Pick your populist!

Fair weather politics
Wants a quick fix
A shortcut
Slick trick
One it controls
But can’t predict
Well, how exciting!
Pick your populist!
Someone preening
Something neat and clever
Hell for leather
How inviting!
Fight the drudge
With grudge and glamour
In the mainstream sludge
Until it isn’t
Now each twisted ist and ism
Forms the prism
Of the schism bound
And plants its fiat flags
Upon a fragile centre ground.

When is a mansion tax not a mansion tax?

When is a mansion tax not a mansion tax?

It’s never been clear to me, since the few years ago that Liberal Democrats first proposed it, how, exactly, it is supposed to work and I’ve found Labour’s sudden attachment to the notion equally confusing and evasive.

I kept wondering: is it an annual or a one-off payment; whose coffers is it to fill, Local Governments’ or Treasury Central’s? I kept thinking: for goodness’ sake! just reform/adjust the council tax bands and/or the stamp duty thresholds.

The explanations have been reluctant, confused and piecemeal, largely because, as usual, some vague idea has been plucked out of the air and labelled by a not so bright spark and, realising how stupid it sounds on elaboration, have had to make adjustments as they’ve gone along. Well, it turns out that it’s not necessarily a new and separate tax at all. Or even specifically a mansion tax. Or it might be. Sort of.

Labour says it wants its version to be an annual tax, of ‘progressive’ levels according to property value. Who collects it, I can’t tell but, as they appear to want to differentiate between a mansion tax and the common or garden council tax, I suspect the Eds are not quite as keen on devolved power as they do profess and are hoping to pop it into their central budgetary costings. Who knows, perhaps Labour only pays lip service to ‘Localism’.

The Lib Dems have rushed to modify their policy, since Labour stole their idea. They, too favour banded levels but they do at least say it should be incorporated into existing Council Tax in order to minimise bureaucracy. So it isn’t really a mansion tax any more. One might assume that this means collected by local government though I’ve yet to hear it explicitly stated. But hey, it’s the Liberal Democrats – the gap between what they say and what they’d do is anyone’s guess so it probably doesn’t matter.

Perhaps there is an argument for all property tax to be collected by the Treasury. I suppose it depends on your view of devolved power and whether you believe that each tax is, or should be allocated for specific purposes, or that it should go into one big, flexible government spending pot.

If one is asset rich but income poor, it’s apparently going to be deferrable until sale or death. This implies that it can be a one-off payment – though absolutely not a death tax. Hmm.. I saw the look of horror on some politician’s face when the comparison was put to him. Maybe it could be viewed more as a vicarious or extra capital gains tax for the owner-occupiers’ inheritors. Ironic, given there would have been no capital gains had the owner sold it while still an occupant. And how much of the property’s capital will be left after sale if death comes not for several years? And if it is sold or leveraged by the owner/occupier to pay for social care, say, will there be sufficient funds to cover that care and the deferred tax bill? Which will the State say has seniority? It made me wonder, too: with talk of devolutionary power being fashionable and the argument that councils should have the capacity to borrow (to build social/council housing, for example), will we start to see local government doing so, based on the theoretical derivatives of the privately owned assets of a local, relatively wealthy electorate? Maybe I’m letting my imagination give me the run around…

As a tangential aside.. Does one own one’s property or not (Crown notwithstanding) if more payment is demanded after payment has been made in full? Is freehold just a fancy term for a lease, now? Come to that: if the State can just arbitrarily swoop in and acquire a cut, does one ever actually own outright, any asset one has paid for or inherited? A family home, jewellery, art, etc…? I’m not talking about the landed gentry stereotype. They’re in a class of their own and I doubt we’d let their privileged circumstances exist if we were starting from ‘here’. I’m talking about the rest of us – we, who are expected to aspire, save, invest, insure ourselves.. we, who wish to create heirlooms, bestow material gifts.. we practical but often sentimental creatures. One can argue about whether people should or even need to own property at all but utopian philosophy is not much help when the fact is that many do own property and many others still hope to. Whether there will be any point in striving to own is more pertinent, given the policy directions of the Coalition partners and Labour’s intended facsimiles. But I have digressed into a future post..

