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Archive for December 2010

Short sighted policies threaten the West

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Bad news for the futures of the USA and UK. When we should be seeking to strengthen our ability to compete in a world where new economic powers are becoming stronger – we are wasting our natural and human resources.

Deficits should be reduced – where they are the result of wasteful spending. But we endanger our future if we cut back on our infrastructure; if we fail to prepare the next generation of income earners.

The US is taking its eye off deficit reduction – by granting extended tax cuts for the very richest. Conservative ideology – and the self interest of those in Congress (who themselves are extraordinarily rich compared with the average American – and who are financed by extremely wealthy individuals and corporations) is trumping the needs of the USA. For years the richest have been contributing less and less to the society they benefit from. As a result of policies followed the rich have skimmed off the wealth – infrastructure improvements have not been made – and the US has ceded some of its competitive advantage. Tax cuts have become more important politically than preparing the nation for the challenges of 21st Century.

In the UK Parliament is due to vote today on increasing student fees. Again over a period of years we have “chosen” to enrich the few (PFI schemes are an example of this – note the Public Accounts Ctte report on how banks have put up the costs – “Overall, bank financing costs increased by 20-33 per cent compared to bank charges before the credit crisis. This added £1 billion to the contract price, payable over 30 years, for the 35 projects financed in 2009. Furthermore Treasury did not require individual projects to submit detailed re-evaluations to assess whether contracts were still value for money.”) – and tax for the richest has been kept down. At the same time it has been made more daunting for lower income students to enter Higher Education. We need to encourge participation in Higher Education – we need, as a society, to invest more in the intellectual capital of the future.

Great empires in history have fallen when their rich and powerful elites became flabby and complacent. If the UK & US want a prosperous future – we must harness all our people’s energy. The agenda of conservatives will eventually destroy us.

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Written by David

December 9, 2010 at 8:03 am

Is our system working?

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I believe passionately in the idea of democracy. Societies should be run by their citizens, not a self perpetuating elite. It is clear that more and more people are becoming disillusioned with the way traditional democracies are operating. As a political campaigner I meet regularly with people who have concluded that it is pointless voting – because the political elite are too detached from the lives of “ordinary people”.

This morning I was out in Furzton talking to voters – many who had heard that their new MP was claiming from the public purse for rent – whilst he was gaining income from renting out his own property in London (background). They felt let down by ALL parties. One lady explained to me, that she had trusted local and national politicians in the past, but , with all due respect to me, “you couldn’t trust any of them”.  They felt buffeted by the decisions of the Government in London – and by the council in Milton Keynes.

How can we restore health to our democracy? The extremists are happy to exploit these feelings – and promote their paranoid fantasies. How can reasonable people work with citizens to deal with the failings of our democracy – whilst ensuring that people are listened to at a local and national level?

I can’t claim to have the answers – but I would like to engage in a discussion about how we solve these problems. Over the next few days I will link to “new” solutions proposed. I’d value your comments.

Today I’d like to share with you ideas about “citizen assemblies”. Please take a look at the report prepared by the Ontario (Canada) Citizens’ Assembly – and post your comments on this blog. The background paper is available here.

David

Written by David

December 5, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Making Unemployment Permanent

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The USA and Britain are on their way to make unemployment permanent for a growing number of people. By following right wing ideology – dismantling the infrastructure of the “State” that the ideologues hate so much –

* the ability to compete with emerging economies, and competitors, is undermined. If we fail to maintain the transport infrastructure which enabled us to produce and sell – then it will become ever more expensive and difficult to trade

* it’s not only transport – we waste our intellectual capital if highly educated people are not used, but instead left to unemployment. Now we see people being dissuaded from entering Higher Education – because of the costs – that will, in the long run, harm our ability to compete.

* reducing expenditure creates a spiral of depression – as more and more lose income they spend less. As they spend less – fewer goods can be purchased – and the tax income of Government falls – which leads to more cuts and more unemployment.

So – unless positive action is taken – unemployment becomes permanent for more and more people. We’ve stood at the brink once before – in the 1930s – but the adoption of greater involvement by the State led to a great era of prosperity – which was not just confined to the very rich. It was the greed of some which led to the attempts to cut down the State (including regulation). More and more people are playing the price of this ideologically led campaign.

