Friday, July 25, 2014

California - Who Needs Water?

Last week saw California adopt mandatory restrictions on civilian water use. People caught watering their lawns to the point of runoff, hosing off sidewalks or driveways or washing cars without a shut-off nozzle can face fines of up to $500 a day.
The Golden State is in the third year of record drought, and while these consumer restrictions are not expected to make a sizeable dent in state water usage on their own, officials hope the fines, which go into effect August 1, will send a message to Californians who apparently have yet to grasp the severity of the situation.
That message, however, has not, it seems, reached Nestlé Waters North America, makers of a variety of bottled waters, including Arrowhead brand.
At least that’s the assumption. California water officials can only guess.

In contrast to the Arrowhead labels showing snowy mountain streams, the water in many of those bottles comes from a spring in Millard Canyon, on the grounds of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians’ reservation in Cabazon, Calif., west of Palm Springs.
Access to the spring actually belongs to the Morongo tribe, which bought the rights from the Cabazon Water District in the early part of the last decade for $3 million. Soon after, the tribe cut a 25-year deal with Perrier Group of America, a division of Nestlé, to bottle Arrowhead water.
California water districts are required to report their water consumption and the levels in their wells to the state. The Morongo Indians, however, are a sovereign nation, and therefore exempt form oversight.

Through 2009, Nestlé Waters, the division that operates the Millard Canyon facility, provided the state with annual reports, but after that, the flow of information has slowed to a trickle. The state has used a rounded estimate of 244 million gallons pumped out per year — roughly the annual usage for 480 area homes, according to calculations used by area newspaper The Desert Sun.
A spokesman for the Morongo tribe insisted they had a long history of caring for the environment and argued their partnership with Nestlé created 250 jobs. But others on the reservation and in surrounding communities wonder if shipping out bottled water is the best use of a scarce resource.
“The reason this particular plant is of special concern is precisely because water is so scarce in the basin,” said Peter Gleick in The Desert Sun. Gleick has toured the Millard Canyon plant in the past and has written about the bottled water industry. “Surface water in the desert is exceedingly rare and has a much higher environmental value than the same amount of water somewhere else,” Gleick said.

The Arrowhead facility is one of Nestlé’s largest in North America, but it not the only one to see controversy. The company, under its Poland Spring brand, has been in a decade-long struggle with Maine over rights to drill springs and purchase water from a variety of counties outside the area where the original Poland Spring was sourced. The company has also been sued for selling regular municipal groundwater as natural spring water.
Nestlé is America’s largest water bottler, controlling a third of the market. In addition to Arrowhead and Poland Spring, it sells water under the Nestlé Pure Life, Deer Park, Perrier and San Pellegrino names, as well as several other regional brands.
Nestlé insists its water bottling facilities are operated with an eye toward environmental sustainability. Of course, given that bottled water is not really environmentally sustainable on its own, that would be a very neat trick.

Fact of the Day

UK's richest 1,000 people have doubled their wealth in the last five years. The Equality Trust found the richest 1% of Britons has the same amount of wealth as 54% of the rest of the population.

The richest three families in Scotland own more wealth than the poorest 20 per cent of the country's population put together,

Roughly half of Scottish private land is owned by just 432 people.

Canada and Charity

Oxfam Canada filed papers with Industry Canada to renew its non-profit status explaining its purpose as  as a charity is “to prevent and relieve poverty, vulnerability and suffering by improving the conditions of individuals whose lives, livelihood, security or well-being are at risk.” But the submission to Industry Canada also needed the approval of the charities directorate of the Canada Revenue Agency. Agency officials informed Oxfam that “preventing poverty” was not an acceptable goal.  Legal precedents mean charities cannot help people not already impoverished from falling into poverty. Purposes that relieve poverty are charitable because they provide relief only to eligible beneficiaries, those in need. The courts have not found the risk of poverty as being equivalent to actually being in need. Therefore, as the courts have indicated, an organization cannot be registered with the explicit purpose of preventing poverty.”

“Relieving poverty is charitable, but preventing it is not,” the group was warned. “Preventing poverty could mean providing for a class of beneficiaries that are not poor.”

 Purposes that relieve poverty are charitable because they provide relief only to eligible beneficiaries, those in need. The courts have not found the risk of poverty as being equivalent to actually being in need. Therefore, as the courts have indicated, an organization cannot be registered with the explicit purpose of preventing poverty.

The Harper government has targeted charities since 2012 for engaging in “political activities.” It is currently auditing some 52 groups, many of whom have criticized the Harper government’s programs and policies, especially on the environment. The list includes Amnesty International Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation, Canada Without Poverty, and the United Church of Canada’s Kairos charity. Pen Canada, a Toronto charity that advocates for freedom of speech, is the latest to join  the ranks of the audited. Auditors have the power to strip a charity of its registration, and therefore its ability to issue income-tax receipts, potentially drying up donations.

Meanwhile in the real world of poverty millions still live in poverty and even those who have gained the security of the middle-income bracket could relapse into poverty due to sudden changes to their economic fortunes in South Asia, revealed the latest annual Human Development Report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) .

“In South Asia 44.4 percent of the population, around 730 million people, live on 1.25−2.50 dollars a day,” said the report. Globally, some 1.2 billion people live on less than 1.25 dollars a day, and 2.7 billion live on even less.

 In Sri Lanka, categorised as a lower middle-income country by the World Bank in 2011, the poorest seemed to getting poorer. Sri Lanka, reflecting global trends, is home to large numbers of poor people despite the island showing impressive growth rates.

The World’s poor are finding it hard to climb up the earnings ladder. The International Labour Organisation estimates that there were 50 million more working poor in 2011. Only 24 million of them climbed above the 1.25-dollars-a-day income poverty line over 2007–2011, compared with 134 million between 2000 and 2007. Many people only increased their income to a point barely above the poverty line so that “idiosyncratic or generalised shocks could easily push them back into poverty. 12 percent of the world population lives in chronic hunger, while 1.2 billion of the world’s workers are still employed in the informal sector.

The Debt Threat

A modest increase in interest rates could render almost 25 percent of UK households in severe financial stress, a report from the Resolution Foundation (RF) reveals. High levels of household debt – resulting from consecutive years of easy credit – mean even a moderate rise in interest rates could create profound financial struggle for one in four households in the UK which will be simply unable to sustain their mortgages.