This mansion tax is a farce; just another manifestation of slippery, ill-considered, populist nonsense. Why even call it that? The term ‘mansion’ has been jumped on by those who want to appear like they care about the poor: by those who think that playing envy-politics to a captive angry audience with a blanket punitive policy is a justified approach – that very same blanket punitive policy attitude that has been used to undermine the poor and vulnerable at the other end of society’s economy. And, just to hammer home this point, Cameron’s crew frames it as “a wealth tax”. Appealing to the ‘politics of envy’ is just really another twisted version of the race-to-the-bottom mindset. It is just as bad as appealing to the politics of ‘deserving’. To the LibLabCons, the danger in deliberately encouraging insidious societal divisions would seem to be a lesson they are incapable of learning or even taking seriously and we can’t afford such politicians.

What a difference; what a breath of fresh air if ‘they’ could just say: look, we realise that our current Council Tax property banding no longer reflects or accommodates the extraordinary range and rise in house prices and their subsequent taxable value. We realise we do not need yet another gimmicky tax to further complicate our already ridiculously complicated tax system and, to this end, we intend to make appropriate adjustments to the existing mechanism. Once the debate is settled over how homes should be valued in the first place and by whom, of course. I notice none of the parties wants to properly address how and why housing generally (like everything else) is so obscenely expensive in the first place that so many ‘mansions’ are not mansions at all and how many more not-mansion mansions there will be if the Neoliberals remain in charge.

Mansion tax, my eye. It’s an empty ideological gesture; an unnecessary populist stunt.


Conservethemselves, free-roaming

built a modern
with con-centric
where profit is
their opium
and from their
crony podiums
with blowholes
like euphoniums
display outright
and trade it on
as hopium

Which is scarier?

Which is scarier?
The constant flair
for incompetence
or the daring contempt
and wilful, cold neglect?
Is it the hair-raising
ineptitude or uptight
laissez-faire of greed
and glaring disrespect?

Whichever –
Do we either care or
neither never spare
forgiveness nor forget?

Cast-on Cast-offs

Hand-me-down opinions
And a placid population
Gives complacency dominion
Over reasoned contemplation

Check and balance looks in
Askance at mendacity’s audacity
To twist a pre-owned, worn out
Myth and pitch it as veracity

Capacity has reached the stage
Where cast-on cast-offs dress
The age and, even when a lie’s
Discerned, just scoffs and writes
Another page

Leftovers weave conceit without
A second’s doubt in its deceit

And still there is so little rage at
At how this utter shitty farce has
Been allowed to come to pass
And not been duly cut adrift and
Left to nurse a sore, smacked arse.

With this in mind, do check out Jayne Linney’s and Debbie Sayer’s latest Campaign for the Truth and Statistics & Stop MPs Spinning Stats [#ImpeachDWP & #NOWPetition]

Dear Lib Dems

Dear Lib Dems,

I know you’re heavily distracted right now but you and your leader seem confused about what has gone wrong.

You got excited.
You thought, like most of the people back in 2010, that this was an economic emergency and that you had a public service duty to negotiate a coalition in the ‘National Interest’. Perhaps it is that you were naive; perhaps it was the long, oh so long awaited chance to be in power that made you blind during those early, heady days.

You have acted, ultimately, as the front men, the shills, the appeasers and apologists for your senior partners. You’ve voted with them time after time, irrespective of whether it was in the citizens’ interests or even ethical and sensible. You have contributed to the increasingly desperate vulnerability of every single group bar the ‘I’m alright, Jacks’. [And don’t you dare think to yourself: “but we’ve lifted (blah number) over of the tax threshold” or that 24/7 childcare and free school meals or whatever your particular defence is today, are wondrous salves and believe yourselves righteous.] You have upheld and then perpetuated a crony status quo. You’ve relentlessly tinkered with and demolished so much, so callously and with real ignorance. You’ve continued to subsidise profiteers with taxpayer money rather than facilitate a liveable income for the majority of the workforce. You built misery instead of houses. Courted the establishment rather than served the Commons. Turned Social Security into a capricious game of fare-well-if-we-say-you-can roulette. You’ve done nothing meaningful to address the real problems of increasing serfdom, asset stripping, the corporate tax fiasco, accountability of once public but now private service/utility provision. In fact, you align yourself with a senior partner who has the intention to do the opposite. You’ve avoided everything the sane and ‘common’ person on the street would have you fix and chosen, instead, to support and vote through the kinds of cruel, divisive, patriarchal false economies that so typify Tory mentality.

