Thursday, 14 November 2013

12 Things you should know about David Cameron's austerity to infinity speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet


On 11 November 2013 David Cameron gave another ludicrous speech which demonstrated  how desperately out of touch with reality he is.

There was plenty of the same tired Tory rhetoric we've heard so many times before. Especially incitement of the public with scare stories of how scroungers, immigrants and the Labour party are to blame for the state of the economy, so that they are distracted from blaming the wealthy establishment minority, who are clearly the real culprits. I haven't got time to analyse all of the guff he came out with, so I'll just stick to a few of the most egregious bits of nonsense.

The golden lectern

The most glaringly obvious demonstration that Cameron's brain has been addled by the bubble of wealth and privilege he inhabits is the fact that he decided to announce that he plans for the UK public to suffer permanent austerity, whilst reading his speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet from a gold encrusted lectern.

The evidence is absolutely clear: Tory austerity is for the poor and ordinary, whilst the rich have used this economic crisis to make themselves richer than ever. Corporations and the super-rich get tax cuts, ludicrous pay hikes and state subsidies, whilst the rest of us suffer wage repression, cuts and loss of services.

That Cameron appealed for this economic apartheid to continue forever, whilst reading from a golden lectern and surrounded by many other golden objects was an appalling error of judgement (one wonders whether he consulted Lynton Crosby about the tone and setting of this speech beforehand) but the contents of his speech were just as dire.

The budget deficit

Cameron used his speech to outline his vision that once the budget deficit is eliminated, austerity should be made permanent. The big problem here is that there are absolutely no signs that adherence to George Osborne's extremist ideological austerity experiment will ever actually get rid of the budget deficit.

Surely Cameron hasn't forgotten that the Tories came to power on the back of their plans to eliminate the budget deficit in a single parliament. They claimed they would eliminate the budget deficit by May 2015, but there isn't a hope in hell that they can achieve that now. Even the ludicrously over-optimistic economic forecasts of the Office for Budget Responsibility Recklessness now put the balanced budget date at around 2020. The best that David Cameron can offer is the tired old line "we have cut the deficit by a third". This doesn't mean they've reduced the debt (as Cameron has dishonestly implied before), but that they have slightly reduced the rate at which money is being borrowed.

The fact is that the deficit was slightly reduced in the first couple of years of Tory rule* but since then it hasn't budged, in fact, the OBR now admit that the deficit is actually growing again (not that David Cameron or George Osborne would ever admit as much).


More NHS lies

David Cameron has a proven track record of lying about the NHS. Who could forget "We'll cut the budget deficit, not the NHS", "no more top down reorganisations of the NHS" or "the NHS is safe in our hands"? All three of these pre-election statements have been shown up as lies. NHS funding has been cut by £20 billion; within months of gaining power the Tories launched the biggest top-down reorganisation in the entire history of the NHS; and the NHS has been carved wide open for privatisation.

Cameron used this speech to continue his campaign of NHS lies with an absolute corker. He claimed that the NHS now has "shorter waiting times". In August 2013 it was announced that the number of people on NHS waiting lists has grown to the highest level in five years; in September 2013 it was announced that Accident and Emergency waiting times had reached their highest level since 2003-04, in and in the week before David Cameron's speech it was revealed that some NHS facilities stand accused of putting the lives of cancer patients at risk by falsifying waiting time data.

Anyone with the slightest familiarity with the NHS knows that things have got a lot worse under the Tories programme of privatisations, top down reforms and cuts. When the Tories came to power in 2010 public satisfaction with the NHS was at an all-time high, but within just two years of Tory rule, public satisfaction plummeted to an all time low.

Justice

At one point Cameron Brags about the strengths that are "absolutely key" to the success of the UK economy. Aside from the traditional neoliberal fare (our "property rights" and our "access to markets") one of the other things he cites is "equality before the law" - something the Tories have been deliberately undermining since they returned to power in 2010. From their sustained attacks on legal aid to their decision that poor defendants will no longer be allowed to chose their own legal representatives; from the introduction of secret courts that have been condemned by human rights groups across the world to Iain Duncan Smith's decision to retroactively rewrite the law to avoid compensating the victims of his unlawful labour party approved Workfare schemes, it is absolutely obvious that the Tories have utter contempt for the concept of equality before the law.

