Category: state corruption

Why the travails of Apple are symptomatic of a much wider problem

By Daniel Margrain

In the wake of the democratic decision of the British people to exit from the EU, it would paradoxically appear to be highly probable that the UK government will give away the kind of sovereignty the ‘Brexiteers’ claim to covet by signing an unadulterated TTIP deal with the United States government. At a point in time in which the UK government appears set to extricate itself from the ‘bureaucratic and unaccountable’ EU, the multinational conglomerate Apple is availing itself of Ireland’s tax system, the most favourable national tax regime in Europe.

However, the European Commission ordered Apple to pay the Irish government £11bn of back-dated tax that it has avoided. The Irish Cabinet agreed to appeal the European Commission diktat. Irish PM, Enda Kenny, ordered his ministers back from their summer holidays after the European Commission accused Ireland of breaching state aid rules.

But Independent minister John Halligan initially said that the Irish government should take the cash owed by Apple in order to fund hospital services in his constituency before eventually agreeing to the decision to appeal the ruling. The European Commission alleges that Apple’s effective tax rate in 2014 was a mere 0.005 per cent which means that someone earning £30,000 a year at an equivalent rate would pay just £1 a year in tax.

Meanwhile, the reaction of the British government to the impasse, was not to support the EU in its noble endeavor, but rather to remain on the sidelines in the hope that the situation would play out to their advantage, thus providing them with a potential opportunity to entice Apple with a ‘sweetheart’ ‘investment’ deal. Meanwhile, as Alex Callinicos  pointed out “Apple is playing the EU and the US off against each other over which gets the taxes it hasn’t been paying.”

It’s precisely the logic that overrides these kinds of shenanigans that explains one of the reasons why wealth inequality continues to rise to stratospheric levels, and why governments are witnessing a backlash against globalization. Over the past 40 years, the productive capacity that capitalism has engendered, allied to the ability of successive governments to transfer assets and capital from the public to the private sphere, has created an enormous concentration of wealth at the very top of society.

Britain is a country where armies of lawyers and accountants sift through mountains of legal paper work in order to justify on a legal basis those at the very top paying as little tax as possible. This has happened as a result of the restructuring of rules and regulations which provide corporations with legal loopholes with which to jump through.

In the case of Apple, profits are funneled into a ‘stateless company’ with a head office which, according to EU Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, “has no employees, premises or real activities.” In other words, Apple’s resident European office for tax purposes doesn’t exist. It has no staff and no location so it doesn’t pay any tax on most of the money it earns outside the United States.

Ireland has been told that it must claw back the £11 bn of back taxes from Apple even though Ireland’s ruling politicians say they don’t want it. This is money which could be spent for the benefit of an electorate who these politicians supposedly represent. Irish finance minister Michael Noonan intimated that individual states, not the EU, are responsible for individual taxation policies. “It’s an approach through the back door to try to influence tax policy through competition law.”, he said.

But what use is a tax policy if it is not intended to benefit human kind? If tax havens like Ireland behave in a way that negatively affects the well being of humans by reducing the resources available to fund services and infrastructure of which the functioning of civil society depends, then such a tax policy is not worth the paper it is written on. Does Ireland look like a country that doesn’t need £11 bn?

Apple’s billions worth of profits generated in Europe and the Middle East are transferred to Ireland where the company pays tax on just 50m euros worth. The rest is sent to their non-existent ‘virtual’ head office. As of 2015, the company’s lightly-taxed foreign cash off-shore mountain of $187bn is the biggest of any U.S multinational.

 

How can Apple defend this state of affairs whilst simultaneously maintaining the moral high ground by claiming that any attempt to prevent such an immoral situation will be bad for the societies in which they operate?

The activities of a virtually non-existent tax-paying company like Apple is already bad for these societies. The reason the masses, as opposed to companies like Apple, are subject to tax at a fixed rate, is because the former, unlike the latter, are not in the financial position to be able to avoid it. Those who are least able to pay taxes are the ones who have it deducted from their wages in full at source.

It’s not the overreaching arm of the EU ‘interfering’ with the tax laws of individual member states that’s the problem, but the fact that multinationals pit one country against another to avoid paying as much tax as possible while availing themselves of everything the rest of us pay for. The ‘race to the bottom’ is one in which corporations are constantly on the look-out to ‘up-sticks’ in the search for ever cheaper tax havens.

