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Money money money

I saw this headline and had a brief moment of confusion. How on earth could the black economy make Victoria lose $620 million a year? Was all the money going abroad or interstate? I read on to find out and it wasn’t long before the answer was apparent. Victoria isn’t losing $620 million a year at all.

A report by the Australia Institute think tank says cash-in-hand payments are stripping at least $2.7 billion from state governments each year by reducing the pool of goods and services tax with a cost to the Victorian government of at least $620 million this financial year. The federal government is also being deprived of billions in income tax revenue.

So what’s happening here? Is this equating of the state of Victoria with the government of Victoria as if they were one and the same just a bit of journalistic licence to save space? I’d grant the possibility but for the fact that there seems to be enough room there to add an ‘n’ to the end of ‘Victoria’ and follow it up with ‘govt’. Who knows, perhaps it was necessary to accommodate the article in the print version. But is there also some tinfoil-hatted theory that we’re being subtly programmed to accept that they are one and the same thing after all? Or worse (because it seems so much simpler and thus more likely) do so many people really not see the difference that there’s actually not much point in adding ‘n government’ to any part of that headline?

I worry that even if there are sound journalistic reasons for not distinguishing between Victoria and the government which rules sorry, I mean serves it, there might actually be something in that last one. And that’s a depressing thought because it means that few people will challenge what’s being said and point out that there’s an alternative way to view this situation:

Victoria is retaining $620 million a year that would otherwise be lost to the state government.

That is, of course, a huge oversimplification. Firstly, it ignores the possibility of value coming back in exchange for that money. We might criticise the efficiency of a system where a sales tax to create income for the states involves the rate being set for all states by the federal government in Canberra and the money being sent there by taxpayers before being sent back to their respective state governments – less various deductions for the feds, no doubt. We might argue about how much value comes back from government and how much it spunks away on needless crap and vanity projects (I’d say way too much of the latter – the $50+ million p.a. Grand Prix springs to mind – but I wouldn’t claim nothing at all for the former) but if you want a government that does stuff then it needs income. Even the very smallest government providing the most minimalist services would require a certain amount of income, and it’s naive to think that taxing something wouldn’t be the way to provide it. Even the Break Glass In Case Of Emergency minarchist state of my fantasies would need a tax, and GST might be it.

Secondly, it ignores the fact that governments are all too happy simply to run up debts to be repaid by future taxpayers when the tax revenue isn’t as much as they hoped. Government running on deficit spending is practically a hallmark of the evolution of western democracy as electorates have learned to vote for whoever most convincingly promises to give them expensive stuff to be paid for by someone else. State and local governments are different from national ones only in scale, and Victoria is no exception.*

But allowing for that, and assuming (incredibly generously) that every dollar of tax returns somewhere near a dollar of value, it’s still nonetheless a fact that individuals in Victoria are better off in the short term by an average of about $125 each. More realistically, many aren’t GST registered and more of us probably pay our taxes than don’t anyway, so some are thousands better off while others gained a big fat $0.00.** And, of course, that too is an oversimplification since it ignores the fact that those individuals will have more to spend. Even if it’s at second or third or Nth hand some of will end up with those of us who didn’t pay cash in hand to cheat the taxman. The builder who gets paid $1,000 cash in hand this week will have $91 more to spend on whatever he likes in November after he’s sent the Australian Tax Office a cheque for the GST he collected for them.*** Or he does the job for, say, $950 and both parties benefit.

Am I saying we should all not pay our taxes or that I approve of or condone tax evasion? No, not at all. Never mind the rights and wrongs, the morality of abusing a monopoly on force to take money at gunpoint from millions of people, many of whom are on below average incomes, to do what the government has decided in the hubris and arrogance it often mistakes for all knowing wisdom is in the best interests of everybody, tax evasion is a crime and you will never hear me say that anyone should do it no matter how much it might leave in the economy. If you believe there should be more money out there instead of wasted by vainglorious but clueless politicians then look at legal tax avoidance or vote for politicians who’ll actually shrink the state instead of the usual left/right dickheads. Dodging what  current laws say you absolutely must pay is Not A Good Idea.

But what I am saying is that money hasn’t just vanished from the economy, and that even if a government or supporters of big state government in general want to think that lost tax revenue is the same thing actually it isn’t. It really isn’t.

The average official salary in 2011 was equivalent to $2 per month while the actual monthly income seems to be around $15 because most North Koreans earn money in illegal small businesses: trade, subsistence farming, and handicrafts. The illegal economy is dominated by women because men have to attend their places of official work even though most of the factories are non-functioning. It is estimated that in the early 2000s, the average North Korean family drew some 80% of its income from small businesses that are legal in market economies but illegal in North Korea.

Wikipedia

And I’m also saying that maybe, just maybe, we might be a bit better off if that $620m a year could remain out there legally.

* The article does mention that the Victorian government is on track to return to a surplus of about $144 million this financial year, but since its debt is currently $15.2 billion the remaining debt will still be well over 100 times greater than the predicted surplus.

** I am scrupulously honest for several reasons, not the least of which is that I feel it gives me more right to bitch about taxes if I pay all I owe.

*** Yes, this does mean I have a quarter of records to go through, an ATO form to fill in and a cheque for GST to send by the end of the month, hence my current inclination to punch cute kittens until my own fists are bloody stumps when the subject comes up in the news.

Free speech and the fabulously rich and famous

It’s that time of year again. No, not Mother’s Day (or it it Mothers’ Day, I’ve never been sure if it was for mothers in general or just one), which down here is in actually in the middle of May anyway. No, I’m talking about the beginning of the Formula One season, which means over the past several weeks Melbourne’s Albert Park has gradually been closed to local residents, the poor bastards whose local taxes I imagine help pay for the park they use and who are tapped a second time along with everyone else in the state because of the government subsidising it to the tune of $50 million or so, and is by now humming and thrumming to the sound of highly tuned engines hurtling around the park’s main road. It’s the time of year when fans of motor racing, like me, are derisively called revheads by all the people who hate the race and/or the sport, even though I’m sure I’m not the only motorsports fan who objects to both the government subsidy and the use of a public park for the event.

