Self employment, money and post-crash economics

My weekly list of links returns. This week, blogs on economics, food banks housing and self-employment. First up, here’s Flipchart Rick with a blog on the remarkable increase in self-employment over the last 12 months:

Self-employed – the nouveau pauvre

On food banks now, and following the Mail on Sunday’s ‘expose’ of food banks, a couple of weeks ago, here, the manager of a food bank responds:

“We will always err on the side of compassion”

There’s been a real trend over the past year of TV docs focusing on poverty and aspects of the social security system. The latest is called “How to Get a Council House” as Jules Birch explains here:

Adjust your set

Here’s a couple of blogs on the DWP. The first details problems surrounding the new Help to Work scheme which aims to bully people into work, and the second is an interview with a Jobcentre Plus advisor:

Chaos at the DWP as bungled Help to Work scheme attempts to launch

Jobcentre Plus advisor: “The reforms have been designed to hide the numbers of unemployed”

Economics now, and there’s a couple of interesting (to me) debates going on in economics at the moment that are getting a bit of attention in the blogosphere. The first is over the nature of money and the role of banks in our society. This blog at Positive Money is quite a good summary of the debate (although I take the other side to them):

The debate on money reform goes mainstream

Another debate in economics has been kicked off following the publishing of a book called Capital in the Twenty-First Century by French economist Thomas Picketty. Larry Elliot in the Guardian explains the hype here, and this book does seem to have single handedly put the issue of inequality back on the table. This could potentially be quite significant as it gives academic respectability to any politician wishing to do something about inequality.

Finally, a third significant event in economics was the publishing of a report by some students at Manchester University into the state of economics teaching at their university. A lot of it chimes with my experience of studying economics (although reading the report, I think my course was probably a lot better). The response from academics has been interesting, mostly denying there is a problem, or playing down the issue. Here’s a good blog suggesting an alternative approach and discusses the response from mainstream economists:

Post-crash economics clashes with ‘econ tribe’

 

Links for the w/e 13.04.14

Just a few links to share this week. First up, Brian Romanchuk gives us a primer on functional finance as proposed by the economist Abba Lerner, which is an alternative approach to government finances:

Primer: What Is Functional Finance?

Next, here’s Bill Black comparing and contrasting two Nobel economics prize winners:

Nobel Schizophrenia over the Georges: Stigler and Akerlof

And here’s a nice interview with economist Ha-Joon Chang:

Ha-Joon Chang: Economics Is A Political Argument

Over in Ireland, it seems some discussion of a full job guarantee may be starting to take place:

Joan Burton wants a job guarantee for everyone on the dole

And to end, because this is a short list this week, we finish with Chris Dillow writing:

In praise of brevity

 

Full employment, April fools and stupid Mr Gove

Here’s my weekly roundup of the best links from the last 7 days. The week started with George Osborne declaring his commitment to full employment. This is what some people thought of Osborne’s pledge, but full employment can be defined in different ways. Neil Wilson provides his definition here:

Full employment is when everybody has a job

Tuesday was April Fool’s Day, and Paul Bernal put out this post. It’s actually a pretty good satire that explains the issues a lot of lefties (me included) have with the Labour Party:

Why I’m rejoining the Labour Party

This week also marked the first anniversary of the Bedroom Tax. Here is Jules Birch’s ‘uncelebration’ of the day:

Many unhappy returns

There have been a couple of articles this week by people with a different (and more accurate) view on how the economy works, that have appeared in more ‘mainstream’ sources. First up, Peter Martin blogged on Labourlist about Ed Balls’ desire to run a budget surplus:

The economics of a budget surplus: Something to think about before making rash promises

And here’s one from Philip Pilkington writing in The Guardian about what he sees as the problem the left faces in trying to increase living standards at the same time as shrinking the importance of the financial sector:

The left needs a deft touch in tackling the financial sector’s dominance

Some more non-conventional perspectives now with another blog by Neil Wilson, countering the oft-heard question “How are you going to pay for it?”:

‘Taxation = Government Investment’ : Each Time, Every Time

And here’s another from Peter Martin on what gives our currency its value:

Want to make your business card worth something? Easy. Start a protection racket!

