Category Archives: Agenda Setting

TTIP – Putting Profit before People

The government is about to sign up to a treaty which will would allow companies like Sports Direct (just a random example) to sue a future government for increasing the minimum wage, if introducing such a policy damaged corporate profits.

The treaty’s called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – And it’s seems to be primarily about shafting the 300 or so million citizens of European countries so that Transnational Corporations can make even more profit.



Having clicked around a few web sites which try to summarise what the TTIP is, I think I’ve done a better job below – down to just FIVE KEY POINTS… (Handily for anyone studying Global Development, this also reads like a ‘what is neoliberalism’ check llist).

1. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a free trade treaty currently being negotiated – in secret – between the European Union and the USA.

2.  The main goal of TTIP is to remove regulatory ‘barriers’ which restrict the potential profits to be made by transnational corporations on both sides of the  Atlantic.

3. These ‘barriers’ are basically social and environmental protections currently enforced through the laws of various nation states within Europe and include the following:

  • labour rights (e.g. Minimum wages, holiday pay, public sector pensions)
  • food safety rules (including restrictions on GMOs),
  • regulations on the use of toxic chemicals
  • digital privacy laws
  • new banking safeguards introduced to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis.

4.  TTIP also seeks to create new markets by opening up public services  to competition from transnational corporations, threatening to introduce a further wave of privatizations in key sectors, health and education.

5. Most worrying of all, TTIP seeks to grant foreign investors a new right to sue sovereign governments in front of ad hoc arbitration tribunals for loss of profits resulting from public policy decisions.

So here we go again – a further wave of neoliberalisation, given that it looks like many Nation States in Europe are about to agree to a set of international rules which put Corporate profits before the well-being of their citizens.

Of course you’ve probably never heard of this treaty, it’s firmly off the news agenda, even though, right now, your democratic rights are being undermined and this treaty will almost certainly mean that you are worse off in the future in terms of your labour rights, environmental protection, and quality of public services.

If you want to sign a petition to get Vince Cable to fix or scrap the deal then click here

This post is mainly summarised from this nice document – TTIP – A Charter for Deregulation, an Attack on Jobs and an End to Democracy

Inequality updates – UK Focus

While the recent recession and ‘recovery’ have meant economic hardship and uncertainty for the majority, the VERY rich have got relatively richer.

Before looking at things sociologically (looking at the bigger picture) I’d just llike to say THANKS AGAIN TO THE BBC* for another excellent example of narrow-reporting which fosters false consciousness – This item reminds us that the levels of income inequality have fallen – if we compare the top fifth with the bottom fith of households over the last year.

HOWEVER…. If we look at how the incomes of the top one percent and top ten percent compare to other slices of the population further down the social-class spectrum, a picture of INCREASING INCOME INEQUALITY IN THE UK EMERGES

This article from The Guardian summarises the situation –

The super-rich – the top 1% of earners – now pocket 10p in every pound of income paid in Britain, while the poorest half of the population take home only 18p of every pound between them, according to a report published this week by the Resolution Foundation thinktank, which reveals the widening gap between those at the very top and the rest of society.

Inequality has grown sharply over the past 15 years, according to Resolution’s analysis: the top 1% of earners have seen their slice of the pie increase from 7% in the mid-1990s to 10% today, while the bottom half have seen their share drop from 19% to 18%.

This post from the Guerilla Policy Network offers a nice summary of the lates UN Human Development Report which highlights the following facts –

  • The UK’s poorest 40% share in just 14.6% of the national wealth – the only country performing worse was Russia (96)
  • The richest 20% have incomes more than ten times as high as the bottom 20%, this is the same as Nigeria, and worse than Ghana and the Ivory Coast, and twice as bad as Sri Lanka and Ethiopia (96)
  • As inequality in the UK has risen, intergenerational mobility (children ‘doing better’ than their parents) has also declined (2013 p36)
  • The majority of working people have had little or no wage increases in recent decades, while the top earners have seen substantial increases (2013 p22)

For those of you who prefer Infographics to illustrate inequality, here is one from the equality trust (love their work – ‘gis a job!)


