Friday, November 28, 2014

Political slot

Some thoughts. Many in politics and the media would seek to highlight our differences and capitalise on some of our lowest instincts, in order to deflect attention from inequity caused by those at the top. "Look at those people, they get a couple of pounds more in benefits than you get in your minimum wage job! It's so unfair!" The demand is to strip people, who are also down the bottom end, of their benefits, instead of forcing the bosses to pay a higher wage. If it's not people on benefits causing ire, it's fellow workers. "Look at those immigrants, coming over here, sweeping our streets, making our sandwiches...". If people in the UK don't want to do jobs like sandwich-making for pittance pay, and people from Hungary are happy to do those jobs because the pay is relatively good for them, perhaps the government should step in and cajole business owners into making working conditions better so that they can attract local workers? Ah, but they don't want to do that, because of the free market orthodoxy. Well if British firms like Greencore can't provide living wage jobs making sandwiches, come up with some other areas where decent jobs can be created. Like the medical profession. "I can't see my GP because of all these foreigners". Not quite - you can't see your GP because infrastructure in your area is lacking, and/or doctors don't want to practice in your area. Can you force people to train as doctors, and then to use that training in your local area? I didn't want to be on the medical front line, these are hard jobs requiring a good analytical brain and faith in one's decision-making abilities. Of course there aren't enough doctors. There aren't enough of most good things. "I can't get a council house because of all these foreigners". No - there are more single-person households nowadays, more luxury flats aimed at the wealthy (while these companies have no incentive to create affordable housing, because of the free market orthodoxy), and less council house stock across the country because the Tories encouraged people to buy their council houses, and many councils don't want to look after their remaining stock. Pointless to blame the people trying to get a house. Blame the people who ensured there wouldn't be enough houses left to go around.

It seems so obvious that the sensible answer to most people's concerns is to devolve more decisions to the local level, acting on concerns of infrastructure, overcrowding, encouraging the building of enough GP surgeries, hospitals, schools, council houses, fire stations, all the things we consider necessary for a well-functioning society. Not focusing on pulling up the drawbridge. Ensuring that locally there are enough nurses, enough consultants, enough teachers, enough police, enough social workers. Encouraging interest in medicine, advocacy, ethical jobs from a young age; making it attractive to join these professions.

You want more UK-based jobs to replace all the factory ones that have been outsourced? Stop importing energy. Put more money into British renewable energy, kick-start the economy and ensure energy security at the same time. Our governments seem determined to erode energy security, and to make anything that's nationalised pay over the odds.

A Labour politician on Channel 4 News recently tried to justify the Labour-encouraged glut of PFI contracts that led to hospitals and schools being saddled with far higher long-term bills than if they'd just paid for the work upfront themselves. (The private partners walk away with all of the profits and none of the risk.) His comeback? "Well, you ask those patients who've been treated in PFI hospitals whether they're happy those hospitals exist". And nothing more. For crying out loud - if not for PFI, many more hospitals would exist, would be in good shape, well-equipped without crippling debts, and the only losers would have been the private companies.

Most people who claim to be for a free market don't actually believe in it. What they want is a rigged market, ensuring public loses out to private, the risks are cushioned by those at the bottom, and the profits stay at the top. This is profoundly unfair. I don't believe in the free market either; but I'd love to see a fair market.

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