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It is time to end the massive government subsidy that’s being paid to the UK’s commercial banks

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/06/2024 - 4:28pm in

It is a strange moment when an idea that you have promoted suddenly moves towards the political centre stage, even if Nigel Farage is the person who is doing the pushing.

This happened yesterday when the Reform Party presented its idea to eliminate payments of interest to the UK’s commercial banks and other financial services organisations that enjoy the privilege of having a central bank reserve account balance with the Bank of England. As I have noted here many times, the payment of bank base rate on these accounts at one time cost in excess of £40 billion a year, and still costs in excess of £35 billion per annum now.

From 2009 until 2021 the payment of interest at bank base rate on these reserves was a matter of inconsequence because the base rate in question was 0.1%, and the cost was, as a result, immaterial.

Prior to 2009, the cost was immaterial because the balances on central bank reserve accounts were tiny, totalling only about £20 billion in all.

Before 2006, interest was not paid on these balances.

Andy it is important to note that these balances are not, in any significant sense, sums deposited by the banks in question with the Bank of England on a voluntary basis . The balances in question were instead created as a result of deliberate deficit funding of the economy by the government using newly created money that was spent to manage the consequences of the fallout from the global financial crisis between 2009 and 2016, and to cover the cost of the Covid crisis from 2020 to the end of 2021.

Ignore anything to do with quantitive easing, which was simply a disguise for the fact that the government had created money via the Bank to inject the economy during these periods: these central bank reserve account balances represent the total amount of money that the government did inject during these period to cover the cost of fulfilling its policies.

In total more than £900 billion was injected into the economy in this way, and these balances were recorded by the creation of what were, supposedly, deposits by the commercial bank with the Bank of England.

However, since the banks that benefited did not actually deposit any funds, but instead had these deposit balances created on their behalf by the Bank of England acting on behalf of the government, they represented a windfall to the banks in question.

That windfall turned out to be equivalent of the proverbial golden egg when the Bank of England then began to, quote unnecessarily, increased interest rates to supposedly tackle inflation from late 2021 onwards. From that time onwards, the good times began to roll for all of the banks as a result of these interest payments, enormously increasing their profits with no action on their part. I noted some of this impact here.

Let me also stress that these balances cannot be used by the banks, except to facilitate payments to each other or to the government. That is their sole purpose. This is what is called base money, and it does not circulate in the rest of the economy. It is, instead, the liquidity that has been provided by the government to ensure that the banking system can function properly by guaranteeing every bank should have sufficient funds to pay each other, come what may. This is, in effect, a practical reaction to the Northern Rock affair. This increase in bank liquidity might have been a side-effect of a necessary government policy to keep the economy going, but it has undoubtedly been beneficial in bailing out under-capitalised banks.

The downside has been it has been enormously costly to the government, and has promoted austerity economics because it has been necessary, over the last three years, to make payment of interest at inflated rates on these balances.

The Bank of England and others now argue that such payments are absolutely essential as a mechanism for the delivery of Bank of England monetary policy because, they claim, the Bank could not influence the rate of interest in the economy unless it had to pay bank base rate interest on these balances. There are numerous reasons for rejecting this argument.

The first of these is that since significant payment on these balances has only been happening for less than three years this claim is completely unsubstantiated. We do not know that this is true in the context of the British economy.

The second is that other central banks, including the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan, do not make payment on all such balances. They pay interest on a tiered basis, making full payment on part of the balances, but by no means on all of them.

Third , there is the argument that this is a windfall profit if this interest rate needs to be paid, and that in practice it should be subject to a substantial excess profits tax to recover most of that sum paid so that the banks are not unduly enriched.

Fourth, the stench of avarice underpinning the arguments that the banks should be paid cannot be avoided.

As a consequence I have made it clear that I think that the current policy is inappropriate and should be reformed, and nothing has yet changed my mind about this.

That said, I recognise that there may be (and I stress the may) some merit to the argument that interest should be paid on a part of these balances to communicate Bank of England interest rate policy and have therefore accepted some cost might still be involved.

Alternatively, I would be quite happy with a windfall tax to cancel most or all of this gain.

Best of all, I would like a substantial cut in bank base rate, certainly to nothing more than 2% now, which would also significantly ease this problem .

But what I am not convinced by is Nigel Farage’s claim that the entire sum of £35 billion being paid at present can be recovered to fund other spending. That is largely because if this is pure profit to the banks, as it would seem to be, then they do already pay tax on it and so at least £9 billion is already returned to the government, undermining his logic.