The end goal is a scenario in which the corporations pay no tax at all, while the masses pay for civil society because corporations like Apple, Google and Starbucks don’t have to. The upward spiral of money from the many to the few is increasing at a rate of knots due to a form of state-managed capitalism that perpetuates it. Moreover, it is happening to the detriment of the whole of the human race.

Widespread public anger towards this kind of systemic corruption is stymied daily as a result of the distractions associated with TV light entertainment and sports programmes. All this is aided by a largely uncritical corporate-based journalism. The ability of the rich and powerful to lobby governments in support of their own economic narrow interests, often to the detriment of the environment and society at large, exacerbates the problem.

Shortly before becoming the UKs unelected PM, Theresa May, intimated that the Tory government she would go on to lead would instigate greater transparency between government and big business and that she would no longer tolerate the undue influence of corporate power on domestic UK politics and the corruption through the power of lobbying that this implies. However, less than two months later, the Guardian revealed that a £3,150 payment to the government will buy business executives strategic marketplace influence.

The privileging of a tiny minority of the wealthy and corporations in this way, can be regarded as nothing less than the usurping of democracy. The mass of the working poor whose exploited labour creates the wealth from which the rich benefit and who often vote for corporate-funded politicians diametrically opposed to their own interests, is indicative of the propaganda power of a corporate and media-dominated political and economic system.

With a corporate tax rate levied at just 12.5 per cent, Ireland is effectively prostituting itself to Apple who can legally say that legally they are doing nothing legally wrong. The conventional argument goes that if Ireland failed to attract corporations like Apple, then it would be places like Belize, Bahamas or any of the British tax avoidance dependencies who would. But this zero-sum game means that while this situation is great for the CEOs of the corporations and their shareholders, it’s terrible for everybody else.

Because of the unfair competitive advantage the multinationals are able to lever, shops close, factories shut down and local businesses go under. Companies like Apple not only have governments on their side and can buy and manufacture on a vast scale, but they are not subject to the relatively higher rates of tax small businesses are forced to pay.

This situation is compounded by the fact that the typical consumer will tend to look for the cheapest goods and services available which, as a result of economies of scale, the big corporations will be most likely to provide. In such an eventuality, the role that corporations play in society becomes more prevalent at the expense of the small business.

The logical corollary to this is that eventually everything will be sold by a few giant multinational corporations who will come to dominate the marketplace resulting in less choice for the consumer, as well as its monopolization by private capital. This process was predicted by Marx who understood that capitalism was an inherently contradictory system.

In order to gain a competitive advantage over their rivals, capitalists either need to introduce mechanization to speed up the production process, reduce wages or replace their existing workforce with a cheaper one. Here’s where the contradiction comes in: If all capitalists are engaged in this process, their workers will have less and less money so they won’t be able to buy what the capitalists are producing to sell.

The capitalists, therefore, are effectively ‘creating their own gravediggers’ as a consequence of there being less demand in the economy. How has the system managed to have kept going when people don’t have money to buy things? The answer is the emergence and widespread availability of credit. However, the problems of capitalism are now so severe, so systemic, so global, that many people are wondering whether the system is coming to an end.

The British establishment corrupt? That’s not cricket, old bean

By Daniel Margrain

A year ago last week (30 July) the then Prime Minister David Cameron met with Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia to talk about corruption in the wake of allegations that nearly US$700 million ended up in the latter’s personal accounts. This followed on the heels of Cameron’s stated commitment to clamp down on corrupt money in the UK.

But on the same day he was lecturing the Malaysian’s about corruption, British corporations claimed that the Bribery Act effectively made it difficult for them to bribe people as part of their ‘normal’ export business practices. Thus, business leaders subsequently appealed to Cameron to reverse legislation that is ostensibly intended to prevent corruption.

The then business secretary, Sajid Javid, invited companies’ to comment on whether the ‘tough anti-corruption measures’ are a ‘problem’. Letters sent by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills invited industry leaders to comment on whether the act has had an impact on their attempts to export. Does the government invite you to comment, dear reader, about regulations that prevent you from making more money? No, I thought not.

Widespread international criticism of the failure of the UK to reform its ineffective anti-bribery laws – which is regarded as one of the most controversial pieces of legislation passed by the last government – soon followed. The coalition boasted that the Bribery Act was the world’s toughest piece of anti-corruption legislation. But the CBI led fierce criticisms of the bill arguing it would restrict business growth at a time of economic recovery.

The potential impact of the legislation is likely to be felt primarily, but not exclusively by, businesses. Why? Because bribery and corruption is an inherent part of big business deal-making.

On Wednesday’s (August 3) edition of the BBC HARDtalk programme, host Stephen Sackur interviewed Nigeria’s Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola. During the interview Sackur repeatedly alluded that the Nigerian government was systematically corrupt. At one point Sackur related an ‘off mic’ incident in which Cameron was said to have berated Nigeria, describing the country as one of the two most corrupt countries in the world.

Apparently it hadn’t occurred to Sackur and Cameron that big business in the UK lobbied against the Bribery Act which was intended to undermine corruption, the implication being that corporations would rather be scraping around in the sewer if there was some money to be made among the filth. For the likes of Sackur and Cameron, corrupt practices are something restricted to what African’s and Asian’s engage in. By contrast, the British establishment thinks of itself as occupying the moral high ground.

Three years ago, Cameron visited one of the most corrupt and authoritarian countries on the planet, Kazakhstan. The leader of that country showered him with gratitude and praise. Kazakhstan’s former police chief is linked to the ownership of £147m-worth of London properties which forms part of the UKs status as a safe haven for corrupt capital. Then there was the Straw and Rifkind affair, the ongoing MPs expenses scandal and the long-running PFI saga that’s crippling the NHS.

Simon Jenkins summarized the malaise and hypocrisy at the heart of the British establishment

“The truth is that hypocrisy is the occupational disease of British leaders. They lecture Africans and Asians on the venality of their politics, while blatantly selling seats in their own parliament for cash. I hope some insulted autocrat one day asks a British leader how much his party has garnered from auctioning honours. The government suppresses any inquiry into corrupt arms contracts to the Middle East. And when does lobbying stop and corruption start? The Cameron government is the most susceptible to lobbying of any in history.”

Given these corrupt practices, the fact that the UK is widely perceived to be the world’s 14th least corrupt country in the world would perhaps come as a surprise to many. The gap between perception and reality is clearly indicative of the distorted way in which the media under report the subtle forms of ‘hidden’ systematic corruption that is embedded in the very fabric of the British state, camouflaged by legislation and cushioned by ‘gentlemen’s agreements’.

In bringing together a wide range of leading commentators and campaigners, David Whyte shows that it is no longer tenable to assume that corruption is something that happens elsewhere; corrupt practices are revealed across a wide range of venerated institutions, from local government to big business.

As Penny Green of Queen Mary University of London, contends, “the network of egregious state and corporate corruption in Britain rivals any in the developing world”. By observing our ‘impartial’ corporate-controlled mainstream media, it’s unlikely one would have arrived at the conclusion that one of the most advanced capitalist countries on the planet is also inherently corrupt.

 

Why Tories & Blairites are an affront to democracy

By Daniel Margrain

In 1978, the Australian social scientist, Alex Carey, pointed out that the twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: “the growth of democracy; the growth of corporate power; and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.”

The corporations that now dominate much of the domestic and global economies recognize the need to manipulate the public through media propaganda by manufacturing their consent. This is largely achieved as a result of coordinated mass campaigns that combine sophisticated public relations techniques developed in 20th Century America with revitalized free market ideology that originated in 18th Century Europe.

The result is the media underplay, or even ignore, the economic and ideological motivations that drive the social policy decisions and strategies of governments’. According to Sharon Beder:

“The purpose of this propaganda onslaught has been to persuade a majority of people that it is in their interests to eschew their own power as workers and citizens, and forego their democratic right to restrain and regulate business activity. As a result the political agenda is now largely confined to policies aimed at furthering business interests.”

The under resourcing and under funding of large swaths of the public sector is part of the Tory strategy to run down public services as the precursor to their dismantling prior to them being sold off, precisely with the aim of furthering the business interests of those involved. In fact, as Noam Chomsky put it, the defunding process is standard practice within Western liberal democracies:

“[T]here is a standard technique of privatization, namely defund what you want to privatize. Like when Thatcher wanted to defund the railroads, first thing to do is defund them, then they don’t work and people get angry and they want a change. That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital.”

A century or so ago, the Russian Marxist Nicolai Bukharin realized that the growth of international corporations and their close association with national states were symptomatic of how both aspects hollow out the parliamentary system. It is now widely recognized that the power of private lobbying money draws power upwards into the executive and non-elected parts of the state dominated by corporations. Consequently this leads to a reduction in democratic accountability and public transparency.

Internal markets, market testing, contracting out, privatisation, encouraging private pensions and all the rest, are mechanisms that are intended to depoliticise the process of social provision, so making it easier to refuse it to those deemed not to deserve it on the one hand, and to clamp down on the workers in the welfare sector on the other.

Tied into this ethos is the move to dismantle the welfare state completely, which contrary to popular belief, was not a key priority for Thatcher following her election in 1979. It was not until her third term of office in 1987 that her advisers (notably the Sainsbury’s chief executive Sir Roy Griffiths) began to develop the ideas which were to be picked up and developed by New Labour under Tony Blair. Dressed in the language of ‘public-private partnerships’, the state under Blair was envisaged as the purchaser rather than direct provider of services.

To enable this to happen, whole entities within the public sector were outsourced, health and social care services privatized and competition and the business ethos introduced into public services in the form of managerialism and New Public Management; and the recasting of patients and clients as customers.

It would be foolish to understate the changes that more than two decades of neoliberalism have wrought on the welfare state. Areas such as residential care are now overwhelmingly located in the private sector, with one study suggesting that “the privatisation of social care services is arguably the most extensive outsourcing of a public service yet undertaken in the UK”.

The outsourcing process emanates from the policy of defunding which consequently is leading to a crisis in social care resulting, in part, to a shortage of nurses within the NHS that have reached dangerous levels in 90 per cent of UK hospitals. The aim is to expand the ethos of competition into residential social care and to ensure the domination of the market by a small number of very powerful multinational corporations (including, for example, the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Qatar Investment Fund). The primary concern of these corporations is not the welfare of the residents in the homes which they own but rather with maximizing their profits.

When they fail to do so sufficiently or where there are larger profits to be made elsewhere, then they will simply pull out, creating massive instability in the sector and undermining the continuity of care which is a key element of good quality social provision. The collapse in 2011 of Southern Cross, until then the largest provider of residential care for older people in the UK, is the most glaring example.

Under the Tory government of David Cameron, every aspect of the welfare state is under attack. The 2012 Health and Social Care Act removes the duty on the Secretary of State for Health to provide a comprehensive health service, while the requirement in the act that up to 49 percent of services can be tendered out to “any qualified provider” will rapidly lead to the privatisation of the NHS in England and Wales. Already between a quarter and a half of all community services are now run by Virgin Care.

A combination of cuts of around 30 per cent to local authority  social care budgets since 2010, increasingly restrictive eligibility criteria for services, and inadequate personal budgets, will leave millions without the support they need and increasingly dependent on the family, and in particular women family members.

And in place of what was once called social security, unprecedented cuts across all areas of benefits, especially disability benefits, the introduction of sanctions regimes which as Christmas fast approaches has, according to figures from the Russell Trust, contributed to over a million people being given emergency food and support in 2014-15.

Meanwhile, a bedroom tax affecting around 600,000 people will increase the number of children in poverty by 200,000 as well as harming their learning amid stress and hunger. It has recently been reported that a DWP study indicates that nearly half of those affected by the tax have gone without food so that they can make ends meet.

What drives the different rationales—economic, political and ideological—behind the current Tory government’s assault on the public sector, is the desire of the one per cent to shift the costs of a global economic crisis onto the 99 per cent. One important political consequence of this socioeconomic realignment in favour of those at the top of the pyramid is the shifting of the relationship between the state and multinational capital.

This has heightened the sense of popular alienation from the huge bureaucratic structures that dominate the lives of ordinary people which has magnified by the sheer scale of the institutions – state and private – that confront the mass of the population. Consequently, public confidence in big business and the civil service has declined dramatically, particularly since the 1997 election of Blair.

The appalling treatment meted out by Facebook to the family of Hollie Gazzard, is an example of how there seems to be no way to successfully complain or protest against these kinds of mammoth institutions and corporations. Changes supposed to make them more accountable to the public, in practice only make them more subject to central control. Far from increasing public trust, they often have the opposite effect.

Are the Brady Bunch hammering the public purse?

By Daniel Margrain

I’m sure that I speak for the vast majority of West Ham fans when I say that the start of each season is met with an air of extreme trepidation. The feeling of anxiety in anticipating what is to come in the opening six weeks or so of any campaign is exacerbated if our first game of the season happens to be a home fixture.

From a personal point of view, I can barely get through the hours leading up to the opening Saturday afternoon kick off without exhibiting a combination of cold sweats, nausea and nervous fidgeting. I can only compare the experience to my school days during the hours leading up to the time when my exam results would drop from the letterbox on to the hallway floor.

You know you have to face the proverbial music at some point but don’t want the potential disappointment that comes with it. You tell yourself you want to know the results of your exams but paradoxically, at the same time, you fear the dreaded fail, rather like sitting through a horror movie with your hands “covering” your eyes. Similarly, I dread putting on Final Score, particularly during the opening day of the season and particularly if the game is at home.

The agony is prolonged due to the fact that our home result is invariably the last Premier League one to be read out, just as it was the case that Ardleigh was one of the last streets on our posties Basildon round. Non-football fans are simply unable to comprehend the suffering we football fans have to endure on a Saturday afternoon. Every season has been the same for me since I can remember and the 2015-16 season was no different.

As our pre-season Europe campaign under our new charismatic manager turned out to be nothing less than an unmitigated disaster, expectations for a good premier league start were low. After confounding the football world with our amazing opening league victory against Arsenal away, confidence was high for the next few games.

But West Ham being West Ham, we lost the next two at home on the bounce to less than glamorous opposition before turning it around with three subsequent victories, two of which were nothing less than stunning against Liverpool and Manchester City respectively.

With 12 points in the bag after our opening six games, I felt as though I was, to a degree, in a position to be able to relax. Of course West Ham fans never totally relax. As all life-long Hammers supporters will know, expectations for a successful season are typically medium to non-existent.

If in this current campaign, the Hammers were to finish in a top eight position and have a good cup run I’ll be relatively happy. Despite our recent hiccups in the league, not least in part due to our mounting injury list, I believe our squad is strong enough to secure a top half finish.

With our move away from our spiritual home at the Boleyn into the Olympic Stadium at Stratford in east London from next season, it’s important that we finish high up in the table in order to attract new players to the club while keeping hold of our best.

With a manager and former player (who appears to be finally attuned to the  entertainment ethos of the club that the fans demand) pretty much cemented into place for the foreseeable future, things are as solid as they can be for a club of our size and the relatively limited resources we have at our disposal.

As far as the fans are concerned, off the park shenanigans are, at least on the surface, good as well given that those who run the club plan to substantially reduce season ticket prices in an an attempt to fill the new stadiums 54,000 capacity – a model that other clubs have apparently been encouraged to adopt.

But as I will hopefully be able to argue persuasively in the remainder of the article, this is a double edged sword. Here’s the problem: West Ham United are paying just £15million towards the £272 million cost of converting the Olympic Stadium despite the fact that, should the club still be a Premier League outfit next year (which seems highly likely), it will – under the terms of a new TV deal – be entitled to a payout of at least £99 million.

Small business people, many of whom run their businesses on extremely tight margins, might be scratching their heads as to how it can be that the elite within football, such as multi-millionaire Lady Brady who brokered the deal, are seemingly immune to the kind of market forces that the former are compelled to adhere to?

As far as the super-rich with contacts to the top echelons of political power are concerned – whether they be premier league chairmen or City bankers – it would appear that the kind of business risks the rest of us are prone to, is not applicable to them.

In this regard, it is difficult how one could possibly argue that the Premier League is no different in principle to what happens within the much maligned banking “racket”. Perhaps I’m missing something here and readers will be able to point out to me where I’ve got it wrong.

I’m not one of these obstinate traditionalists who is intent on stifling change. On the contrary, I embrace it. I’m excited as the next man about the move to our shiny new stadium. However, what I’m less than enamoured by is the morally and financially expedient, needless to say potentially corrupt price tag that comes with it.

