty. In many ways it is a shopping list right up the street of any left wing politician but be under no illusions that going too far left is just as bad as the present government going too far to the right. We need someone who will put people above political point scoring.

And finally there is one more crucial ingredient to all of this, and that is you and me. We are the electorate who can either buy a ticket and watch the show unfold, or get involved in the organisation of our world and be the change we want to see. Through the Internet at the very least, we have the ability to become better informed, to become more active, to join appropriate pressure groups like Avaaz or 38 degrees. The mass populations of the world are the people who generate the zeitgeist that politicians tap into. The clearer our message means the more likely that politicians will fight to achieve what we want to achieve. This is what corporate lobby groups do - like the gun lobby this year that effectively squashed a really good gun control law because it might hurt the profitability of their business; Senators were effectively bribed to put guns before children. So the question is whether you want people like them to run your country (to suit them) or if you want to take some responsibility and ensure that governments are controlled by the electorate (that’s us). We have to lose the apathy that we don’t make a difference; In the words of Barack Obama, yes we can.

Ultimately we control the politics of our future. This is not post war 1947 anymore. The world has changed amazingly fast and that means that the electorate has the tools that they did not have before to become more switched on and clued up.

By around 2018 we will be able to see how a generation is going to unfold, and by February 2049 we will know how well we did it. So, do you want to sit back and buy a ticket or would you want to be part of making the concert?

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher - A Necessary Evil

As the present 33-year Saturn / Pluto cycle plays out its most critical end, Mrs Margaret Thatcher, one of Britain’s most notable Prime Ministers, passed away on 9th April 2013 in the Ritz Hotel London. By the time of the new Saturn / Pluto conjunction on 12 January 2020, we will know how the next 33-year cycle is likely to unfold. There is much to play for and those who sit back and do nothing may wish to consider the legacy that Mrs Thatcher’s vision of the future left us. Certainly if you listen to the partisan critics at this time, the UK is deeply divided in its perspective.

The UK is once again divided in its perspective about what Mrs Thatcher did for / to the country during her reign as Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990.

To understand what I mean when speaking of the Saturn / Pluto cycle, here is a crude analogy; Saturn structures our society and Pluto destroys the old, outmoded and anything that no longer works.

The Saturn / Pluto conjunction of Oct 1914 saw the start of what was then the Great War (WWI). When Saturn returned to to the position of that conjunction in July 1944, it had been demonstrated graphically that the global mindset during this period had to change drastically. Consequently when the war ended in 1945 there was a tremendous amount to be sorted out. In some cases there are choices made between 1914 - 1947 that remain unresolved.

When the Saturn / Pluto cycle of 1947 saw us coming out of World War II and on the road to rebuilding ourselves, industries were nationalised and lands were structured. The National Health Service was introduced, The Disabled Persons at Work Act and various Welfare Benefits. Change was unstoppable and tension was already beginning that would lead to the India / Pakistan partition, Israel declared independence (1948) and lands throughout the middle East, Europe and Asia divvied up between France, Russia, China, UK and USA; the founder member of the United Nations. It was also the start of the Cold War (1947 - 1991)

By 1976 (this is when Saturn reached the degree area of the 1947 conjunction) the world had changed beyond recognition. Things were becoming computerised and supersonic. Unions had the capcity to bring down governments, as nationalised industry demanded more money when there was none to be had. Women started to fight for equal status with men. Oil and energy became the battlegrounds on which economies were fought. The ever growing recession and lack of spending was solved by the introduction of the credit card; the price of which we now find ourselves paying.

It was clear that the time had come once again for reform. The time had come to structure a new truth, a new paradigm that would sweep away the old, outworn models and bring in something new - an upgrade if you will. This was a time when those in positions of power could change the fate of a nation - even the world.

Mrs Thatcher led the Conservative party to power and maintained government from 1979 to 1991. So when the Saturn / Pluto cycle started anew in late 1982, changes were already in full swing and there was no going back.

Margaret Thatcher will be known for many things: the privatisation of nationalised industry, her defiance of unions and the curbing of their rights, the loosening of banking regulation, the right to buy for council houses without replenishing the stock, the infamous Poll Tax (abandoned) and unacceptably high unemployment. Opinion about all of these have divided the UK; those who praise her for her courage and those who despise her for the destruction she caused. What is certain is that she will be remembered.

What Margaret Thatcher built was almost the opposite of unions, closed shops and societies where there were strength in numbers. She promoted the notion that every individual had the right to get to the top and make as much money as possible irrespective of those at the bottom who were in no way intellectually capable of competing. The conservatives say that Mrs Thatcher made Great Britain great again. Others will say that there was another section of Great Britain that was separated by her and left behind to rot.

