The Fight-Back Against the Cuts
Not only do we, like many others, oppose cuts in our essential public care services. (Uniquely) we strongly believe that only a renewed expansion of these services can ensure that our country puts priorities before peripheries, needs before profits, provides good new professional and quasi-professional jobs for our unemployed and school- and university-leavers, and guarantees that our future economic development takes place in a non-material-intensive, non-energy-intensive and environmentally-fitting way.
We believe that, with appropriately progressive rises in general citizen’s tax contributions, sufficient revenue can be raised for these purposes and for appropriately reducing our current deficit to a more sustainable level. And we believe that, rather than this having a negative impact on the economy, fully-financed increases in public jobs, incomes and purchasing power will have beneficial multiplier effects on our industry and services generally which would not otherwise occur. Detailed arguments backing-up our stance are set out in ‘BDC Current Paper 1 “An Alternative.”
BDC January 2012
LETTER TO CHANCELLOR... THE BUDGET AND THEREAFTER
1 Where's the Demand - Where's the Growth - Coming From?
Overwhelmingly we want secure healthcare, education, social care, aged care, disability care, social housing, public security. And we want this much more than we want anything else - viz, ordinary consumer goods and private services, of which most of us (except of course the poor) already have a fairly full complement, and which can no longer therefore form the basis of new mass demand and growth whatever you may do to encourage them! Moreover we want these 'public-need' services available according to need, free at the point of use, and regardless of income.
2 Where Are the Jobs Coming From?
Resultantly there's a massive potential need for care, social, and public security etc jobs - and for private jobs supplying and equipping these sectors with high tech goods - with consequent employment potentialities well above any possible alternatives. Without satisfying this clear need unemployment will remain high whatever you do. Only by satisfying it can we create hundreds of thousands of good, worthwhile, caring, professional-type jobs for our existing jobless poor, our school and college leavers and many of our older people. And only by creating public jobs in areas where public need is highest will we get money into the pockets of the poor (who alone have major unmet needs for basic consumer products and utilities) and provide the local purchasing power which can additionally create new worthwhile private jobs.
3 Where's the Money Coming From?
We are fully prepared to pay the bill - tax - if only we are asked (given the option!) and if only this is levied fairly and progressively on the basis of ability to pay - which also means cutting out tax avoidance and properly taxing dividends, capital gains, wealth and property. In this way more than enough revenue could be provided both to create significantly more 'public-need' jobs and to begin to reduce the public deficit and debt. While (thereby) getting money into the pockets of the poor and otherwise unemployed in needy areas will enable them to pay-off their debt, significantly purchase basic local goods and services (which will stimulate local growth and private jobs) and contribute tax rather than constitute an ongoing welfare burden. And the overall 'tax' effect of such policy should, compared to other 'growth' alternatives, also help dampen general inflationary pressures.
4 Where's the Answer to Climate Change Coming From?
Rebalancing the economy firmly towards meeting our real 'public-need/quality of life' problems and encouraging the rest of the world to do likewise - as against simply encouraging more material consumption - will alone fundamentally (at root) reduce the need for raw materials and energy, reduce wastes and pollution, cut our carbon footprint, radically reduce global warming and possibly help save the planet.
THAT'S WHAT PEOPLE WANT, JUSTIFIED ON ECONOMIC AS WELL AS SOCIAL AND MORAL GROUNDS. BUT IS ANYONE GOING TO GIVE IT THEM?