*(Seriously, thankyou, without you, BBC, teaching concepts such as ideological control, agenda setting, and false consciousness is just so easy.)

Three Myths of The Young Apprentice

The Young Apprentice is one of the very few programmes I make a point of watching. What’s odd is that I enjoy it even though it spreads three messages that I have a real problem with –

  • Firslty, it gives the impression that there is opportunity out there if ‘you only work hard enough’, when in reality the current crisis means it’s actually very tough to start up a small business or find employment, especially for young people.
  • Secondly, the show spreads the myth of meritocracy – We are typically presented with a range of candidates from all manner of social classes, gender and ethnic backgrounds suggesting equal opps, but in real life class privilege etc. still conspire to subvert genuine talent’s rise to the top.
  • Thirdly the show suggests that making a profit is more important than doing something socially useful, an idea I find odious,

To explore these message one  at a time…

Problematic Message One – Even though we’re in ‘tough economic times’ there’s still opportunity if you work hard enough.

OK Maybe this will come across as a little sad that I’ve done this, but if you calculate the profit per head per task and then divide by 2, you get the ‘day rate’ per candidate. The figures look something like this…

Approximate earnings per day for five tasks in the young apprentice

Task Platinum Odyssey Average per team Average per candiadate Average per candidate per day
Clothes 453 330 391 65 32.5
Cook Books* 7500 800 4150 754 377
Sandwiches 316 91 204 45 22.5
Kids Club** 11000 470 5735 1433 716.5
Womad 370 (sales) 283 (sales) 327 109 54.5
Average per candidate per day 240

*This of course assumes that all books are sold and that candidates receive £1 per book, which I think is a realistic estimate as to royalties on the type of books they produced.

* and ** These two ‘big profit tasks’ of course don’t actually take into account the costs of hiring the following

  • Half a day with the chefs to make the recipes/ half a day with the publishers
  • Half a day with the experts to help with the ideas generation of the kids club, or the costs of the materials for the demonstrations

Also neither of these projects are actually realistic in terms of your average teenager being able to start up such business because of the quality of the ‘laid on contacts’ with industry insiders, and the social desirability of purchasing a young apprentice product of course.

Given the above it might actually make more sense to look at the three ‘realistic’ business a teenager might set up – and for these the results are much worse.

Task Platinum Odyssey Average per team Average per candiadate Average per candidate per day
Clothes 453 330 391 65 32.5
Sandwiches 316 91 204 45 22.5
Womad 370 (sales) 283 (sales) 327 109 54.5
Average per candidate per day 36.50

If this is what the eleven brightest young people in the country can do (plus one hot-housed posh kid with inflated GCSEs) then Socialism help the rest of them is all I can say

Max – Defo the right candidate to go in week 1

Misleading Message Two – In the world of business it doesn’t matter what your class or ethnic background or your gender identity there’s a level playing field. OK I accept that in the apprentice the working classes seem to come good – In fact if anything Lord Sugar seems to have a deep suspicion of the posh – very probably because he’s ended up working with a lot of talent-less individuals who have risen up the ranks because of contacts rather than well, err talent.

In the real world of business what happens is that you need a leg up to be able to get yourself established – this will either mean money from your parents or an internship – often networked into, and in which you work for nothing for some months or even years. For evidence see below…

In addition to this if you’re a female looking to break into business, OK things are changing – but check out these stats from a previous blog of mine

All of this doesn’t stop me finding the apprentice hugely entertaining, I just hope a few people read this and think again about some of the potentially misleading messages it puts out….

Problem Message Three – Profit is more important than social utility

The contestants really have been asked to produce crap this year haven’t they?

Basically just crap – The Wetsuit Kimono

In episode 1, the task was to resell old clothes, which otherwise would have probably gone towards making money for  charity but instead ends up with either the BBC or Alan Sugar or the candidates (Actually I’ve no idea where the money ends up TBH!).  You could in fact argue that taking from charity results in negative social utility.

Episode two saw the candidates producing cook books – With one team producing a student cook book and the other a book which, in a total throwback to the 1980s, ended up with the title ‘the professional woman’. Whatever spin you put on a new cook book – the fact that there are are over 60 000 cookery books currently available on Amazon does suggest we don’t really need any more.