We knew that many things Mrs Thatcher introduced were falling apart by 2008 when the deregulated banks messed about with the world’s money and lost billions. Housing was in crisis because not enough were being built, people were in fuel poverty because of the ever increasing costs in addition to the profit being taken out, unemployment scaled new heights and debt among everyone became stratospheric. In the same way that nationalisation and the unions failed, so now had privatisation and economic growth halted in its tracks by the parsimonious attitudes of the rich corporations and individuals, unwilling to put money back into the system without the guarantee of immediate return.

Proponents of ‘Thatcherism’ argue forcefully that before Mrs Thatcher was ousted from power by her own people in 1990, that the reforms she had placed in motion when she was Prime Minister were so good that they were not changed by the incoming Labour government of 1997. On the other hand, it could be argued that it would have been impossible, if not foolish, to contemplate reversing policies and changes that had been entrenched for so many years. So going back was impossible and the need to go forward was therefore much more sensible and advantageous.

Opponents of Thatcherism will point to the unravelling of everything she set up. There is very little now of Thatcher’s policies that could be said to be working well. Even the Falkland Islands festers with unfinished business.

But as with most things, the truth is always somewhere in between the extreme perspectives. There were so many things in the mid 70s that not only had to change but would have died by itself and poisoned anything it touched if just left to rot. If the UK government still possessed nationalised industries like coal, steel, British Telecom, British Gas, Electricity, Water etc, there would most likely have been a union meeting calling for a general strike that would have brought down the government over pay. Curiously in 2013 there are plans for a general strike in the UK but because the government no longer holds  these industries they can no longer be held to ransom.

Not everything had to be privatised though, and here it is that political ideology often supersedes common sense. It would have been prudent to hold onto essentials such as gas, electricity and water, or possibly convert the industries in to private ‘not-for-profit’ organisations. The banks should never have been deregulated to the point that banks could gamble so dangerously with our money, jeopardizing the private pensions of many and the future prosperity of the ordinary working person on a modest income.

So Margaret Thatcher made changes in the only way she knew how, and that was by the ideology of her convictions that, in this instance, favoured those with conservative political beliefs. And for that reason they will hail her as an inspiration. But as is always the case with pure conservatism, history has shown that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, so to those with labour or liberal political leanings she was evil and divisive. But for the people who hated her, the fact is that there were no other candidates offering something better at the time; and this is a lesson we should be considering in these last few years before the next conjunction in 2020.

One of the most significant changes that came about in the 1982 - 2020 Saturn / Pluto cycle is the computer. The capability of the computer was so great it facilitated much of the downfall of banks in 2008. But equally, the power of the Internet to open new channels in freedom of speech and the ability to organise large groups of individuals to agree collectively on a thought, a point and even an action, will facilitate the involvement of individuals to make their voices really count. It was the Internet that facilitated the Arab Spring in 2011 and it is within the social media that those not in positions of government can participate fully in deciding how our country - our world - is run in the future. This is a freedom worth protecting with considerable diligence.

So wether or not you support the changes Margaret Thatcher made, it has to be said that some changes definitely needed to be made. The difference between now and then is that we, the little people, only had the vote to make our voices heard. Today we have so much more and we should give ourselves an upgrade and become more integrated with the political programmes that affect so much of our lives. 

Without a viable alternative back in the 1970s, the policies of Margaret Thatcher, in my opinion, were a necessary evil. They were not right, because they left a whole section of the population behind, but it was better than the chaos we had. Mrs Thatcher did many things that were unpopular and unpleasant, but she established a structure that could be structured and controlled; for a while anyway.

In the end we are where we are now and the only way to move is forward. The question is whether we have the sagacity to bypass partisan politics and learn from past mistakes. Margaret Thatcher worked ceaselessly, with only three hours sleep, to get where she wanted to be. We, however, do not have to adopt her working practices, and often would not have the capacity to do so. But we do have to consider ourselves more involved in the politics of life and choose to participate in influencing the outcome of what we want to see - to be the change we want to see. The more we become willing participants, the less likely we will have no alternatives to a necessary evil.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The Blindness of Wealth

One of the fundamental lessons that children learn is the socially acceptable practice of sharing. The makers of money from money have forgotten this very basic necessity. If they were likened to a child with a large and a small apple and had to give one to someone else, they would try to sell you a share of the smaller apple and then eat it once you paid them for it. The thing is, you remember as a child what happened to those who didn’t learn to share; they ceased to be your friend and you didn’t play with them anymore. If you get to the end of this blog you will see how the world’s powers are about to do just that.