Skills

David Cameron lamented the fact that "at the moment, the UK has the lowest ratio in Europe for women in STEM subjects and in engineering, less than 1 in 6 graduates are women" however a look at Tory higher education policy reveals that the Tories have tripled tuition fees for young women wanting to study such subjects, meaning that they will have to accrue the largest debts anywhere in the world to study these subjects at public universities, and face a lifetime "aspiration tax" of 9% of their income to pay for it.

What makes these enormous fees even worse is that scientists and engineers are paid significantly more in other countries where tuition fees are significantly lower. Take engineering as an example. The average engineer in Germany or France takes home significantly higher wages than their UK counterparts, yet they have to pay much lower fees to obtain the necessary qualifications.

Given the huge cost of tuition fees in the UK, it would be in the rational self-interest of any British youngster with an interest in engineering to devote some of their time to improving their French or German with a view to studying abroad (where it is cheaper) and working abroad (where the pay is better). This incentive to leave the UK doesn't just apply in engineering, it applies across all kinds of fields.

What the Tories have actually done is to provide a massive financial incentive for the smartest youngsters to quit the UK altogether in search of lower tuition fees and better employment opportunities abroad. Only the ones dumb enough to pay £9,000 a year for something they could get for a tiny fraction of the price elsewhere in Europe are likely to remain.


Rebuilding the economy

One of the most pitiful sections of Cameron's speech addressed the economic recovery:
"We can’t simply try and rebuild the same type of economy that we had before the crash. We can’t just go back to how things used to be. We need to build something better. A vision of a new kind of economy where the benefits of growth are shared by all"
There is so much wrong with this I could fill a whole article with criticism.

1. "
We can’t simply try and rebuild the same type of economy that we had before the crash" - but this is precisely what the Tories have been doing: banks that should have been left to die have been kept alive with bailouts and quantitative easing; financial sector reform has been booted into the long grass; adherents of the neoclassical pseudo-economic gibberish that created the crisis still dominate the financial sector, the regulatory authorities, government, the media and academia; bankers bonuses have risen way above pre-crisis levels, tax-dodging is still rife; and not least, George Osborne is busy inflating another housing Ponzi bubble with his ridiculous "Help to Buy" schemes. It is absolutely clear that the establishment minority have learned absolutely nothing from the economic crisis and they're determined to return to business as usual for them, whilst extracting the cost of their failures from the rest of us via ideological austerity.

2. "
We can’t just go back to how things used to be" - We certainly shouldn't have gone back to the way things used to be, but that is precisely what has been happening, with the only difference being that the establishment minority are determined to use the crisis in order to ensure that they get a bigger slice of the cake than before, whilst the rest of us must subsist on crumbs.

3. "
We need to build something better" -  but they're building something even worse!

4. "
A vision of a new kind of economy where the benefits of growth are shared by all" -  A vision which is completely at odds with the true Conservative agenda, which is a massive widening of the poverty gap and a sustained assault on the concept of social mobility. It is impossible to see how this "vision" is even remotely compatible with the fact that it is Tory party policy to impose harsh below-inflation pay raises on the entire public sector, apart from MPs, who look set to bag an inflation busting 11% pay raise for themselves. How about the fact that this Tory government has overseen the longest prolonged period of wage repression since the 19th Century, whilst giving vast tax cuts to corporations and the super-wealthy minority, allowing the corporate executive class to enrich themselves with unprecedented wage rises.

The fact is, that like so much of what comes out of David Cameron's gob, this vision of a fairer economy is an utterly dishonest representation of what he actually believes. Lying about his "vision" for Britain is contemptible stuff, I'd have more respect for him if he showed a bit of honesty and actually admitted that the real Tory agenda is to enrich the wealthy minority at the expense of the majority - but expecting an honest statement of intentions for a Tory would take similar levels of gullibility as naively accepting David Cameron's word that he wants a fairer Britain "where the benefits of growth are shared by all" when his actions demonstrate that he believes in precisely the opposite.

