25 Mar 2011

Guest Blog: Cut Inequality Not Public Services

The following article by Stroud-based Molly Scott Cato, Reader in Green Economics, Cardiff School of Management and Green Party Economics Speaker was to appear in a local paper but I've not seen it yet. The important points it raises need wider airing! Don't forget to click 'Read More' to see whole article. Photo: a recent visit to London: inequality grows.

A few weeks ago, our county councillor Sarah Lunnon came into Stroud with a placard to inform the town about the tax avoidance by Barclays Bank, who have a tax rate of somewhere between 1 and 2%, compared with working people who pay around 20% as a minimum. The injustice of this situation—where banks receive billions of public money and then avoid paying their share for the benefit of wider society—is the backdrop against which the discussion of public spending cuts must be held. The recent film Inside Job makes it clear that the financial collapse resulted from a conspiracy between the banks, economists and politicians. Nothing but a radical shake-up of all three systems will be sufficient to ensure that we have the sort of stable banking system that we need.

The rise in the deficit that the Tories are using as an excuse to privatise public services was not the result of too much spending on hospitals and schools. The data shows clearly that the rapid rise began in the autumn 2008, immediately after the bank bailout. It was the private sector banks that messed up: why should public-sector workers be made to pay for their crisis?
One part of the solution to the debt problem is for politicians to take democratic control of the way banks make and distribute money, and to ensure that we put in place a new system to replace what the Governer of the Bank of England has called ‘the worst’ ‘of all the many ways of organising banking’.1 Another is to create some jobs in the tax office, employing people to ensure that the rich pay the estimated £50bn. in taxation that is currently avoided. The Green Party would also introduce a higher tax rate of 50% for those with incomes above £100,000, immediately moving us towards the more equal society that would make us all happier and healthier.

We are concerned about the high level of public borrowing, but Greens have a different reason for calling for a balanced budget. We are not talking about shuffling money from this pot to that, but rather drawing attention to the importance of finding a way to live in balance with the planet on which we all depend. Rather than calling for more economic growth just for the sake of it, we focus on what that growth would achieve. So we would shift investment away from building luxury houses on greenfield sites and towards ecological enterprise zones, where we could develop the technologies of the future, creating lasting employment and ensuring energy security.

The Budget for Growth that George Osborne is preparing will really be a Budget for Greed and a recipe for more inequality. Greens are resisting the calls to clamber back onto the treadmill of more, faster, at the expense of the planet: the Tory demand that we return to greed as usual. The Green Party’s answer is not to destroy the public sector, but to fund the public services we all rely on properly and to value the people who work there. We would take more money from the rich to build a stronger, more equal society and a more sustainable and secure economy.

Through wise investment now we could create 1 million new jobs in energy efficiency, low carbon public transport and renewable energy. We could build our skills and engineering capacity for the economy of tomorrow. We could reduce our dependence on expensive and dwindling oil and gas and make sure that pensioners and families can live in warm, efficient, cheap-to-heat homes. And just in case you thought we had forgotten what the Green Party was for, these economic policies would also lead to 80% reductions in our carbon emissions by 2030.

So there will be a strong Green Party presence at the anti-cuts rally in London next weekend but we will be arguing for a positive vision rather than simply opposing the cuts. There are times when there is no alternative than to make your presence felt, and the demonstration on 26th March is one of those times. We need to defend the civilised society that our grandparents fought so hard to build for us. It really is as important as that. We need to put solidarity in the place of competition, and compassion in the place of greed. I look forward to seeing you on the bus!

Note: 1“Banking: From Bagehot to Basel, and Back Again”, The Second Bagehot Lecture, Buttonwood Gathering, New York City, 25 October 2010

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You overlooked two other key criminal elements here : major corporations and government bureaucrats - all in league with banksters, eCONomists and politiCONS. All greedy, self-interested groupings ... leading us to hell.