Realsociology

For committed sociology, agains neoliberalism

Archive for the 'Tory cuts' Category

Sachs should pay their tax

Posted by Realsociology on 27th December 2011

Great Video by UKUNCUT – Storming a Tax Conference to thank Dave Hartnett for letting big companies off their tax bills.

 

Comedy aside, this is a very serious issue – A recent report by the Public Accounts Committee accused HMRC of having a ‘far too cosy’ relationship with big firms, which are treated more favorably by HMRC than other taxpayers. HMRC’s own figures suggest that claims the total owned may be £25.5billion. By contrast, families and small businesses are treated much more harshly and forced to pay up.

In total, the report says, HMRC is seeking to resolve more than 2,700 issues with the biggest companies, with a potential tax at stake of £25.5billion. The £25.5billion is HMRC’s own ‘ballpark estimate’ of the maximum potential tax liabilities of big businesses

The sum owed by corporate giants is the equivalent of £1,000 for every British family, or the equivalent of everyone in the UK paying an extra 6p on the basic rate of income tax.

The report singled out HMRC head Dave Hartnett for criticism over his dealings with Goldman. Goldman Sachs had cut its UK tax bill cut in 2010 after a privately negotiated deal with HMRC allowed it to avoid paying interest payments on £30million back taxes it owed.  

So what can the little guy do against this Corportacracy?

One thing UK Uncut are doing is to issue Formal legal proceedings against the Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on Thursday over allegations that it let the investment bank Goldman Sachs off paying up to £20m in outstanding tax.

The application for a judicial review, initiated by the campaign group UK Uncut Legal Action, will be lodged with the administrative court in London. The organisation has called for the government to crack down on tax avoidance by large corporations and the super-rich rather than pursue its “unnecessary austerity programme”.

Tim Street, director of UK Uncut Legal Action said: “There is overwhelming public support from unions, NGOs, MPs and thousands of ordinary people who want to see this dodgy tax deal challenged in the courts.

“It shows the deep level of outrage that people feel over state-sanctioned tax dodging by big business, while government destroys public services that ordinary people rely on, saying that there is no money.”

Street accused the government of “making a political choice to turn a blind eye” to what he views as a wider tax issue that costs the public purse £25bn a year and of “slashing public services and the support for the poorest instead of clamping down”.

If you want to help UKUNCUT in their legal challenge against Goldman Sachs – you can donate here

 

Posted in Things I like, Tory cuts | No Comments »

Three Alternatives to the Tory Cuts

Posted by Realsociology on 23rd November 2011

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)

Posted in Agenda Setting, But what can I do?, Tory cuts | 1 Comment »

The Andrew Lansley Rap

Posted by Realsociology on 17th May 2011

A wonderful piece highlighting just what a crook and a liar our current health minister Andrew Lansley is

I managed to get hold of the first verse of lyrics too -

The lyrics -

Hook:]

Andrew Lansley, greedy, Andrew Lansley, tosser

The NHS is not for sale you grey haired manky codger

[Verse 1]

So the budget of the PCTs

He wants to hand to the GP’s

Oh please. Dumb geeks are gonna buy from any willing provider

Get care from private companies

They saw the pie and they want a piece

Got their eyes on the P’s like mice for the cheese

I talk truth when I ride the beat

You talk shite when you speak

See money when you close your eyes to sleep. So fall back

Your face looks like a shrivelled up ball sack

The stuff that you chat is bull crap

I’m sure Andy Pandy snorts crack. Health minister, I mean sinister

You know your public will finish ya, is your brain really that miniature?

Give yourself an enema. Made filthy rich

By those who represent Walkers Crisps

Mars and Pizza Hut, proved your a health slut and your always talking shit

A hundred and thirty four pound an hour every week

That’s quite a lot of quids

And you came to the conclusion that

The food industry should be a little less strict

Scandal disclosed that you flipped your second home

You said your claims were within the rules

Filled your pockets, took us for jokes

So how would you cope when broke folk get ill

Injured and broke, but don’t have the dough

To get their life back on the road, so poor die slow, and the rich …

I know it’s old – but given that the debate hasn’t moved on – in that the Tories are claiming they are listening to the public over their concerns about the NHS reforms, but then just pressing ahead with those reforms anyway…

Posted in Sociology Songs, Tory cuts | No Comments »

There is an alternative to the Tory cuts

Posted by Realsociology on 19th March 2011

As explained by this woman on a london bus!