Despite a five year run of exceptionally low interest rates, many UK mortgage holders have struggled to pay their debts as a result of a troubled jobs market and very low wage growth.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney noted that many UK families are financially vulnerable, having overstretched their budget to get on the property ladder.  The number of UK mortgage holders spending more than 33 percent of their income on debt repayments could skyrocket from 1.1 million today to 2.3 million by 2018. The number of UK households in "debt peril" – meaning they are allocating more than 50 percent of their income on mortgage repayments – could mushroom from 600,000 to 1.1 million by 2018.

More than half of Britons say they have been hit with extra fees on their credit cards, bank accounts mortgage or insurance in the last year. Two thirds say lenders and insurers are tricking them with dubious and difficult to compare headline prices. A survey conducted by the consumer campaign group Which? showed that 68 percent of 2,000 Britons polled feel that companies use additional charges to trick them.

Which? believes that in order to appear at the top of price comparison websites, insurance firms artificially kept the headline figure for their premiums below average hiding the extra charges in small print. It says these tactics are also being used by financial companies on mortgages, credit cards, bank accounts and all types of insurance.

“Consumers are fed up with being hit with unexpected, additional costs for financial products that lead to them paying more than they bargained for,” Richard Lloyd, the Which? executive director said. “We want the financial services industry to stop sneaky fees and charges, and put an end to excessive, unclear and hard to compare fees that do nothing to improve the low level of trust in these markets.” 

Taxing the Poor

More than two million of the poorest people in England are facing rising council tax demands this year because of fresh Government cuts to the benefit system, new figures reveal today. War widows, carers and the disabled are among 2.31 million people who used to be entitled to council tax benefit but have now had their support substantially reduced or taken away altogether.

As a result, significant numbers of families have been pushed into debt, with a survey revealing that nearly 16,000 people in London alone have been referred to the bailiffs for non-payment.

Under changes to the benefits system that came into full effect this year, councils have lost nearly half a billion pounds that was previously provided by central government to cut or eliminate the council tax bills for local residents on low incomes. Council Tax Benefit used to provide nearly £5bn of support to 5.9 million people. But in 2013 the Government cut the grant by £300m – and told councils they would have to find the difference from saving or by reducing the benefit to poor residents. In April this year the cut was increased to around £400m – which equates to around 10 per cent of the total fund.

As a result millions of families on low incomes have received council tax demands for the first time and hundreds of thousands of people face being summoned to court if they are unable to pay.  409,000 disabled people have seen their council tax increase, while 112,000 carers have also been hit. Some 3,600 recipients of pensions relating to being a war widow or a disabled veteran as a result of service in the Armed Forces have seen their council tax increase.

The Citizens Advice Bureau said that one in five people reporting debt problems are now facing council tax arrears. “The number struggling with council tax payments has rocketed since council tax benefit was replaced by localised council tax support schemes. “Between January and March 2014, 42 per cent of those approaching Citizens Advice for help with arrears were employed, compared to 28 per cent unemployed.”

Thursday, July 24, 2014

It's in your Genes

More than 90% of human DNA is doing nothing very useful.

Gerton Lunter, a senior scientist on the team, said that based on the comparisons, 8.2% of human DNA was "functional", meaning that it played an important enough role to be conserved by evolution.
"Scientifically speaking, we have no evidence that 92% of our genome is contributing to our biology at all," Lunter told the Guardian.
 1% of human DNA is held in genes that are used to make crucial proteins to keep cells – and bodies – alive and healthy. The latest study, reported in the journal Plos Genetics, suggests that a further 7% of human DNA is equally vital, regulating where, when, and how genes are expressed.

The New Rajahs

 India's rich hold assets worth a trillion dollars, which is around a fifth of the total wealth in the country. Within four years, that total is likely to reach $4tn (£2.3tn), the report says, making three times as many people multimillionaires.

 Murali Balaraman, a co-author of the report for the Kotak Mahindra bank says that growth in the number of rich people would not result in social tensions as a wide gap in incomes and wealth is an "accepted norm" in India. "People know that someone is rich and someone is poor and they carry on with their lives".

This inequality and its so-called acceptance (which conveniently ignores the widespread insurrectionary Naxalite movement) will meet with the increasing exposure and challenge from our comrades in the World Socialist Party (India) (website:

Do Any Of These Individuals Represent You?

A list of billionaires, bankers and lobbyists who received £12,000-a-table access to David Cameron and other senior Cabinet ministers was published for the first time last night.
The documents revealed that almost 450 attendees at last summer’s glittering Tory fundraising dinner had a combined wealth of more than £11billion.
They sat at tables costing up to £12,000 each alongside Mr Cameron, Home Secretary Theresa May, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond and London Mayor Boris Johnson.

It is not known how much was raised from the 2013 event, but Electoral Commission figures show that since the ball, those present have donated £5million to the Conservatives.
Of this, £1.1million was registered in the week after the event. Table sales raised at least £250,000, with cheaper tickets going for £400.
The guest list for the private event last summer at Old Billingsgate Market in Central London included six billionaires and 15 people with a personal wealth above £100million.
Documents seen by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism showed there were 73 financiers, 47 retail and property tycoons, ten people in oil, gas and mining and 19 attendees working in public affairs and PR.
One guest was Vladimir Putin’s judo partner Vasily Shestakov, who was introduced to the Prime Minister. The Russian president’s aide had the job of improving Russia’s reputation in the UK.
The revelation will give further ammunition to Labour, which wants to paint the Conservatives as the party of the rich.
The Tory fundraising dinner is an annual event and this year’s will be held next Wednesday at the Hurlingham private members’ club in West London.

The main sponsor was Shore Capital, an investment bank led by Howard Shore, who has donated £450,000 to the Conservatives personally and through his companies.

He booked three ‘premier tables’ and on one hosted David and Samantha Cameron. The table also included investor Nicolas Berggruen, Slovenian tycoon Darko Horvat and property magnate Sir John Ritblat.
Mr Shore’s company told The Guardian: ‘Shore Capital supported the event and made a financial contribution, as they believe that the Conservative Party, led by the Prime Minister, are the best party to govern the country.’

Alistair Graham, the former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said: ‘These events are not transparent at all.
‘They are made to be private, cosy affairs where you pay for attention from a senior political figure and if you are seeking to influence the government you might have the opportunity to do so.
‘We are vulnerable as a country to people getting private access to ministers for not too much money.’
A Tory spokesman said: ‘All donations to the Conservative Party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and  comply fully with Electoral Commission rules.’

