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Wonk Watch

On the subject of Civitatis International

Yes, that’s Civitatis, not Civitas. And I can’t remember why or when I came across them. But I did and my general impression was, not for any reason I can put a finger on, hmm, that’s not quite kosher.

A former aide to a Liberal Democrat peer has been condemned for charging former unpaid interns at his thinktank “£300 a go” for employment references.

Jan Mortier, who describes himself as a former consultant to Lord Garden, a one-time defence spokesman for Nick Clegg’s party, has admitted that he charges former unpaid trainees at his Civitatis International organisation for references, but denied that they had been interns, on the basis that they had been “trained directly” by him.

Score one for instinct I guess.

You can’t win with these fuckers, can you?

Poverty inquiry finds growing inequality in schools
Gulf between children from low- and high-income families is starker than ever, leading to social isolation and bullying

The obvious answer to which is that children from poor and children from rich families should be educated separately. Yet the entire thrust of education policy for the past 70 years is that all children, rich and poor, must be educated together in comprehensives.

Meaning that it’s just not possible to win, is it? Either all are educated together in which case there will be such inequalities but if we do something about separating the unequal then we’re divisive fuckers, aren’t we?

Slightly missing the point here George

Monbiot is complaining about the IEA being tobacco funded which leads to the head of the IEA stating this on the radio:

Here’s what Mark Littlewood said on the Today programme: “The evidence out of Australia, who, in their extreme unwisdom in my view, have offered to be the guinea pigs for planet earth on whether this policy works, having had plain packaging or standardised packaging in place for a year over there, the early evidence suggests no change at all on smoking prevalence. And, lo and behold, the black market in cigarettes has jumped markedly.”

George rejects this because of who is saying it. But the important point is actually whether it is true or not.

And of course it is true. No matter who says it or how they’re funded.

It’s all rather Soviet really, similar to that idea that only those with the proper proletarian background could produce art or philosophy or politics……

George also has a pop at ASI funding and just to make it clear I have absolutely no idea at all where such funding comes from. Not a clue.

Lucky we\’ve got all those food banks then

Food bank inquiries soar as further working class families slide into poverty

Millions find it harder to put food on the table as low wages, welfare cuts and high cost of living take their toll

Imagine what it would be like if we didn\’t have them?

Slightly more seriously, it\’s an error to use evidence that a problem is being solved as an argument that there\’s a problem requiring solving. We\’ve a society with sufficient solidarity that people are voluntarily providing both food and a food distribution system for those that require it. This is not an argument that \”something must be done\”. This is evidence that something is being done.

The charity said the worst affected area was the West Midlands, where there had been a 142% increase in inquiries – 779 in total – since February……In our Solihull office, staff say they are giving out food parcels on average once every two days.

800 people in 6 months? One incident every two days? Isn\’t this the sort of level of activity that is best dealt with by voluntary cooperation? Rather than the State and its hobnail boots?

Gillian Guy, chief executive of the charity said: \”Food banks have no place in modern Britain.

Why? If there are people who, for whatever reason, do not have enough food why is it wrong that, purely through the charity of their hearts, people organise a method of getting food to those who do not have enough? What the hell is wrong with the citizenry solving the citizenry\’s problems? And aren\’t we all told we should be being less individualistic and more communal anyway?

And they\’re lying about the wealth distribution again

Committing Worstall\’s Fallacy even:

Take a look at the astonishing chart of property wealth published by the New Economics Foundation and you get an inkling of why attempts to challenge the concentration of private property are denounced as fascism. The graph, using government statistics, suggests that the average property wealth of the top 1% of households is £15m. \”The 1% are worth more than the bottom 99% put together.\” By focusing on income rather than property we have gravely underestimated the extent of inequality.

That\’s Monbiot, who links to this from NEF. Which is based upon this from ONS.

And I\’m afraid it\’s wrong. Simply, just wrong.

In 2008/10, aggregate total wealth (including private pension wealth but excluding state pension
wealth) of all private households in Great Britain was £10.3 trillion.

For what this is is a measure of wealth before we do all the things that change the distribution of wealth. For example, the state pension pays out £5k a year or so. This is an inflation proofed annuity. As such it has a capital value of around £100k (pay £100k for an annuity you\’ll get about £5k a year inflation proofed).

Thus every OAP at age 65 (umm, 66 now?) has wealth of £100k.

Similarly, a social housing tenancy is a form of property wealth. You get to inhabit a building, for life (some are even inheritable) at below market prices. Yes, this is a form of wealth.

We can go further: by dint of being no more than a citizen you get free health care, free education for the kiddies, you\’ve the whole welfare state backing you up as well. This is wealth. This is why we do these things: we think that they make both individuals and society richer. You know, wealthier.

Absent mental or drug problems (and even then, that\’s falling through the cracks, not by design) it\’s impossible for you to have a standard of living below some £10k* a year as a UK citizen. Which makes you fucking wealthy.

Thus committing the sin of Worstall\’s Fallacy. Measuring something without looking at the things we already do to change what is being measured.

*We can argue about whether it\’s £5k, £12k, but it most certainly ain\’t £0k.