BDC March 2013
AN 8 POINT PLAN FOR THE ECONOMY
Ruling Principles: meeting public priority needs...securing high-quality competitive production...achieving full employment...maximising productive contribution and personal autonomy...ensuring fair treatment...reducing social stress...mitigating inflationary pressures...securing environmental sustainability...tackling the deficit and phasing-out debt
1 Greatly Expand Public Care/Security Services/Social Housing
To give proper priority to outstanding care and security needs and priorities and provide good-quality, environmentally-friendly, professional and semi-professional jobs for the otherwise unemployed and school- and uni-leavers [see BDC “Progress Report No1: An Alternative” and BDC “Basis Document 13: Public Purpose”]
2 Introduce a ‘Family Care Income’
To provide new paid professional jobs rewarding and encouraging essential ‘in-family’ care [see BDC “Basis Document 14: Other Social Welfare Issues”]
3 Ensure Appropriately Progressive Taxation and Eliminate Tax Avoidance
So everyone makes an appropriate citizen’s contribution to meeting essential public care, security and infrastructure needs - according to their ‘ability to pay’ [see particularly BDC Progress Report No1: An Alternative”]
4 Make More Use of an ‘Appropriately Augmented Balanced Budget Multiplier’
Approach to Financing To generalise positive effects on the private sector (through appropriate contracts, quality supplies and new public workers’ demand for basic consumer goods and services) in a way which reflects the fact that we can’t currently afford yet more’ unbalanced budgeting’ of the kind that helped get us into the current mess) [see BDC “Progress Report N 1: An Alternative”]
5 Make Use of All Opportunities for Developing High-Quality/Socially-Useful/Environmentally-Fitting Private Products and Processes
[see BDC “Basis Documents 12: Re-Humanising Private Enterprise” and “16: Towards a National and Global Consensus”]
6 Work Towards Securing the Wholesale Professionalisation of the Workforce
By ‘up-valuing’ jobs and appropriately devolving managerial responsibilities to the sharp-end level at which problems and potentialities can be identified and acted-upon [see particularly BDC “Progress Report No 1: An Alternative” and “Basis Document 16: Towards a National and Global Consensus” ]
7 Encourage Moves Towards a More ‘Social Enterprise/Cooperative’ Economy
To ensure both that private commercial decisions are properly socially-oriented and that rewards are fairly related to actual (hopefully enhanced) productive contributions [see BDC “Basis Document 12: Re-Humanising Private Enterprise”]
8 Work to Secure the Fullest Participation and Consensus at all Decision-making Levels (enterprise, local and national)
[see particularly BDC “Progress Report No l: An Alternative” and BDC “Basis Document 16: Towards a National and Global Consensus” ]
BDC August 2012
Towards ‘Plan B’?
When we started out about a year ago (the reason we started out!) we felt ‘virtually unique’ in recommending not just an end to austerity and cuts but a positive expansion of (fully-tax-revenue-financed) public care services: admittedly somewhat counter-intuitive at first sight but, in our view, the only available means of creating good fulfilling jobs and general economic growth in a fully-financially-sustainable and environmentally-fitting way!
Earlier this year, for example, a Guardian list of possible ‘alternatives’ contained no suggestion that ‘developing existing public services financed by higher tax’ might be a positive way to go. And though we tried writing to them they still don’t appear to have extended their existing list.
Now, however, John McDonnell MP has drawn up ‘an alternative’ that does specifically advocate ‘more investment in education and the NHS and the creation of a National Caring Service financed by increased tax on higher incomes and a clampdown on tax avoidance’.
And a new Guardian canvas of economic experts on the shape of a possible alternative has seen Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz specifically call for a ‘balanced budget multiplier policy of progressive tax plus public spending (also the economic centrepiece of our own B Division approach) as the best way of stimulating the economy and creating jobs’.
While Jayati Ghosh of New Delhi university has called for a more general focus on ‘the quality of life rather than material growth - including good-quality employment and universal access to freely-available and good-quality social services as providing ways of living less destructive of nature’ (all of which we have also emphasised).
A few swallows don’t make a summer, and there’s still a mountain of adverse opinion to climb: as we indicate, for example, there is still no evidence of the Guardian’s own economic correspondents taking-up the Stiglitz/ Ghosh/McDonnell line...
But, with the establishment of a new progressive labour and trade union think-tank “Class” hopefully feeding into the new official Labour enquiry led by Jon Cruddas MP - and with clear problems in the way of all other possible economic policies (such as even more public borrowing at least in the short term or resurrecting our ailing private manufacturing sector) becoming clearer every day - hope for the actual development of a real effective public oriented/tax-financed Plan B (which meets all our growth, jobs and green problems without causing any renewed debt difficulties) just might be dawning.... as long as the vanguard few can get themselves more together to push the case?