Meanwhile, in the microcosm of the UK, the battle rages between those who have money, and are doing very well thank you very much, and those who struggle to get by and rely almost inevitably on various forms of welfare benefit. The UK is fortunate enough to have one but recent reforms are about to make them less supportive.

This week, Chancellor of the Exchequer, George (real name Gideon) Osborne attempted to defend the welfare cuts being imposed as from April 2013. His reasons were, as they usually are within the political right wing mindset, to ‘encourage’ people away from the welfare state and into work; as if people claiming benefit are some type of underclass who are reluctant to work and earn more money. Yes, there are a few hundred out of the millions unemployed who may not want to work but not enough to make this outrageous claim. Taking one example that fits your argument and then using it as a template for an a policy that fits your ideology appears to be all the justification one needs to sacrifice a whole section of society who does not conform to it. It is a kind of bigotry that should have no place in a developed society.

In this article I want to explore a couple of the decisions that were made to welfare and attempt to reason why they are such bad decisions. My personal politics are instinctively left of centre but I try to remain objective when rationalising changes of this magnitude. It is certainly not the time for political propaganda. Ed Balls (Labour shadow chancellor), for example, used Osborne’s speech today as an excuse to slam the decision to cut the top rate of tax, giving more money to the rich while taking from the poor. It is a reasonable comment but does not answer directly whether the changes made to welfare benefits are reasonable or not. The tit for tat politics wastes the opportunity to examine properly the changes that are now enforced and demonstrates that left wing politicians are equally as bad as the right. So it is down to us to strip back the political rhetoric and seek the truth. What will be the impact of these changes? Will they produce the desired outcome? Who gets to judge?

The ‘why’ for the biggest welfare shake up in a generation is easy to understand. In the 2013 budget, the UK has income of £612bn and expenditure of £720bn, meaning that this year we have to borrow £108bn just to balance our outgoings. The economy is flatlining, so there is no help here to boost the treasury coffers, increase revenue and claw back the deficit. Too many people are unemployed, so the emphasis has to be on creating jobs in the private sector to reduce joblessness and long -term dependency on the welfare state. According to the Conservatives, there has been over one million jobs created since they took power and yet this does not appear to have translated into tax revenue for them. One would have thought that a creation of so many jobs would have naturally reduced reliance on welfare benefit. So far there has been no explanation why this has not happened and the only explanation is that someone has been more than economical with the truth.

Two of the biggest changes to help people to get that all elusive job is to first slash housing benefit for people living in a house where it ‘appears’ that there is a spare bedroom and second to cull qualifying disability benefit claimants by up to 25%. It may take up to two years to see how devastating these particular policies will be. However, both are worthy of comment in the light of the reasons given why they have been implemented - namely that the policies are designed to encourage people to come off of welfare benefit and get into work.

There are thousands of people on the social housing list who live in overcrowded accommodation and need a house with more rooms. There are thousands of people who live in houses where there is a spare bedroom. Logically it would seem to make sense that those who have more room than they need should swap with those who do not. To encourage the notion, George Osborne has charged a 14% reduction in housing benefit for one spare room and 25% for more than one spare room. Even though this is claimed to be a deduction, the people have dubbed it the ‘bedroom tax’.

Now, the UK people get a bit tetchy when they are asked to uproot themselves from a life where they feel secure. OK, they may be on benefits and jobs in their line of expertise might not be around the area they live in but their family, social network and everything that constitutes the true meaning of life resides in that area. So what George wants them to do is traipse hundreds of miles from their social group to a house that ‘meets their needs’ but leaves them isolated from friends and family and still without work. Sorry. Have I got this wrong? OK let’s try again.

A couple live in social housing where one member has a disability that means they must sleep in a separate own room. No, that doesn’t fit the profile either. OK, one more go.

A family live in a town where they both work on minimum wage and their child has recently moved out of the family home, creating a ‘spare room’. If they move to a smaller property, of which there are none in their area, their minimum wage job becomes untenable because of the additional cost of transportation. So they would lose their jobs and have to claim benefit - ah no!, they can’t do that because they would have left their job voluntarily and would therefore be disentitled to benefit. ....This isn’t working either is it?