I’m not going to blog about that because I’ve done so more than once before, such as here and here and here and here, and if you follow those links you’ll see that I don’t particularly care if it’s a sport I happen to like. If it needs subsidising by government, which ipso facto means forcing people who have no interest in it to contribute money as well, then either it’s not worth having at all or someone’s getting rich of off it. I’ve long felt that sports promotion of any kind should not be a function of government, especially given that picking winners in any industry is something they tend to be pretty bad at, and the fact that so many of them spunk away huge sums of money doing so anyway is just another reason to distrust and despise governments of all stripes. I haven’t changed my mind and I’m not going over the same ground again today.

Instead I want to say that another effect of the Formula One circus being in town is that F1 personalities seem to get a lot more press and attention around this time of year, including the little big man himself, Bernie Ecclestone. One bit of extra attention he, or in actual fact his daughter, has received has come from Labor federal MP Kelvin Thomson, who represents the seat of Wills just a bit north of central Melbourne, and who spoke in Parliament a couple of days ago on the subject of the Grand Prix’s cost and the Tamara Ecclestone reality TV show, saying:

One thing I am absolutely sure of: there are better ways to spend $50 million, year in and year out, than bankrolling Bernie’s billionaire bogan.

There’s a great deal that Kelvin Thomson said in that speech that I don’t agree with. As you’d expect of a left wing politician his thoughts were occupied on what Victoria’s government could spend that $50 million a year on – schoolsanospitals were a given, natch, as well as ‘undergrounding’ power cables (is ‘underground’ even a verb, and if so is it a better one to use than ‘bury’?) to reduce bushfire risks* – and never once did he mention the opportunity to end the compulsory tapping of every Victorian for about twenty bucks each to pay for it. Never once did he mention the possibility of simply telling Bernie that the Grand Prix must pay for itself and that incidentally, Parks Victoria is going to start charging rent just like the owners of any other venue do when someone wants to use it for an event. I assure you, in the highly unlikely event he wanted to hold the race in my back yard I’d charge him for it even though I’d be thrilled at the prospect, and I can’t see why so many governments can’t grasp this simple concept of being paid for providing the venue. Instead there’s the inexplicable queue to fellate him with mouthfuls of money, mostly taken from taxpayers. Kelvin Thomson does not seem to me to be particularly against the principle of fellatio with mouthfuls of taxpayers’ money but just objects to doing it for certain people and things, so naturally I’m going to disagree with most of what he says because he’s clearly just another politician who forgets whose bloody money it really is.

However, having not seen the reality TV show about Tamara Ecclestone, and feeling like I’d rather blind myself with an oily con rod than seek it out, I’m in no place to disagree with Thomson about her being a bogan, though naturally protective and unnaturally diminutive daddy did. Once someone explained to him what ‘bogan’ means.

Mr Ecclestone said federal Labor MP Kelvin Thomson’s comments had been “stupid” although he questioned what he had meant by ‘bogan’.

“I didn’t know what that means, does he speak English?” he asked on radio station 3AW.

Informed that being called a bogan implied his big-spending eldest daughter Tamara had no class, Mr Ecclestone suggested the insult was more suited to Mr Thomson.

Okay, well let’s look into that in a bit more depth than ‘takes one to know one’. First let’s get the dictionary definition from Macquarie (no link, subscription only).

bogan
/’boʊgən/ (say ‘bohguhn)
noun Colloquial (mildly derogatory) 1. a person, generally from an outer suburb of a city or town and from a lower socio-economic background, viewed as uncultured. Compare barry2, bennie, boonie, Charlene, Charmaine, cogger, feral1 (def. 9); Especially Qld bevan (def. 2); Chiefly Qld bev-chick; WA bog3; ACT booner; ACT charnie bum; Tasmania chigger2; Riverina gullie; Melbourne Region mocca; Victoria scozzer; Chiefly NSW westie.
2. a stupid person. Also, bogon. [origin unknown; ? from BOGAN]
–boganism, noun

On the one hand we have someone who’s been variously a lawyer, public servant and politician, and who favours the kind of politics that talk about robbi, sorry, taxing the rich to pay for nice things for the poor, but invariably ends up meaning taxing rich and poor alike, or would if some of those inconsiderate rich people didn’t keep buggering off with their money to lower tax regimes. I can think of many unpleasant and abusive things to call him, but ‘bogan’ isn’t one of them. And on the other hand we have a woman who, if Thomson and The Age are to be believed, has a home with an elevator for her Ferrari, motorised shoe racks, a bowling alley with crystal studded bowling balls, its own nightclub, a $1 million crystal bathtub, and wardrobes for her dogs… whose hair and nails are done regularly at Harrods… like you do. Whether all that’s sufficiently class free to be called bogan is probably up for debate, but I’d suggest there’s one thing about her that certainly qualifies, possibly to the point of überbogan-ness.

She’s got her own fucking reality TV series!

However, all that’s still a matter of opinion, and if Bernie Ecclestone disagrees that’s fair enough – he wouldn’t be much of a father if he didn’t speak up to defend his daughter. But I don’t think that defence extends to wanting someone sacked for voicing the opinion that she has less class than a derelict comprehensive.

“Who was the half-wit who said these things … he should be fired because he’s a bit of an idiot, he obviously doesn’t know what he’s talking [about].”

Oh, he may well be an idiot and he wouldn’t be the first politician not to know what he’s talking about, but he shouldn’t be sacked for several good reasons. For one, it was said in Parliament as part of a debate on state funding of the Grand Prix, and by extension Bernie Ecclestone and his family. It might not have been high quality debating but in parliament a politician should be free to make his arguments however he or she wants to. For another, even if he’d said it to some news crew in the street outside he’s as entitled to his opinion as anyone else. He gets to call Tamara Ecclestone a bogan and even label her old man a subsidy sucking goblin if he wants, which wouldn’t be OTT for a country with a proud history of political insult throwing (my favourite is ‘a shiver looking for a spine’ although I can’t remember who said it or to whom). And in return Bernie gets to call him an idiot if he thinks that’s a better idea than refuting it and justifying why taxpayers, few of whom attend the race, are made to throw 50 million bucks at him every year. For a third, how long he stays in his job is, at least in theory, entirely up to the people living in those Melbourne suburbs that make up his constituency. It’s a very safe Labor seat so in practice it’s also down to the Australian Labor Party, but for damned sure it’s not down to the whims of Bernie Ecclestone, who incidentally seems confused about what kind of political systems allow or encourage free speech.