Episode three was all about sourcing a list of ten items for the very inclusive (NOT) Royal Opera House – Sugar putting the youth to work for the benefit of elite (kind of like apprenticeships and workfare).

Episode four revolved around the teams putting on a themed afternoon tea experience and sell them at a Stately Home – resulting in a ‘1940s’ theme and a ‘Mad Hatter’s’ theme – both of which I think we can agree are frankly pretty naff.

In episode five the candidates were required to develop a new kids club in order to attract investors who would potentially buy licenses. I will at this point concede that this venture does, finally, have some kind of genuine social utility – for parents at least.

The product of the most creative young business minds in the UK

Episode six saw the teams developing a new brand of hair spray and hair gel – Possibly the very epitome of products that lack any genuine social use value

In the penultimate episode candidates disturbed the ‘peace and love’ of the Womad festival to sell a combination of a cardboard box toilet and an umbrella seat on the one hand and onesies and camping washing machines on the other. Actually maybe these are even more useless than the hair products?

So of the seven episodes, there is only one potential product or service that has any genuine social utility, and that only for parents wealthy enough to pay for their kids’ extra curricular activities.


The Young Apprentice – Find out More

The BBC – The Young Apprentice 2012

Digital Spy has quite a nice overview of what’s been going on

Sabotage Times – Is Lord Sugar really looking for a new carer?

Unreality TV – Has several posts on the Young Apprentice

Anyone else getting irritated by the BBC’s lurch to the right?

The Labour party recently made a “serious complaint” to the BBC about a lack of political balance in its news coverage

According to the Guardian – ‘Party officials monitored invitations, and time given, to senior Tory and Liberal Democrat figures on the BBC’s main news outlets against that allotted to Labour counterparts. Their analysis showed that Labour has been represented less than half as often as the coalition. here is also broader concern amongst the Labour Party that the BBC is becoming an “echo chamber” for a press that is dominated by newspapers “determined for David Cameron to succeed”.’

But it’s worse than just there being a lack of a voice for Labour – I mean, frankly, who cares if Labour even got an equal share of air time with the Tories – the power elite in the Labour Party don’t actually represent the people of the United Kingdom anymore any way – Too many of them are elite educated, career politicians – and Labour stand for the city as much as the conservatives – and let’s not forget that they didn’t actually support the N30 strikes either.

Of broader concern is the fact there is a real lack of critical voices in the Beeb –the mainstream news agenda is extremely narrow – take the coverage of the credit crunch and the reaction (student protests, strikes, LSX) as an example – there really has been very little discussion of alternatives to the cuts – even though many alternatives exist – the agenda simply focuses on ‘what we should cut’ or, when people protest about the cuts, the media focusses on ‘the vandalism’ or ‘the disruption’ to ordinary people.

If you believe BBC chief Mark Thompson – then this lurch to the right is a relatively recent departure – Thompson argues that in the ‘70s and ‘80s the BBC used to be dominated by a ‘tribal leftism’ and there were certain issues that were off the media agenda.

So why is it that the BBC has lurched to the right? Possibly the answer lies in the fact that the conservative government which controls the BBCs budget is extremely right wing and, compared to the right wing press (the Mail and the Murdoch empire) to whom the government is so closely allied, the Beeb appears as something of a pain in the side, and this article by Polly Toynbe – reminds us that the Beeb has recently faced a 16% cut.

So could it simply be a matter of those in charge of the Beeb lurching their news agenda rightward in order to please their right wing pay masters and avoid harsher cuts and potential job losses? While this is a tricky area to research – intuitively at least it makes sense that media professionals would try to please their bosses in a time of job cuts!

It’s worth remembering too that many people who work for the Beeb (50% if you believe Monbiot) will be privately educated and themselves have a right wing bias – so moving further right, and cutting leftist analysis out wouldn’t be too much of a deviation from business as usual.

