Fuelling the Tank: Corbyn-Economics Explained

Fuelling the Tank: Corbyn-Economics Explained

Are Jeremy Corbyn’s economic policies really built around a money-tree manifesto or are his plans for the British economy actually based on sound logic?

In recent weeks, Jez’s campaign to win the 2017 General Election has seemingly broken new ground. In short, this is likely due to the fact that the Corbyn-team’s policy proposals contain more substance than the vapid soundbites of the weak and wobbly Theresa May.

Yet, as they always have been, Labour has been dogged by accusations of economic incompetence throughout the last few months.

The other day, one of my best mates in his mid-twenties told me that he would be voting for the first time in his life because he felt that Corbyn was honest and had good intentions for the country. A few days later, he said: “I’ve seen bits of the manifesto now and think it’s great, but I want to know how Jezza is planning on costing it all.”

What I found most frustrating about this is that my first-time voter friend had found the Labour manifesto appealing but had then dismissed it, using a phrase that I had heard being used by the Beeb earlier that day.

Why, but why, is the ‘costing’ of the Tory manifesto not being scrutinised to the same extent?

This is particularly annoying because I unreservedly think that Labour has put forward a more coherent economic plan than the Tories. And, I will tell you why.

Jez’s Labour has never claimed it’s just going to borrow money, pay to raise living standards and hope it all works out for the best. Firstly, as he keeps reminding us, he has showed where the money will come from every step of the way. Labour’s not only done this, but as I want to argue, come up with a long-term economic growth strategy too.

At the end of the day, in any modern commercial state, it all comes down to tax. A large, growing economy has more wealth, which can be used to pay for the assets that guarantee a basic living standard for all citizens. One of Labour’s most sensible proposals is to start investing in British entrepreneurs and so stimulate economic growth.

If government cash is made available to potential business owners, even just as low-or-no-interest loans, then you’re more likely to have more potential wealth-creators taking risks, starting enterprises and making jobs for the rest of us. Investment makes growth, which in turn raises employment. With more people in work, there’s more people whose income can be taxed to pay for the original government investment and other state initiatives.

Say I want to build and sell a new type of solar-panelled motor that I know how to manufacture, but can’t afford to make. If the government steps in and gives me the cash I need to pay for the parts, I can make it without worrying about high-interest bank repayments and make a profit on the sale. Now, I have got a taste for it. So, I go out and make more. Only this time it’s too much work for one person. What do I do? I hire someone to give me a hand. Eventually: my business is growing, I have paid the government back and I have made five, six, seven, twenty jobs for people living in and around the local community.

My example of solar-panelled cars is purely hypothetical because I’m no scientist. But Jez’s national investment fund would make something like this completely possible.

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Fair do’s, but where does the money come from for a Jezza government to invest in these innovators and small-business-sorts in the first place?

It is a fact that Britain holds the world’s fifth largest economy. It should almost be without question that there is an overabundance of untapped wealth in this country that can be used to make an investment fund like the one I just described. So, we just need to get the ball rolling by taxing the individual billionaires and market-strangling corporations that already exist in the UK.

Inject a bit of fuel into the tank and off it goes.

“Ah,” heckles someone at the back, “higher taxes on the rich just scare away the talented.”

Well, in response, I’d simply state that this idea is a bit of a neoliberal myth with little factual basis.

For one thing, only the very, very stupid would start up a company and then decide to close-shop because of a change in government policy. There’s less capital to be lost by paying your taxes then by turning tail and running away. Who on earth would want to leave home and start-again, when there’s a living to be made locally?

What’s more, those too rich to feel unchallenged clearly enjoy a positon that they shouldn’t. Yeah, it’s undemocratic when one organisation gets to choose who in a community gets a wage and who doesn’t. But do the wealthiest coffee places even produce the best, cheapest coffee or are they just stopping those that do from getting to the top because their riches are so entrenched?

“Ah,” heckles the same fella, “but you’ve forgotten that Corbyn is a socialist that wants to nationalise the railways and bring us back into the past.”

In reality, it’s a little more complicated than that.

We can all agree that there are essential services that we all need in order to live. Water. Gas. Electricity. We could probably include transport in that list. But these same essential services are also needed to allow businesses to flourish.

For argument’s sake, if Britain just put these essential services into public ownership then we would benefit up-and-coming or already-established entrepreneurs just as much as families. Everybody needs electric and everybody needs to get from a-to-b sometimes. Since we know this is true, why not take the fat-cat element out of the equation and stop private companies making huge sums of money without bothering to provide a decent commodity in the first place.

Make, for instance, cheaper, more accessible trains and businesses can jump from London to Manchester more easily. This way, they can grow and spread their profits from community-to-community.

This is what Jezza’s Labour is offering.