In this article by former financial regulator Bill Black, he explains how the knowledge to prevent the crisis was already available to us but was ignored:

Three Passages From Akerlof & Romer’s 1993 Article That Should Have Prevented The Crisis

Two more bits to finish. First up, a letter to David Cameron on why privatising the NHS is such a horrendous idea:

The best precis of why NHS (and other) privatisation is a Bad Thing

And finally, here’s a video that seems to be going down well with teachers – “Dear Mr Gove”

 

Welfare Cap, Labour are crap

Quite a lot of links this week, and first up, Scottish Independence. Much of the debate so far has been over what currency an independent Scotland should use. In this post Neil Wilson argues that it’s the real resources of Scotland we should be talking about and that a new Scottish currency would be the best option:

Scottish Independence – a Modern Money analysis

A nice blog from Tim Harford next how governments could start to address inequality, using Finland as an example:

Four steps to fixing inequality

And here Jules Birch discusses the welfare cap which passed through Parliament this week with help from Labour:

Does the welfare cap fit? 

Speaking of Labour, here’s two blogs expressing despair at Labour’s general uselessness:

Labour have stolen my Right to Vote

Oh, Labour

A wonkish this one, but I’ve included it, because it’s well argued. If you’ve know any economics, you’ll probably be OK:

Krugman Uses ISLM to Proclaim Looming Fiscal Crisis, Denounces Those Who Don’t Use ISLM

And finally, I found this blog on self-employment by Flipchart Rick interesting. Lots of nice charts as well:

Is the rise in self-employment really a Good Thing?

 

Poverty porn, appealing the Bedroom Tax and how to rob a bank

The BBC aired another documentary from the ‘poverty porn’ genre this week, where Boris Johnson’s sister, someone off Eastenders, a posh bloke and Theo Paphitis dropped in on people struggling in today’s ‘cost of living crisis’. Here’s two blog posts on issues raised by this show (and others like it):

The Rationale behind Poverty Street Media?

When political issues are reduced to acts of charity

Joe Halewood has been blogging tirelessly on the bedroom tax for months now, and in this post he demonstrates how easy it could be to appeal the bedroom tax:

How to appeal and strangle the bedroom tax – 5 minutes (and you’re almost there!)

For a long time now, it’s been very clear that Jobcentre Plus is no longer worthy of the name. It’s whole operation is now about sanctioning as many people as possible. This blog describes how they may be going beyond what the law allows in their zeal to get people of benefits:

Most jobseeker agreements ruled unlawful – and the DWP doesn’t care

This is a good lay man’s guide to the Ukraine situation:

What Is Going On In Ukraine? An Explanation For the Confused

And here, Neil Wilson blogs on what should happen with the national debt should Scotland vote for independence:

Scottish Independence Myths – The National Debt

In this post, Peter Martin, explains why talk of the need for austerity for years to come is based on ‘muddled thinking’:

Muddled Thinking Watch #1 “We will need decades of austerity not years” writes Philip Booth

Here’s a nice video of a talk by the great Bill Black, explaining “How to rob a bank”.

Finally, yesterday we got the sad news that Tony Benn had passed away at the age of 88. I was excited to go and see him speak a couple of years ago. He was getting frail then, but still in fine form. This 10 minute video is a great reminder that on most things, he was right:

Inflation, corporate welfare and another UKIP SOH failure

A lot of links to get through this week. First up, here’s a post outlining how we might overhaul the tax system to make it more progressive:

Towards a truly progressive tax system

And here’s two posts on inflation. Inflation is low and falling at the moment. Policy makers are so scared of inflation, they avoid policies that might improve the economy:

The Inflation Obsession

What causes hyper-inflation? Weimar Republic, Zimbabwe, Argentina, Venezuela

Next, George Monbiot reminds us that while the Government is obsessed with cutting welfare from those at the bottom, corporate welfare is still alive and well:

The welfare dependents the government loves? Rich landowners | George Monbiot

And here, JD Alt points out the obvious – if the private sector can’t or won’t invest in areas that are vital for future development, then the government should:

Forget the 1%

There was a Panorama this week about food poverty. Patrick Butler gives us the details:

Food poverty: Panorama, Edwina Currie and the missing ministers

‘Making work pay’ is a cliche we hear a lot, but according to this blog post, work already does pay in the vast majority of cases:

Yes, you’re better off working than on benefits – but it’s not enough to reduce poverty

With unemployment still high (athough falling) and the Work Programme failing, Labour say they will introduce a ‘compulsory jobs guarantee’. Details on what this will look like have been vague, but they are now hinting it might look something like this:

Labour would bankroll ‘back to work’ plan on Bradford model

Finally, news of another massive sense of humour failure from UKIP. Tom Pride explains:

Supposedly pro-free speech UKIP tries to ban satirical comedy show

 

 