Is it, however, true that his logic is fundamentally correct and that these payments are not necessary in total? On this, I have to agree with him. It is unfortunate that he is the person to raise this issue because of his other politics, but the reality is that commercial banks have been enriched in a way that is unjustified, and is unjustifiable, and the time for reform of this policy to radically reduce this cost has arrived. A policy of tiered rates and, most likely, an excess profits tax to recover much of the remaining sum paid would make a lot of sense. Commercial banks should not be enriched by central government money creation, which statement is the beginning and end of this argument.

Labour will not be taxing wealth

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 10/06/2024 - 4:58pm in

As the FT reports this morning:

The Tories introduced the lifetime pension cap. Based on the value of a fund, and not just contributions, it has caused major difficulties for hospital consultants in particular. There was an obvious problem needing a solution.

The Tory solution was to abandon the cap.

That solved nothing but perpetuated a massive bias towards wealth in the pension system.

Now, Labour says it will maintain that bias.

It could have instead said it would abandon the cap and cut the rate of relief on contributions. That would have worked. But no, there is nothing like that. There's just another £800 million bung to the wealthy.

Ending the two-child benefit cap to take 1 million children out of poverty would cost £2,000 million (£2 billion). Apparently, that's not possible. If you can work out the logic of that and come to any answer that includes the terms 'economic sense' and 'empathy', I will be amazed.

BBC bias exposed again in treatment of Israel’s mass murder during war crime raid

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 09/06/2024 - 10:56pm in

Not-so-subtle difference in treatment of Israeli captives vs Palestinian victims of Israel’s slaughter during raid involving new war crime

The BBC’s gross bias in its treatment of Israel’s genocide in Gaza was exposed again in its headlines of Israel’s slaughter of well over two hundred Palestinians – as usual, mostly women and children – in its assault on the Nuseirat refugee camp.

The raid freed four captives – who emerged looking well fed and cared for, in stark contrast to the starved and beaten mass hostages held by Israel – but killed at least two hundred and ten Palestinians, with dead children and body parts spread across the area. It also killed several other Israeli captives. But the BBC’s headline blared, in large text, the news of the four freed while relegating the hundreds of victims to a small subtext, as Greg Herriett’s tweet pointed out:

This behaviour mirrored the appalling speeches by US president Joe Biden and his Secretary of State Antony Blinken, both of whom praised the raid but did not mention the murdered Palestinians.

Israel’s raid used fake ‘aid trucks’ to disguise troops’ entry into the area, which – as UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories Francesca Albanese has pointed out – is a war crime. ‘Perfidy’, banned under the Geneva Conventions, involves passing off soldiers or military equipment as protected peaceful personnel or objects, or as members of the ‘enemy’ they are fighting, is outlawed. The assault was also given practical support by US forces, along with alleged American ‘boots on the ground’.

Yet another Israeli war crime – and yet another of the many ignored by the UK ‘mainstream’ media while they minimise the lives, deaths and suffering of the oppressed Palestinian people.

If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.

Why aren’t politicians talking about the joy of tax?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 09/06/2024 - 5:37pm in

I published this video this morning. In it, I ask why no politician wants to talk about the positive aspects of taxation during the election campaign. Are they wholly unaware of what they are?

The video can be viewed here.

The transcript is:

In this election apparently no politician wants to talk about tax. Well, at least about tax in a positive sense.

There's plenty of discussion about who's going to raise taxes as if this is some disaster for everyone.

Raising tax is not a disaster if it's raised on the right people and if the proceeds of the tax raised are used for social purpose, either to control inflation -  which is the primary purpose for raising tax in the UK - or to redistribute income and wealth from those who've got, well, plenty of it, towards those who haven't got much of it and need it to survive.

Tax Is the single most powerful instrument available to a government to shape the society for which they're responsible and which they wish to govern.

Why aren't we getting a positive discussion of tax in this election about what politicians want to do with it for our good? And yet none of them do. Do they understand why they actually want to be in office is the obvious question to raise.

Why aren’t we talking about independence?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/06/2024 - 4:36pm in

My most recent video focussing on this election campaign, is out this morning. In it, I ask why it is that the English-based parties are ignoring the issue of independence for three of the four countries that make up the UK during this election campaign as if that is a matter of inconsequence when, in truth, the whole nature of this supposed country is open to question? Could they be cooperating in a conspiracy of silence?

The audio version is:

The transcript is:

In this election, the big issue that's being ignored in England is independence for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It's as if people in England think that somehow or other these are just regions of their country. Which is England.

They're not.

They're separate countries.

This is a United kingdom.