  Welfare

As we have come to expect from any Tory speech, Cameron engaged in a bout of welfare bashing; the tired tactic of trying to divert blame away from the financial sector and towards the poorest people in society.

One of the most ludicrous assertions he made was that "through universal credit, we’re ensuring that for every extra hour you work and every extra job you do – you should always be better off". Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has shown that Universal Credit will have precisely the opposite effect for many people - that under Iain Duncan Smith's botched flagship welfare reform, many people will be made poorer for every extra hour of work that they do. Some of the examples of how universal credit will penalise hard work can be seen here.

Taxation
"At a time when family budgets are tight, it is really worth remembering that [social] spending comes out of the pockets of the same taxpayers whose living standards we want to see improve."
On the face of it this seems like ludicrous nonsense because the savings that are being made through cuts to social spending are not being used to cut the taxes of ordinary families, but on closer inspection it does make some sense. Cameron doesn't specifically state who these taxpayers whose living standards we want to see improve" actually are, he's just hoping that people assume that it refers to the families mentioned at the beginning of the sentence. The demographic that the Tory party is determined to improve living standards for is clearly not hard working families (you don't improve living standards for them through a campaign of wage repression, VAT hikes and cuts to in-work benefits), it is the wealthy minority Cameron is referring to. If you read it in the right way, this statement can be seen as an admission that Cameron and the Tories are determined to cut social spending in order to further improve the living standards of the rich.

It is also worth noting that Cameron made absolutely no mention of tax-dodging in his speech. If Corporations and the super-rich were made to pay their fair share of tax, then most of these drastic cuts in social spending could easily be avoided. The problem for Cameron of course is that many of the biggest financial donors to the Tory party are serial tax-dodgers. It serves Cameron's political self-interest to allow this plague of economically destructive tax-dodging to continue unchecked, as long as the beneficiaries fling a small portion of their ill-gotten gains into the coffers of the Tory party.


Immigration

In one breath David Cameron blamed immigrants for the state of the economy and the changes in society (in an transparent attempt to appeal to UKIP voters), and in the the next he was bragging about the Tory plan to make it easier for people from Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to get into the UK!

The new income requirements for British families with non-EU members introduced by the Tory party openly discriminate against British people and their families, meaning that countless low-mid income British people have been left with the appalling prospect of either breaking up their families, or living in exile. Meanwhile the government is powerless to discriminate against non-EU migrants that are married to citizens of other EU states in the same way, because their freedom of movement is protected under EU law. Thus a Brazilian or Indonesian that is married to a British person, speaks perfect English, has a high skill occupation and has British children can be barred from entering the UK, but if they are married to a Hungarian or Portuguese, speak no English at all, have no skills and no connections to the UK at all, they are absolutely free to come and go as they please!

Confidence

Cameron concluded his speech with what he wanted to be a rousing appeal to "confidence". The problem of course is that David Cameron and his cronies in the Tory party have done everything they can to destroy confidence in the UK economy. Cameron himself is guilty of repeatedly describing the UK as "bankrupted" which is hardly confidence inspiring language.

Then there's the consequences of their rotten policies; the fact that the public know that their incomes are being cut in real terms every single month is hardly confidence inspiring stuff; the fact that the UK lost its AAA Credit ratings under George Osborne's watch is hardly inspiring confidence in his extremist economic austerity experiment; the fact that the UK is lagging far behind high-tech economies like Germany and Japan hardly inspires confidence in our manufacturing sector; the fact that the Tory government have steadfastly refused to reform the financial sector hardly inspires confidence that there isn't another enormous economic crisis just around the corner; and the fact that the UK is plummeting down the league tables for academic achievement hardly inspires confidence in our future either.

Essentially what David Cameron is saying is that it is important that we all maintain a false sense of confidence, and just ignore the painful bouts of cognitive dissonance every time we hear him, or another Tory, describing the UK economy as "bankrupted" in order to score cheap political points against the Labour party.


Bucaneers
"We need to support, reward and celebrate enterprise. That requires a fundamental culture change in our country. A culture that’s on the side of those who work hard, that values that typically British, entrepreneurial, buccaneering spirit"
Again, there's so much wrong with this I could fill an entire article with criticisms of these two sentences.