March for the alternative

Posted in Tory cuts, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Labour overspending did not cause the deficit and the Tory cuts are not the solution

Posted by Realsociology on 15th January 2011

It’s important that we keep the ‘no to the Tory cuts’ theme ticking over – I found this in ‘The Week’

Ed Milliband claimed last week that when Labour left office in May, there may well have been ‘no money left’ but this was because the global financial crisis had resulted in recession and a collapse in tax revenues rather than ‘chronic overspending’. Is this Ed getting his act together at last?

The Tories of course are now lying to us, saying that the cause of the UK’s budget deficit was overspending rather than declining taxes.  It is this blatant lie that serves as their justification for cutting our public services.

Will Straw, on Left Foot Forward argues that it’s important to nail this Tory lie and to remember that the Tory cuts are both unnecessary and reckless!

I would further reiterate that it is important to keep in mind that the Tory cuts to services combined with cuts to Corporation Tax and their failure to regulate the finance sector amount to class war against the British population as a whole – their economic policies amount to reducing the quality of life for the majority while increasing the wealth, or at least minimizing the reduction of wealth in an economic downturn, to the transnational capitalist class, many of whom are finance capitalists –( bankers and hedge fund managers)

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Clegg argues tuition fees will raise social mobility

Posted by Realsociology on 11th December 2010

Karl argues – Clegg’s full of s**t

Social mobility measures the degree to which people’s social status changes between generations. If social mobility exists it suggests that individuals are not being advantaged or disadvantaged by their class, gender or ethnic background.  

Now for most ordinary people – education is the key to social mobility -it’s not the only way of rising up the social status ladder, obviously – but a good education – GCSEs – A levels – Degree – tends to be equated with going on to getting a good job – as a general rule.

Furthermore most people would argue that the idea of social mobility – the idea that even someone from the poorest background can get a decent education and achieve highly – is good – it is obviously good for the individual rising up, but also good for society as a whole – and good because social mobility equates with fairness and justice – it shows that people can achieve on their own merits rather than people achieving based on who their parents are or how much money their parents have.

Nick Clegg insists the tuition fees package will make universities “more effective engines of social mobility” and that the policy will “stand the test of time”. Some of the measures to help those from disadvantaged backgrounds include -

  • Scholarships of up to two years’ tuition for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and delayed repayment of fees until graduates are earning £21,000.
  • There is a £150m national scholarship fund which would help the poorest applicants, and there are tougher access requirements for institutions charging up to the £9,000 fees cap would open the doors of the best universities to a wider mix.
  • Universities charging more than £6,000 in fees would be required to give a second year free to poorer students.

However, the thinktank Million+ calculated the scholarship scheme mentioned above could fund 8,333 students at £6,000 a year, or 6,944 at £7,200 a year. If fees were £9,000 a year, it would fund 5,555. Yet figures show that of the students graduating last year, there were 10,670 who had been in receipt of free school meals.

So what do you think – will increasing tuition fees increase social mobility? Personally this arguement makes no sense to me whatsover! But then again Clegg is a desperate politician – I can smell the desperation.. and something else too…..

Posted in Education, Tory cuts | No Comments »

Raising tuition fees – bad for democracy and meritocracy

Posted by Realsociology on 11th December 2010

You would expect this survey by the NUS to report that adults are against the increase in tuition fees, but the findings are back up by the results of two other surveys I found -

According to this online survey of a representative sample of 2,001 British adults, 70 per cent of respondents oppose the increase in the level of fees which Universities can charge students to take their courses. Only 23 per cent of Britons support the change.

Seven-in-ten respondents (71%) think the maximum cap of £9,000 per year is too high, and 57 per cent believe that the change in tuition fees will ultimately discourage students from economically poorer backgrounds from attending University.

According to this Ipsos MORI survey published by the Sutton Trust eight in ten (80%) of the pupils aged 11-16 at schools in England and Wales said they were either ‘very likely’ (39%) or ‘fairly likely’ (41%) to go into higher education.

The 2,700 survey respondents were asked for the first time this year to rate their likelihood of attending university if tuition fees were raised. More than two-thirds (68%) said they would still be likely to go on to higher education if fees were increased to £5,000. But only 45% would be likely to continue to university if fees were raised to £7,000 – and this percentage falls to 26% with a major hike up to £10,000.

So all in all Thursday was a bleak day for democracy – especially keeping in mind that the only party that was orginally for raising tuiution fees so drastically was the Conservative Party – and they only got one third of the popular vote in the last election.

No wonder people are angry!

Oh I’ll blog on the meritocracy thing later – lots of evidence to pull together on that little number!

Posted in Education, Tory cuts | No Comments »

Children in need of change not charity

Posted by Realsociology on 19th November 2010

Fight child poverty - stop the Tory cuts!

Fight child poverty - stop the Tory cuts!