Mr Johnson shared a table with Andrei Borodin, an exiled Russian banker who is wanted by the Kremlin to face charges of ‘aggravated swindling’ over an alleged £220million bank fraud.
Mrs May was placed with Lord De La Warr, director of Cluff Natural Resources which is exploring a process called coal gasification in Warwickshire.
Mr Hammond shared a table with the Saudi Arabian head of the Arab British Chamber of Commerce, Afnan Al-Shuaiby, and the table was paid for by Lord Clanwilliam, a PR adviser who works for the government of Bahrain, which has faced criticism of its human rights record.
Paul Staines, who runs the Guido Fawkes website, was sat at a table with Sir Michael Hintze, a top Tory donor and manager of hedge fund CQS. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles shared a table with nightclub owner Peter Stringfellow. Sir Michael has donated £3,181,473 to the Tories, while Mr Shore has given £499,330 and Mr Stringfellow  £39,340.

Jon Ashworth, Labour’s spokesman for the Cabinet Office, said: ‘These reports further lift the lid on a Party which is bankrolled by and stands up for a privileged few.
‘The Tories did all they could to keep this list secret and now we know why. It shows a party reliant on a select group of super-rich donors – the same group who’ve been given a tax cut by David Cameron’s Government while everyone else pays more.’

from here with thanks to for the link

Separate Entrances For Rich And Poor - Know Your Place

It would be difficult to come with a more on-the-nose metaphor for New York City’s income inequality problem than the new high-rise apartment building coming to 40 Riverside Boulevard, which will feature separate doors for regular, wealthy humans and whatever you call the scum that rents affordable housing.

Extell Development Company, the firm behind the new building, announced its intentions to segregate the rich and poor to much outrage last year. Fifty-five of the luxury complex’s 219 units would be marked for low-income renters—netting some valuable tax breaks for Extell—with the caveat that the less fortunate tenants would stick to their own entrance.

Any of the unwashed folk who complain about such a convenient arrangement, of course, are just being ungrateful. As the Mail points out, fellow poor-door developer David Von Spreckelsenexplained as much last year:
“No one ever said that the goal was full integration of these populations,” said David Von Spreckelsen, senior vice president at Toll Brothers. “So now you have politicians talking about that, saying how horrible those back doors are. I think it’s unfair to expect very high-income homeowners who paid a fortune to live in their building to have to be in the same boat as low-income renters, who are very fortunate to live in a new building in a great neighborhood.”
In these economically fraught times, it’s easy to forget that the super rich earned their right to never see you, hear you, smell you, or consider your pitiful existence. Expecting them to share an entrance would be unfair.

The Gaza War

In the 1967 classic movie “The Battle of Algiers,” a leader of the National Liberation Front (NLF), Ben M’Hidi, is brought before a group of French journalists. One of the journalists asks M’Hidi: “Don’t you think it is a bit cowardly to use women’s handbags and baskets to carry explosive devices that kill so many innocent people?” 
The Algerian insurgent replies: “And doesn’t it seem to you even more cowardly to drop napalm bombs on unarmed villages, so that there are a thousand times more innocent victims?” 
Then he delivers the punchline: “Of course, if we had your fighter planes, it would be a lot easier for us. Give us your bombers, and you can have our handbags and baskets.”

In the current conflict in Gaza, a role reversal would see Hamas armed with fighter planes, air-to-surface missiles and battle tanks, while the Israelis would be hitting back only with homemade rockets.
 The Palestinians have no chance whatsoever of militarily overcoming Israel. Modern war is waged by economic might, and Israel with its GDP of around $110 billion (in 2000), whereas the Palestinian territories have a GDP of $4.2 billion (in 2000): the former has the capacity to routinely outgun the latter.  Israel uses terror on a much larger scale than Hamas, because it has much greater military capacity.
Israeli, the recipient of a 10-year, 30-billion-dollar U.S. military aid package, 2009 through 2018, has state-of-the-art equipment  provided gratis – under so-called “Foreign Military Financing (FMF)” – by the United States. By 2015, these grants will account for about 55 percent of all U.S. disbursements worldwide, and represent about 23-25 percent of the annual Israeli military budget.
 The largely homemade Qassam rockets launched by Hamas, their ineffectiveness is apparent in the statistical results: over 2,000 launched, with only two very unlucky civilians killed on the Israeli side. That is less than the eight Americans killed accidentally last year by celebratory rockets on the 4th of July.
According to the latest figures, the two-week long conflict has claimed the lives of more than 620 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including over 230 women and children, and over 3,700 wounded, while the Israeli death toll is 27 soldiers and two civilians.
 The Israeli heavy handed approach will not end the problem. There is nothing exceptional or unique about the present crisis. For the Palestinian state-in-waiting, it is a familiar tale about conflict over land and resources between an "occupier" and a "subject people", an occupation deemed illegal by the United Nations under resolutions 242 and 338 which call upon Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories but sanctioned by the world's only superpower.

 So where do socialists stand in all of this?

Socialists are always spontaneously on the side of the oppressed against the oppressors and the massive use of overwhelming force by the state of Israel clearly exposes it as the oppressor. But just because we sympathise with the victims of Israeli oppression does not mean that we favour the solutions popular among the Palestinian people or their supporters. 

 When it comes to the nationalistic zeal of recent days, there is nothing at all with which we can identify. Nationalism has  imbued the workers of the region with a false consciousness that prevents them identifying their real interests. The labels Jew or Moslem, Palestinian or Israeli do not camouflage the bigger and more permanent label of "working class", a label most caught up in the present crisis could, if challenged, identify with. Both sides can only lose their lives and liberty, so long as they see their own interests lying in the suppression of each other, rather than in the destruction of the murderous armed elites that promote the war on both sides.  

As socialists we will welcome even a fragile peace that temporarily halts the horrors of occupation and terror. That is partly because we sympathise with the suffering of our fellow workers, whatever their ethnic origin. It is always they who suffer the brunt of their masters’ wars. The goal of the socialist movement is not to assist in the creation of even more states but to establish a real world community without frontiers where all states as they currently exist will be destroyed. Our message to the workers who call themselves Israeli and the workers who call themselves Palestinian is to cease the slaughter. Socialists have no hesitation in stating that this violence is in no way, shape or form in the interest of the working class. Socialists are revolted by the violence of the Gaza conflict. We condemn both sides and denounce the senseless killing of our fellow workers. History shows that in times of war, working-class interests are never served by workers throwing in their lot with nationalist or other political leaders of capitalism, whether they are well-funded like the Israeli state, or weaker like Hamas.

The slaughter in Gaza underlines yet again the urgent need to work for a world without nations and nationalism. Peace is always better than war.