We need to open citizens’ eyes to these truths. The “blindness” is clear, as Robert Reich wrote in his blog “I was on television yesterday debating a Republican who insisted unemployment benefits deter the jobless from finding work. Another partisan bromide. When, as now, five people are out of work for every job opening — and when, as now, unemployment benefits in most states are a small fraction of someone’s former wage — it’s bizarre to argue that unemployment benefits are causing unemployment.”

Written by David

December 4, 2010 at 11:21 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Is it an offence?

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A post has circulated arounf Facebook – asserting that it is a criminal offence – punishable by a fine of £60 and 3 points on the offender’s driving licence – to drive whilst there is snow on the car roof.

IT IS DANGEROUS TO DRIVE WITH SNOW ON THE ROOF – as your own vision may be suddenly impaired – and a sudden fall can cause dangers to other road users. But where is the legal authority for the claim made on Facebook?

I checked the online “Highway Code” It doesn’t mention any offence – but does warn of the dangers. There are references to primary and secondary legislation, but none that state would be authority for the claim.

My point is – that it is difficult for citizens to find out what is – and isn’t an offence. Perhaps we need to consider how citizens can easily find a straightforward reference to what acts are illegal and will be punished.

Please do clear the snow away from your car roof before driving – but also ask your MP why a citizen can’t, with ease, know what is an offence and what isn’t. Isn’t that a central idea which lay behind the Magna Carta?

Written by David

December 3, 2010 at 8:04 am

Posted in access to law, offence

Quote for the day

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‎’We are all political creatures. Our politics are our personal convictions and the way we live our lives. We can’t help but be political just walking around, and that should be with passion’:
Judy Collins

Written by David

December 2, 2010 at 11:09 am

Posted in Quotations

WOLF in sheeps clothing

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The apparently “people friendly” Public Bodies Bill (it abolishes some quangos) – is a wolf in sheeps clothing. The House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution says –

The Public Bodies Bill [HL] strikes at the very heart of our constitutional system, being a type of ‘framework’ or ‘enabling’ legislation that drains the lifeblood of legislative amendment and debate across a very broad range of public arrangements. In particular, it hits directly at the role of the House of Lords as a revising chamber.

 The full report is available here

Written by David

December 1, 2010 at 8:17 pm

(Un)Representative

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From “Politico”

They campaigned on bringing Main Street principles to Congress, but a large chunk of the rookie class of House Republicans will be bringing something else to Washington: personal wealth.

Nearly a quarter of the incoming class of 84 House Republicans have assets of at least $1 million, according to a POLITICO analysis of financial disclosure forms, a sign that this anti-Washington, anti-establishment crowd of congressional freshmen has been quite successful in the private sector.

For example, former Rep. Steve Pearce, who was reelected to a New Mexico House seat after a two-year absence, and his spouse have assets of $8 million to $37 million, including up to $25 million in Trinity Industries, an equipment rental entity in Hobbs, N.M.

Diane Black, a Republican replacing retiring Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), has combined assets with her husband worth upward of $33 million. According to a financial disclosure report filed with the House, Black’s husband has $25 million to $50 million in Aegis Sciences Corp., a “forensic sciences company.”

Richard Berg, who unseated North Dakota Democrat Earl Pomeroy, appears to be the wealthiest newly elected Republican, with assets above $20 million.

The Republican freshmen will have plenty of company in the millionaires club in Congress.

Nearly half the current Congress — 261 lawmakers — already have assets exceeding $1 million, according to a recent report from the Center for Responsive Politics, and that number appears to be growing. Last year, 237 lawmakers made the mint club.

“As the economy improves, it serves to reason that members would become more wealthy than they are even now,” said CRP spokesman Dave Levinthal. “There’s a possibility they could be out of touch with reality because they don’t have to live it themselves.”

Analyzing congressional wealth based on financial disclosure records is inexact, thanks to broad disclosure rules. Ranges of wealth are reported in increments as large as $20 million. Further, some lawmakers, especially congressional neophytes, list as assets primary residences, which they are not required to do. That might increase the total net worth of a lawmaker. Lawmakers are also required to list spousal assets, including whether they’re held separately or jointly.

The POLITICO analysis of freshman Republicans is based on the most recent financial disclosure forms, filed during the campaign season. Lawmakers will have to file updated disclosure forms during their first year in Congress.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1110/45773.html#ixzz16sbSkJoQ

Written by David

December 1, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized