Category Archives: Economics

Offshore politics

When the SNP transited smoothly from “we’ll use to the Euro” to “we’ll use the pound” that was a campaign tactic.

When the Tories, LibDems, and Labour all bounced to their feet and said ha ha, we won’t let you use the pound, that was a campaign tactic.

I do not believe either the Yes Scotland or the Better Together campaigns have really thought this through: or at least, they are certainly not making a fact-based argument based on having thought this through.

Ian Bell writes in the Herald:

“Hardball” is the macho cliche being applied to the Chancellor’s fiat towards a currency union. Despite its protestations, Mr Darling’s team pursues the kind of negative campaigning that never goes out of style in Westminster. No compunction is involved. The referendum must be won at all costs. But what might that cost be, exactly, if the prize is a united kingdom in the aftermath?

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Filed under Currency, Economics, Scottish Politics

SF: How will we pay for it?

Scotland's Future Yesterday, the Bank of England announced that interest rates would not rise from the historic low of 0.5% at least until 2015, as the Bank “believes the UK economy is running at around 1.5pc below its potential, and said it would need to make up more lost ground before it would consider raising rates”: that “productivity was much weaker than expected, while surveys pointed to less slack in the economy.”

Austerity is stifling the UK economy. The Tory/LibDem oft-repeated claim that there are more people in work than ever before is technically true but says nothing about the real state of the economy: people in part-time work, work on minimum wage, work below minimum wage: more people than ever before in work but claiming benefits.

What of the Scottish economy?

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Filed under Economics, Indyref White Paper, Politics, Scottish Politics

Arguing the wrong debate

The currency debate is a pure waste of time.

Keep Calm and Waste TimeThe SNP’s line if Scotland votes Yes has for several years been that Scotland will continue to use rUK’s pound. This is a good campaign strategy as far as it goes, since it means people don’t have to think about the logistics of setting up a Mint in Scotland to produce our own coins and a national supply of banknotes: it means people don’t have to think about changing currencies if they go to England/Wales post-independence: it means people don’t have to think about monetary change as a symbol of the huge changes of independence.

So, good campaign strategy, but it’s a completely rubbish way of deciding on a currency for Scotland post-independence.

To counter this SNP campaign strategy, the UK government/Better Together campaign have announced they will not “permit” Scotland to make use of the pound post-independence, and to counter that… but never mind. The whole thing gets indescribably messy, with both sides grandstanding more and more, and the whole thing is an utter waste of time.
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Filed under Economics, Poverty, Tax Avoidance

On stealing food

Iceland Foods - Kentish Town RoadWithin a mile of the Iceland on Kentish Town Road (the Trussell Trust’s find-your-nearest-foodbank map provides this information) there are two foodbanks: Chalk Farm and Camden.

A recent food banks report discovers 960 emergency food providers (food banks and soup kitchens) operating in the UK, and this may not be a complete list.

The Kentish Tower ran an article on then-new foodbank at Chalk Farm Baptist Church in April last year:

Who comes to the foodbank? In theory, people can receive a maximum of three vouchers in a row to discourage reliance, although longer term support is available at the discretion of the foodbank manager. “One thing that has surprised me is how open people are,” said Sammy, “when talking about their current situation. A lot of it is delayed benefits – or people who’ve had an injury and can’t physically work.”

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Filed under About Food, Charities, Children, Poverty

Wow, That Took Off Quickly

Little Bear LostOn Friday 13th December, Lauren Bishop Vranch found a little lost bear, obviously much loved, on an East Coast Train at King’s Cross, and tweeted a photo of it: “Found this well loved little dude on an East Coast train at Kings Cross – let’s find the owner, Twitter!”

By Sunday evening, that original tweet had been RT’d 6192 times. Lauren went on posting pics of the toy to Twitter, which got reposted on other social media including several Facebook groups, and at last, the father of the child who’d lost the bear contacted her.

‘WOW the power of the internet and kind folk – that’s my daughter Phoebes bear – she has been in tears all weekend and I’ve just shown her the picture and she is over the moon. Thank you all so much! Continue reading

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Filed under About Food, Employment, Restaurants

How Not To Help Foodbanks, Update

The other night I was invited over to dinner by my parents, who – as they often do – treated this as their “dine out” night (they’re both retired and can afford to treat themselves to a meal out each week) and ordered a vegetarian curryfest from their favourite Indian takeaway.

Give a man a fishAs they often do, they ordered lavishly – and the leftovers were packed up to go home with me. I was walking down the hill to the bus stop, with the fragrant bag in my hand, when I noticed a man sitting against the wall with a blanket wrapped round him, having a smoke. Now, I like curry, but generally don’t eat it two nights running: and the food in the bag had never been taken out of the takeaway cartons. It was safe enough to share. So I asked the man if he’d like a curry, and when he said yes, handed him the bag, and went on my way. It wasn’t exactly generous of me (though I hope he enjoyed it) and was classically helpful/unhelpful: a good meal for a night for one homeless person, isn’t resolving the problem of people going to bed hungry.