Whatever the reason for the Beeb’s narrowing agenda – we are fortunate that the growth of social media allows us to selectively choose our media outlets – and there are plenty of leftist voices out there which we can use instead of the once decent BBC – check out some of the links (to the left, obviously) for antidotes to the Beeb…

Are the Muppets really lighting the lights?

The Muppets latest movie features an evil oil tycoon called ‘Tex Richman’ who wants to extract oil from under the Muppets’ old theatre…. The general plot line and name of the character were enough to lead the anchor man of Fox Business, Eric Bolling, to suggest that the movie is promoting an anti-capitalist agenda.,,,, He asked guest Dan Gainor whether the movie was liberal propaganda. ‘This oil muppet, evil man that he is, is called Tex Richman,’ Mr Bolling said. ‘It’s amazing how low the left will go just to stoop to give your kids the anti-corporate message,’ Mr Gainor replied. Later in the segment Mr Bolling asks: ‘Is liberal Hollywood using class warfare to brainwash our kids?’

Given that this is a mainstream movie, and given that it’s a Disney Movie – and given that the evil, powerful, villain is a standard in move plot lines, it’s reasonably obvious that this isn’t a sinister socialist attack on Capitalist values – in fact I imagine the plot line will work out with all the muppets being unharmed and justice being done – which is actually far, far removed from the relaity of oil exploration and extration as evidenced in the Niger Delta, the Ecuadorian Amazon and the Tar Sands of Albterta Canada!

It also goes to show just how paranoid the right are becoming over maintaining their advantage in the war of position – this latest attack on our brother muppets is simply laughable.

On a positive note, this does give me a good option for the end of term movie this summer when it’ll be time to play the music (of the fourth international), and time to light the lights (of the glorious communist revolution)… and time to meet the muppets and subtly indoctrinate my students into leftist values…

Three Alternatives to the Tory Cuts

Given that the three major causes of the crisis are 1. A Failure of government to regulate the finance sector 2. Finance Capitalists (Bankers) having too much power and 3. Capitalism – or at least neoliberal forms of Capitalism – it would seem sensible to tackle these three. Now I’m not saying some form of cuts to public services should be ruled out – but I think tackling these three fundamental problems are absolutely crucial if we are to sort out future crises, so ultimately joining a movement that aims for radical social change should be on anyone’s list of things to do as an alternative to letting the government cut our services…. But we’ll come back to that later, first of all a few concrete alternatives to the cuts[1]

1.   Tax Reform – There are plenty of things we can do as a country –

Firstly we can cut down on Tax Avoidance£25 billion is lost annually in tax avoidance and a further £70 billion in tax evasion by large companies and wealthy individuals. An additional £26 billion is going uncollected. The total annual tax gap is estimated to stand at over £120 billion (more than three-quarters of the annual deficit!). This is a great visual research tool from the Guardian that allows you to discover how much tax companies in the FTSE 100 declared in recent years compared to what it nominally should have paid. It is currently much too easy for rich companies and individuals to set up trust funds etc. to avoid tax – as George Monbiot points out we effectively have a situation in which there is socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor  

Secondly, we could apply a ‘Robin Hood Tax’ to financial transactions – If we applied a modest Robin Hood tax – a 0.05% tax on global financial transactions –to UK financial institutions it would raise an estimated £20–30bn per year. This alone would reduce the annual deficit by between 12.5% and 20%. It would also discourage the kind of financial speculation that helped to cause the economic crisis in the first place

And there are plenty of other ideas about how tax can save us from the cuts are outlined in this excellent document – The Great Tax Parachute – below are some examples – there are many more…

  • 50 per cent tax on all income over £100,000 £2.3 billion
  • Prevent anyone earning more than £100,000 a year claiming more than £5,000 a year in tax reliefs above their personal allowance £14.9 billion
  • An additional 10 per cent tax on bank profits


NB – The argument for taxing the rich more is basically that they (the 1%) have got disproportionately richer than the rest of us (the 99%) over the last 30 years – and this redistribution of wealth has carried on even with the contraction in the world economy in the last couple of years!
The world’s richest 1% has gotten $5.5 trillion richer since 2009 – Their wealth now totals $47.4 trillion in investible wealth, up from $41.8 trillion in 2009. This means the richest 1% control 39% of the world’s wealth – What’s especially unjust about this is the fact that world GDP contracted by about $4 trillion in 2009, and is predicted to have grown by roughly the same amount in 2010 (couldn’t find the actual figures for 2010 – not enough time!) – meaning that the above figures represents a straightforward $5.5 trillion transfer of wealth upwards!