We must kill the IPPR. Hang them, gut them and salt the corpses down

Their report on the living wage.

While the direction of the living wage campaign is ultimately a decision for campaigners themselves we recommend that:

The government funds an independent research unit, be based in a university or in Whitehall, to support further rigorous analysis of the costs and benefits of living wages.

Yes, the usual cuntflappery. Gissa job on the taxpayer\’s cash. Zero work, nice pension, better than having to work for a living innit?

As to the rest of the report. They mention only in passing that the low paid currently get charged income tax and NI. For we have a taxation system which reaches down into the party timer on minimum wages income. For that of course they must be killed. But that\’s not all:

While under current plans, total tax credit expenditure is set to decline and tax credits will be subsumed into the new Universal Credit from late 201343, high marginal tax rates will continue to face large swaths of households. This means that raising wages among workers in low-income families will generate significant savings for government, in addition to the increased tax revenues.

They positively glory in the idea that the government will be able to nick more money from poor people. Presumably to fund that research body that will look into hte effects of the living wage. Increase the amount stolen froim the poor of our society to pay for academic wibbling by those advocating the theft.

For that we need to hang them, gut and salt the corpses and display them on gibbetts around the country. Seriously, this is cuntitude of the grossest form.

Kayte Lawton is a senior research fellow at IPPR.
Matthew Pennycook is a senior research and policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation.
Laura Bradley provided background research for chapter one, and Alex Hurrell and Howard Reed contributed to the analysis in chapter five. Original analysis in chapter four was conducted by Rebecca Riley at the National Institute for Economic and Social Research. The authors would like to thank David Coats, Arnie Graf, Rhys Moore, Marc Stears and Matthew Whittaker for input and advice during the project; and Graeme Cooke, Tony Dolphin, Mubin Haq, Gavin Kelly, Nick Pearce and James Plunkett for advice throughout and comments on earlier drafts of this report.

All of you should hang your heads in shame: in the absence of that we should indeed take a righteous and bloody revenge.

How fucking can you argue that the poor should be taxed to provide you with a comfy sinecure?

Shouting at the IPPR

\”Furthermore, a tax-cutting strategy also weakens the UK’s already precarious tax base and totally ignores the underlying drivers of low pay, including the falling share of GDP going to workers (especially those at the lower end of company pay scales).\”

That is, of course, a hugely enjoyable argument.

For the falling wages component of the labour share of income is due to rises in employers NI. Tax rises that is. And the falling labour share of income is offset by the rise in VAT in the taxes minus subsidies part. A rise in taxes that is.

So, the falling share of wages in GDP is because of rising taxes in GDP. And you then suggest that cutting taxes is a bad idea because wages are falling as a percentage of GDP?

Most, most amusing.

Do come back to us when you can count to five without taking your mittens off.

They\’re ignorant fuckers over at the IPPR aren\’t they?

On the subject of the Resolution Foundation

The opening line of their report on childcare in the UK:

As a result of significant investment over the last decade, the affordability of childcare as a percentage of disposable family income has improved for most families, although costs remain among the highest in the OECD.

There has been no fucking investment in childcare. There has been an increase in current spending.
No one has built an asset, one that will make a return over the years to come. There has simply been an increase in the lifting of money from one section of the population to spunk it over the desires of another section of the population.

This is not investment. It is tax and spend.

And that\’s all you need to know about the Resolution Foundation. They are ignorant, ignorant tosspots. Who can and should be safely ignored.

Hang them all!

Resolution Foundation: the case study

They really should have thought a little more about this:

Clair Beattie, who lives in Nottingham and works part-time as a hairdresser, looks back to her parents\’ generation and wishes things could be like that now.

Her father had a good profession: he was a builder who brought home a decent wage. Her father-in-law, working in the same trade, owned his own company. His prosperity meant his family owned their own house and went away every year on holiday.


By contrast, Clair and her husband Dan struggle. They don\’t complain too much, largely because they have two lovely daughters – one four and the other 17 – as well as an 18-year-old son who has left the family home. But life is tough. Dan\’s expertise is in air conditioning and because there are few jobs in that field in Nottingham he works 50 to 60 hours in London every week.

So we\’re going to compare, over the generations, the living standards of the capitalist exploiting the workers and the worker being exploited are we?

Very good matching of your comparison set there, eh?


Resolution Foundation: Yup, nonsense

Living standards for low- and middle-income households will fall until 2020, even if the country enters a golden period of steady economic growth, according to an incendiary analysis of deepening income inequality in Britain.

Scary, eh?


The study identifies several reasons for the deepening divide in living standards. While new jobs are being created, it finds that many are at the top and the bottom of the income scale, with few in the middle. By 2020, it says, Britain can expect 2m more jobs in high-paid professional and managerial occupations and also growth in low-skilled service roles, with more than 700,000 new positions in retail, caring and leisure. But more traditional jobs in the middle – from skilled administrative roles to skilled manufacturing – are drying up.

Is there a solution for this dreadful prediction?

It also projects a future in which Britain matches the proportion of women in work achieved by the best-performing OECD countries, such as the Scandinavians, which is likely to require a big expansion of childcare provision.