BDC August 2012
The “Public Austerity/Private Growth” Thesis
“Austerity for the public sector/growth for the private” may sound necessary to some but ultimately simply means privileging a whole host of largely peripheral and often questionable material stuff and services, mainly at the top end of the market where the only remaining consumer-power exists (and the fortunes of those who oversee this production) over the screaming care-needs of multitudes. In a nutshell it means that, while we search around vainly for some private opportunity through which we can secure growth and jobs, we are actually prevented from working to secure growth and jobs, solve our real care problems and make the world a better place!
This would be logically illiterate and morally indefensible but for the “only the private creates wealth and jobs/public merely consumes the result” gambit. Such a stance would be hard to take if it were true. It is impossible to take when it is shown - as we (virtually alone?) are trying to show - that it is utterly false...
For every argument for growth in the private sector (need to increase output, personal wealth and employment) can be used to support growth in the public sector. And every argument against growth in the public sector (need to reduce borrowing, save resources, curb inflation) can be used against growth in the private sector.
In fact so great is the thrust of people’s real needs and demands that those parts of the private sector already engaged in providing for pharma-products, healthcare, fitness and security services and social housing (in our increasingly privatised and contracted-out world) and the equipment and construction necessary to support these here and in the public sector are just about the only sure-fire sources of future private growth amid the encircling gloom.
Indeed, the situation is now getting so desperate - and the “primacy of the private” apparently so ubiquitously accepted by the whole political, professional and academic elite - that it might even be worth considering “privatising the whole public thing” so that we could thereby (miraculously, at a stroke, as it were!) convert the whole public burden into a massive commercial creative opportunity. [If only we could find some way of doing this which doesn’t even more favour the already-affluent and make things even harder for the already-poor...]
Unless and until we rid ourselves of this fundamental “only the private sector creates wealth and jobs” theology will we ever begin to focus our work and effort logically and morally on solving our real problems - personal, social, economic and environmental - and give a proper priority to meeting mass care needs.
BDC August 2012
War on Want
A lot of people are comparing our present situation to the ‘l930s great depression’ and suggesting we might emulate policies through which the people of the time eventually restored their position economically.
Perhaps! But, then again, we don’t have their 1930s ongoing massive inter-war expansion of suburbia and owner-occupation and housing construction to keep us going. We don’t have their great industrial and technological revolution - based on their whole newly established nation-wide electricity grid - eventually wiring-up every household in the country and facilitating the development of the whole wide range of new consumer durables we currently take for granted.
We don’t of course have need of their massive re-armaments programme to fight a world war. We don’t have their need to greatly expand their agricultural production to meet the submarine threat of starvation. We don’t either have their need for a massive programme of post-war reconstruction, or for a post-war consumer boom to restore severely war-eroded living standards.
And, while we would all be happy to see the enterprising among us setting up small and medium private companies hither and thither as they were able to do in the 1930s and thereafter, we have only to look at the state of our current declining high-streets to assess the likelihood of any such resurgence today...
We can, however, still more than emulate our predecessors by waging their ‘war against need’ (which still exists despite years of relative consumer prosperity!) as our own choice engine of growth and employment.
But we can only do this if we establish that it would be as much a creation of economic growth and wealth as anything done in the 1930s or at any other time - despite the fact that most of it will have to be done by our getting together communally and contributing though citizens’ taxation, rather than paying privately over the counter to meet what would in relative terms be fairly-peripheral consumer wants.
For years our major business corporations and their political and media and even academic supporters have successfully argued that they alone create wealth and growth and jobs, and the rest of us only spend it (publicly or privately), and that they alone should be favoured economically and politically, and that putting a full price on what they produce to raise revenue is wholly desirable but putting a full price on anything else to raise revenue is beyond the pale. Though there’s nothing in economics to justify this view.
Unless we explode this self-serving corporate myth once and for all, and get our economic facts straight, and make our business corporations responsible for more than personal gain and shareholder returns, and give our caring public services the priority they (and we) deserve, we may have only ourselves to blame if we get stuck with our 21st century current downturn for quite some time.