Recent research has found that the wages of the FTSE 100 bosses have risen 4000% in the last 30 years. FTSE 100 bosses are paid now 145 times the average wage. Our Corporate leaders have seen their pay quadruple in the past 10 years, while average earnings increased at just 0.1 per cent a year. On current trends, this would rise to 214 times by 2020 and the top 0.1 per cent of earners will take home 10 per cent of national income by 2025 and 14 per cent by 2030 on the present trajectory. What’s especially unjust about this is the fact that the economy has now effectively stopped growing, the last decade of growth was largely debt fuelled and thus fictitious and the people running these Corporations are not especially talented, they are mostly just lucky and powerful enough to claim large wage packets.


2. We should adopt most, if not all, of the policy proposals suggested by a recent report by compass and the New Political Economy Network – entitled ‘Plan B: A Good Economy for a Good Society’ which attempts to outline where the left should be on economic reform – and offers some useful alternatives to the current Conservative government’s programme of public sector cuts etc. Some examples of proposed reforms include…

  • Maintaining present levels of government expenditure rather than cutting – which is seen as necessary to avoid a ‘double dip’ recession.
  • Quantitative Easing (this basically means the government increases cash flow through issuing bonds) to create a ‘New Green Deal’ – So far since 2009 the government has released £275bn through ‘quantitative easing’ – but this has gone straight to the banks who have in turn invested most of this in international commodity markets rather than lending to UK businesses and stimulating economic growth. Instead – Plan B argues that governments should be raising money to be invested in the two items below
  • Firstly, training a carbon army – to be employed in such things such as making houses more energy efficient – not only will this involve creating more skilled jobs but also have the effect of saving people money on energy bills, which in turn can be ploughed back into the economy. 
  • Secondly money should be used to Cancel out certain Private Finance Initiatives – £50bn spent now can save £200 bn in the long run – a particular favourite of mine
  • Raise the incomes of the poorest – through increasing benefits and tax credits rationale here is that these are the people who will spend money – thus stimulating economic growth


3. To bring about all of the above, we should all join a movement that aims to fundamentally change society – and the current occupy movement is, I believe, at the forefront of pushing for positive social change today. Some of the selected core beliefs of(I modified them!) the movement (London Branch) include –

  • We need alternatives to the current system which is unsustainable.
  • We refuse to pay for the banks’ crisis.
  • We do not accept the cuts as either necessary or inevitable.
  • We demand an end to global tax injustice
  • We demand that our democracy represents people instead of Corporations
  • We want regulators to be genuinely independent of the industries they regulate.
  • We want structural change towards authentic global equality.
  • The world’s resources must go towards caring for people and the planet, not the military, corporate profits or the rich.
  • The present economic system pollutes land, sea and air, is causing massive loss of natural species and environments, and is accelerating humanity towards irreversible climate change. We call for a positive, sustainable economic system that benefits present and future generations. [1]
  • People of all genders, nationalities etc. should come and participate in moving towards a fairer future.

If the above sounds Idealistic – look at what happened in Iceland following its credit crunch 

Following Iceland’s ‘Credit Crunch’ in 2008 – each Icelandic citizen was required to pay 100 Euros a month (or about $130) for fifteen years, at 5.5% interest, to pay off a debt incurred by private parties vis a vis other private parties. It was the straw that broke the reindeer’s back.

What happened next was extraordinary. The belief that citizens had to pay for the mistakes of a financial monopoly, that an entire nation must be taxed to pay off private debts was shattered, transforming the relationship between citizens and their political institutions and eventually driving Iceland’s leaders to the side of their constituents. The Head of State, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, refused to ratify the law that would have made Iceland’s citizens responsible for its bankers’ debts, and accepted calls for a referendum.