“You’re not a communist state there are you?” he queried.

No, see, Bernie, in a communist state you’re not supposed to say unpleasant things about the wealthy and powerful because they might demand, and get, retribution in the form of getting you fired or assigned to some shitty work, or even charged with some bullshit offences in the most obscenely illiberal places – Bexley, for example. Which seems to be kind of what you want when you say that Kelvin Thomson should be fired. In Australia and Victoria, while currently leaning left of centre and while also technically lacking what I’d call real freedom of speech, this generally will not happen.

You can ask the locals all about it this time next month when you’re in Shanghai.

* I understand burying power cables is expensive and comes with its own issues relating to losses and insulation. Shouldn’t be much of a surprise – if it was easy to bury high voltage transmission lines they’d be doing it more already. When it becomes the better choice, perhaps through some breakthrough in superconductors or something, then you can expect they will, though I imagine that maintaining a buried cable will always be more work than a suspended one. In any event, I’ll always hate hearing it called ‘undergrounding’.

It’s better to give than to receive

That’s what they say, and they say it often enough for John Lewis to have made it a theme for their Christmas ads. I think there’s some truth in it too. Now obviously this doesn’t apply so much when it’s socks, jocks and chocs or when you’ve just ordered something off someone’s Amazon wish list, but when I’ve bought someone something that I know will be a hit but is completely unexpected I really look forward to watching it being unwrapped and that little ‘Wow, where did you find this?’ moment. And maybe countries get it too, which could be the reason for this.

Pranab Mukherjee and other Indian ministers tried to terminate Britain’s aid to their booming country last year – but relented after the British begged them to keep taking the money, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

[...]

According to a leaked memo, the foreign minister, Nirumpama Rao, proposed “not to avail [of] any further DFID [British] assistance with effect from 1st April 2011,” because of the “negative publicity of Indian poverty promoted by DFID”.
But officials at DFID, Britain’s Department for International Development, told the Indians that cancelling the programme would cause “grave political embarrassment” to Britain, according to sources in Delhi.
DFID has sent more than £1 billion of UK taxpayers’ money to India in the last five years and is planning to spend a further £600 million on Indian aid by 2015.

Okay, it’s not quite the same as someone’s mum opening a box of After Eights for the 22nd straight year and having to feign delighted surprise – again – to spare feelings, but it kind of seems that way. I mean, India doesn’t need the money. It doesn’t. Its GDP (price parity) is nearly twice that of Britain’s, it has nuclear weapons and power generation, and India’s researching new nuclear power stations using the thorium fuel cycle in order to exploit its own large natural reserves of the stuff. Now it’s true that Britain is also a nuclear power, even though it leases the missiles from the Yanks, and of course has a vastly smaller population so that GDP per capita (nominal or PPP) ranks it a hell of a lot higher, but I hadn’t quite finished. India also has a US$1.5 billion – yes, billion – space program, which is something Britain only has to the extent that it participates in the ESA.

I repeat: India does not need the money. Yes, there are still many people there living in abject poverty, but the point is that despite its poor people India is not a poor country anymore. It’s big enough, old enough and, most importantly, wealthy enough to begin taking care of its own problems. In fact it seems India even feels able to assist less well off countries itself.

In April 2008, in New Delhi, India launched its own Africa manifesto – the India-Africa Forum – promising, like China, credit lines and duty-free access to Africa. Specifically, India would double its credit lines to Africa from US$2.15 billion in 2003/2004 to US$5.4 billion in 2008/2009.

‘Dead Aid’ (Chapter 8) – Dambisa Moyo

Of course it’s clearly intended that India benefit from it as much as African nations, but is it any wonder that the Indian Finance Minister described UK aid as ‘peanuts’ when his own nation has offered about ten times that much credit to developing nations? It is kind of like giving your mum a box of After Eights when she’s given your kids a 50 quid HMV voucher each.

And while certainly pretty bloody poor by any standards India’s poor may not be quite as poor as we might imagine. Dambisa Moyo in the following chapter of Dead Aid (incidentally, worth a read if you haven’t already).

By some estimates as much as $US200 billion worth of untapped investment potential is privately held in gold in India. In 2005 India introduced a policy which allowed Indians to exchange these physical gold holdings (often held in jewellery and coins) into ‘paper’ gold in denominations as low as US$2. Estimates suggest that this policy unlocked as much as US$200 billion worth of untapped investment potential privately held. The initiative promised to bring the poorest 700 million villagers, who purchase about two thirds of India’s gold, into the more formalized banking system.

Read that last sentence again – the poorest 700 million people in a 1,000 million strong nation buy two thirds of the gold. Knocked me for six when I read that (which is more than the Indian cricket team have been doing here lately). Ms Moyo adds that this gold policy added more money to India’s economy than all the foreign aid of the previous year.

So why is the Britain’s DFID still offering, no, not offering, insisting that India takes the £280m or so of its own taxpayers’ money (and/or adding to the debt bill those taxpayers or their children will eventually have to pay) when it’s a small fraction of the amount of credit India itself extends to African nations? Embarrassment was mentioned. Could it be like that thing you sometimes see with old ladies taking afternoon tea together? You know: ‘I’ll just go and settle u…’ ‘No, Gladys, I’ll take care of it.’ ‘Oh, but you always…’ ‘No, put your purse away, dear. I won’t hear of it.’ ‘But y…’ ‘ You wouldn’t want to embarrass me now, would you?’ ‘No, Gladys.’