BDC January 2012
Care in Old Age
On the one hand, the number of the aged as a proportion of the population is increasing progressively, threatening to leave many of us ending our lives in poverty. On the other hand, the state pension scheme remains modest. And the coverage of private sector occupational schemes have been progressively reduced over recent years. And now we have the argument that (generally-more-favourable) public sector schemes should ‘in all fairness’ also be reduced towards the declining private levels.
But accepting a significant ‘drop in living standards’ over our final needy years is completely irrational. The only sensible policy for all of us is to ensure that our’ lifetime incomes’ are appropriately shared-out, not just over our working lives but over our whole adult existence: which means negotiating an appropriate transfer from all our current to all our future consumption.
And - assuming that we extend our working-life up towards 50 years and still spend on-average something like 20 years in retirement – it has been estimated that to get the same kind of income and living standards in old age as we have in work (obviously taking into account the fact that as retirees we do not usually have dependent children, normally have considerably reduced mortgage costs, do not pay national insurance or other pensions contributions, and do not incur travel-to-work costs) we may have to allocate something like a fifth of our gross ongoing work incomes each working year towards our retirement years. This is not some issue of ideology: it is a matter of sheer mathematics; but it certainly means expanding existing pensions provisions, not contracting them.
We can do this by personal savings and private insurance, by our tax/insurance contributions to a basic state pension, or secondary pension, or by negotiating with our employers to remunerate us by providing a good (and properly-guaranteed!) private occupational pension (in preference to current earnings), and ultimately by the sum of a number of these (state, public, private) approaches. And we need to invest securely whatever we put away to ensure we retain the value of our savings over time. And we also need to establish joint decision-making arrangements at enterprise, local and national level to secure our maximum control over these.
In this respect, we should also bear in mind that most existing (currently threatened) public pensions schemes are already pretty much economically-viable on their own terms - fully financed by employees through their direct contributions or more generally by taking their total remuneration in the form of a de facto employers’ contribution in place of higher gross pay - while generally still some way away from guaranteeing our ‘no significant fall in living standards on retirement’ objective.
However this may be, instead of attacking these public arrangements, we should be seeking to improve and generalise them. And, insofar as private companies are made to convert themselves into full social/cooperative enterprises seeking to maximise the human good cooperatively (as we recommend elsewhere), this current/future incomes trade-off is one of the first things they should attend to.
The attainment of ‘good incomes throughout all our life’ is not the only necessity. As we get older we are much more likely also to require special help (above basic provisions) to deal with our increased susceptibility to chronic illness and disability. So we should also be beefing-up (and not cutting-down) those essential care services (NHS, residential care etc) that we will be increasingly dependent on: which is why we argue it is so important to give priority to these fundamental issues over current (relatively-peripheral) consumer wants [as we argue in our Current Paper 1: “An Alternative” available on this website].
And, thirdly, there is a key need also to establish a generous “in-family care income” for people with certified special healthcare needs (wherever possible paid directly to those in need) to help us provide necessary care services (family and/or independent carers) for ourselves in old age of a kind which will enable us to stay comfortably in our own homes for as long as possible and avoid the costs and (sometimes) indignity of care home provision [see the arguments for this in our Basis Document 14 “Other Social Welfare Issues’ - available on this website].
BDC January 2012
“Government can’t create jobs, only business can.”
(John Cridland, CBI Director General, Guardian February 18 2012)
No one would go to the opposite extreme of saying “only Government can create jobs”. But it is a fact that currently business has great difficulty creating jobs.This is hardly surprising.... low domestic demand.... low relative international competitiveness.... other countries suffering in similar ways to us and hardly in a position to buy much more of our goods....much modern growth that does take place ‘output-light’ and ‘virtually jobless’....plus the specifically adverse effects of public cuts on our private infrastructure and (medical, educational) supply companies which have hitherto been our main key success areas of growth....
