Sunday, 27 January 2013

The new Poll Tax

The urn containing Becky Bell's ashes lays in her empty bedroom in Hartlepool, County Durham. It remains immaculately preserved and cared for, following Becky's death from cancer at the age of seven. We can imagine that room to be a symbolical shrine for Becky's parents and brother: of inexpressible sentimentality and unfathomable grief in Becky's loss, and providing priceless psychological consolation in their bereavement.  But due to new Department of Work and Pensions rules, charging social housing tenants for "under-occupied" spare rooms through cuts in their Housing Benefit—a policy termed the Bedroom Tax—Becky's family will be charged £672 a year for Becky's empty bedroom, deemed to be "surplus" by the local council under these guidelines. It is a policy dictated by DWP minister Lord David Freud (who almost certainly be diagnosed with sociopathy by his great-grandfather Sigmund), who resides in an eight-bedroom country mansion in Kent, when not residing at his £1.9 million property in North London. (Incidentally, the Conservative Party refused to consider the idea of a Mansion Tax on properties worth over £2 million). The Bedroom Tax will begin in April 2013; coinciding with the coalition government's 5% income tax cut for the rich. If the Bells refused to pay Bedroom Tax, they would be forced to leave their and Becky's home (aggressively via bailiffs). To cover the expense, they will have been advised in an unsubtly vindictive letter to occupy Becky's bedroom with a lodger.

The monkier "Bedroom Tax" is in itself, however, misleading. The government has given council landlords permission to define a "bedroom" in whatever manner they seek fit to tax the poor with. So therefore, contrary to taxing tenancy in luxurious suites, which politicians such as George Osborne is keen to portray, the charge will be applied to the most tiny and inhospitable of spare rooms. It will have a particularly adverse affect on disabled persons (additionally being affected by the DWP's damaging disability benefit cuts), including disabled children, and their families and carers. 

Angel Cooper, a 5-year-old girl in Hull cared for full-time by her parents, developed septicemia due to contracting meningitis as a baby, leaving her severely disabled. The National Health Service built Angel an extended room for her specialist needs under the orders of her therapists. But because this is deemed to be a "spare room" by the council, and due to a Dickensian rule of the Bedroom Tax dictated by Lord Freud expecting young children to share rooms, the Cooper family will be charged £20 a week for their disabled daughter's requirements.

The Cameron coalition's Bedroom Tax is easily the most arbitrary and vindictive attack on the poor since Margaret Thatcher's Poll Tax. It will in many cases irreparably destroy thousands of lives, and swathes of the social fabric (in a sickening irony for a Conservative Party which claims to stand for family values and localism). Of course, the real solution to the UK's housing crisis is to invest in the construction of homes, and counteract the extortion of private sector landlords, to reduce the Housing Benefit bill. The sheer barbarism and wickedness being perpetrated against families like the Bells and Coopers is out of pure ideological choice.

Thatcher's Poll Tax was defeated with mass resistance and non-compliance, and also majorly contributed to bringing down her government. The Cameron government's Bedroom Tax ought to be deservedly met with the same sort of reception.

Combat the Bedroom Tax

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The NHS PFI/cuts/privatisation agenda

In response to my blog post on the closure of the Lewisham NHS trust setting a precedent on cuts and privatisation of the UK's healthcare services, I was recently emailed by Elena Manighetti, who along with Eddie Chaloner, a consultant vascular surgeon at Lewisham hospital, has produced this diagram on the harm private finance 'initiative' schemes are having to NHS services. It is certainly extremely illustrative.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

The top 0.00000142900%

'Oxfam said the world's poorest could be lifted out of poverty several times over should the richest 100 billionaires give away the money they made last year.
Without pointing a finger at individuals, the charity argued that the $240bn (£150bn) net income amassed in 2012 by the richest 100 billionaires would be enough to make extreme poverty history four times over.'
With the population of the planet nearing seven billion, I estimate that these 100 individuals roughly comprise 0.0000142900% of the world's population. The miserism of whom permits  the lives of over two billion people to be unspeakably unbearable and existentially barren. As Nelson Mandela once said:  Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. " Poverty is indeed no less violent towards than human condition than segregation or enslavement; in fact, it implicitly institutionalises them both to accumulate this capital, which is mostly not earned, but accumulated in high interest bank accounts, and offshore tax shelters, where as much as $31 trillion has been accrued. Not to forget "developed" western societies  where living standards are being systematically undermined generationally: "The report found that the richest 1% had increased their incomes by 60% in the past 20 years, with the financial crisis accelerating rather than slowing the process." Acceleration, of course, including state capitalist subsidisation of financial firms funded through austerity's (miserism's) destruction of societies' social fabrics, to an extent seemingly aspiring to match social decay seen in African nations. This being why organisations like Oxfam are being obliged to comment on the state-imposed starvation of children in nations like Britain and Greece, as much as Ethiopia. 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013


Aditya Chakrabortty has written an excellent article for Comment is Free in which he correctly writes: "austerity is just code for the transfer of wealth and power into ever fewer hands"; and advocates taxation of what he terms the idle rich. (The case for a Wealth Tax).

Austerity is a clearly inaccurate phrase. It clearly doesn't apply the wealthy beneficiaries of publicly-funded bailouts, implicit quantitative easing subsidies, and tax cuts. There is nor no labour involved in the accumulation of hoarded capital accumulating with interest.

It would be more insightful to refer to so-called austerity as miserism. A term I want to get into circulation, referring to the ideology of the exorbitantly wealthy lecturing the masses on the need for frugality. The majority of cabinet ministers within Britain's austerity-imposing coalition goverment are, afterall, millionaires (and white, male, private school and Oxbridge attendees).

Miserism derives from historical figures with extreme exorbitance in terms of capital, yet who in some cases lived in abject destitution, and not even for the purpose of selflessness.  An example includes John Elwes, a man with the modern equivalent of £19 million, who bathed in the River Thames, wore rags, ate vermin and rotten animal carcasses, and all in order to cling onto the bulk of his monetary inheritance. The miser is also a literary archetype, with the most famous example obviously being Ebeneezer Scrooge in Dickens's Christmas Carol (another includes Charles Montgomery Burns in Matt Groening's The Simpsons). Such a stereotype is easily amusing given its self-evident absurdity. It is art imitating life when would be austerian miser and multi-millionaire Mitt Romney's public statements are indistinguishable from those of Mr. Burns.

Of course, in "austerity" as we know it, those subject to miserly conditions are those within the fabric of wider society, rather than the ideological misers themselves. But miserism is still a far more accurate phrase than the perverse notion of its universal fiscal stringency.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The obvious NHS privatisation method

A government-appointed adviser has advised that an NHS trust indebted by private finance initiatives (privatisation) schemes should have its Accident and Emergency wards closed, and that the entirety of its services should be dissolved and outsourced to be run for-profit by private companies.

This exhibits the obvious, systematic methodology that will be used on a national scale to fulfill the government's NHS privatisation scheme, following the passage of its Health and Social Care (NHS privatisation) Bill in coming years. In which NHS hospitals driven into failure and demoralisation by frontline cuts and managerialism damaging patient care, will be forced into the government "solution" of total privatisation, under the for-profit ownership of the Conservative Party's generous owners and associates.