I’d like to think it was, really I would. I’d like to think of my native land as still being so entertainingly barmy that that would be a significant factor in a decision to carry on racking up the spending and indebtedness at a rate even faster than that of a government lead by one of the most profligate shitwits in living memory in preference to the embarrassment of being seen as unable to. Still utterly and unforgivably mad but at least you could get a laugh from it, albeit a bitter one.

I think there’s probably a bit more to it than that though. It might be part of it, and the way the Cobbleition ruled out cuts to foreign aid early on and at the same time as promising not to touch the NHS too does suggest that the politicians want to maintain that appearance of munificence, even if it’s a veneer that’s eroding fast and approaching angstrom thickness. But I suspect that in addition there’s this bloody national guilt that the whole UK is supposed to feel over the Raj. Yes, maybe some shitty things were done and maybe the whole White Man’s Burden attitude was a pretty racist approach to a culture whose recorded history began more than a thousand years before some Italian builders suggested that what Britons really needed was a wall running from Carlisle to Newcastle and a bloody good wash. Okay, I can understand that, but for Christ’s sakes the Raj ended in 1947. It’s not ancient history, but it is still history. 65 years – how long’s enough, guys? And don’t you think that insisting that India needs Britain’s help not only when it’s able to do things that Britain can’t but when it’s saying that actually, no it doesn’t need help anymore, thanks all the same, is a similar kind of paternalism to White Man’s Burden? Would insisting that what’s becoming a middle income nation can’t manage without British help make the DFID’s attitude right at home during the Raj?

Or am I reading far too much into things? Is there an even simpler explanation? Could it be that the DFID fears that if supposedly poor countries begin rejecting British aid because they feel they don’t need it anymore then it will begin to struggle to justify its continued existence? I mean, look at that £280 million given to India. Cui bono?

Well, it’s not India, is it?

That didn’t take long

Back at the blog for only a couple of days and already someone has destroyed another cognitive dissonance meter.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, [Permanent Secretary for Tax at HMRC] Dave Hartnett says that householders have a duty to ensure that other people do not evade paying their share of tax.
Paying a builder or cleaner in cash, allowing them to evade VAT or income tax, will result in even deeper government cuts to public services, he says. People who contribute to the cash economy cannot then complain about austerity measures, he adds.
“Tax provides the funding to run the country: hospitals, schools and everything else,” he says. “Every time someone pays cash in order not to pay VAT, the nation gets diddled.”

Oh, is that so, Dave? Well, do tell us how you’d describe the state’s regular spunking away of billions of pounds on unnecessary shit, necessary shit that’s overpriced and doesn’t work properly, quangos, clampdowns on victimless crimes, subs for EU membership and more recently the use of taxpayers’ money to prop up private companies which through their own mistakes should naturally have gone to the wall. Plus the interest payments needed because all that on top of the cost of actual public services comes to rather more money than you can raise through tax anyway.

And while you’re scratching for an apt description – you could use ‘diddled’ again though I’d suggest ‘fucking ripped off’ – you might also tell us how you’d describe coercively taking half of what people earn, much of it before they’ve even get their own hands on it in the case of those on PAYE and under threat of violence for those doing returns, with no better justification than a vague assertion that you’ll be handing it over – minus that needed for your ≈£160K salary and £1.7M pension that you’ll be retiring several years early to enjoy, natch – to people who at best have vague good intentions to spend it in ways that benefit those from whom it was forcefully taken. ‘A sophisticated way of demanding money with menaces’ is one oft repeated description, though I don’t see what’s wrong with something like ‘legalised theft’. No doubt you’d call that ‘duty’ (badoom tish!) as well, eh, Dave?

Prick.

Terrifying

At Douglas Carswell’s:

The Treasury’s policy of “Continuity Brown” means we look set to borrow more money in this Parliament than Gordon Brown managed in 13 years.

I’ve long since stopped trying even to estimate the number of times I’ve said this, but this ConLib Cobbleition government really is as bad as Labour, arguably with the additional down side that if the whole house of cards has to come crashing down before it can be unfucked and rebuilt Labour’s incompetence in general and Gordon Brown’s lunacy in particular might have brought that day a little sooner. The Cobbleition seem to be there with the purpose of prolonging the agony in the hope of winning power and prolonging it for another five years, and for that I despise them.*

* Actually I despise them for quite a lot of other things, all of which they share in common with Labour. But tonight it’s just the insane profligacy.

Cuts, Spanish style vs British style

Click images for links.

The northeastern region has been ordered to rein in its deficit and has embarked on a series of stringent austerity cuts.
The latest edict issued by the region’s ministry of education instructs state schools to cut “excessive consumption” of toilet roll among pupils and limit the quota to a maximum of 25 metres per child per month.
This most recent penny saving measure comes amid widespread cuts to education budgets across Spain that has led to regular protests in the streets by teachers.

Okay, not nice, and even though you can always give your kids some bog roll to take into school with them toward the end of the month I can’t help feeling there’s probably a better place to make savings than on bog paper. On the other hand they are at least trying, whereas…

Officials in the Department for Transport have found the extra cash from other spending along the 100 mile £32 billion proposed route.
The change to the plans will mean that a final decision on whether to give the green light to the HS2 project will now be delayed from this month to mid-January.
The High Speed Rail 2 connection, which would be built between 2016 and 2026, will cut the journey time between the two cities by 35 minutes to less than 50 minutes.

To save half an hour? Why not bin the fucking thing and save £32 billion? Is Gordon Brown still running the country? Because the amount of government profligacy makes it fucking look that way.

Questions to which the answer is "No"

Cick for linky

… the question arises, should the rest of the world take over management of Europe to prevent or mitigate disaster? Specifically, should the US Federal Reserve assume leadership as a monetary superpower and impose policy on a paralyzed ECB, acting as a global lender of last resort?

And for the answer I think we should turn to one of those well worn graphical illustrations of how deep America’s debt rabbit hole goes. This one is an excellent example from usdebt.kleptocracy.us. The first image shows the approximate US public debt by the end of the year if it was a piles of actual size $100 bills compared to quite a famous landmark, and the second shows that plus its unfunded liabilities.