Since 1980 Children in need has raised the dismally small sum of £500 million … a sum which is nowhere near – I mean nowhere near – the amount needed to tackle child poverty even in the short term.

One in three (4 million) children in the UK are currently living in poverty and the UK has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the industrialised world. This situation is unlikely to improve any time soon- especially as the recent welfare cuts will cost working families nearly £10 billion, which will obviously be felt more by the poorest.

This leads me to the inevitable conclusion that while charity is all well and good (or actually maybe not – see below) what we really need to tackle child poverty is a more progressive taxation system. This basically means that we need to tax the rich more.

I have blogged previously about how the wealthiest thousand people in Britain saw an increase in their wealth of £77 billion last year alone, taking half of this wealth would lift thousands of children out of poverty. Lower down the pecking order, all of those hyperactive, upper middle class, privately school educated presenters that will be providing low grade comedy entertainment tonight are on six figure salaries – we could go back to taxing them, and others like them at a 60% rate of income tax like we used to in the 1970s.

But surely it’s still good to give to charity?

Buddhism provides some interesting insights here –  

I am in 100% agreement with the Buddha on charitable giving – if an act of charity is done with genuine compassion for another – fantastic! (Not quite his words, but that was the general gist). But acting out of compassion is not just as simple as just giving ten quid to a media campaign for children in need.

Buddhists take a holistic view to compassionate giving – simply giving people what they want, or just meeting their immediate physical needs isn’t good enough – because in such cases the act of giving isn’t coming from a consideration of what people – all people – really need for their continued wellbeing. For an act of charity to be truly compassionate you have to think about what that person really needs for their long term physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Moreover, because Buddhism starts from the premise that all living beings are deserving of compassion on an equal basis, being truly compassionate means thinking about what kind of social and economic system can provide long term happiness for all beings. And to cut a long story short – our neoliberal political economy is not that kind of system.

 

Honest - you really can improve society by just sitting on yer backside and watchin' the TV
Honest – you really can improve society by just sitting on yer backside and watchin’ the TV

Children in Need as an ideological smokescreen

 

Charitable events like children in Need can make you feel like you are doing something good – but in the grand scheme of things – giving a tenner to this cause does nothing – but people can attribute huge significance to that tenner they donate – thinking ‘I’ve done my bit, that’s my social duty out of the way for the year’ – and then get back to watching the TV – leaving the neo-liberal class to cut hundreds of millions of welfare provision for children and leaving the wealthiest to stash their profits in tax free havens abroad, which results in less to be spent on alleviating child poverty.    

I suggest you don’t give money to Children in Need – educated yourselves about the deeper causes of child poverty and poverty in general instead.  And remember,  a true act of compassion involves standing united against neo-liberalism, which for us means resisting the Tory cuts!

Posted in Sociological Theory, Sociology on TV, Tory cuts | No Comments »

18 of the 23 Tory Cabinet are millionnaires

Posted by Realsociology on 3rd November 2010

Hey – Just in case you were wondering why the Tories are making you and your parents pay for this current economic crises – part of the reason is perhaps because most of them are millionaires and they simply do not understand what life is like for ordinary people and can afford not to care about the rest of us.

A summary of a couple of recent news articles

18 of the 23 of the new cabinet are millionaires, according to an analysis by The Sunday Times.

David Cameron, the Old Etonian prime minister, is relative small fry: his £3.4m estimated fortune puts him only in sixth place in the ministerial rich list.

Top of the list is Philip Hammond, 54, the new transport secretary, with an estimated fortune of £7.1m. He made the biggest slice of his wealth through the property developer Castlemead.

George Osborne, 39, benefits from a 15% stake in his family’s upmarket wallpaper business, Osborne & Little, a firm valued at £12m. Osborne owes much of his wealth to inheritance

The deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, 43, a banker’s son!!!, is worth about 1.8 million

This article outlines details of a programme which claims that three ministers (Osborne amongst them) are avoiding taxes.

The programme also focuses on Mr Hammond, whose £7.5million fortune makes him one of the wealthiest of the Cabinet’s 18 millionaires. It suggests that his practice of paying himself share dividends instead of a salary from his property firm Castlemead is a tax-efficient device used by the wealthy and it claims that he moved to limit his exposure to the new 50p top rate of tax last year by moving shares in the firm into the name of his wife.

NB – The tories do not give a stuff about you – you have to make them care – by whatever means you think is appropriate!

Watch out for my next post – about Tory minister Andrew Mitchell – I will be explaining why he’s in the running for my ‘scum of the universe 2010 award’

Posted in Sociological Theory, Tory cuts | No Comments »