So Georges ‘logical’ thinking sounds great on paper but is painfully naive when one attempts to apply the practical application of it. In his defence, George cited the family claiming £100,000 a year in housing (hence the housing benefit cap of £26,000 for a couple and 18,500 for a single person). Considering the average working wage is around £26,000, the actual capping of housing benefit is not an unreasonable policy, as people earning this much would struggle to maintain the rent on a property on 50% of their earnings. While I agree with the logic of capping housing benefit like this, it also has to be seen in the light of housing costs in an area. London’s mainly Conservative Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has bedsits starting at £26,000 a year. Is there some gerrymandering or social cleansing attached to this decision or does it merely highlight the fact that some areas of the UK are to become no-go areas for social housing? Although in fairness, those who do earn the national average wage could not afford a bedsit in Kensington and Chelsea either. So perhaps the real problem is the soaring cost of rent.

Apropos the average working wage, it is a dream scenario for many people struggling to live in the UKs ‘flexible workforce’ (a left wing Labour policy, along with the creation of the minimum wage, that created many insecure temporary and part time jobs). In reality there are many minimum wage jobs in George Osborne’s economic market that are only suitable to people without responsibilities / mortgages / debts etc or economic migrants from countries where the cost of living is considerably less than in the UK. The UK national minimum wage in 2013 is £6.19 per hour, or £247.60 a week or £12,875.00 a year. Compare this to the private rental of a one bedroom flat in East London of £1100 per month (two bedroom house £1200 and three bedroom £1500) and it is clear that two people who both earn a minimum wage would struggle to live in private rented accommodation.

Therefore, the people who George is attempting to penalise for having an extra bedroom, who may well be working but cannot afford to rent privately, may well find themselves between a rock and a hard place, and may be the very people he claims are doing the right thing and working hard to get ahead. Perhaps more insidiously, the plan is to force people with spare rooms to take on lodgers to reduce the benefit bill while at the same time reduce the demand for housing.

The benefit known as Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is assessed apart from the welfare benefits and can be claimed by all whether they are working or not. The benefit is discounted when people claim income assessed benefits because it was designed to be a life line for those who want to participate fully in active daily lives. For some this has meant the difference between working and paying taxes or being excluded from the opportunity to work.

The two main components of the benefit provides money for help with mobility and personal care. The new ‘Personal Independence Payment’ (note the disappearance of the word ‘disability’) has been rewritten to ensure that at least 25% of people who qualify for DLA now will not qualify under the new benefit, thus saving shed loads of money. George Osborne says that people who were given DLA for life had been effectively ‘parked’ as a person who was not going to find work and this new benefit was designed to make people with disabilities included back into the work field. But the stupid thing about this statement is that there are many people who rely on DLA to keep them in work because the mobility element provides them with a car to get from A to B. If the mobility element disappears then the person with a disability will lose their job, because the won’t be able to get there, and will be another disabled claimant on the welfare state.

George Osborne is either lying to the UK public in the hope that those who do not understand the system will simply believe him or he has no understanding of DLA himself and is demonstrating his incompetence to be delivering such egregious welfare reforms with any understanding of the hardship and devastation it will cause.

George Osborne claims that, ‘Britain’s welfare state is broken’. Personally I believe he is making that claim from a perspective that is not objectively reasoned and presumes unrealistically that other things upon which the welfare state is founded are not broken themselves. Ask any smoker to prioritize their weekly shopping and cigarettes will be listed as important as bread or milk, while those who do not smoke will not see it as a priority at all. Ask a conservative what is the priority in government and they will place the promotion of business and profit over welfare and social responsibility. All political spectrums will admit to a portion of both views but the divide is clearly on the percentage of bias given.

With this in mind, when one looks at the political incentive to use business as a vehicle to drive the UK out of recession, one of the most glaring statistics in the 2013 UK budget is the yawning gap between money taken from people through income and VAT against the profits taken from business. Profits from business (£39bn) against income tax (£155bn) seems hugely one sided, given the single-minded goal to get more tax revenue. Likewise, if consumer spending is the vehicle that will lead the country out of recession and provide bigger tax revenues, is it not a consideration that if the minimum wages is half the national average wage that people with little money to spend could be the very engine to drive the economy forward if they had more money?

By the same token it could be argued that if National Insurance (£107bn) were in place to entitle one to expect a good National Health Service (£137bn) that National Insurance contributions should reflect the growing needs of the NHS. However, as a significant proportion of the NHS budget has recently been mauled by the cost of the disastrous Private Finance Initiative (PFI) that  allowed private companies to build hospitals, charge an ever increasing rent for the building and maintenance etc at a total cost of £300bn. It will soon cost as much as £10bn a year and this is coming partly out of the health budget. This particular bombshell should be laid at the door of the previous Labour Government.