If you’ve read the captions on those images (you can embiggerfy, or better yet go look at the original where you can see a similar representation of the US budget for 2011) you’ll have noticed that the first of those, the $15 trillion pile, is roughly the size of the Gross Domestic Product for the entire United States. In fact the captions are a little out of date – US debt will not now reach 100% of GDP by Christmas 2011 because that happened four weeks ago.

So actually the answer to the question of whether the US Federal Reserve should act as Europe’s lender of last resort is not just “No” – it’s “With what?”

They just can’t stop, can they?


Click images for links.

In his long-awaited Autumn Statement, the Chancellor will outline a £650 million scheme to provide free “early education” for about 40 per cent of two year-olds.

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, will today announce a £1 billion scheme to pay firms more than £2,000 for each young unemployed person they hire.

And all this at a time when some think the UK is already back in recession and may need a decade of austerity to really recover. So what’s the Cobbleition’s response? Copy the policies of the deranged madmen who fucked the country into this hole in the first place, that’s what.

I can’t carry on with this, I really can’t. I’ve said umpteen times that they’re as bad as the last lot and that there’s no appreciable difference between the the main parties anymore with the possible exception of how quickly they’re going to fuck the country into a hole. The issue of how deeply they’re going to fuck it into a hole has long had cross party support. If I blog this again anytime soon something is going to get fucking broken. Instead I’ll just point out that Douglas Carswell, the Tory party’s favourite for MP Least Likely To Be Given A Front Bench Job, has been wondering what the government would be doing right now if it was still a Labour government with Gordon Brown leading it. His list looks depressingly like the actual policies of the Cobbleition.

Where’s this money coming from?

Click for linky

Of course we know exactly where it’s coming from. There are just shy of thirty million individual taxpayers in Britain, and of those about 6 million are public sector employees whose pre-tax salaries are paid out of other people’s taxes anyway, leaving 24 million people. This governmental generosity is funded by them to the tune of £42 each – and think how you’d feel if someone just shoved you up against a wall and nicked your wallet with forty quid in – unless they go for the alternative of adding it to the nation’s debt to be paid by future taxpayers. This latter choice is increasingly popular because it means the government does not have to shove you up against a wall and take your wallet, thus making you and everyone else much less likely to balk at what it’s being spent on, but since the government has no money or income of its own it’s a lot like going to an expensive restaurant where you can’t possibly afford to eat and then running up a massive tab by shouting for all in the bar and ordering the best stuff on the menu while hoping like hell that you’ll be joined by people with money before the coffee and liqueurs come.*

So what are you getting for your money? Well, not a damn thing, obviously, but what are the Africans getting for it?

Among the projects to be funded will be schemes to help African farmers insure their crops against flooding and drought while other projects include installing solar power in rural villages and building slurry pits that can produce gas to power generators.

In themselves these don’t seem like terribly bad ideas, not least because they don’t seem to be about appeasing the angry sky gods so much as acknowledging the fact that things don’t always stay the same and adapting to it. Oh, and the very worthy goal of getting power to people who don’t have it, or not much of it, at the moment. But…

The move, however, is expected to attract intense criticism at a time when the UK economy is struggling to recover from recession.

Indeed, and every other thing I blog at the moment seems to be about Britain’s government spending money it hasn’t got as fast as or faster than even its recklessly profligate predecessor. And I hadn’t even got round to Cleggy’s latest brain fart about jobs for da yoof paid for by, you guessed it, the taxpayer. Maybe later, or maybe I’ll be too despondent to blog it at all, but for now it’s enough to state that that’s yet another billion pounds. Now back to Huhne-hoon and his bounteous munificence with your money.

One of the countries which will receive money is South Africa, the most economically advanced in the continent. Last year its economy grew by 2.8 per cent, while Britain’s economy rose by 1.8%.

A little misrepresentative, this. By just about any metric, GDP nominal or PPP and absolute or per capita, the UK is much wealthier than the RSA. But then the UK has run up far greater debts than the South Africans have, again in both absolute and relative terms, and how much wealthier Britain really is after allowing for the phantom wealth that’s come from living beyond its means for so long is tricky to say. On top of all that Britain’s likely to go back into recession soon, which makes all these billion here and billion there stories more than a little worrying. So why… ?

The timing of the announcement, however, is being seen as a cynical attempt to “bribe” African nations into signing up to international deals being backed by the British Government at the climate change negotiations in Durban.

Ah, now it’s becoming clear. The UK government, like that of many western nations, has caught the religious warble gloaming zeal and is determined to show its faith by righteously fucking its own economy hard in the arse until its well and truly buggered, but hasn’t become quite so insane that it thinks its own citizens won’t go nuts if they don’t see developing nations – the ones that turn out to be causing more of the problem that we don’t really know is a problem – making sacrifices too.

Oh well, I suppose the government bribing other people with your money is at least a change from bribing you with it.

* But no cigars of course. The restaurant’s long since been forced to go all non-smoking.

Doesn’t add up

Douglas Carswell shows us exactly how bad governments involving all three main British political parties have been at primary school level arithmetic.

Here’s a thought; spending to prop things up cost us £390 billion we do not have. Abolishing corporation tax entirely would have cost the Treasury less than half that amount – £140 billion – in lost revenue over the past three years.

Or it could have been of personal taxation or a mix of things. Either way people would have had money in their pockets to spend on things they needed or wanted. Instead of which a few banks which should have gone down the swanney survived.

Whoopee.

Not just the heirs to Blair

Nope, the Cobbleition is also a proud wearer of the Crown of Brown.

UK Financial Investments said it has agreed to sell 100pc of Northern Rock to Virgin Money for £747m in cash immediately, but this could potentially rise to around £1bn.
Under the deal, another £50m is “expected” to be paid within six months. The Treasury will also benefit by up to £80m if the bank floats in the next five years and retain £150m of Tier 1 capital notes.
Northern Rock, which signalled the start of the financial crisis in Britain when it collapsed in August 2007, is the first bank to be returned to the private sector.
The Newcastle-based lender received a £1.4bn bail-out when it was nationalised in February 2008 at the height of the credit crunch. So on paper, taxpayers end up with a loss of £400m, but this could rise to £650m.

Marvellous. Just fucking marvellous. Memo to Gordon Clown, and of course also to his blinky pet Ed Balls who sadly did quite not lose his seat in the election:

This is why you should have let Northern fucking Rock go to the wall,
you witless pair of financially incompetent cunts.

Happily for them, though miserably for everyone else, they’re not alone.

George Osborne said the deal was a “good thing” for taxpayers, consumers and the banking system.

Did he say that? Did he really fucking say that? The Chumpcellor of the fucking Exchequer thinks that losing nearly half a billion quid, and possibly as much as two thirds of a billion, is a good thing. Has Gordon Brown got his fist up George’s arse and is making his mouth move or something? That’s got to be the most retarded thing to come out of the mouth of the finance minister of an industrialised nation since some fucktroon decided to sell nearly 400 tons of gold near a long term low in its value, and then fucking announce it in advance so the price fell even further. Oh, and that was a British one too, wasn’t it? Come to think of it, it was… well, we all know only too well, don’t we?

And although it wasn’t quite on the scale of the billions and billions Gordon flushed away when he dumped gold at a historic low, which his mouth may well have helped make lower, Boy Georgie thinks it was a good thing for taxpayers to lose another half billion or so. Yes, the Cobbleition inherited the situation, and yes, it was Gordon, his badger faced sock puppet and Ed Bollocks who made the incredibly bad decision to bail out a bank that deserved to fail rather than just make sure of the investors’ statutory protection. And yes, in that position you have to take the best offer you’re going to get, and this is probably better than it might have been. But to have the new-ish Chumpcellor stand there saying it’s anything than the loss of another half a billion pounds, perhaps more, is anything other than a colossal fuckup due entirely to the headless chicken panic response of the previous government is at best not very politically astute and at worst an indication that he’s every bit as fucking stupid as they were.

And of course it’s not over yet because only the good bit of Northern Rock was sold, which is presumably why they only got £747m for it. Oh, no what we can still think of as Northern Wreck is still there. And it’s got company.

In January last year the company was split into a “good bank”, which Virgin has bought, and Northern Rock Asset Management, the “bad bank” of closed mortgages and unsecured loans which remain in Government ownership.
[...]
As well as Northern Rock’s “bad bank”, UKFI still owns Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group and Bradford & Bingley.

And I don’t doubt that if or when RBS, Lloyds Group and B&B are sold back into the private sector at a further loss to the taxpayers Georgie Lame will say that’s a good thing too. It’s good that it’s over, but in all other respects it’s hard to find anything good to say about the taxpayers having to drop their trousers and grip their ankles yet again because the fucking Treasury (along with most or all of the rest of government) has got next to no fucking clue how to spend money wisely and thinks there’s an inexhaustible supply of it.

Jesus Christ on a borrowed bicycle, the place is fucking doomed.

Hallowe’economics

You cannot kill what does not live… Aaaahahahahahaha. Aaahahahahahahahaha. Aahahahahahahahaha.

The Prime Minister says the government is on an “all-out mission” to kick-start industry. Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, will announce that 35,000 jobs will be created using nearly £1 billion of public money.

That Keynes monster just refuses to die, doesn’t it? You think it’s gone, you think the horror has passed and that you’re safe now, and then it turns out that it’s right behind you. It’s like that bloodied hand punching through the soil of the freshly dug grave at the end of Carrie, or seeing two more zombies as the doomed survivor reaches their last bullet, or that wisp of smoke from a small but growing pit on the floor as an acid dripping xenomorph comes out of the walls right after everyone thinks all the xenomorphs have been killed. I say we take off and nuke the whole Treasury from orbit – it’s the only way to be sure.

He will unveil new investment in more than 100 projects that should trigger billions of pounds additional investment from private enterprise. It will include six “shovel-ready” projects, including two new power stations.

Shovel ready? Ah, this’ll be grave robbery policy horror then? Shovels for Clegg’s Igor to disinter a few policies from under a headstone marked “New Labour – 1997-2010 – Gone, not forgotten, and not fucking dead enough,” before returning them to his cackling marthter Dr Camenstein to stitch together before giving it the old bolt of lightning treatment, am I right?

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme this morning, Mr Clegg said: “What we’re trying to do is invest public money, taxpayers’ money, into companies which can create jobs that last, and for every pound that will be invested from the Regional Growth Fund we estimate about £6 will be matched from the private sector.
“We are trying to rewire the British economy so we are less reliant on the city of London and financial services and we’re giving more backing to manufacturing and to parts of the country which for too long were basically reliant on handouts from Whitehall.”

Ah, governments trying to pick winners. Another old monster that just won’t die. Tell us, Cleggor, when your plan to reduce debt is to grow the economy fast enough to reduce the relative rather than the actual size of it but the growth forecasts have since turned out to be a bit on the optimistic side, what makes you think this magic figure of £6 of private capital being attracted for every pound you wast, er, spend now is any more accurate? Don’t strain yourself trying to answer on your own, by all means dig up a fresh brain if you need to.

The Coalition has been criticised for not doing enough to boost growth, with Chancellor George Osborne too focused on reducing the country’s deficit.

He is? Was he planning to start any time soon? Did he get distracted by that bubbling beaker in the back room of Number 11? Oh, dear God, did he try some of it? Is this a strange case of Dr Osborne and Mr Darling… except he’s somehow got stuck on Mr Darling? And if so would that actually be worse than him being stuck on Dr Osbourne? I’m honestly not sure it would.

Meanwhile, outside Castle Dracumong…

Mr Cameron will emphasise the need to bring super-fast broadband to remote areas, expecting private industry to match a £1 billion investment already announced from government and local authorities.

Is this the same billion pounds as the billion pound Nick Clegg was talking about or is it a different billion pounds? Did they clone it? Ah, yes, they just took it down to the quantitive easing laboratory and hit the duplicate button for a while. It’ll all be fine. Probably. Unless the cloned money sneaks up and strangles the original money and then takes over its life, and then you’ll try to buy something with the original money only to find that it’s dead, DEAD, DEAD.