A year or so into your partnership, here on the ground, those who did not previously understand economics and finance were travelling a steep learning curve. We came to realise that, although this was indeed an emergency, you were being utterly disingenuous and wilfully obfuscating about a varied and complex set of causes and, therefore, about any appropriate solutions.

You thought that because you kept on message that we would not deviate either. You assumed we were all swallowing the mainstream stenographic tripe. We weren’t. We were educating ourselves elsewhere.

A truer picture began to emerge: Labour hadn’t just ‘created the mess’ – not on its own. It had taken time. Thatcher’s Tories arguably started it; Blair’s Labour ran with it and now, with your willing assistance, Cameron’s Tories were and still are, running amok. We learned that Labour’s general culpability was really no more than any other Western government’s. We learned that none of you actually understands how to, let alone cares about constructing and facilitating an economy that works for the citizens.

So, while you were busy feeling chuffed, we were learning new words and concepts and getting our heads around a new acronym every day. We were learning about limitless leverage, derivatives, LIBOR and other price fixing, bubbles, Ponzis, High Frequency Trading, Credit Default Swaps, paper gold, depraved banksters and traders, Investor State Dispute Settlements, vested interests, politics as a wealth-creating career and investment vehicle, fiat currency Wars.. It was and continues to be an astoundingly long list.

We learned that what private collateral there is is so insufficient as to be emasculated and that you are so ignorant and irresponsible that you will sell any public asset you can think of – be it in physical existence such as Royal Mail or packaged as a financial service such as student loan books. We discovered that The City was a hub for everything from the pretty shady to the downright fraudulent. And, under your ‘helpful’ governance, still is.

We learned that ‘neoliberalism’ was shorthand for ‘capitalism, right-wing, corporate’. We saw that Neoliberals love power and money much more than people. We realised neoliberalism is what’s undermining people and the planet and that it is the obstacle to our sustained well-being. The well-being of billions. We looked around; made the connections. It made us imagine a slope towards fascism as a very possible 21st Century consequence.

We began to understand the whole obscenity. You didn’t. Or you just chose to ignore it. It has to be one or the other because we, out here, we’ve managed to at least grasp the rudiments in spite of the concerted attempts of powerful mainstream politicos to hinder our understanding.

Back in 2010, when you sat down to negotiate, you (must have) realised how unpalatable the reality of a junior partnership in a Tory coalition would be if you were to maintain your reputation – which, as you’ll remember, was not bad at all. You could have shown integrity and told the Conservatives to form a minority government and that you’d support them where you could. You should have. But, even if I give you the benefit of the doubt and believe you were truly earnest and noble in your intent, once ‘in’ you would have had even better opportunities to learn at least the same things as were we down here. One would think you’d have had an epiphany by the end of that first year. And what did you do? You carried on as though the Tory narrative was almost faultless. For four years.

Every time you were called out on it you patronised us as though we were too stupid to know what was good for us. And, not content with that, you now justify your behaviour on the back of ‘recovery’. You seem to think you are, or soon will be, vindicated. Here, on the ground, those of us who have been busy trying to live under your ‘helpful’ governance; those of us doing all that learning: we know this is a recovery for those who need it least; a recovery built on bubbles, corruption, cronyism and the serfdom of the masses. The real shit has not even hit the global fan and there you are, trying to sweep our own dirt under a shifting carpet. It’s a fiat recovery, based on fiat ideology, carried out by fiat authority.

Liberal Democrat doesn’t really shout ‘integrity’ now, does it? ‘National Interest’? Yeah, if ‘national’ means ‘Westminster’ and ‘interest’ means ‘self’.

And now you think you’ve done so badly in the EP Elections because of your debate with Farage. Ok, that really wasn’t very impressive… your better arguments were not just lost amongst the crude populism of Farage but you demonstrated that you really do not understand that those people who take issue with the Union, do so for rather different and more sophisticated reasons than the xenophobic, corporate, anti-intellectual platform that is UKip. You were the only party with the integrity – AND platform – to defend the concept of Europe and you wrecked it by wasting time repeating rhetorical catchphrases and endorsing a retarded sycophancy for the technocratic status quo. You seem to think that anyone who sees Europe as having or being a problem, views it through the Tory/UKip lens. You really have to stop listening to hysterical mouthpieces. And we don’t all want to leave Europe just because we don’t agree with you, either. It’s the technocracy, the receding democracy, the neoliberal bullying, the corporatisation, the commodification of our lives that we hate, not the Social Chapter, nor ‘red tape’ that acts for Common Interest, nor our fellow Europeans. You need to understand that for a great many of us, the problems we see in Europe are the same problems we have with our own, successive UK governments; the same problem we see in nigh-on every country on the planet, in fact.