Thomas Piketty - J'Accuse

If you have read 'Capital in the 21st Century', Thomas Piketty’s acclaimed work, you may well be able to confirm that:
(a) Piketty regards the 'natural or spontaneous' tendency of capitalism is for the rich to get richer proportionately as well as absolutely;
(b) that he thinks that this tendency can be, and has been, stopped or reversed by certain outside events at least temporarily;
(c) that he himself doesn't think that the political interventions he proposes to try to do this are likely to be implemented.

In other words, he is inconsistent.

 He ought to draw the conclusion that we do -- that the only way out of inequality is to replace capitalism with socialism (or communism, the same thing).

The position (b) doesn’t invalidate the socialist argument. Yes, the tendency can be temporarily slowed down but the point is that this will always only be temporary; in due course the 'natural or spontaneous' tendency will begin to win out again.

Nor are we  necessarily have to be committed to (a) in full, i.e we only need accept that the tendency under capitalism is for the rich to get richer absolutely, i.e that they don't necessarily have to get richer relatively to the rest of the population. That depends on the specific property and inheritance laws  in force at a particular time and place. It didn't apply to the sort of state capitalism in the old USSR where the ruling class  collectively monopolised the means of production without individual private property rights and where being a member of the exploiting class was not handed down through inheritance.

The point is that, as Marx explained, the logic of capitalism is the accumulation of more and more capital out of surplus value extracted from the wage working class, irrespective of who owns or benefits from the accumulated capital.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Siege of Detroit: A War of Black Urban Removal


Like the rapist who insists his victim “wanted it,” Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr claims city retirees were expressing “strong support for the city’s plan to adjust its debts” when they voted to accept a 4.5 percent cut in their meager pensions. Corporate media echoed the state appointee’s interpretation of the court-ordered ballot, in which about half the 32,000 eligible workers and retirees participated. In reality, Detroit’s pensioners were violated in broad daylight, stripped of retirement protections and forced to choose whether to die in poverty or an even more extreme destitution.

Earlier this year, as part of the Shock and Awe of state-imposed bankruptcy, Orr threatened to cut pensions by 26 percent, in defiance of Michigan state constitutional protections. He was backed by federal bankruptcy court judge Steven Rhodes, who has brushed aside every objection from lesser, non-corporate beings. Rather than risk the loss of one-quarter of an already meager $20,000 a year pension, 73 percent of retirees and workers accepted the lesser cut, plus an end to cost-of-living increases. This was not an election, but the cruelest coercion – a rape of the elderly, who were forced not only to acquiesce to their own further impoverishment, but to give up the right to challenge the process in court.

Corporate media routinely ascribe such obscene assaults to “the city,” as in “the city’s plan to adjust its debts.” But the City of Detroit has no such plans; it has no power, and its citizens have no meaningful vote – except, of course, when given an ultimatum to endorse cuts to their own pensions. Detroit’s elected officials cannot pass laws, and collect a salary at the pleasure of dictator Kevyn Orr, who is answerable only to the ruling class, as directly represented by the Fortune 500 clients of the law firm that spawned him, Jones Day. (Orr’s nominal boss, Gov. Rick Snyder, answers to the same people.)
 The state-imposed emergency manager is authorized to usurp the powers of the city – to act as a dictator – but he is not the city in any but the most technical, legalistic sense. For Orr to refer to himself as “the city” is a sick hubris – a hustler lawyer invoking the royal “We”. However, when the media describe Orr’s decrees as actions by “the city” – knowing full well how Orr is despised in Detroit government and the city at large – they are liars, pure and simple; co-conspirators in the corporate crime.

The people of Detroit have no rights that corporations and their servants in government are bound to respect. Indeed, the emergency manager laws have been used to disenfranchise the residents of every largely Black city and school district in the state, encompassing more than half the Black population of Michigan. (The people of Michigan rejected the legislation in a referendum, but Republican lawmakers simply passed a near-identical measure, as if nothing had happened.)
The 82 percent Black metropolis is under siege, in the Medieval sense of the term. Just as ancient armies deprived towns under siege of food and water, to starve and thirst them into submission, so Kevin Orr has caused the Detroit Water and Sewage Department to cut off tens of thousands of residents, in an escalating trajectory of systematically inflicted mass punishment and pain designed to make life in the city unbearable for a huge proportion of the population.
This is a war against a Black city, and a blueprint for future aggressions aimed at shrinking “chocolate cities” across the nation. What Katrina accomplished through the sudden advent of flood, the corporate strategists in Michigan intend to achieve by emergency dictatorship, privatization and blatantly racist official barbarism.

Orr announced a 15-day “pause” in water cut-offs – similar to a temporary “truce” in siege warfare – as much to give cover to bankruptcy judge Rhodes who, while no less bestial than the managing dictator, seems more sensitive to public perceptions. United Nations experts condemned the shut-offs as constituting "a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights." Thousands demonstrated against the cut-offs in downtown Detroit, and others carried out direct actions, blocking the vehicles of disconnect crews.
Two lawsuits have been filed to halt the water-torture. One, by the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, the Peoples Water Board, the Michigan chaper of the National Action Network chapter, Moratorium Now, and a host of individuals, challenges Orr’s actions as a violation of residents’ constitutional and contractual rights. A class action suit, launched by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, says the cut-offs are racially motivated. The private companies that have been empowered to act for the Detroit’s Water and Sewage Department “are basically Caucasian companies," said attorney Alice Jennings. "The folks who are being cut off are almost one hundred percent African-American."
And that is, of course, the whole point. The finance capitalists that run this country would like to disenfranchise the entire population so that money could exercise its exclusive “freedom of political speech” and action, unimpeded. In order to generate the least resistance, the model for urban corporate rule must be created in Black America, just as privatization of public education was modeled in the inner cities. White folks won’t care, and Black folks don’t matter – certainly, not to President Obama, who has signed off on the every element of the siege of Detroit (and has been far more effective than George Bush in privatizing the public schools, as well).

Most importantly, finance capital – Wall Street, the people who employ Kevyn Orr and his Jones Day law firm – demands the shrinkage of Black urban populations as a prerequisite for full-scale investment in the cities. Urban assets are devalued by the mere presence of large numbers of Black people, for the simple reason that most white people continue to refuse to share space with African Americans. Therefore, the “chocolate cities” must go, as a condition for urban “renaissance.” (See Black Agenda Radio, July 21, “Banksters Demand Black Removal as a Condition of Investment.”)

This is a fight against general Black expulsion and deportation. If there is more than a whiff of the Third Reich in the connotation, it is absolutely appropriate.

Glen Ford from here

The Irish Baby Trade

Nearly 2,000 children sent to the United States for adoption there are few or no records of parental consent. Many were apparently sold to wealthy Catholic families.

The Irish government has confirmed that the remains of 474 babies were sent to medical schools between 1940 and 1965, without the consent of their families.

Simple Truths

You need to know this. A little more than fifty years ago, over a quarter of workers belonged to some type of union. Today, fewer than 12 percent of all workers belong to a labor group, and they're under attack by corporations and their lackeys in state and federal government. A half century ago, union membership put power in the hands of employees, and led to some of the highest wages and employee protections in our history. However, thirty years of deregulation, outsourcing, and an overall war on workers cut the percentage of unionized workers by more than half.

 Technically, it is not a crime to be poor in this nation, but it sure may feel like that for the homeless. According to a new study from the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, in more than half of the cities in the US, it is illegal for someone to sit or lay down on a side walk. You don't have to be living on the street to know how and when such laws are enforced. Other cities use laws prohibiting camping or sleeping in public to keep homeless people off of their streets. This new report studied nearly 200 cities, and found an increase of anti-homeless laws since it's last 2009 study. Three decades of Reaganomics, deregulation and NAFTA from Clinton, and two illegal wars and an economic collapse from Bush have all come together to form a perfect recipe to leave more and more Americans on the street.

from here

Capitalist Logic - The Decider

Article 25 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care…”

Water is not specifically mentioned, because as we all know, without water, human beings can’t stay healthy. We die. Water, it was once agreed, is such a basic human right that it is taken as a given.

But recently, Detroit’s economically deprived residents have been told by the city’s unelected managers that water is not a human right. Too many people are willing to back this stance, with a lack of empathy that’s hard to fathom. The same callous disdain for basic rights can be seen in the increasing criminalization of the homeless in American cities, and the belief that it’s fine for the US government or its allies to blow people to bits for possibly standing too close to a terrorist.

Once you’ve persuaded people that nobody has an inherent right to water, shelter or even life itself, who will believe education is a human right? Who will believe that everyone has the right to access health care, to earn a living wage or to make their own decisions about whether or not to reproduce?

from truthout

Fact of the Day (2)

Millions of people across England are destined to die nine years earlier than they should - and have their lives blighted by ill-health prematurely - because they are poor.

Women born in the bottom decile expected to die by the time they are 79 years old, seven years earlier than the most affluent at 86.

Men in the most deprived part of the population across England, dubbed the "bottom decile" by statisticians, are set to die before they reach 74 years old – almost a decade earlier than those in the top decile, who can expect to live until they are 83 years old.

The average salary of people in Tower Hamlets is just £11,400. Four in 10 children in the borough live in poverty. Men living in the London borough can expect to start having health problems when just 52 years old – 18 years earlier than those living in the least deprived parts of the country. And boys and girls born in Tower Hamlets have life expectancies below the average for England, destined to die by the ages of 77 and 82 respectively.

US Child Poverty

According to the Annie. E Casey Foundation an annual analysis suggests that child poverty rates in the United States have been rising since the early 2000′s. The annual report is called the Kids Count Data Book, it has the results from a survey of the well being of children in 50 states and it ranks the states on 10 core indicators and overall well being.

23% of American children in 2012 were living below the poverty line.

Patrick McCarthy, the CEO of the foundation suggests that these low income families still haven’t been able to recover from the Great Recession. Since not many resources are made available by the government programs and transportation, housing and food costs are increasing which not only makes it difficult to survive but fuels the cycle of poverty so the poor either stay poor or keep getting worst.

Fact of the Day

In 1990, the life expectancy of an American woman who never completes high school was 77.7 years. The life expectancy of a woman who completes college was 80 years. That makes for a difference of 2.3 years. By 2010, despite all the advances in medicine, the woman who never completes high school is expected to die sooner, at 77.3 years of age. But the woman who completes college is expected to live much longer,  to 83.9 years of age. That's a gap of 6.6 years.">

Shelter Warning

“Every 11 minutes, a family in Britain loses their home. With more and more people having to stretch their finances to breaking point in a bid to makes ends meet, it's not hard to see why,” said Campbell Robb, the chief executive of Shelter.

The number of Britons on the brink of homelessness has surged because of benefit cuts and rising demands on household budgets, the housing charity warns. Shelter reported a huge rise in the amount of people calling into its hotline and seeking advice on rent and mortgage arrears. The charity admitted it can no longer keep up with demand for its helpline.

“A job loss or serious illness can be all it takes to tip someone into a spiral that ends in homelessness,” the charity said.

 Late last year, a joint report by Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) showed that homelessness in the UK has been rising for three years in a row under the twin pressures of housing shortages and government cuts to benefits. The research also revealed that an estimated 185,000 people a year are affected by homelessness in England.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

One man and his inequality

Here's an interesting take on the extent of inequality in the US, from

The city of Lansing in Michigan has a population of 100,000, and they earn about $3.5bn in all. But one man, a hedge fund manager called David Tepper, had the same income (I won't say 'earned' that amount).

Bob Lord, the author of the blog, writes: 
'That’s right, Lansing. The 100 million hours you put into all of the classes you teach, the fires you fight, the cavities you fill, the restaurant meals you prepare and serve, the cars you repair, the drains you unclog, the illnesses you treat, the crimes you stop, and the lives you save are assigned a total monetary value equal to the work of just one man.'

Paul Bennett

Haiti - Even More Open For Business Than Usual

A large-scale tourism project planned for the Haitian island of Île-à-Vache targets “the well-heeled tourist from traditional markets…creating a place of exquisite peace and well-being,” as described in the government of Haiti’s executive plan. The project aims to attract four character types: “the Explorers, the Lovers, the Rejuvenators and the Homecomers.” The corporations behind the project intend to build 1,500 hotels and bungalows along the island’s beaches, an international airport, a golf course, island farms, and tourist “villages” with cafes, shops, and night clubs.

The government touts the project as “community hand-in-hand”, with “equitable distribution of benefits for all.” It says the tourism will be “mothering [to] nature” and is for the “general good.”

The community sees it very differently. A grassroots group, Collective for Île-à-Vache (KOPI), was formed in December 2013 and immediately began organizing multiple peaceful protests, strengthening the voices of the local community, and connecting with allies.

Community members have been mobilizing because they understand the multiple challenges ahead if the project continues as planned. Problems will likely include displacement of people from their land, forced migration to the overcrowded capital in search of work, loss of food production in a hungry nation, further economic impoverishment, and environmental and cultural degradation.

The administration has been making empty promises and telling lies to the inhabitants of the island, while systematically violating their rights and using violence to repress and intimidate those who have been peacefully protesting.