But the Government certainly can and does‘create jobs’ when it directly employs nurses, teachers, social care, security workers etc. (all of which we desperately need!).... indirectly employs private construction and supply workers.... and when the resulting public and private workers create yet other (private) jobs by spending their new incomes on basic private consumer products.
Obviously we all have to pay for this public output though our taxes (rather than though prices as with the private sector).But this is a matter of practical convenience - reflecting the simple fact that some things are more appropriately organised privately and paid for over-the-counter as and when we need them, and others are more appropriately organised communally and paid for by regular dues and then delivered ‘free at the point’ of use (as indeed are a whole host of key private products - house and goods insurance, car breakdown etc).
“Which method is more appropriate to meet particular needs?” is a legitimate question for argument, as is the question of whether such things as healthcare are most efficiently provided for by public workers whose formal first aim is ‘meeting essential care needs’ or by private entrepreneurs whose formal first aim is ‘profits’ and meeting needs is secondary.Ways of providing a more devolved, participative, bottom-up approach to providing these services may well need to be explored.And in all this people’s expressed willingness to pay tax for essential services may well need to be tested democratically.
But, short of privatising everything, asserting that “only business... creates jobs”, is quite simply false. As it stands, it would involve giving priority to consumer peripherals over essential public services, and prevent us using our outstanding public demands to help solve our existing economic, employment, social and green problems (including creating sustainable new opportunities for private business) - when it is increasingly becoming clear that there is no other practical way of solving them [See our Progress Report No 1 “An Alternative” if you have any doubts].
BDC February 2012
A large proportion of the Greek etc debt should rightly be 'written-off'. Financers can make more money lending short-term to the Greek etc government than long-term to governments like ours, so they take the risk. If it pays-off, they are quids-in. If they don't, they lose out. 'But that's capitalism!' And as committed capitalists they should accept the implications.
Given the creditors are largely European banks, this will obviously add particularly to Euro-banks’ existing woes.And the rest of Europe will have to examine what needs to be done for them (the banks) - presumably recapitalise them with more public funds rather than let them go to the wall with all the specific domestic implications.
For it is and never has been a matter of German (or other) taxpayers giving money to Greek citizens.It is German (or other) taxpayers giving money so Greeks etc can pay-off their German (and other) financial creditors: the Greeks etc don’t really stand to retain any of it! So let’s make the choice clear: European taxpayers bailing out their own (imprudent) financiers or suffering the domestic consequences of not doing so...
As for the remaining Greek etc debt left over from any write-off, their authorities should focus their efforts on getting their own rich to (at last) pay their full-taxes, seek repatriation of previous salted-away gains, make ‘dual citizenship’ for overseas rich Greeks conditional on them making an appropriate contribution to Greek taxes and put pressure on the rest of us to cooperate fully in their repatriation attempts.
The Greek etc authorities should allocate some element of this additional taxation towards expanding current care expenditure to meet their obvious high and rising human care needs - as a way of restoring fiscally-responsible Greek expenditure and growth and employment, while gradually restoring their longer-term financial and industrial position.Thereby providing a positive (instead of negative) example to others in danger of slipping towards the Greek position.
So the rest of us have a choice: mount a fierce once-for-all European-wide drive to eliminate all Euro tax-havens (and seek international agreement to close the rest), ensure full transparency over existing salted-away funds and full repatriation of avoided-tax, and assist with the process of getting rich Greeks with dual citizenship to pay their due Greek ‘dues’ to finance existing or higher expenditure - or keep on bailing out our own bankers with even more of our own taxpayers’ money....
And ultimately the EC should make up its mind whether it is a central monetary system or not by seriously considering financing distressed Euro countries national deficits (it decides are not anyway fully better written-off!) centrally through Euro-bonds at an appropriately modest Euro-wide rate of interest.
While, insofar as we have helped turn Greece etc into virtual third-world status by insisting on austerity upon austerity, we should now make restitution by focusing appropriate aidfunds- a mini Marshall plan - upon maintaining the real human care aspects of Greece etc’s public expenditure to retain and create jobs in essential services and help kick-start the remaining economy and help them (and other economies facing similar problems) get back on their own feet.
BDC June 2012