The reality, however one looks at the situation, is that we, the tax paying fans and non-fans alike, will be subsidizing what essentially is a risk-free big business speculative enterprise on behalf of the super rich. It’s true that in season one ticket prices will be cheaper than our London rivals, but it’s fanciful to suggest that during subsequent seasons ticket prices will remain similarly low.

I have no detailed insight into the medium to long term business plan model that the club has in place, but it would surely be churlish to deny the directors at the club have not been eyeing up something along the lines of the Arsenal model.

Lady Brady and the rest of the high flyers within the club set up are in line to make a financial killing not just from us, the everyday football fan, but also from the wider tax paying public. The various pronouncements made in the media, particularly by David Gold regarding his supposed love for West Ham United Football club, are in part clearly intended at staving off any criticisms of the club over a stadium deal that has been less than transparent.

In my view, what often tends to get overlooked in the rush for on the field success, is the realization that the David Gold’s of this world are multimillionaire, and in some cases, billionaire businessmen and women who are first and foremost motivated by profit. If they happen to be in the position of being able to grab a big slice of these profits by creaming off great swaths of our tax revenues in the process, then all the better for them.

This is not an anti-business stance I’m taking here but an anti-corruption stance – albeit a form of legalized corruption. It’s not good for the reputation of West Ham United Football Club and its fans that we will be perceived as having unfair financial leverage over other similarly sized clubs, predicated on a system of legalized corruption.

I’m not arguing here that these kinds of underhand non-transparent deals and unethical business practices are unique to West Ham United, it’s just that I’m uncomfortable with the idea of us engendering success both on and off the field in a way that is symptomatic of the malaise that seems to have become an accepted, and some might argue, intrinsic aspect of socioeconomic and political life in our country.

That the kinds of informal corruption and unethical business practices described seem to have become a normalizing feature of not only professional football and other sports, but in public life more broadly, is not something West Ham fans, or indeed any other fans, should readily embrace without serious critique.

Banking Racketeers Set For Another Windfall

A sign is displayed outside of a branch of The Royal Bank of Scotland in central London, Britain May 20, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall

The UK Chancellor’s announcement that he plans to sell-off £2 billion worth of the 79 per cent stake the government has in RBS over the coming fortnight is, according to Unite national officer for finance Rob MacGregor, “recklessly irresponsible”(1). RBS shares that stood at £6.88 in 2007, are now valued at £3.30 (2). It should be noted that the shares have not been offered to the people who bailed out RBS, that is us, the taxpayers but to the Tories’ city friends.

The decision by Aristocrat Gideon Osborne, who seems set to be next in line to take the reins of PM from his friend David Cameron (3), and who promised action on tax avoidance (4), despite the fact that his family business has avoided tax (5), is defended by Treasury minister, Harriet Baldwin. Why would she defend the sell-off which will result in a £1bn loss to taxpayers, you may ask?

Well, it could have something to do with her connections within in the banking racket. Having joined investment bank JP Morgan Chase in 1986, she then became managing director and Head of Currency Management at their London office in 1998. She left the bank in 2008, after more than two decades with the bank (6). Maybe she has advised Cameron to get shot of the RBS millstone before his transition to PM.

The chief architects of the RBS collapse, Fred Goodwin and Sir Tom McKillop seemed to have disappeared into the ether.

To sell these shares when business is slow, many are on holiday and the stock market depressed, means its the opportune time for these scoundrels to defraud us for the second time round, which of course is really what this latest scandal is all about.

If, after this latest act by the page boy to his dads banker friends in order to further the interests of the banking racketeers, won’t have awaken the masses from their slumber, then I fear nothing will. There is no clearer illustration we are being taken for a ride than the governments collusion with the bankers as highlighted by this sell-off.  Austerity amounts to the raiding of the public coffers to bolster the pockets of the super-rich (7).

As economist Andrew Fisher alludes, this is clearly an ideological and dogmatic move by Osborne, not a financially pragmatic one:

“Banks that owe their continuing existence to public funds should be acting in the public interest — investing in the productive economy, reducing the margins between their lending rates and savers’ rates, and ending the fat-cat bonus culture at the top, while underpaying and laying off cashiers at the other end.”(8).