1.
"We need to support, reward and celebrate enterprise." - Cameron doesn't bother to define what he means by "enterprise". For all we know he could be talking about the kinds of financial sector innovations (like Collateralised Debt Obligations, Credit Default Swaps and all kinds of other complex financial derivatives) that nearly collapsed the entire global economy in 2007-08. To support this interpretation we could point to the conclusion of the speech where he praises the City of London as "the great innovator that has led the way in finance for centuries". It is not difficult to interpret Cameron's words as a call for more support, reward and celebration of the financial sector (that provides more than half of all donations to the Tory party).
 

2. "That requires a fundamental culture change in our country. A culture that’s on the side of those who work hard" - Cameron is clearly implying that British culture is against those that work hard and in a way he is right: British culture rewards those that were born into wealth and privilege, whilst millions of people that have worked hard all their lives are having their pensions and savings raided by Quantitative Easing and many others are being treated like criminal scum by the DWP. Tens of thousands of people that have worked hard all their lives are being forced onto mandatory unpaid labour schemes or being subjected to the psychological torture that is the Atos administered Work Capacity Assessment.

The silver spoon brigade abuse their inherited privilege by engaging in rent seeking behavior and outright corruption to ensure that they stay wealthy for the least possible effort, whilst hard working people across the country are being made to feel like criminals because the blatant economic mismanagement of the privileged classes has created an unemployment crisis in which they have become trapped, or they are being told that their meagre disability benefits are being stopped because their heart attack, stroke, blood clot in the brain, degenerative condition or terminal cancer are too trivial to prevent them from seeking work.

3. "
that values that typically British, entrepreneurial, buccaneering spirit" - The Oxford English Dictionary defines a buccaneer as "a person who acts in a recklessly adventurous and often unscrupulous way, especially in business". Thus David Cameron is explicitly telling us that we must support, reward, celebrate and value the most reckless and unscrupulous in society! Instead of criticising the reckless and unscrupulous financial sector workers that crashed the global economy with their over-leveraged gambling and outright fraud, Cameron reckons we should be celebrating their achievements and rewarding them with ever higher bonuses!
 
Schools
 
At one point in the speech David Cameron brags that there are "over 3,000 more free schools and academies" - but this doesn't mean that 3,000 schools have been set up, it means that some 3,000 schools have been given away for free, property deeds and all, and in many cases to high profile Tory party and Liberal Democrat donors. Billions worth of land and infrastructure that was paid for at the public expense has been given away for free to unaccountable private sector interests. Only a Tory could possibly believe that this is something to brag about.

The fact that Cameron saw fit to brag about the fact his government has given so many £billions worth of public infrastructure away for free wasn't even the most alarming reference to education policy within his speech. The worst part was his claim that a pro-capitalism propaganda will be taught in schools. Cameron and his party wish to see future generations of our children indoctrinated into hero worshiping the unscrupulous "buccaneers" that David Cameron is full of praise for.

"We want to make sure [enterprise] is boosted everywhere. Promoted in schools. Taught in colleges. Celebrated in communities. Recognised properly in the honours system."
I always had my suspicions that the reason The Tories have been so keen to transfer our schools to unaccountable private sector interests** was so that kids could be more easily indoctrinated with pro-Tory propaganda. To hear David Cameron spell out his plan for our schools to be used as pro-capitalism indoctrination centres is confirmation of what I always suspected.

Conclusion


Cameron's speech was appalling for many, many reasons: The blatant lies; the distortions and misrepresentations; the outright denials of reality; the grotesque misuse of language; the logical contradictions; the feeble attempts at scapegoating immigrants and the least fortunate in society; and the announcement of plans to indoctrinate our children with pro-capitalist propaganda - but perhaps the most visible sign that Cameron has no grip at all on reality is the fact that he delivered his "austerity-to-infinity" speech from a golden lectern whilst surrounded by the trappings of wealth and privilege.


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* A fall in borrowing was to be expected, the previous government had been spending money like crazy to keep the City of London from collapsing into insolvency in the wake of the biggest financial crisis in nearly eight decades.

**
So keen to get shot of it that they would just give all these £billions worth of property and land away for free and provide lucrative annual subsidies to the unaccountable private interests they handed it over to.




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