Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Embalming - Part 1

Whilst sitting in her rocker knitting, Luisa has been meditating on a metaphor that would describe what is happening in GB Ltd. And the metaphor is, roll of drums….embalming. Embalming is a practise whereby you take a dead body and, dependent on your beliefs, ancient or modern, you prepare it for: being ready for the next life; slowing down the rate of decay; making it look presentable or even life-like, so that the body appears to be sleeping rather than dead and thus the shock of death itself is mitigated to some extent.

Luisa concluded many years ago that current paradigms for life were dying and that new paradigms were required. Some dying paradigms are: constant production for consumption; full time employment for all as a reasonable economic target; home ownership; wasted food as an acceptable byproduct of supermarket merchandising and strange EEC rules.

Luisa believes that [oops, dropped a stitch] the current economic model of consumption and the current financial industries around that including banking are dying. And so rather than being very brave and taking a much more strategic view about where life is heading, successive governments have become embalmers of existing paradigms. When the banking body started to fall apart, the government stepped in with fresh bandages and re-wrapped the more public parts of the decaying body with bailouts and harsh words to protect the status quo.

Young people have become pawns in the embalmers game of economic chess. As there really aren’t enough jobs for them, and as there really has been insufficient investment in entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship and self-employment, they were first moved into universities to take degrees which were of no real use to them. Now they are being discouraged from universities through the fee system and so instead will be moved into apprenticeship and other schemes to disguise the absence of strategic thinking about their futures, their income needs, the costs they will have to pay for mortgages, or raising a family. They are just shuffled about from one scheme to another.

In the meantime the power/wealth paradigm has to prop itself up whilst pretending that it has the best interests of society at large. The Chancellor's bizarre cap on charitable giving is a shameless example of that. It appears to pay attention to tax avoidance by the very wealthy without really addressing it at all. It was just a bit of cosmetic embalming.

Why do we think homeownership can continue, when for many young people and young adults it is unaffordable. Affordable housing, part-ownership schemes are merely the embalming of the housing situation, a band-aid to disguise a complete lack of strategic thinking about where those in their 20s and early thirties are going to live. The privatisation of Council Housing was a strategic error of unforeseen magnitude which is still not being addressed. Not only that but it was also a barely disguised token of allowing the less wealthy to think that they could own their own home and therefore BE like the more wealthy. It was a kind of embalming of the poor, you too can have your own, albeit smaller, painted sarcophogi.

Enough of opinions. Lets look at some facts. 2.64 million people are unemployed of whom 1 million + are young people. 9.27 million people are economically inactive, over 23% of the 16-64 population. How many job vacancies are out there at the moment, approx 455000. So we have a shortage of jobs, which in the current economic climate may last some time. If we wanted to make up the shortfall by encouraging and creating new businesses, say taking 2 years to be able to employ 10 people each, we would need over 165000 of them !  There has largely been year on year growth in the number of enterprises overall in the UK. But between 2010 and 2011, the number of enterprises [paying VAT or PAYE] fell by 33,000 whilst self-employment enterprises increased by 127000.

This then begs questions about the unemployed, and the extent to which opportunities and developmental and financial support for self-employment are and will be nurtured, especially amongst young adults, over the next decade.

Small enterprises [0-49 employees] have been responsible for job growth in the last 10 years, whilst in large organisations [250+ employees] jobs have shrunk. If we wanted to create fulltime employment with large businesses each employing 500 people, we would need 4000 brand new large businesses. A year ago, the Deputy Prime Minister announced that 100,000 jobs would be created by the Regional Growth Fund, but its not just about numbers of jobs, it has to also be about the longevity of those jobs and the incomes they generate. Fast food and supermarket chains, through expansion, are capable of producing thousands of jobs. But these will largely be lower paid jobs. And certainly not enough to pay for rents, and food, and council tax, and…

....talking of rents and therefore accommodation, where will our younger workers be living and will there be enough accommodation for them ? Will we have to put them in large dormitories like the Chinese, or create hundreds of Japanese style pod hotels.