In the March 2010 referendum, 93% voted against repayment of the debt. The government launched civil and penal investigations into those responsible for the financial crisis. Interpol put out an international arrest warrant for the ex-president of Kaupthing, Sigurdur Einarsson, some of the bankers implicated in the crash fled the country.

But Icelanders didn’t stop there: they decided to draft a new constitution that would free the country from the exaggerated power of international finance and virtual money. To write the new constitution, the people of Iceland elected twenty-five citizens from among 522 adults not belonging to any political party but recommended by at least thirty citizens. This document was not the work of a handful of politicians, but was written on the internet. The constituent’s meetings are streamed on-line, and citizens can send their comments and suggestions, witnessing the document as it takes shape. The constitution that eventually emerges from this participatory democratic process will be submitted to parliament for approval after the next elections.

It remains to be seen If Iceland will recover faster than other countries who honour their debts to finance capital, but at least in principle they’ve got things more or less spot on!


[1] Most of these figures come from the following documents (also see reading list at end) – There is an alternative: The Case against the Cuts (published by PCS)

Time Management – More about ideological control than stress reduction?

It’s National Stress Awareness Day – I was alerted to this fact by a blog post on ’10 ways to cope with stress’ from the equality and diversity blog.  I generally like this blog, and some of the ten suggestions for dealing with stress are perfectly legitimate, but, based on 10 years of working within education,  I had to take issue with the number one suggestion – ‘Learn to manage your time more effectively’ – in fairness, the blog author presents this as part of a ‘package of soultions’ to stress – but this isn’t how ‘time management’ as a solution is always presented to us at work.

This has to be my number one most despised solution to dealing with stress – while effective time management skills are obviously going to give you an easier life at work, they are in no way sufficient for dealing with the root causes of stress at work – one of which, in my profession (teaching) at least, is what I call ‘mission creep’ – or the gradual, drip-drip-drip increase of workload over the years. Nothing ever gets taken away, things only get added on – Just a few examples –

  • Most obviously, we’ve seen an increase in teaching hours through changes to the timetable and tutorial system.
  • Class sizes have expanded – although some subjects have it lighter than mine, which causes me massive stress internally whinging about the injustice of my ‘carrying’ other members of staff with perpetually lighter workloads
  • The introduction and expanded use of Emailing has meant more contact with both students and parents
  • Extra support for students has, ironically, meant more time spent liasing with study and support
  • We’ve had an increase in evening duties – parents evening has expanded and one open evening added

To my mind instead of asking ‘how can I manage my time more effectively’ – we should (also?) be asking ‘what is it that’s putting us in a position of needing to manage our time more effectively’, in other words, ‘why do we have an ever increasing work-load year on year?

In the case of education – it’s ultimately because our funding is linked to the amount of pupils we attract, and the amount of pupils we attract is in turn linked to our results (no one wants to go to a failing college) – This is what leads to management forcing more and more work onto staff, and then providing those staff with ‘advice’ and ‘support’ to help them ‘manage’ the increasing workload.

The real problem with all of this is that there is no end to this ‘continual improvement’- there is never going to be a time when ‘enough is enough’ – because colleges’ exam results are judged relative to each other (and displayed in league tables) and exam grades are also scaled relative to each other in one year rather than relative to previous years – thus we will never have a situation where everyone is getting straight As at A level. There will never be a time when we will say ‘let’s relax for a year, that’s good enough.

For example, since we became a ‘Beacon College’ – with ‘outstanding results’ we are now motivated by ‘fear of falling from grace’ (rather than the ‘desire to become great’)  through slipping down the league tables  – and slip we might because most other colleges and schools in the area are trying to improve their results, which leads to all of these institutions trying to get more and more work out of their staff.

Of course this was the whole idea of the 1988 education act – marketisation to drive up standards, but there are also unintended negative consequences for students of this urge to drive up standards – such as ‘teaching the test’ and ‘narrowing the curriculum’ – but most insidious of all is that students also end up getting stressed – as teachers push more work on them – even more so because what’s increasingly occurring in our college is an ‘internal market’ – where each department tries to get as much work as possible out of their students – ‘exams are just around the corner’…

This system is one in which atomized individual colleges, departments and students compete against each-other – it is thoroughly indivdualised – which maybe explains why we – staff and students alike – accept ‘better time management’ skills (an individualized solution – how can I manage my time more effectively) as a solution to the ever increasing pressures of work and study.