Now that ‘kingdom’ does actually refer to the uniting of the Scottish and English thrones. But let's be quite clear about it. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. are not the same as England. Each of them has, in their own varying ways, massive cultural traditions.

Scotland and Northern Ireland have very distinctly different legal systems to the rest of the UK.

They produce their own banknotes.

They have separate and independent education systems, as does Wales.

So this idea that there is somehow a regional or devolution policy that will be acceptable to these countries to pacify the people of England who would like to keep control of them - it's quite absurd, because that is not true.

Now, I fully accept that Northern Ireland has not as yet expressed the will to leave the United Kingdom.

In Wales, only around 30 per cent of people seem to support independence, but in Scotland, despite the problems that the SNP has had - and they undoubtedly have had their fair share over the last year or so - support for independence has remained strong at around 50 per cent of the population. Evidence is that when there was last a vote for independence, that support increased significantly during the campaign.

So, there is a very strong part of opinion in all these places that London is not the place from which they wish to be ruled.

And yet if you ask people in England, what do they think about this it's always, “Well, they're part of the country. Give them devolution, make them regional authorities, a bit like make Yorkshire independent.”

Let me just use that example because Yorkshire does have a population which is, well, actually bigger than that of Wales, if I remember correctly, and most certainly a lot bigger than that of Northern Ireland, and not that different from the population of Scotland.

Yorkshire is, however, not a country. It's a county. It's fundamentally different. And I know that the people of Yorkshire think it's God's chosen county, but it isn't. Nowhere on earth is God's chosen, and nor has Yorkshire got any strong legal, educational, economic, or other association based on history that gives it an identity that recognizes that it is a country, unlike Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

So, there is no comparison between regional policy and the policy that is required for these places.

We need a grown-up debate in England on this issue, because people in England need to understand that their right to, in my opinion, colonise Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, has to come to an end.

The history of empire is over. These places might have been willing participants in empire in their day, but they are no longer. So why is it that we keep this concept, when in practice there are four countries that make up the United Kingdom, and three of them are not convinced of their future within it?

England, take note. It's time to face a future on your own. And what's wrong with that?

‘The Mistreatment of Diane Abbott and Faiza Shaheen Speaks to Hierarchy of Racism in Starmer’s Labour Party’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/06/2024 - 7:00pm in

The deselection of Faiza Shaheen as a Labour candidate in this year’s General Election dominated campaign coverage in the past week.

The social justice campaigner and economist – who has since resigned from the Labour Party and will now stand as an independent – achieved the highest ever vote for Labour in the constituency of former Conservative Leader Iain Duncan Smith, Chingford and Woodford Green, in the 2019 General Election. It was widely thought she would unseat the Tories in the north-east London seat this year – an area in which she was born and raised.

But a shock email from Labour’s National Executive Committee informed Shaheen that she had been deselected. Why?

If you only read the headlines, because of 14 ‘liked’ tweets, one of which was allegedly antisemitic. But if you read beyond the headlines, it went far deeper than tweets which were ‘liked’ over the course of a decade. It was, in Shaheen’s words, “a systematic campaign of racism, Islamophobia, and bullying".

“Racism is never about individuals,” journalist, equality campaigner, and ex-Labour councillor Shaista Aziz told this week’s Media Storm podcast. “It's about systems of power.”

Applying the famous Toni Morrison quote to Shaheen’s situation, she recited: “The very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being – that is pretty much what Faiza Shaheen has had to do.”

Shaista Aziz was one of first two Labour councillors in the country to resign over Keir Starmer’s position on Israel and Gaza last October, which posited that “Israel has the right” to withhold power and water from Palestinian civilians. It is a position the Labour Leader later backtracked on, claiming that he meant only that the country had a right to self-defence.

“I had no option [but to resign],” Aziz said. “It was a red line. And I think what we're seeing now is a red line for lots of other people. The mistreatment of Diane Abbott and Faiza Shaheen really do speak to the hierarchy of racism that Keir Starmer’s Labour Party is overseeing.”

Indeed, mere days ago, seven councillors in Slough resigned from the opposition party, citing ‘institutional racism’ in Labour.

Claims that it is ‘purging’ left-wing and minority candidates are being batted off by opposition spokespeople. But Shaheen’s determination to speak out has given a face to the fight.

Speaking to the power of listening to first-hand lived experience to demonstrate that minorities are not a monolith, Media Storm guest host and journalist Coco Khan referenced Shaheen’s BBC Newsnight interview, which took place one hour after she received the email informing her of her deselection.

“[The public] know nothing about her except she's got a brown face and a Muslim name... and then they see her on the screen," Khan said. "And what you see is someone who is not this one-note character that's been drawn in a racist cartoon, but a mother. A human… someone you get on with, someone you'd have a cup of tea with. But actually, [people of colour] often don't get the opportunities to show [their] humanity.”