The Financial Times reported yesterday (August 3) that Osborne wants to flog off £32bn worth of public assets by the end of the financial year, as part of a strategy to reduce the role of the state that will do nothing to stimulate growth (9). The £32bn worth of public asset stripping that is to include the Met Office, Ordnance Survey and air traffic controller Nats, breaks even Thatcher’s record (10).

We are not in this mess because politicians are stupid but because of the cozy relationship that exists between them and the bankers who the latter lobby on behalf of (11). The Guardian outlines how it all works. A commentator on Craig Murray’s blog argued that:

“The entire RBS saga is a scam from start to finish:

• All banks make huge profits by lending prodigiously.
• Concentrate bad debts in a few banks.
• Instill ‘too big to fail’ meme.
• Order politicians to ‘nationalise’ compromised banks at huge cost to tax-payers.
• Continue injecting billions until ‘nationalised’ banks have paid off the lion’s share of bad debt.
• Sell bank back to bankers at knock-down price” (12).

Another commentator from the same blog makes another apt point:

“Note the bastards didn’t buy voting shares in RBS: the taxpaying sucker didn’t even have the opportunity to reform the bank. Lovely little restructure: the retail arm goes to another retail bank for a knockdown price (W&G may not have been too wise buying it even then), while the crooked division ends up divvied up between hedge funds. And lives to cheat another day” (13).

Don’t forget dear readers, we are all in it with the aim of getting the deficit down.

Snouts, Troughs And Revolving Doors

A House of Lords peer has been criticised for claiming up to £5,700 a month for walking to work from her £4.5m home 200 yards away in Westminster. Baroness Wilcox a former Tory minister has been accused of exploiting a new tax free payment of up to £300 a day. The 74 year old former Cadbury’s Schweppes director who takes home £74,400 in parliamentary attendance allowances has not broken any rules (1).

Many other peers are thought to be claiming the allowance despite despite living in and around the Westminster area. Labour MP John Mann said, “It’s a scandal as big as the MPs expenses scandal. “There is a lack of transparency”, he said. “There is no evidence that these people stay around even when they sign for their money”, he continued (2). That confirms the impression I had, namely, that these parasites just stick their heads around the corner before making their way to the subsidized canteen for their lunch.

Mann said, “this place is mired in sleaze – people doing business deals and exploiting their position and the abuse of their expenses is just one strand of it”(3). The most valuable thing about being a peer, is the title that comes with it because you can append it to the note paper of any shady organization. You will be made a non-executive director – a non-job – which means that you don’t have to show up. Their title alone will be sufficient to whitewash dodgy company practices that they put their names to.

Analysis by the Daily Mail found that 124 of the 161 Lords that live in London claimed the daily allowance this year. They claimed £763, 350 in two months. It’s estimated that the annual bill will come in at around a staggering £3.8 million (4). The total costs of Lords expenses in 2013/14 was a staggering £21.4m (5). We’re all in it together to get the deficit down!

Lord Paul, whose steel business is worth £2.2 billion received more than £40,000 of our money for attending Westminster last year (6). He is one of three peers with combined family fortunes estimated at more than £4.5 billion who together were paid more than £100,000 in tax payers funded attendance allowances last year. The revelation raises fresh questions about the unelected multi-millionaires given a crucial role in making Britain’s laws.

Despite his vast wealth, Lord Paul appeared in the Lords on 134 days last year pocketing £40,200 (7). Yet he spoke in the house on only three separate occasions for a total time of just 14 minutes.  Top Tory donor, Lord Kirkham worth £1.15 billion attended 181 days, claimed £24,300 and made no (zero) speeches (8). We’re all in it together to get the deficit down!

Darren Hughes of the Electoral Reform Society said, “our unelected chamber is in dire need of a clean out” (9). According to radio presenter Nick Abbot they also get to claim expenses for travel, parking, taxis, trains, business class on planes, top hotels, postage, office expenses and IT equipment. If they manage to wangle a meeting they get to claim for two extra days on either side of it. They are also entitled to free trips away on “parliamentary business”, says Abbot.

There’s also committee meetings and parliamentary delegations and travel with the armed forces, and to outreach programmes, and to the Scottish parliament, European parliamentary business and on and so forth. To top it all, none of it is taxable (unlike, for example job seekers allowance) and they don’t even have to declare any of it on their tax returns. We’re all in it together to get the deficit down!