Investment. Growth. More jobs. More wealth. And, therefore, more money to spend on making Britain better. More money to pay for the investment in the first place. More money to spend on our kids’ education, grandparents’ care and those that are in need along the way.

What are the Tories offering?

Vote for Conservative and you’re voting for less prosperity. The self-described defenders of free trade and capitalism have failed on their own terms. The Tories have offered nothing but cuts to public services, made tempting by shaky, untrustworthy promises of lower taxation. Cameron and May have taken Britain down the road of austerity for ideological reasons and not because of economic necessities. The Tories fear making elites paying their fair share or collecting unpaid taxes because it would alienate their party bankrollers. It’s only the establishment, like the Tories’ chums in City finance that have gained from them punishing the rest of us with austerity.

The reward of their greed and short-sightedness has been slow growth, the creation of unsteady, unstable jobs and widespread poverty.

If given the opportunity, it’s completely possible that May would walk away from the European leaders around the Brexit negotiating table as she has threatened to do if she doesn’t get whatever it is that she wants from them. Should she be allowed this, Britain could lose vast amounts of trade with its closest neighbours.

If this happens, do you really think the rest of the world will be queuing up outside our door? Isn’t it more likely, that other states would seek to out-compete us and take advantage of our uncertain global position?

Jez’s team understands this. That’s why his Brexit agenda prioritises securing jobs and mutually beneficial trade relations with Europe.

A vote for May is a vote for half-baked economic planning and an uncertain future. A vote for Jezza is a vote for growth in the interest of the many, not the few.

 

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Westminster’s Game of Thrones

Westminster’s Game of Thrones

As media hacks pecked at the bones of Ed Balls’s political carcass on that chilling May morning in 2015, King Cameron emerged triumphantly on to the centre-stage. Through a campaign of fear-mongering and misdirection, he had slayed all of his enemies. Against all expectations and in one fell swoop, the heads of Ed Miliband, Nigel Farage and even Cameron’s erstwhile ally Nick Clegg had all been mounted on pikes outside Whitehall. Despite David Cameron’s slim parliamentary majority, the scale of his victory left many commentators dumbfounded throughout the land. Right up until that bloodcurdling exit poll had been revealed, when in my mind at least the Tory theme tune had started playing eerily in the background, many had expected a hung parliament. Yet, King Cam had simply blasted half of Westminster away. Of course, King Cam was not the only victor that day. Nicola Sturgeon’s brave forces had also helped to carve out her new, would-be independent, Kingdom in the North as well.  Having personally feared but expected this outcome, I reminded all friends via raven that: ‘When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die.’ Well, actually, I think it may have been via Twitter – but you get the idea…

With what has seemed like a brutal bloodletting in British politics over the past two years, I think that I can be allowed to indulge in a little bit more unashamed geekery. As I see it, the parallels between HBO’s highly decorated TV series and recent BBC news coverage are too compelling to miss. Admittedly, the sex scenes aren’t as entertaining in the latter. But the betrayals and beheadings have been equally as fun to watch. Though, of course, they can be both soul-destroying or exhilarating dependent on what House you are rooting for.

So far, 2016 has provided political drama aplenty. In true sci-fi or epic fantasy fashion, one character was resurrected from the dead with Nigel Farage leading the charge to bring down Cameron’s cosy castle. Tory traitor BoJo bolstered the Brexit army, leaving King Cam with little wiggle room to defend his territories. In the end, however, King Cam had ensured his own political suicide by calling the EU referendum far too early. I wonder how close he came, once he heard that the Brexiters had won, to jumping out of his own bedroom window at Number 10? Poetic justice? At least he wasn’t drunk and killed by a pig… I mean a boar.

Now, Winter has truly come and not solely due to global warming. We have been set adrift from Europe and Britain has become a colder, lonelier place as a result. Worse still, Jeremy Corbyn the people’s hero has been stabbed outside the Walls of Labour HQ. We will probably have to wait until next season to find out whether he survives or not. Rumour has it that he’s already been seen on set, but these are unconfirmed.

Amidst all the high-speed action sequences, we may almost not have noticed Queen Theresa May ascending to Westminster’s Iron Throne. In scenes of butchery that would have impressed even Queen Cersei Lannister herself, Queen Theresa snatched away George Osborne’s axe in order to use it and cut him down to size. Shame. Now she sits atop her throne, imperiously gazing out across her conquered lands with eyes shrewdly fixed on Nicola of the North. We would be as foolish as Andrea Leadsom or as short-sighted as the Tyrells to assume that, like Cersei, Queen Theresa is not a tyrannical force to be reckoned with. Wily enough to steer clear of the Brexit uprising but free from European restraints or protocol, Queen Theresa is free to wreak havoc with social justice and civil liberties. To my despair, I have seen no dragon-riding Queen set to fly in to our rescue. If there is one certainty, it is that Britain’s current political landscape looks dark and full of terrors.