We are currently witnessing the dehumanisation of people of colour across the media, through the almost daily images of unthinkable violence against the people of Palestine, which has become a regular feature of scrolling through our social feeds.

“We have to wonder,” Khan said, “why we aren’t all downing tools right now and doing something about it.” A possible answer? Because Palestinians are largely non-white and Muslim. 

“Look at images of poverty porn from charities,” founder of South Asian magazine Burnt Roti, Sharan Dhaliwal, told Media Storm. “We’ve seen these images on the tube, on the TV, forever… it’s saying that non-white people are always in need. And so when you see it [in Palestine], it feels like you’ve seen it before… you do become desensitised.”

Indeed, it is hard to imagine the scenes of suffering and starvation on the scale we have seen happening to white people – and if we could, it would arguably have us ‘downing tools’ immediately.

Some may point to the number of British Asians who have held the highest positions of power in our political system and cry ‘representation!’ and ‘progress!’. Rishi Sunak is our Prime Minister, while Suella Braverman, Priti Patel, and Sajid Javid all held high-profile roles in the Cabinet. “They are one of us,” Dhaliwal said, “but they do not represent us. This isn’t a TV show. This is our lives.” 

Aziz spoke to Media Storm about the “dangerous narrative” surrounding representation as the solution to racism.

“To have a room full of people who are brown is not a win, if they are going to help cement the most horrific policies that disproportionately devastate and implicate people of colour… for example, those from the Windrush generation, those who have been standing up with the Black Lives Matter movement, those who are standing with the Palestinians. A call on all people of colour to celebrate them [is] a form of tokenism, and is very racist.”  

So what can we do beyond ‘representation’?

Dhaliwal calls on the media, and the public, to name the problem and use accurate terminology (“we get scared sometimes to say ‘racist’”). Beyond that, she identifies system change in newsrooms: “Every time I'd pitch something that was ethnic, because that's my experience, I would hear back from an editor saying ‘it's not for us’.” Statistics show only 6% of editors are non-white. “So I created Burnt Roti to propel people to move into the mainstream media and take space there.”

Media Storm's latest episode, 'Media Racism: Faiza Shaheen, Palestine coverage, and the Limits of Representation’ is available now

One in four children can now claim free school meals

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/06/2024 - 5:17pm in

As the Guardian has highlighted this morning, new data shows that 2.1 million children now qualify for free school means. This is one in four children now do so.

The figures have grown dramatically, as this chart from Statista, based on official figures, and excluding the latest figures showing that the total has grown again, demonstrates:

The figure has almost doubled.

This is a real measure of poverty.

Worse, it is a real measure of hardship for children.

It is also a clear indication of division within our society.

And the social dimensions remain as hard to manage as ever: stigma has always been attached to claiming these meals.

It is, therefore, a measure of Tory failure.

We know every public service is now failing, but this is evidence of the very clear costs of that.

Children who need to be fed by their schools are unlikely to learn as well as others because they may also go without breakfasts as well.

And they will be denied the opportunities in life others have: that's what goes with the deliberate promotion of a low-wage, low-security economy for so many in this country.

And have we won anything as a result? Low growth, low productivity, low investment and businesses that are only interested in financial engineering rather than the real sort of engineering that might benefit society are the most we have got as a result of this deliberate exploitation of people in his country as a result of the deliberate increase in poverty by the Tory government.

But what will Labour do about it? As far as I can tell, they will do precisely nothing.

The strongest possible hints have been given by Labour that they will say nothing in their manifesto about ending the two-child benefit cap that is putting one million children into poverty. I think we can take that as indicative of their concern on this issue.

The Tories have been callously indifferent to child poverty—in fact, they've promoted it.

But is Labour any more concerned? Or is balancing its budgets and appeasing those with wealth a much higher priority for it? So far, it would seem so.

And now you know why I will continue to criticise Labour. Nothing less will do until it shows the slightest spark of empathy in its planned actions.

Keir Starmer wants to maximize wealth in the UK

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/06/2024 - 4:41pm in

In my latest YouTube video I note that if a government can influence the distribution of wealth in an economy - and we know that is a possibility because tax can redistribute both income and wealth - then what should it do? What should a government be doing when it exercises that power?

Should it, as Keir Starmer has now said, be intensely relaxed about people getting wealthy?

Or is it its job to say we are on the side of those who are poorest in society, and it is their wealth that we want to increase?