Special police forces, such as the Motorized Intervention Brigade (BIM) and the Intervention and Order Maintenance Corps (CIMO), have a permanent presence on the island now. Preceding the inception of the tourism project, there were only three police officers. In the last two weeks, a SWAT team has been introduced to the island. [The team was described in one account as more than 50 special police forces dressed in black with masks.]

Vice-president of KOPI, Police officer Jean Mathelnus Lamy, was arrested on February 21st.  He was moved to the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince on Februray 25, where he remains without official charges. 

The “peace and well-being” envisioned for the tourists have not extended to the local population. On the contrary, there is a sense of fear around what is impending. It began when the government issued an official decree on May 10, 2013 making all of the offshore islands zones of tourism development and public utility. The proposed plans for the project were created by three Canadian companies: Resonance, 360 VOX, and IBI/DAA. They have little understanding or attachment to community needs.

Since then, the situation has gotten much worse. In August 2013, groundbreaking for the international airport flattened an old-growth forest, which was considered community land. Truxton began dredging a pristine bay known as Madam Bernard without an assessment of the environmental impact on marine ecosystems. Abaka Bay, which is one of the two luxury hotels on the island, illuminated the issue of waste management when a recent human rights delegation spotted the resort’s current method of waste disposal behind the resort. The expansion of Abaka Bay is part of phase I of the project.

Construction on a new road began in late 2013, without any notice, damaging a number of homes and taking out up to 18 coconut trees, which were a critical part of one household’s livelihood. No compensation was offered for the losses, though that is required by the Haitian Constitution. The company working on the road and airport is the Dominican Company Ingeneria Estrella. [The delegation] spoke to one elderly woman whose home is near the airport and has been marked for demolition, as she understands, by the Office of Land Registry (DGI). She stated about the Estrella workers, “They come in and out of my yard without notice and they enter without even a greeting.”

The collective KOPI has been organizing with other grassroots and human right organizations from Port-au-Prince. The group’s demands are (1) transparency and communication about the project, (2) retraction of the May 10, 2013 decree stating that the island is for tourism development and public utility, and (3) release of KOPI’s vice-president, Jean Mathelnus Lamy, who remains in the National Penitentiary, and (4) removal of the special police forces from the island. KOPI consists of 11 steering members and seven additional members in each of the 26 localities on the island.

Largely, the island community is not opposed to tourism. They are in favor of development which is respectful of their needs, which does not exploit nor threaten to take away their land; a project in which their participation is central and integral. However, they strongly oppose the current iteration of the project which is systematically violating their rights.

Last week, Prime Minister Lamothe visited the island again with a government delegation consisting of the Minister of Justice and a delegate from the Ministry of the Promotion of the Peasantry. Multiple communications were issued during this visit from the Ministry of Communication and Martelly-friendly outlets, including Haiti Libre, show what appears to be the prime minister talking to a supportive population about social programs and distributing food.

The untold story in these communications by Prime Minister Lamothe and Minister of Tourism Stephanie Balmir Villedrouin is that the population was told each household would receive 10,000 gourdes, or about US$220, during the visit to help boost microenterprise. When the delegation arrived, no money was distributed, but rather sacks of rice and crackers. Close inspection of the picture of Lamothe speaking, which was circulated by Haiti Libre and the Minister of Communications, shows the audience actually standing in a line for this hand out.

While the population protested the visit with burning tires and blockades, there were few people taking to the streets because of SWAT presence which accompanied the delegation. Warrants were issued for the arrest of KOPI leaders. Many of them have left their homes and gone into hiding unable to continue with their daily livelihood activities.

Villedrouin continues to say publicly the tourism development project is for the community, while the lies, intimidation, and repression continue. The population’s claims were verified in a report issued on April 2, 2014 [by eight Haitian human rights groups which visited the area] to investigate the tensions.

Similar recent foreign investment schemes in Haiti, like new free trade zones, have not brought the much- touted government line of better incomes. Residents of Île-à-Vache are concerned that they will have no power to enforce even the daily minimum wage of $5.11, as has happened with new sweatshops. Further, Haiti’s tourism industry - when it was flourishing in the 80’s – created a collision of wealth and extreme poverty which promoted other informal economies, such as the sex industry which was illuminated in the film Heading South.

Under the platform “Haiti is Open for Business”, the Martelly/Lamothe Administration continues to entice foreign investments with images of stability and security, building of infrastructure financed by PetroCaribe, and incentive policies such as a 15-year exemption from local taxes and duties exonerations on the import of equipment, goods and materials.

Tourism is one of the development pillars of the government in reconstruction/rebuilding following the 2010 earthquake. Tourism is supported by the Bill Clinton, UN Special Envoy to Haiti, who speaks of “Building Back Better.” The other economic pillars include mining, free-trade zones, and monocropping for export, all of which are direct affronts to the livelihoods of the rural peasantry and to food and land sovereignty.

The situation on Île-à-Vache is indicative of all the woes of Caribbean tourism and the model for what is to occur across Haiti. The government continues on its path to implement development to shape what it is calling “an emerging country by 2030.” In reality, these modes of development are further displacing and increasing urban migration; detaching and alienating the peasantry from the land with few alternatives.

Villedrouin does not speak about displacements, but rather “relocation,” when addressing residents of the island, while reporting to Reuters that only five percent of the population will be displaced. Lamothe promises there will be no displacements.

Simultaneously, there are still displacement camps in Port-au-Prince more than four years after the quake. There is no relocation plan for the residents of these camps, and in some areas of Port-au-Prince there is still rubble remaining. If this is the precedent for what happens to those who are displaced in Haiti, then the inhabitants of Île-à-Vache should be concerned about their futures.

Will many farmers and fishers from the island end up in the shantytowns of Haiti, as have hundreds of thousands of displaced farmers before them? Those who were living in hillside shantytowns had the highest mortality rate from the earthquake. Île-à-Vache’s population continues to be unsettled, uncertain of its future.

from here

How to avoid reformism: the perennial question

Some Leninists have been debating recently whether participating in elections and parliament is ‘reformism’. Leaving aside that their aim is not the same as ours (they stand for state capitalism while we stand for socialism), this raises the more general question of the best way to pursue a given aim whatever that aim might be – gradualism, elections, outside pressure, whole hog-ism. It’s the same question that the German Greens faced (before they became completely reformist) when they had their debate some years ago between ‘realos’ and ‘fundis’.