The problem is we aren’t going to create even a million jobs over the next 5 years, and we probably aren’t going to have enough affordable housing. There is enough land banked by housing developers with permission to build over 281,000 homes, but the houses aren’t being built. And never mind affordability. Luisa is still looking into this.

There isn’t a plan you see. And embalming isn’t really a plan, it’s just desperation. The problem with embalming is that at some point all you are left with are the bandages, or the skin, which might give the appearance of solidity.  But underneath its all just dried out. I regret to say this but I really feel that we are all at the mercy of the embalmers, who dare not and will not look beyond the body they are embalming.

Part 2 will arrive when Luisa has some more info ! Acknowledgements for most of the facts used, to fullfact.org, and by synchronous magic, to Fred Attewill of the Metro.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Luisa's Quandaries

Luisa’s line-up of mathematical quandaries:

  1. More over 50s unemployed + More people having to work longer before they can receive their state pension = More older people with less money + More older people needing financial support
  2. More people looking for work + Less jobs = Less money being spent + More people needing financial support
  3. The growth of the economy will be directly proportional to the growth of small businesses

Luisa’s line up of non-mathematical quandaries:

  1. Reducing charitable giving is better than directly taxing the rich
  2. Increasing the costs of public transport is better than reducing the costs of public transport
  3. Privatising public services is better than managing them effectively
  4. Talking about neighbourhoods and localism is better than having neighbourhoods and localism
  5. Privatising local authorities will be better than having effective public local authorities
  6. Having someone to vote for is better than having no one to vote for
  7. Propping up a dead elephant is better than saying OMG the elephant is dead !

Add your own.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Short Planetary Interlude

Luisa thinks you should just be mindful that at the moment: theres a whole lot of earthquaking and volcano erupting going on; that the Arab Spring may slide into a Muslim Brotherhood Winter; that the price of more individuality is becoming more surveillance; and that prices of boxes of chocolate are increasing. Luisa thinks it could be a useful exercise to try and use laws of intention to make chocolate more affordable because the other stuff is just out of control !

Friday, 13 April 2012

OMG, How do we tax the rich, its so difficult

Luisa has been thinking about the Tax Cap on charitable giving, carefully constructed to ensure very, very, very rich folk don't use charitable giving to avoid paying tax. It should probably be renamed the Dunce's Tax Cap as it is a strangely poor and superficial attempt to be seen to be trying to extract some tax from the VVVRF.  If HMG really wanted to ensure the VVVRF paid some tax at least, the simple thing to do surely is to enact a law or tax rule which says that if you earn say over £5million gross a year, no matter what your outgoings are you must pay a fixed % on that say 2% or a fixed sum, say £100k. That will force the VVVRF to pay their taxes but not interfere, [I hope] with charitable giving. I remember many years ago paying £7k in taxes in one year where I had earnt £47k - perhaps you'll say I needed a better accountant. I then discovered that someone I knew of had earnt £3.5 million in that same year and had paid £5k in tax. They obviously had better accountants, who themselves were probably tax deductible, but for me there was something very wrong with that situation. The Dunce's Tax Cap isn't going to resolve it.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Which end of the telescope are we looking through?

Luisa thinks to herself well, the Third Sector is a vital part of Big Society. So vital in fact that when it comes to the Work Programme, it is fully involved in waiting to be fully involved.  When its not fully involved in waiting its fully involved in fund-raising perhaps, or wondering how those who most need its services will be able to get them, or what ? Some are thinking about A4E but Luisa thinks they are a symptom rather than a cause. And that detracts from focusing on how those who need good services to gain their self-respect never mind a job, are going to get such services from a cash squeezed third sector. In the meantime, with many young people out of work, with inadequate jobs available, and with a deep need to encourage entrepreneurship, Luisa wonders why those approaching retirement still need to look for work, and yet others will be forced to work for longer, competing for work with younger members of society who probably need jobs more than imminent retirees. H'mmm. And this will continue for quite a while. Not a few months, but a few years. So who can we have an honest discussion with about all this ?