The audio version is here:

The transcript is:

Keir Starmer wants to maximize wealth in the UK or so it seems.

Does that really represent what he thinks life is about? Is that what aspiration is for? Because he said the goal of doing so is how he now defines aspiration. He used that specific word. Is that, well, just simply what life is about, the accumulation of more?

My experience is that it isn't.

My experience is that there are very, very many more important things in life.

People, understanding, community, finding meaning, which is perhaps the most difficult thing that we all have to do whilst we're here on earth.

Intellectual creativity, creativity which is not just intellectual but merely expresses ourselves.

The wonder of nature.

All of these things seem to me to matter more than the accumulation of wealth once, of course, we've reached a basic point where we have enough to live on. And I'm not dismissing the significance of that point. But he seems to be, because that isn't what he's prioritising.

So what is it that we really should be teaching as the goal of economics?

I wrote a book once called The Courageous State. It's a little out of date now but quite a lot of people still refer to it when they comment on my blog and elsewhere because in it I explored the idea that there are four goals that we must fulfill as human beings.

What is our material well being? Very clearly and obviously we need water, we need air, we need warmth and shelter, we need clothing because otherwise we don't achieve some of those other things, and we need food and so on. We know that there are basic requirements to be met there.

But once we get to a certain point - and again I stress I understand the point that we do need a sufficiency before we can in many ways move on to consider other issues - emotional well-being matters enormously.

So does our intellectual well-being. We need to have sufficient access to the resources of communication and understanding that we can participate in the society of which we're a part. Without either that emotional support or that intellectual capacity to take part in community, we suffer significant normal - but nonetheless significant - stress. And that can lead to, well, mental ill health.

And the way that we work out how to prioritise these things is through our meaning, our purpose. You could call it our spiritual life, although I'm not in any way saying that that is religious. When we work out what we're for, why we're doing what it is that we're here on earth to achieve, as we see it, then we inform all those other activities. Our emotional well-being, our intellectual well-being, and even our material well-being, with this overlay of a purpose.

Now, I explored all those issues in that book and said the goal is to find the right balance between those issues. And if we achieve that, not only is that the definition of a good life, but it's also the goal of economics.

Because an economics that focuses solely on material well-being - which is what worries me so much about what Keir Starmer is saying - over emphasises that to the point that we dedicate all our resources to that one goal, and as a result, we reduce our capacity to engage with our emotional well-being, reduce our capacity to engage in society, and to learn the tools and mechanisms to do that, which reduces our intellectual capacity, and to explore our meaning or purpose or spiritual well-being.

We live in a very stressed world.

We live in a world where it seems that mental ill health is rising.

We live in a world where people are now willing to acknowledge these things.

But economics still talks about accumulating material well-being as if it is the only thing that matters.

I don't believe conventional economics on that point.

I don't believe that that is the definition of where we should be going.

It is not what aspiration is about.

I believe, and I believed for a long time before I wrote that book, and have not changed my mind since, that finding the balance in life is the most important thing we can do.

So sure, we need sufficient to get by in the material sense, and that is why it is the role of the state to make sure that everyone has that. But once we've got that, we can begin to question how do we meet our other needs? And if we do, we end up as happier, more contented, more balanced, and certainly less stressed human beings as a result.

That should be the goal, but our politicians don't seem to understand it. Why is that?

Is Labour going to increase taxes, after all?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/06/2024 - 4:31pm in

Will Labout use at least some of the recommendations in the Taxing Wealth Report 2024? It seems possible. The FT has reported this morning that:

UK shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has “no plans” to revive her previous call for a tax increase on the pension savings of higher earners, but has refused to categorically rule out such a move.

Her spokesperson said Reeves had “no plans” to change the current regime of pension tax relief, even though earlier in her career she proposed reforms that would increase taxes on pension savings by higher earners.

“That’s not a Labour policy — we have no plans to change pension tax relief,” the spokesperson added. “It will not be in our manifesto. It’s not something we are looking at and we have no plans to introduce it.”

Labour is going to have to find money from somewhere if it is to meet its economic objectivces. Reducing tax relief on pension contributions by higher-rate taxpayers would save £14.5 billion in tax subsidies to the already well-off. Why wouldn't Labout want to do that?

A question for the leaders’ debate

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 04/06/2024 - 8:55pm in

I was asked this morning to ask for the party leaders' debate this week. I recorded this video whilst having a coffee when editing a chapter this morning:

To watch it, you will have to view it here.

And yes, I should have held the phone higher.

There is no transcript.

The question, however, is simple. It is, what do our party leaders think is more important? Subsidising the pensions of the wealthy, or ending child poverty?

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