The April issue of Frontline, ‘the central organ of the Front Line Socialist Party’, a Maoist party in Sri Lanka, had an article entitled ‘Elections: Leftwing extremism or petty bourgeois reformism?’ arising out of recent elections there. It states:
‘There is a growing tendency in left circles in Lanka to reject all forms of bourgeois elections. The main argument raised by these elements is that a proletarian party will definitely fall into reformism by participating in elections … According to these extremist elements, struggles for reforms cannot be separated from reformism.’

The article sets out to refute this view by citing Lenin’s attack on anti-parliamentarism in his 1920 pamphlet Leftwing Communism: An Infantile Disorder. That carries no weight with us but it is interesting is that some should be thinking about the relationship between elections, parliament and reforms and how to avoid sliding into reformism – the same debate that took place within the pre-WW1 international Social Democratic movement, from which we emerged, in which we took up a distinctive position.

Frontline’s ‘extremist elements’ are arguing that if a party struggles for reforms through elections and parliament it will end up as reformist by coming to concentrate on pursuing reforms within the system at the expense of the aim of replacing the system as a whole. They are right and they are wrong. Right that getting elected to parliament on the basis of a programme of reforms to capitalism will tend to lead (and historically has led) to a party that does this going reformist. But wrong in saying that the way to avoid this is not to participate in elections at all.

There is another option – to participate in elections on a straight socialist programme of ending capitalism rather than on a programme of reforms to it. This is the position we adopted in the pre-WW1 debate and which we maintain today in the face of criticism from anarchists (who claim that ‘direct action’ is the best way to get reforms) and other anti-parliamentarists (who favour armed insurrection as the only way to win control of political power).

Rejecting reformism – as the policy of try to reform capitalism gradually into socialism – is not the same as rejecting reforms that genuinely improve conditions for workers to the extent that this is possible. It is just not directly campaigning for them.

Another part of the position we worked out on this question was about what a minority of Socialist MPs should do. Our answer was that they should use parliament as a platform from which to denounce capitalism and advocate socialism but that they should not themselves propose any reforms. However, if others propose one, to judge the proposal on its merits, i.e. on whether it would benefit workers or favour the advance of the socialist movement.

Here is a description of how one group of pre-WW1 Social Democrats behaved in parliament:
 ‘They spoke from the floor, introduced exposes about the conditions of the working class, demanded answers from various government ministers about why things weren’t being done better or differently, and participated in committees. But they did not work on legislation or pass laws. On almost all the bills that came before the Duma, they abstained from the vote. When occasionally a law was introduced that would have a certain benefit for the working class, they would vote for it.’

Actually it is the position said to have to have been the policy adopted by the six members of the Bolshevik section of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in the Tsarist parliament in 1912-14, as described in Lenin as Election Campaign Manager (published by the American Trotskyist party, the SWP, which has nothing to do with the British one of the same name).

We are neither Leninists nor admirers of the Bolsheviks but this is not too different from how we would envisage a minority of Socialist MPs acting.



We’ve seen the World Cup at its worst,
The tawdry ticket touts;
The xenophobic mania
From Zaire to Albania,
And liquored lager louts.
We’ve watched fouls blind side of the Ref,
And vicious shoulder bites;
The grabbing of the rival’s shirt
The acting injured on the dirt,
The spitting and the fights.

We’ve viewed the fans in every state,
Who came to see Brazil;
And sanitised Favelas where (1)
Once Rio’s gangsters had a lair
And Drug Lords used to kill.
We’ve noticed many yellow cards,
And slightly fewer red;
The sneaky kicking off the ball
The dodgy trip and phony fall,
And punches to the head.

The object always is to score,
In ninety-minutes clash;
But goals today are just the means
To Bentley cars and Gucci jeans,
And a huge stash of cash.
But FIFA’s boss claims that the game,
Is straighter than a die;                 
But if you fall for that old spiel                                                                                             
It’s certain your bumps need a feel,
As you’ll swear pigs can fly!

(1) Slum areas, some of which were cleaned
up to promote Brazil’s World Cup image .

© Richard Layton

Detroit - Myths Distorting Reality

One year ago Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr filed for bankruptcy. It has been a brutal year for the people of Detroit. Step by step we have seen long cherished rights and values trampled on in the name of financial necessity.

Public lands have been given away. Generous tax breaks have been handed to developers, while elders have seen their pensions taxed and slashed. People have been threatened. Many have lost livelihood, home, and health care. Schools have been closed. Classrooms are packed. Political cronies line their pockets while abusing our children in academies designed to deaden imagination, connection, and creativity.

We the people have been lied to. Kevyn Orr, Jones Day, Rick Snyder and the right wing forces in our country have long been thinking about how bankruptcy can be used to attack pensions, privatize services, and destroy the political power of cities. As early as 2011, Jones Day lawyers were considering how bankruptcy could be used to eliminate pension obligations. Emails released in Court over this year document the secret plotting to move the city toward bankruptcy. Meanwhile Jones Day is collecting millions from Detroit while they peddle their expertize to Puerto Rico.

Orr/Snyder and their corporate sponsors claim cities are just administrative units. Concerns for public health and welfare are reduced to simple equations and potential markets. Political choices, balancing costs and benefits, to whom and for what purpose, are decided behind closed doors, with no public explanation or accountability.

Thus we are faced with decisions that defy rationality. We are presented with conclusions that benefit bankers, businesses, and a small financial elite.

This assault on Detroit includes a form of psychological warfare.  The first shot of this battle was in August of last year. EM Orr told the Wall Street Journal the people of Detroit are “dumb, lazy, happy and rich.’

A storm of protest forced Orr to distance himself from the crudeness of his comment. But its essence guides his thinking. It is the same thinking invoked to justify the aggressive shut offs of water to thousands of Detroiters who cannot meet their bills.

Daniel Howes of the Detroit News reflected it last week when he wrote about “scofflaws.” These are the people of Detroit, he says, who think we “could ignore bills without fear of a shut-off, plead poverty, blame accounting snafus in their books, run to City Hall in search of political intervention, or petition the United Nations in the name of human rights violations. Howes argued that Detroiters are living in a “culture marked by entitlement and abandonment."

Echoing the dumb, lazy happy and rich image, Howes explains that the recent increase in water costs of nearly 9% in a year is “driven by the disproportionately high number of water customers in Detroit who consume water they do not pay for. The result: higher percentage rate increases for Detroiters who do pay than for overall users of the system.”

This effort to demonize and divide people in the city is an old tactic. It ignores basic facts: most notable among them is that since 2005 there have been efforts to tie the cost of water to the ability to pay. This would be both financially sound and ensure the right of all to water.

Because the city has not implemented the Water Affordability Plan, approved by Council in 2006, Detroiters are paying twice the national average for water. In the last decade, our bills have increased 119%. Most residents pay 20% of their pretax income for water, nearly ten times the EPA recommendation.