Farmers, floods, and fraud

A good mixture of links this week in this, my 100th blog post. We start with the floods, and a reminder from George Monbiot that ‘cutting red tape’ can have unintended consequences:

How we ended up paying farmers to flood our homes

The Scottish Independence Referendum has been in the news this week and the debate is hotting up. Alex Salmond wants to keep the pound, but the three main UK parties have all (rightly) said no. Salmond has accused them of trying to scare people into voting no, but here’s why, for an independent Scotland, keeping the pound would be a very bad idea:

Scotland under Sterling is not truly independent

News now of the conviction of 4 A4e staff who claimed money fraudulently on one of A4e’s welfare to work contracts. This is what happens when ‘performance by results’ comes up against the reality of not enough jobs – cheating:

Guilty: The four A4e staff who fiddled the books helping lone parents get back to work

Another story on the bedroom tax now, and news that landlords are beginning to actually help tenants to appeal:

Bedroom tax is appealing: cc all social landlords

This is a nice post looking at what it’s actually like to be out of work and being required to sign on at the job centre. Not nice:

More #JSA stories from jobcentres: “It’s impossible. You’re trapped.”

Related to this, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Jobcentre Plus is no longer concerned with finding people jobs, focusing much of it’s attention instead on simply finding grounds to kick people off JSA. There are stories of staff there being disciplined for not sanctioning enough claimants, and over 800,000 people were sanctioned last year. The number of appeals is high though and over half of these are successful. Now it looks like DWP want to address this not by making better decisions, but by limiting the ability of people to appeal. Are they losing their grip?:

People stripped of benefits could be charged for challenging decision

Bankster news now and another reminder that the increasing power of the banks is incompatible with either democracy or the public good:

Predator Banks Enter Brave New World of Epic Scams and Public Hasn’t Got a Clue

Finally, we end with more ‘disappointing Labour news’, as it’s revealed their flagship policy to help the long term unemployed will only be funded for one year. I have a number of issues with this policy idea, but at least it would put back on the map the idea that governments can (and should) get involved in job creation. It seems though this is another big policy that’s in the end just more PR:

Labour ‘jobs guarantee’ promise limited to a year

JCP PR fail, Labour MP facepalm and the economics of the 1%

This week’s news has been dominated by the flooding in Somerset and in Surrey. Cameron got his wellies on and sprung into action, promising that “money was no object”. Cynics pointed out that it took until the flood waters threatened the playing fields of Eton before he gave a shit. Here’s some non-flood related stories from the last week.

More on the bedroom tax now, and week by week, this is a policy that seems to be on life-support. Labour have promised to scrap it if they win next year, but it the whole thing may have imploded before we get that far. Joe Halewood explains why here:

Councils cant administer an unlawful policy – The bedroom tax is dead!

Jobcentre Plus news now, and David Henke summarises a big PR failure playing out on social media:

Tweet Wars: How humourless Jobcentre Plus was humiliated by bolshie bloggers

Here’s a nice vid of an interview with economist John Weeks in defense of government:

The Economics of the 1%: Neoliberal Lies About Government

News now of a prominent Labour MP doing something entirely in character for the modern Labour Party, but nevertheless a bit shocking. Lecturers at Queen Mary University in London were part of a national strike over pay, but Tristram Hunt decided to cross the picket line in order to deliver a lecture about socialism! Should he not be standing side by side with workers trying to secure better pay and conditions? Hunt strikes me as the sort of politician who would be comfortable in any party. He doesn’t seem to hold any core beliefs. A pretty typical career politician in other words. Here’s the full story:

Tristram Hunt defends crossing picket line for socialism lecture

Finally, here’s Chris Dillow’s recipe for succeeding in business:

How to succeed

The Bedroom Tax, Big Benefits Row and the degradation of the teaching profession

A lot to get through this week, but first up, the Bedroom Tax. UN Special Rapporteur Sharon Rolnik finally published her report in housing in the UK, and as expected, she repeated her call for the Bedroom tax to be scrapped. What was striking during her visit to the UK last year, was the willingness of Ministers like Grant Shapps to tell obvious lies about the visit, like she wasn’t invited (she was) or she hadn’t met any Ministers (she had). There was a similar reaction to her full report as this Guardian article explains:

Ministers savage UN report calling for abolition of UK’s bedroom tax

But Rolnik’s report wasn’t solely focused on the Bedoom Tax. Far from it. Jules Birch gives a very good summary of the report’s findings in a blog for Inside Housing:

Rights Row

And after some interesting decisions in the appeals courts regarding the Bedroom Tax, Joe Halewood – who has blogged tirelessly on this wretched policy – predicts the whole edifice may soon come crumbling down:

The Bedroom Tax is Dead here’s why

Moving on now, and this week Channel 5 hosted a debate provocatively titled “Big Benefits Row”. I watched it myself and found it to be quite shouty, although actually quite sympathetic to those claiming social security benefits. The two exceptions were Katie Hopkins and Edwina Currie. I’m not sure how much they say, they actually believe, as they both seem to make quite a bit of money from being invited on TV to voice opinions many find offensive, but if they are genuine, they would seem to be outstanding examples of Geogrge Lakoff’s “strict father figure” frame, which I blooged about here. In their world, those who do the right thing, work hard and play by the rules will always succeed, so anyone who is claiming benefits must be doing something wrong. You could see this in the show when a member of the audience explained (very robustly!) how she was volunteering, doing training and applying for endless jobs but still couldn’t find work. Edwina Currie’s response was just to shout back at her repeatedly “Get a job” or “Try harder”.

There were two good blog posts I noticed this week from people who were actually in the studio during the debate Jack Monroe and Sue Marsh:

Dear Edwina, Thankyou for last night. I hope it was as good for you as it was for me.

Diary of a Benefit Scrounger: The Big Benefits Row

Teaching now, and I came across this blog post written by a teacher who has recently left the profession. My partner is a teacher, and what what she tells me, a lot of this rings true. This paragraph in particular hits the nail on the head about the stresses teachers are under:

“What I couldn’t cope with was the toxic culture of fear that now pervades the whole profession. People no longer talk about ‘what this brilliant kid did’ – it’s always about who had a drop in and what grade they subsequently received. As a profession, we have been reduced from largely innovative, invested individuals to a bunch of approval-seeking junkies, because we know we’re only as good as our last Ofsted rating. Forget what the kids think of you; forget what the parents think of you, if Ofsted say ‘nope’, then that’s it. You’re not good enough.”

This is no way to treat dedicated professionals, and as the blog goes on to explain, it’s pretty terrible for the kids they teach too:

Life lessons, fear of failure and why I left teaching.

A couple of shout outs for blogs I like now. First, two posts from Irish blogger Robert Nielsen, one on concepts of freedom, and one on endogenous money:

The Two Types Of Freedom

Endogenous Money Or How Loans Create Deposits

And here’s one by Peter Martin on government budgets, and why when people like Ed Balls talk about balanced budgets and surpluses, we should treat them with scorn:

Why Governments Can’t Choose to Run Balanced Budgets.

Finally, with the Winter Olympics getting under way this week in Sochi, there’s been a lot of negative coverage of Russia and what it’s like for gay people there. Channel 4’s Dispatches program aired a documentary about Russian gangs who target gay people over there and video their actions. It’s pretty horrendous stuff. Here’s a video of some tough Russians from the Interior Ministry showing a softer (but obviously completely heterosexual) side:

50p taxes, deficit nonsense and political messaging

This week’s roundup starts with the hysterical reaction to Labour’s announcement of their intention to reinstate the 50p rate of income tax for high earners. Chris Dillow ridicules talk of economic disaster:

The idea that a tax tweak will cause disaster is ignorant of history

Next, also from Chris Dillow, a nice post about some of the nonsense we hear about the public finances:

A lot of talk of the public finances is simply fallacious

Moving on, and Paul Bernal blogs about the worrying news that David Cameron’s views on spying and use of big data stem from the information he’s gleaned from watching TV dramas:

No, Prime Minister

A bit closer to home (to me) now, and a story in my local rag about Bradford Council’s “Employment Opportunities Fund“. This is a successful, but very limited program aimed at creating job opportunities to young, older and people with disabilities who’ve been out of work for a long period of time:

Jobs scheme is to get funding boost

Political messaging now, and an article by Zoe Williams on George Lakoff and why the conservatives (small c) are winning. Among other things, Lakoff explains why rebutting moral arguments with evidence often doesn’t work:

George Lakoff: ‘Conservatives don’t follow the polls, they want to change them … Liberals do everything wrong’

Another thing that happened this week was that some people got offended. A couple of those who were offended said they were all for free speech but people shouldn’t say or do some things. In other words, they don’t believe in free speech. And these were Lib Dem activists! People general don’t have a right not to be offended as comedian Steve Hughes explains well :

Steve Hughes – What’s wrong with being offended?

Last up, and following news that whistleblower Edward Snowden has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, here’s a nice interview with Snowden which aired recently on German TV:

German Television does first Edward Snowden Interview