One Whitehall source said: “It is bringing forward infrastructure investment where possible, dealing with difficult planning decisions across Whitehall.
“This is the Prime Minister’s obsession with ‘shovel-ready’ projects that could make a difference in the near-term. He has pushed for it and it is being delivered. He wants to ensure every sinew was strained to get the economy moving.”

Shovel ready again, we’re back to Dr Frankermon. Or is he just a Pinhead? Not sure, really, it’s hard to tell. No, wait, that’s it. This is John Carpenter government and there is a Thing. Or rather a State-Thing, a crawling, creeping mass of unspeakable vileness that takes over and imitates its victims but never changes its intentions, always growing and feeding, feeding and growing, taking all it can and giving nothing but false appearances. We saw it with the last government, how it started off seemingly friendly and one of us before getting increasingly creepy and growing a hell of a lot of extra arms and legs, until eventually its head dropped off and was replaced by a misshapen, twisted, screaming thing that ate snot and hurled Nokias. We thought it destroyed but part of it must have got away and infected some of the others. Come to think of it the broken promises started way back so it must have happened a while before. No wonder the Tories are all sitting around a fire staring suspiciously at each other and trying to work out who, if any of them, really is a Tory. No wonder those who love democracy and those who love liberty are eyeing the Liberal Democrats and wondering if any of them are either.

No wonder the fucking nightmare didn’t end last May. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!

Victory? For whom?

Paul Dacre yesterday

Town halls are to be shamed into bringing back weekly bin collections, it was revealed yesterday.
In a victory for householders and the Daily Mail, ministers unveiled a £250million fund to restore them.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said councils will now have ‘no excuse’ to maintain hugely unpopular fortnightly schemes. ‘My view has always been that people expect a weekly collection,’ he said.

Yes, and the reason people expect a weekly collection, and so the reason why tapping taxpayers for another £250m makes this a pyrrhic victory at best, is because they’ve already fucking paid for it.* Has anyone anywhere heard of a UK council reducing council tax when switching from weekly to fortnightly collections? Anyone?

So what this means is the taxpayers are going to be shaken down again, either in the form of taxes now or in the form of more national debt now to be paid later, all to pay for what they should have been getting in the first place. Some bloody victory, especially as it turns out Eric Pickles can’t even promise that the money won’t be spunked away on fact finding missions to somewhere sunny with hot weather and hotter waitresses or yet another bunch of outreach and upchuck services for the vertically challenged, gender non-specific, gay, disabled, travellers of extra-terrestrial ethnicity community.**

He cannot force town halls to go back to weekly collections, but made it clear that voters should throw out councils which do not – a provocative suggestion, given that many of those that have gone fortnightly are Conservative controlled.
Mr Pickles told the Daily Mail: ‘I’ve had council leaders sitting at this very table who claim their public like a fortnightly collection and are very supportive. Well, good luck to them. Come the elections, there can be no excuses.’

Actually I don’t exactly disagree with this. If people aren’t happy they certainly should kick out their councillors (MPs too) come election time, but of course this isn’t as straightforward as it sounds when parties have similar, and sometimes identical policies. Who do you vote for when they’re all going to do the same thing? Not voting doesn’t help since the people that do vote will still ensure that one of the bastards gets in, and like most (all?) democratic countries the UK still doesn’t have ballot slips with an option to reject all candidates? As the article makes clear, it’s not like this is something one particular party is prone to do when in control of a council, and it didn’t take me long working my way down a list of hung councils to find that no overall control doesn’t mean any assurance of weekly collections either.

So as far as I can tell The Daily Mail’s self congratulatory circle jerk is based on the government tapping taxpayers for another quarter billion to pay for a service they’ve already paid for through council tax, with no guarantee that this extra money will result in householders actually getting the service. Oh wow, let’s break open the champa… er, the really cheap Asti Spumante that someone brought over New Year before last. Seriously, what do British council taxpayers have to do to get the kind of refuse collection service that we get here in Oz, which having come from a fortnightly collection council area in the UK amazed me enough that I blogged it a couple of years ago.

What is it with rubbish collection here? There’s a tip/recycling centre about 20 minutes drive away that is either free or inexpensive depending on what and how much we’re dropping off. We have a pair of 120 litre bins that are provided to all local rate payers, and for a couple of bucks a week per bin we could double up to 240 litres (or reduce to 80 and get a small rebate). One bin is for rubbish and the other is for assorted – i.e. unsorted – recyclables. Seriously, we don’t do any separating beyond what can be recycled and what can’t, so all paper, cardboard, tins and plastics with a recycle logo just get rinsed out if necessary and chucked into the same bin, with everything else going into garbage bags before being put in the other bin. Nobody gets their cock in a knot and insists the bins are put out in the morning rather than the night before, nobody talks about fines if it’s a bit full and the lid doesn’t quite shut all the way, and nobody insists it’s in a particular place as long as the robotic arm on the truck can reach, which is a fair way (vid – not our council but similar machines). And both bins are emptied weekly, and we don’t have to do anything other than take ‘em out the night before the bin men ‘garbos’ come round.
[...]
I mean, how backward is that? Apart from the robot arms on the vehicles and recycling some stuff that’s like where rubbish collection was in Britain 25 years ago.

It’s got to the stage now where I think the best chance of that happening is for the councils to have some competition. That means encouraging people to go private and pay for a collections from one of the firms that have begun appearing to provide that service the councils are no longer interested in but still insist on charging for. I’ve no idea what the average council charge for it these days, and even if I could remember what we used to pay that was several years ago anyway, but a very brief search turned up one UK company willing to do weekly bin collections for about 500 quid a year (plus either a one off £50 for a bin or £6 a month to rent one because councils won’t let anyone else empty theirs). That company also does a fortnightly collection for those who might want it, either because they don’t produce much rubbish or because they just want rubbish taken those alternate weeks when the council won’t do it (shame that means having yet another bin).