Howes, Orr, Snyder, Duggan, most of the city council and administrators at the water department know nothing of the people in this city.  They make decisions based on myths, supported by a right wing ideology. Then they repeat the myths over and over again, to try to get the rest of us to believe in their distorted reality.

from here

Looking for job or looking after the kids?

Our welfare system is designed to put everyone to work regardless of circumstance. Unfortunately, the low-wage jobs attainable for most mothers lead to a parental quagmire. Between low paychecks and inflexible work schedules, how is one to arrange for adequate child care? With no apparent options, the answer is often that they simply cannot. When the cost of care is so high, it becomes hard for women to earn enough money to cover their childcare bill.

Figures released by the European Commission last month revealed that Ireland has has some of the highest fees in the EU for early childhood education and care for children under three. According to OECD figures from earlier this year, Ireland is one of the two most expensive countries in the world for childcare, with the average family of two spending 40 per cent of the average wage on childcare costs. Childcare costs prevented 56 per cent of parents from looking for a job. According to 2013 figures, the average fee for childcare nationally was €152 per child per week. For a two-child family, that amounts to almost €16,000 per year. The Donegal Childcare Committee last year found that the average family with two children was paying €16,500 annually for full-time childcare.

“When you consider the average income in Donegal is €18,000, it’s clear that working families in our country have few or no choices,” said Avril McMonagle, manager of the committee, who added that mothers in the workforce were particularly impacted.

Promises ...promises...always promises


The new global sustainable development agenda of the UN is taking shape

End global hunger and all forms of malnutrition and poverty by 2030, along with all urban slums around the world.  Make sure that the income of the bottom 40 percent of the population in all countries grows faster than the national average. Achieve “global resource efficiency,” and try to separate economic growth from “environmental degradation and resource use” everywhere over the next decade and a half. Halve the number of deaths from road traffic accidents globally (an estimated 1.24 million in 2010, according to the World Health Organization) by the same date—and “reduce levels of violence and halve related death rates everywhere” by then too.

Jens Martens, director of the Global Policy Forum, told Inter Press Service (IPS) that, in general, the current list of proposed goals and targets is not an adequate response to the global social, economic and environmental crises and the need for fundamental change. The proposed SDG list, he pointed out, contains a mix of recycled old commitments and vaguely formulated new ones (such as the goal 1.a. to “ensure significant mobilization of resources from a variety of sources to provide adequate and predictable means to implement programs and policies to end poverty in all its dimensions”). Martens told IPS “What we need, instead, are measurable goals for the rich,” said Martens. He said any post-2015 agenda must address the structural obstacles and political barriers that prevented the realization of the MDGs, such as unfair trade and investment rules (including the investor-state dispute-settlement mechanism) and the problems of tax evasion and tax avoidance by transnational corporations and wealthy individuals. “Why not have a target to close down all tax havens by 2020?” he asked.

Water and sanitation was not a “stand-alone goal” in the current MDGs but only a secondary goal under Goal 7 on “environmental sustainability.” Nadya Kassam, global head of campaigns at the London-based WaterAid, told IPS, “We believe water and sanitation must be a stand-alone goal for the post-2015 framework, and we are encouraged by what we’ve seen so far.” She said it is unthinkable that water, sanitation and hygiene could not be included—they are critical to so many other outcomes, such as good health, education and economic growth. Kassam said access to sanitation is lagging the furthest behind, and at the current rates of progress, it would take sub-Saharan Africa, as a region, over 150 years just to reach the existing goal of halving the proportion of people without.

The final set of goals is to be approved by world leaders in September 2015.

Quote of the Day

"They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can. They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. They want the more dead, the better."
"The Jews gradually are having to depend more and more on themselves, and have recently found a new trick. They knew the good-natured German Michael in us, always ready to shed sentimental tears for the injustice done to them.One suddenly has the impression that the Berlin Jewish population consists only of little babies whose childish helplessness might move us, or else fragile old ladies. The Jews send out the pitiable. They may confuse some harmless souls for a while, but not us. We know exactly what the situation is."
From Glenn Greenwald here

The sad state of the UK

Real wages in the UK continue to plunge. The latest ONS data showed that. Average weekly earnings were £478 a week, down from £479 in December 2013 and exactly the same as observed in April. Pay was up 0.3 per cent over the last twelve months, which is the lowest ever, and exactly zero in the five months that we have data for since the start of 2014. We have now had monthly estimates of £478 in January, February, April and May and one of £476 in March so there isn’t much growth there.

 In contrast the Retail Price Index grew 2.6 per cent over the last year, so real wages are currently falling at more than 2 per cent per annum. The Average Weekly Earnings is up by 6.5 per cent since May 2010 while the RPI is up 14.6 per cent. So real wages are now down 8 per cent.

 A recent study published by the Department for Work and Pensions showing how Iain Duncan Smith’s much hated bedroom tax had further hurt living standards of the vulnerable. The study found there was widespread concern that those who were paying the tax were making cuts to other household essentials or incurring other debts in order to pay the rent. More than half reported cutting back on household essentials and a third on non-essentials in order to pay their shortfall. A quarter said they had borrowed money, mostly from family and friends.

The unemployment rate of those aged 16-24 was 18 per cent compared with 5 per cent for those ages 25-49 and 4 per cent for those 50 and over. A report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies confirmed that the young have been hurt the most by the Great Recession.

 The employment rate of those in their 20s has fallen, while employment among older individuals has not and real pay among older workers has fallen much faster than among older workers. As a result young adults’ real incomes have fallen much more than any other age group. Comparing 22 to 30 year-olds in 2013 with 2008, median household income fell by 20 per cent when housing costs are included. This compares with a fall of only 11 per cent for those aged 31 to 59. The fall in income for young adults since 2008 is entirely accounted for by lower employment and sharp falls in real pay for those employed.

The earnings falls among young workers, the study found, are partly due to lower hours of work including more part-time work – some of which is involuntary, as indicators of ‘under-employment’ have risen. Older workers want fewer hours young people want more. However, the hourly wages of youngsters have fallen particularly sharply. Median hourly wages fell by 11 per cent in real terms for employees aged 22–30 between 2008 and 2013, and by just 3 per cent for those aged 31–59. Just over a quarter of people aged 22 to 30 live with their parents, and this proportion rose by 2 percentage points during the Great Recession the study found. So fewer youngsters have been able to strike out on their own than in the past; a fast growing house price bubble has made that task even more difficult especially in the South-east and London.

Taken from here