Seriously – that TV Farage-Clegg trip: that was just a recent straw out of a bale’s worth. But why would you see the connection between these points when you can’t seem to even see them individually? Some of your party are even tabloid-riven enough to suppose that getting rid of your leader is the solution. Nick Clegg might be the authorised face of your toxicity but, my gods, if you think we don’t know all your higher profile names or your collective voting record, you probably should all just give up – right now.

It’s a global economy supported by a neoliberal attitude and our country is in trouble because our own politicians, economists, and media are of the same means by which much of this infernal crash came about. You have failed because you cannot appreciate either the details or the whole picture and you have failed to recognise that the electorate increasingly does.

There is much satisfied vitriol in the country at your fall from grace. On the surface it’s deliciously tempting and quite understandable. You brought this circus to town. But it’s also a tragedy. It’s a tragedy for your once rational, honourable party and a serious blow to an already dwindling faith in our democracy.


Pity us all, Lib Dems, perhaps the most…

Pity us all, Lib Dems, perhaps the most, as we glance right on past them in hope their survival does not stand a ghost as they chance to enhance their positioning stance like those Old Time Revivalists.

Listing to lusting like magnetised sawdust the yellow-swelled fellows, so thrusting for power, adapt self-awareness to use in self-service, preserving Establishment’s carnage-filled tower. And thus is the uncanny Danny well-managed by Ivory Nanny and Davey, (the hazy Ed) government shill, by his wafer-thin reason, caves in to the pleasing of Energy’s poisonous pill. Poor Laws, to applause, gets his flaws in a muddle while Browne – who did not and is Toryfied rock through and through – was removed of his crown in the favour of Baker, transported to trouble and please-do befuddle as Kramer-no-shame, drives the train to appeasement and Lamb has been easing the privatised health drain. Poor Swinson limps on just as Sarah unTeathers and light-as-a-Featherstone fails to attack both the slack in developed thought and the sad lack of the women in her party’s recycled camp.

But then, what is expected when Ming, once respected, is singing damp nurs’ry rhymes most of the time and ‘ole Charlie is missing and Paddy’s gone wishing while Cable – remember when he was thought able.. and Hughes, the old zealot, stopped thumping the table and mellowed to meaningless waffle and Clegg – the spare beggar – is whittled to clueless that reckons he still can win more than he loses but may well be toppled by Tim-with-a-Grin… The contemptible turncoats are now busy betting their *innocent faces* that we are quite dim and that we’ll be forgetting their utter betrayal so, glibly, they eagerly puff out their greasy sails.

Bent upon seizing a place, they go chasing both tails thinking they set the pace now but miss how the murky uncertainty in all the dirty is being well-noted: while they are off spinning and flirting with ghouls, they have proved to the country that we, the electorate, might have the vote but our wishes would count least of all.

What is this ‘full employment’?

What is ‘full employment’? Does it really mean anything?

Apparently this has never really been quantified because economists who believe in it in the first place vary quite markedly in their definitions – from 0% to think of a number. Well, apart from the obvious fact that some people are unlikely ever to work, it sounds vague to me. Like that other indeterminate phrase: ‘make work pay’, it could mean a lot of things and probably not at all what we might assume or like it to mean.

Like the theory that says the fuller the employment, the higher the inflation which is hinged on the supply-demand theory which hinges on the ‘free’ market which hinges on more and moar and every man for himself. Sadly, the supply-demand paradigm didn’t settle at observation over lengthy periods of time, some interesting charts, useful analysis and sensible application. The musings were deemed so wonderful that whole economic models were created upon which people would henceforth be named consumers and would now be expected to fit their behaviour to the blueprint. It’s like a nature-nurture paradox: people are greedy for more therefore let’s make people needy; create demand so supply can go up; increase supply so the price can come down; decrease the supply so the price can go up…

Governments and ‘capitalists’ lapped this up and decided that this was indeed a most fruitful model and so set themselves about using it to justify, manage and manipulate the economy until people were consuming any old gratuitous crap from a very deep and wide pool of mass exploitation. And, to this day, the faithful and the blind still see this very ridiculous, unsustainable and unethical ideology as the saviour of the problems it helped so much to create. Now, I know I’m no economist – I probably just proved that – but building the entire economic structure on what looks like a massive umbrella Ponzi seems to me to be not only top down capricious artifice but myopic and confused, too. There’s nothing natural or healthy any more (if there ever was) about the cycles in our economic structure. It is macromanaged and micromanaged with pure cynicism.