Oh well done there that man. So, we\’ll solve the problem of having an increasing number of low skill and low wage jobs by creating a raft of low skill and low wage jobs in which women look after other peoples\’ children.

Very well done that man. Total friggin\’ genius.

But this is the problem Polly

The aim is to rubbish the poverty measure accepted by all international organisations and to call for new measures that ignore inequality.

All of those international organisations use a definition of poverty which is about inequality, not poverty. So if you wish to insist, as is perfectly reasonable even if you don\’t happen to agree, that poverty should be about absolute poverty not relative poverty then you\’re going to be entirely out of step with all of those international organisations.

For example, if we measure UK child poverty by deprivation then we\’re 9 th in the OECD (out of 29).

If we measure by relative child poverty then we\’re 22 nd out of 35.

That is, we are a more unequal country than many other places, thus we have higher relative child poverty, but we have less child deprivation than many other places that are more equal than we are.

It is indeed possible to discuss which measure we ought to be using: but all those international organisations measuring it only by relative poverty are rather closing down that conversation, aren\’t they?

Haven\’t they heard of inflation?

Record number of council staff paid over £100,000 a year
A record number of council officials are paid over £100,000 a year, new figures show.

In an inflationary environment this will always be true given that they\’re using nominal amounts.

OK, cheap shot, because we\’ve not in fact got wage inflation at present and the rise is well above CPI or RPI.

But still…..

Loon on the Loose at Left Foot Forward

Firstly what do we mean when we say ‘capitalism’? Well there are many perspectives on this but most cohere around certain key constructs which themselves drive capitalism’s core growth requirement.

It is an economic system in which specialised producers produce commodities for markets but not for their own subsistence. Capitalists have a monopoly of ownership of the means to production and must sell this production onto the market to receive their own means to subsistence and to purchase new means for production.

No, it ain\’t.

Capitalism is a method of ownership of productive assets. There is no requirement for specialisation, for production for markets, nothing about monopoly either. For example, we have at present a niminally capitalist society but we\’ve an awfully large number of not capitalist producers within that supposedly capitalist economy.

There\’s also nothing inherent in capitalism that leads to the necessity of growth either. Indeed, the growth we do get tends to come not from capitalism but from markets and specialisation: as already noted, not requirements of capitalism.

And then we get true lunacy:

This new economics could have as its new objective not growth for growth’s sake, not money or making markets our gods. Its aim could be to maximise the ecological efficiency of delivering to the wellbeing needs of today’s and future people.

It could seek not to rely on growth of the macro-economy. It could recognise the intrinsic value of the natural world with which we are so spiritually linked. It could once again make us stewards not dominators of nature.

It could be framed not by a drive towards efficiency but one of sufficiency and will require a values shift from extrinsic individualist vales to intrinsic ones which champion collective, greater-than-self solutions to sustainability challenges.

Excellent, so our new economics is going to maximise efficiency by ignoring efficiency.

I think we can let this tosser get back to his tube sock and Whole Earth Catalogue while the rest of us get on with life, eh?


Left Foot Forward\’s interesting view of the demography of Wales

To illustrate a piece on youth unemployment in Wales they use this picture:




According to the 2001 census, 96% of the population was White British, and 2.1% non-white (mainly of British Asian origin).[205] Most non-white groups were concentrated in the southern port cities of Cardiff, Newport and Swansea. Welsh Asian and African communities developed mainly through immigration since the Second World War.[206] In the early 21st century, parts of Wales saw an increased number of immigrants settle from recent EU accession countries such as Poland;[207] though a 2007 study showed a relatively low number of employed immigrant workers from the former Eastern bloc countries in Wales compared to other regions of the United Kingdom.

I guess devolution hasn\’t reached the stock photo agencies yet?

In which we examine the financial smarts of Cormac Hollingsworth again

Not actually very smnart Our Cormac over at Left Foot Forward. In fact, you might says he\’s showing himself to be ignorant.

Recent commodity price rises in the UK mean we need similar information here. For example, why is it that for the past year, UK oil prices – the Brent oil price – has been 10.7p a litre higher than the equivalent American traded oil price?

Hmm, gosh, you know, that is a toughie. So damn tough that even Wikipedia has the answer:

In February 2011, WTI was trading around $85/barrel while Brent was at $103/barrel. The reason that most cite for this anomaly is that Cushing had reached capacity, depressing the oil market in North America, which is centered on the WTI price. However, Brent is moving up in reaction to civil unrest in Egypt and across the Middle East. Since stockpiles at Cushing cannot be easily transported to the Gulf Coast for export, WTI crude is unable to be arbitraged in bringing the two back to parity.

Yes, you see, the WTI benchmark is based upon delivery to Cushing OK. And there\’s lots of delivery to Cushing but not many ways of transporting away from Cushing.

It\’s entirely unlike Cormac\’s suggestion that there\’s excessive speculation or arbitrage in London. Actually, there\’s not sufficient arbitrage in Cushing. Something which you would hope a reporter with a leading union fiunded blog might be aware of.