Trapped with the Stationary & Going Nowhere

Trapped with the Stationary & Going Nowhere

As I stamped my umpteenth envelope of the afternoon, my new friend and colleague emerged from the belly of an industrial-sized printer, her glasses slightly askew. We were both in our first weeks as temps at a London insurance call-centre, and it had not been a good day. I stood clutching handfuls of letters and the broken printer whined ominously behind us. We looked at one another. Something was terribly wrong.

“I just graduated with a First,” I said, suppressing the squirm of fury writhing in the pit of my stomach.

“Same,” my friend replied, and I heard the same repressed exasperation in her voice.

I quietly left the tiny stationary room to return to my desk in the corner of the office, leaving my friend to wrestle with the printer as it churned out reams of screwed-up paper.

At some point later that week we went for a drink, which broke up the monotonous cycle of stuffing envelopes with misprinted, mangled, often incomplete insurance policy documents and then plodding home to sleep on my Nan’s sofa.

That was my life for the next bollock-crushing 10 months. I did soon rise from the drudgery of stationary work to the anxiety-inducing onslaught of insurance customer service, but my general conditions remained the same. A stint in an internship – gaining more complex work experience – would have been welcome, but that was for people with wealthier, better-connected parents. My salary was too low to afford renting a room, and even if it had been higher, my income was being ravenously consumed by the repayment of university debt. No, I am not referring to my student loan; fortunately, I was not earning nearly enough money to warrant having to pay that back just yet. I’d accumulated the debt because I couldn’t afford my rent at university, even though I had worked two part-time jobs while writing my final-year dissertations: one in a burger-van and one in a school. I’d maxed out my overdraft and my coffers were empty. I was the eldest of four children in a one-parent family and I was the only one in any kind of employment: there was no one to bail me out.

A series of unexpected events actually led me to a very different set of circumstances and I am now back in academia – at Cambridge, no less – but that is a story for another time. The reason that I am relaying this experience is not because I want someone to crack out the littlest violin. It is because, I think, my tale is representative of a whole generation of people currently living in Britain.

I was the first in my family to get the opportunity to go to university. As a society, we should be proud that there are routes for first-generation scholars to access higher education. However, the wider world of work that I entered as a graduate had nothing to offer me but low-skill, low-wage jobs with no security. As for affordable housing… well, that was but a pipe dream. I think most would agree with me that those aren’t the kind of economic conditions that are generally conducive to upward social mobility.

My peers that I graduated with could all tell similar stories – largely regardless of whether they studied humanities or sciences. Two of them were lucky enough to get snapped up by coffee shops, doing irregular shift-work. One of them is still there now, still battling against his overdraft. Amidst spells of unemployment, another has had to jump from call-centre to call-centre. All have struggled with rent. Last year, I went on an excursion myself to try and find a room to call home near Hammersmith, where I was working at the time. House-shares are still one of the most common ways of living for early twenty-somethings like me, and anything would be an improvement from sleeping on the couch. In the end, the cheapest deal I found within an hour and a half’s radius was a spot in a bunkbed in a room with three other guys for £500 a month, not including bills. This was the best of bad bunch.

An old mate of mine from childhood, who did not go to university, has put up with exactly the same types of jobs and has had just as little luck with housing. Not uncommonly among twenty-somethings, he and his partner had a pregnancy scare recently. He said to me, “I am soon to be a new father with nothing to offer a child but the love of a football club and the years of disappointment that will bring.”

My friend from that tiny stationary room and I similarly tried to make light of our dire financial situations, but the humour is wearing exceedingly thin.

Last month, during his budget speech, George Osborne spoke about new personal saving schemes that were being introduced. This included an ISA specifically designed for under-40 year-olds. What the government does not seem to realise is that many of us under-30s don’t make enough money to have any savings. Nor are we likely to in the near-future. What good is a savings account to those of us who can barely afford a Pot Noodle at the end of the month? Since then, the Prime Minister has been embroiled in scandals involving his tax returns and has been forced to publish details of his various, Midas-like sources of income. I suppose, bearing in mind the vast socioeconomic gulf between myself and Dodgy Dave, I shouldn’t be surprised that the government just doesn’t seem to understand how dire the life chances are for so many of my peers. Nevertheless, that does not make it any less enraging to hear the Chancellor blathering on about helping young people with their savings accounts. Britain’s economy is continuing to fail a gargantuan segment of the country’s population. You don’t have to be a Thomas Piketty to see that austerity is erasing our futures before our very eyes. Whatever scheme the Tories cooked up before they came into office simply hasn’t worked. Britain’s next generation needs affordable housing and we need access to actual careers rather than the dead-end, spirit-sapping drudgery we’re being railroaded into. My gut tells me that the solution would be for the Treasury to invest in new industries and housing stock, while suppressing the ludicrous rents charged by an exploitative cohort of affluent landlords. My hopes are not high.