But better time management is not going to stop the systemic-inducement towards an ever increasing workload caused by competing in a marketised education system is it? – Eventually we’ll all be better at managing our time – and still competitive pressures will induce us to work harder to beat the competition.

So this is why I’m not a fan of individualized solutions to solving increasing stress levels at work – the only solutions to increasing stress are ultimately social – and this may well necessitate a long term ‘demarketisation’ of the education system and a reimaging education so it isn’t so obsessed with competition, exams and results, but instead is more creative, critical and flexible. In other words – If we want to beat stress at work – we need to maybe get back to the work of Ivan Illach and Rudolph Steiner!

You may call be an idealist – but what the hell – We need some optimism for a sustainable working education system rather than one in which we just put in place strategies to cope in one that’s suffering from perpetual stress.

Related posts

Capitalism and Stress

Sesame street’s Hungry Puppet – It sucks being poor, but here’s how to cope

Sesame Street recently introduced a new puppet – Lilly, whose family is living on the breadline, like 17 million families in America who face ‘food insecurity’. She was introduced in an hour long special called ‘growing hope against hunger’  in which advice was given about how to cope with poverty.

I know this is suppossed to be raising awareness of a serious issue, but I can’t help but think all this is doing is ‘normalising poverty’ – making people aware that it exists and assisting them with coping strategies – rather than confronting the underlying causes – kind of like the therapeutic turn in wider society – ‘life’s shit but here’s how all you isolated individuals can cope…. BTW tripe tastes great, honest’.

Being based in the UK I didn’t see the show, but I somehow doubt that it featured any consciousness raising of just how many Americans are facing dire poverty – some of whom cannot actually afford to feed themselves even thought they are working – you know, the kind of collective consciousness raising which might start to make people question whether or not there just might be something flawed about the system that creates such poverty…

I also can’t quite imagine that it explored the role of Corporations such as Goldmansachs investing in the commodities futures markets leading to the inflation of food prices.

Nor, I imagine, did it feature Big Bird and friends taking a daytrip to #occupywallstreet to learn about the flaws in the capitalist system that allow the richest one percent to carry on getting richer while 17 million people in Capitalism’s fading heartland go hungry…

Finally, though I’d love to see it, I fear that also missing from the show would have been the old ‘one of these kids is doing his own thing’ skit – which could have featured fat (for dramatic affect) city financiers jetting around the world in one box while another three people suffer unemployment, undernourishment and police harrassment (for those that highlight the injustices in the system that is).

Things may be bad here in Britain, but however bad they get, I always feel relatively better when I reflect on the fact that I’m not American.

Cost of different types of fraud to the UK economy

I just knocked up this little bar chart based on data from this article  by Polly Toynbee

I think it illustrates quite nicely how benefit fraud really isn’t a problem in the grand scheme of things. Given that fewer people commit financial fraud than benefit fraud (the amounts are larger in the former) surely on a pragmatic level, it would be easier for the political parties and the press to go after the tax avoiders and the financial sector fraudsters than the benefit cheats, but then again, they’re the ones who donate to the political classes, aren’t they now, whereas the underclass, well they’re just all a bunch of feral scum.


Agenda Setting round up

Some recent examples of agenda setting in the news – both taken from Private Eye –

Firstly, on December 15th, the BBC devoted 3 minutes of air time to promoting its remake of ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ – more important than providing more detailed analysis of other events that day?

Secondly – you may remember way back in 2008 – the Sun expressed a lot of moral outrage criticising Jonathan Ross and Russel Brand for being ‘loud mouth’ twitts when they they made a late night abusive phone call to Andrew Sachs. This week, however, they didn’t mention at all Frankie Boyle’s sick jokes about Jordan’s disabled son – perhaps because he doesn’t work for the BBC and perhaps because he writes for the Sun?