Of course, not only would all this be more likely if Eric Pickles stopped putting his hands in the poor bloody taxpayers’ wallets and instead told them that they could withhold part or all of the portion of their council tax that pays for kerbside refuse collection if they pay a private contractor to do it instead, but it’s an essential move if there’s to be any competitive pressure on councils to improve their service. And here’s where we run into difficulties, because currently members of the political class or all parties seem congenitally incapable of considering any solution to a problem that doesn’t involve them at some level. It’s not just the empire building attitude, though that’s probably a factor too, but this assumption among politicians and civil servants that people simply won’t be able to cope with buying services themselves. In modern infantilised Britain this might even be true to an extent, but it’s only a problem if council refuse collection is scrapped altogether. It’s not a problem if people can choose freely between continuing to pay the council for whatever it’s prepared to provide in the way of bin collection and paying a private company for whatever they actually need in the way of bin collection. The only remaining issue would then be that councils would likely crack the sads at the thought of losing some of their income, and frankly that’s just a facet of the empire building thing so too bad.

Still, as I say most current politicians are fiercely statist even if they don’t think of themselves as such, so I won’t be holding my breath. But if you’re walking down a British suburban street on hot summer day there’s a fair chance you’ll still need to, because I’m sure many bins will still contain nearly two week old rotting food stinking the place up.

* I can’t see any mention of whether this is one off or annual. Generally I’d expect politicians doing the ‘Have some free money’ routine to maximise the sound of their generosity with other people’s money by saying if it’s an annual thing, but possibly the Cobbleition are getting a bit sensitive to the fact that they promised to tackle the spiralling national debt and they’re abjectly failing to do so. Or maybe Britons are starting to realise that governments have no money of their own and asking who’s really picking up the bills for their largesse. I’m not wildly optimistic about that but I’d very much hope so.
** This is probably about the last group apart from vanilla WASPs who don’t have outreach services yet.

Wallets out, everybody

Little time for blogging this weekend, so my comments on this will be brief.

British taxpayers risk being caught up in a £1.75trillion deal aimed at saving the euro by allowing Greece to default on its massive debts.
[...]
The eurozone deal, being brokered by the G20 group of nations, would seek to “ring fence” the crisis around Greece, Portugal and Ireland – preventing it from spreading to major EU economies such as Italy and Spain.
It would involve the bailing out those European banks – mostly French – most at risk from their massive lendings to tottering economies.
Greece, crucially, would be able to default on at least some of its more than £300billion debts but remain inside the eurozone. The Greek government’s private creditors would bear most of the increased costs.
At this stage, a new bail-out programme would be devised for Greece – with cash coming at least in part from the International Monetary Fund, in which Britain holds a 4.5 per cent stake.

And so…

This could mean British taxpayers paying out more than the £1billion they are already slated to have to contribute under the terms of the first Greek bailout fund.

I suspect ‘could’ in this context means ‘will’. How can Britain avoid it when the IMF is involved? And so I’ll make my usual comment in this kind of situation:

It’s not your fucking money!

And add only that actually allowing a default isn’t a bad thought but this idea is still, to use Douglas Carswell’s phrase, bailing water into a sinking boat. The idea that a bail out involves adding more of the problem is just gold standard professional window licking.

Another Gordon Brown chicken comes home to roost

And to no great surprise rather than being the kind that maybe provides a few eggs it’s a chicken of the shitting everywhere and possibly giving everyone bird ‘flu variety. Well, what else could we expect when it’s enjoyed Brown’s faecal Midas touch.

[Health Secretary] Andrew Lansley says he has been contacted by 22 health service trusts which claim their “clinical and financial stability” is being undermined by the costs of the contracts, which the Labour government used extensively to fund public sector projects.
[...]
Under the PFI deals, a private contractor builds a hospital or school. It owns the building for up to 35 years, and during this period the public sector must pay interest and repay the cost of construction, as well as paying the contractor to maintain the building.
However, the total cost of the deals is often far more than the value of the assets. As a result, Mr Lansley says, the 22 trusts “cannot afford” to pay for their schemes, which in total are worth more than £5.4billion, because the required payments have risen sharply in the wake of the recession.

Well done, Labour, and well done, Gordon, you shower of epically incompetent cunts. It worked well as an idea to help you spunk money into things so you got nice headlines along the lines of ‘Government announces new £X million hospital for Anytown’ while also being a way for you to be less than open about the full scale of the debts you were running up in the country’s name. But it was a bad deal and I struggle to believe you didn’t know it, because if the papers can work it out surely someone in the Treasury spotted it as well.

Earlier in the year, The Daily Telegraph disclosed the extremely poor value offered by many PFI schemes. Taxpayers are having to pay more than £200billion for schools, hospitals and other projects whose capital value is little more than £50 billion.

And this leaves the Cobbleition with having to find ways to make payments. They don’t want to make cuts, which is just as well since contrary to popular belief among the hard of thinking they haven’t made any, and I get the feeling they don’t have a clue how to. My bet is they’ll borrow because the mandarins who run things don’t know any other way and today’s politicians don’t have the balls to stop it or the vision to privatise or charity-ise (if there’s such a word) almost everything the British state does and let the whole fucking lot stand or fall on its individual merits. Christ, they’re barely getting to grips with trimming some of Labour’s fat.

It also emerged last night that the Coalition was expected to announce it is abandoning Labour’s calamitous £12billion NHS computer scheme. Ministers will dismantle the National Programme for IT, a “one size fits all” project started in 2002 which has never worked, and relace it with regional schemes.

You’ve been in office for 16 fucking months, you feckless cunts. Is this all you’ve got to show for almost a fucking year and a half’s work? You’ve worked out that scrapping one of Labour’s hare-brained, over priced vanity projects – one that should have been killed before that fucking Labour drone and, judging by the fresh-from-a-come look he sometimes wore, possible rohypnol victim Andy Burnham had even left the fucking building – will save you a few quid.

Well, that’s a relief. I thought for a moment Britain might have been in trouble.

‘Kinell!

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