The debt interest (£51bn), if it were all paid up, would not bridge the borrowing gap (£108bn) and what is not reported here is the huge hole that is the public sector pensions.   Perhaps when Labour were in government they should have saved some money to pay for new buildings while revenue exceeded expenditure. They did not because short term politics does not reward long term thinking. This is a particularly thorny problem that dogs democratic political systems.

Clearly, we’re in an economic mess, created it must be emphasised by the rich people and exacerbated by short term politics, that must be reconciled. However, the right wing view of cutting support mechanisms that merely injures the poorest in society is nothing short of adhering blindly to an ideology that conforms to the blinkered view of capitalist meritocracy.

That view has been pronounced widely and with the puffed up chest of those who believe themselves to be an example of its success. The budget was designed for ‘people who want to work hard and get on’, implying that people claiming welfare benefit are people who do not want to work and do not want to get on. Mr Osborne would really like the electorate to believe this assertion but the facts do not support his claim. Not everyone was born with the disposition to rise through the ranks to fame and fortune. Not everyone was born with the intellect to ascend the academic ladder to brilliance and notability. In fact not everyone was born with the capability of rising to more than the most menial of low paid jobs. 

So if a portion of the UK society find it difficult to fit their square pegs into the round holes of the labour market, it must be their fault. Apparently the elite point of view is makes no concession for people who for, whatever valid reason there may be, do not have a job, and the lottery of human ability is punishable by almost Darwinian means; you could say it is the survival of the richest.

Unfortunately this attitude is contagious. People who are fortunate enough to be in work and maybe not to have claimed benefit for any length of time, are often susceptible to the right wing ideology that people who do claim benefit are most likely work-shy or lazy. This is why George Osborne’s budget is connected to the notion that cutting welfare helps people who ‘work hard and want to get on’. In my opinion this is simply a paradigm that promotes the illusion that anyone who wants to work hard and get on are only prevented by circumstances they create around them.

Disability, for example, is often created by the way the world is designed rather than by a persons inability to perform tasks just as well as  people without a disability, like designing a building without wheelchair access excludes all wheelchair users from it. Likewise designing a recruitment system that excludes large sections of society from it will foment unfilled jobs and long term unemployment. Ask any graduate who complains that employers want people with experience but they can’t get a job so how can they get experience? 

The worst aspect of this illusion is the attitude that leads one towards justifying changes to a system purely for economic purposes accordance to the perspective that business cannot be at fault - only people claiming benefit. It tends to attract individuals with narrow lens perspectives, like the guy I conversed with recently who suggested that he didn’t owe anyone a free lunch so why should he pay for freeloaders, holding most righteously to the Hayek principles of economics in it’s human guise and thereby agreeing with Ebenezer Scrooges analogy that those in need of welfare should hurry up and die to decrease the world’s economic problems.

Politics to one side, the welfare system does need streamlining and made simpler (as does the tax system and the blocking up of about £120bn of tax avoidance). And there should be caps on benefits that ensure the amount of benefit paid does not exceed what one would be capable of earning. It makes sense to ensure that people are better off in work but cutting benefit, particularly personal benefit, is simply a race to the bottom that is penury for those at the bottom of societies financial ladder.

But reforms that affect so many people in so many different ways are reforms that should be considered carefully and outside of political ideology. The bedroom tax is an ill conceived reform and may well prove to be unworkable. One has to make sure that sufficient housing stock exists to house people in smaller properties before punishing them  for not living in one. 

The DLA reform is perhaps one of the most execrable. The rules for disallowing disability benefit should not put people out of work but it will. It is bad and ill thought out legislation.
When the true results of the change become known it will lead to a repealing of a number of policies and yet another costly reorganisation; it is always the case with ill-considered legal and ideologically motivated changes.

The elephant in the room is the need to reform the capitalist system itself. In its present state there will, as George Osborne mentioned, indeed be the need to compete with emerging economies like Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Afirca (BRICS) who are presently in talks about creating their own rival bank to invest in said developing industries. . Even at this point these countries are dumping the Euro at a furious rate . The danger is the obvious capitalist intention to drive down wages and working rights instead of harmonise the cost of living in order to compete effectively. But the rich would rather abandon a sinking country before losing a penny in profit. George Osborne said that the welfare system was broken. On the contrary I say. Rather it is the capitalist system that is broken and reform must take place if we are to see a future beyond the rise of emerging economies.

But the blindness of wealth refuses to accept what is really broken. And those with so much would rather risk losing everything than sharing.