But I digress… What is ‘full employment’?

Is full employment when everyone, willing and able, has access to a full-time job that is in and of itself a sufficient means by which to live well, keep children, save a bit and contribute taxable revenue? Is this full employment objective possible any more? And, if it is, why would we need a scheme to kick in to guarantee it? The jobs either exist or they don’t. Is full employment actually necessary? Or even desirable? Aren’t there enough of us yet to do three.. ish days each without reducing our living standards? Isn’t that the traditional pitch of those who sell us grand technological dreams of automation? After all, many more people work to live rather than do live to work and working so hard and for so long is only necessary because it costs so much just to maintain the most basic of standards. Where is the guilt-free leisure we were promised?

Is full employment when everyone does whatever cruddy job they are given and/or takes whatever they can get and requires Social Security because it’s still not enough to live a decent life?

Is it everyone being kept busy doing anything, no matter how lousy, futile or (self-) destructive – and without proper financial reward, as a way of keeping certain demographics in line?

Does full employment mean you have to be engaged in an activity which has been officially defined as employment because the prevailing ideology extols it as the only way to prove one’s worth to Society?

Where does full employment place our familial carers? What is being a mother and particularly a lone parent, if it is not a 24/7, on-call occupation? No main political party addresses this – I’m not counting that tax-break for married couples tripe – extending free or at least affordable child care is a lovely idea except that it appears to be being expanded mostly to provide somewhere for adults to store their children while they justify their monetary worth and contribute to making the country look like it has full employment. Why is bringing up children being relegated to a job that other people must be poorly paid to do? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to offer payment to the parent? Isn’t that providing a real choice? Is that too something for nothing for modern politicians, because I’d call it common sense.

Everything is inflated, from the value of assets to the importance of growth. Growth in what? More crap we don’t need, more greed and more poverty. Poverty may be the most sustainable supply-demand commodity since fossil fuels. Oh, and bubbles. We love growing bubbles.

How does this employment-inflation measurement work if the figures available are based on full but underemployment? Everyone working but no one earning enough to buy anything because prices for basic goods are beyond reach? That’s a lot of people depending on a very small tax pot. If full employment has to be achieved through subsidised serfdom then it is surely not an economy but a protection racket?

Is full employment about having any old job or about everyone working because there actually are enough decent jobs? Is it full-time employment or just people looking for work all the time? Is it about finding fulfilling occupations or being fully exploited? Whose world is it that citizens are seen and treated as merely another commodity, subject to the choreography of supply and demand by the powerful and whimsical; to be cynically reduced to an abstract variable on a rickety old framework?

Can we not concentrate on creating a world in which ethical sustainability replaces an economy where a new phone choice every few months, securing an arms contract or finding it cheaper to buy a new t-shirt than wash one is considered successful and progressive? Does an economic recovery really have nothing better to offer? These days we gorge on trifle with our circuses and seem to have quite forgotten the comfort and nutritional value of a good loaf. You can bung nearly anything on top of a wholesome base. I’m sure we would be better off starting our models from ground level. Models which prioritise ethics, sustainability, cohesion and peace of mind. An economy which is a principled means to a commonly beneficial end rather than by selectively dubious means for very exclusive ends. That sort of recovery would feel like progress.

LibDem Flimflam

Lib Dem flimflam,
Everyman to any man.
Discernment trashed
For power dash in
Sandals swapped
And values cropped
For fickle, feckless
Flip flops.
Integrity displaced;
Credibility replaced.
Constant grazers with
A panoramic face.
Fib Dem shaftocrats:
Water off a duck’s back.
A niche in capriciousness.
Specious claims for
Squalid gains.
Plans dropped for
Scams and plots in
National Interest ruse.
Shame exchanged
For hubris blue,
Prove the party’s
Worse than useless.
Toothless shills and
Selfish shysters,
Lame excuses for
Lib Dems suffer
Mass delusion;
Serve themselves
Without exclusion.