On 10th December last year, I wrote a post entitled How Not To Help Foodbanks, in which I discussed why the need for foodbanks was rising and quoted Jason Kuznicki:

Do you want to give food? Add up its retail price. Take that money out of your wallet. Flush 90% of it down the toilet. Send the food bank the rest. You’re still helping more than if you gave the food.
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Filed under About Food, Charities, Poverty

Women get paid less

Male-female pay divideToday is International Women’s Day, and there are many nice liberal articles about the reasons for the gender pay gap. Women get paid less than men. Jobs that are traditionally regarded as “for women” are also routinely paid less than jobs traditionally regarded “for men”.

Ever since I started working in IT I’ve been told that I make less than a man with the same skills. I chose to ignore that and focus on doing an awesome job, figuring I’d be paid what I was worth. I chose to believe that employers wouldn’t take me for granted and would reward my skills and abilities. In fact, I once had a boss who coached me to always ask for a pay rise and log my successes to ensure I always kept pace with the men in the company. I thought he was the norm – I thought all bosses wanted everyone to be equal and succeed.

Boy was I ever wrong.

While sexist conditions on work affect the average woman’s pay compared to the average man’s pay – when women take a couple of years off to have children, the work world is arranged so that this affects her promotion and pay prospects: the structure of work and career is fundamentally arranged to suit a man with a wife: a woman with childcare responsibilities may have to take part-time work or look for a job dependent on location and childcare affordability – the overriding factor is just as clear: women get paid less for being female. A women entering full-time work as a graduate will get paid less than a man who has also just graduated.
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Filed under Economics, Women

Women don’t know anything about poverty, obviously

Scottish Women's Convention manifestoThe Scottish government has appointed four well-off men to advise on poverty issues:

The members of the new expert group are: Darra Singh, a former chief executive of Jobcentre Plus now working for Ernst & Young; Martyn Evans, chief executive of the Carnegie Trust and former head of Citizens Advice Scotland; Douglas Griffin, a former finance director at NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde; and Mike Brewer, a professor of economics at the University of Essex and a research fellow with the respected Institute of Fiscal Studies.

The four, who are expected to make an initial report to ministers by May, will advise on a “fairer welfare system” outside the union.

It is, after all, not the Scottish Government’s fault that Iain Duncan Smith has succeeded in associating his mantra on “fairness” with the reality of making the poor, the sick, the disabled, and the unemployed so much worse off than they need to be.
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Filed under Benefits, Equality, Poverty, Tax Avoidance, Women

The Conservatives are interested in our views about the fairness of their benefit reforms!

Hurrah!

The Conservatives - sorry, chaps!The Conservatives say:

We’re interested in what your[sic] think about benefits. That’s why we’re asking you whether or not you support two fundamental principles upon which our welfare policies are founded – many will say they don’t but many will also be in favour. Your responses will tell us what the majority think.

Go to their website, respond appropriately to their two leading questions (my answers were Yes and Yes because they so obviously want the answers No and No) and tell them what you think (300 characters maximum) in their open question:

  • How do you think we could make the benefits system fairer?

I wrote:

Mandate a living wage: end workfare & other anti-employment practices: build enough council houses for everyone to have somewhere to live: fund welfare programmes to support the unemployed, disabled, and ill – the basic infrastructure of a civilised state.

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Filed under Benefits, Economics

Interning at Dalkey Press

They’re hiring at Dalkey Press!

…well, maybe not exactly hiring, since what they’re primarily looking for are unpaid interns, who, while striving to get to the paid job, must refrain while at work from:

Any of the following will be grounds for immediate dismissal during the probationary period: coming in late or leaving early without prior permission; being unavailable at night or on the weekends; failing to meet any goals; giving unsolicited advice about how to run things; taking personal phone calls during work hours; gossiping; misusing company property, including surfing the internet while at work; submission of poorly written materials; creating an atmosphere of complaint or argument; failing to respond to emails in a timely way; not showing an interest in other aspects of publishing beyond editorial; making repeated mistakes; violating company policies. DO NOT APPLY if you have a work history containing any of the above.

John O’Brien, the American director of Dalkey Archive Press and the man responsible for the advertisement, claims in response to a widespread angry reaction:

“So, the tongue-in-cheek advertisement was a call to apply for the internships (and the two possible positions) if you’re going to be serious and are ready; if not, then let’s not waste each other’s time. Usually this is couched in the sanitised language of ‘must be deadline-oriented, well-organised, ambitious’, etc. But as I think we’ve known for a long time, the age of irony is dead, and I’m a fossil.

“This is my ‘official’ reaction to the hornet’s nest.”

I bet he’s the kind of man who wants you to laugh at his “jokes”, too.

Portnoy Publishing also reacted:

Portnoy Publishing believes that people who exploit those desperate enough to work for free just to get a foot in the door, regardless of the industry in question, ought to be ashamed of themselves.

We don’t give away our books for free, why should we expect people to work for nothing to help us make those books?

And of course, there’s now an @DalkeyIntern on Twitter:

Assume that you will begin to be evaluated as soon as your application arrives. And also assume that you will be one of the unpaid interns until you are ready to take on all the responsibilities of a position. Incomplete applications will not be considered. Also, sleep is for the weak!

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Filed under Economics, Poverty