Mere months after I started university, back in 2010, the Coalition hiked up university fees – a bullet I dodged by the skin of my teeth. My sister starts at university this September, set to pay inexcusably more for her education. I wonder if she’ll be lucky enough in three or four years’ time to walk out with her degree into anywhere other than a stationary room tucked away in some faceless office, working on a temporary contract and fighting broken office equipment or stamping envelops?

A Leftie, A Eurosceptic and an Angry European walk into a bar…

A Leftie, A Eurosceptic and an Angry European walk into a bar…

Spring had sprung for the first and only time all winter. Term had just finished, the sun had been shining all day and all deadlines had either been hurtled past or were hurdles too far into next month to be anxious about. All had spent the weekend anaesthetised by alcohol to drown out remembrances of the recent assignment, and only three were left standing to carry on drinking by Monday. So, a Leftie, a Eurosceptic and an Angry European walked into a bar…

Two pints in, and preliminary discussions about the latest Tarantino had been left satisfactorily unresolved when the topic of Brexit somehow flopped into conversation like an ugly critter darting out of its burrow for fresh air but soon to be strewn asunder as roadkill. Of course, all parties involved – as university students – were naturally predisposed to being self-righteously well-informed and unequivocal in their positions. However, for once, I was happy not to be the one sitting at the polar end of what quickly became a very heated discussion to which I was but an observer.

Both combatants entered the ring with a certain degree of wariness. A few blows in, and only a few dismissive, Eurosceptic remarks about ceding sovereignty and Europe’s democratic deficit had been exchanged for equally tentative comments on Britain’s lingering loss-of-empire-complex and potential irrelevance on the world stage. Soon our Eurosceptic turned, inevitably, towards immigration and border control. This proved to be inflammatory and our European pounced on her quintessentially English counterpart with all the combined ferocity of the entire, blood-soaked continent.

If the UK turned its back on collaborating with Europe on addressing the influx of Middle Eastern refugees, she argued, it would be turning its back on one of the direst humanitarian crises – at least – of our generation. Europe’s union is fragile, she went on, with factors like Greece and austerity as well as the cross-country unease of dealing with the refugee crisis threatening to tear it apart. If Brexit goes ahead, then the economic and political ramifications could well be the final straw for the EU. Then all would suffer, Britain included, as economic and social unrest destabilised the continent.

Pfft, our Eurosceptic responded, Britain doesn’t have the infrastructure to cope with housing more migrants, there are growth economies besides Europe that we could be engaging with and what difference anyway does it make to us in the long-run if everything on the continent just goes to shit? Isn’t that what the Channel is for – to keep apart us and them?

By this point, our European had transformed into Cate Blanchett’s towering Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings – green-faced and eerie in rage, with storm clouds and brimstone singeing the pub table. I tried to wade in and steer us towards safer territory, but was quickly engulfed in the maelstrom – only to scuttle away in terror, back towards the bar. When I returned, fresh pint in hand, our Eurosceptic had clearly already been beaten down to the level of a meek, bumbling hobbit. Fortunately, it was soon last orders and he was saved by the bell.

What did I, the simpler and uninvolved Leftie in this situation, learn from the whole ordeal? Well, I don’t have any truck with arguments about sovereignty –  the bread and butter of conservative, anti-EU sentiment. There are far more all-encompassing threats to British democracy than the EU – like the pernicious effects of global capitalism and inequality, which pretty much make the whole system defunct anyway. Hearing our Galadriel Euro-Elf address the debate from an ‘outsider’s perspective’ was, I think, useful to hear. For those who care about being citizens of the world, it is important to think hard about what Brexit could mean for Europe and beyond as well as just for Britain. For those that I encounter in the months to come that are more nationalistic, I might well say to them that continental stability is something worth preserving simply for Britain’s sake out of pragmatism if for nothing else.

Does that mean I would readily revert to Galadriel’s arguments when next confronted with supporters of Brexit? Well, I hope not – but I suppose it depends on how heated the discussion gets. The one thing this chance pub encounter reminded me, is that British Euroscepticism is real and pervasive. Was it amusing to watch a European intellectually bludgeon our friend and curse all Brits for our insular island attitude? Yes, absolutely. Did our friend stumble home any more enlightened or receptive to staying in the EU? Somehow, I doubt it. For those more heartily in favour of staying in the EU, the debate has to – I think – be built around a more positive vision, reminding people of the benefits that come with sticking together in an uncertain world, celebrating with our neighbours our shared cultural heritage as well as praising the peace and civil liberties that the EU has increasingly secured for the continent at large.

Meeting Euroscepticism with a gentler Europeanism may well be the best way to go, and so may keeping my friends off too much beer…