20 Sep 2012

Commercial activity contracts in all nine monitored sectors

Last week John Major, former PM, was saying he could see green shoots.

Meanwhile Markit Economics says in a 12 Sept press-release "Commercial activity contracts in all nine monitored sectors". Note that this is a survey rather than a forecast so is less likely to be bullshit, though their methodology and error rates are still entirely obscured.

Meanwhile in Europe “The Eurozone downturn gathered further momentum in September, suggesting that the region suffered the worst quarter for three years.

You have to ask what the fuck Major had been smoking - or why anyone is interested in what he has to say anyway (I think he has a new agent because he's been popping up quite a lot lately).

14 Sep 2012

Tony Blair for hire to Central Asian dictatorships

Buckraking Around the World with Tony Blair
- article in The New republic.

Some choice quotes:

"Last year, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair appeared in a dreary neo-Stalinist propaganda video produced by a Kazakh TV station..."

"But for the pious, moralistic leader who wagered his career on bringing down Saddam Hussein through a war he portrayed as a humanitarian imperative, the contrast with his public sector service is striking."

"Meanwhile, Blair has set up a complex, deliberately opaque corporate structure that makes it impossible to know how much money he is making."

"Blair’s transformation into a human cash register has outraged many in Britain, and he continues to collect a pension and benefits that cost taxpayers more than $250,000 per year."

Bombs Away

Guided missiles, but misguided leaders.

Remote controlled drones versus leaders who are remote, out of control drones.

Smart Bombs and dumb leaders.

Any others?

3 Sep 2012

Austerity? What Austerity?

Scott's been saying in comments that "there is no austerity". What do the figures look like? This the graph produced by publicspending.co.uk with the treasury estimate for 2012 (which the government are likely to overshoot).

A rise of £6.63 billion, 
from £681.33 billion to £687.96 billion

 Clearly the rate of increase in spending has slowed, but the total of government spending has continued to increase. So in a sense Scott is right - there is no austerity. In terms of a percentage of GDP total government spending will drop from 45.13% to 44.11% a drop of 1.2%. However we know that the government are likely to overshoot and so it's likely that even in %GDP terms the government will have spent more.

But some sectors have had real cuts. Comparing the 2011 figures with the OBR projections for 2012 (which are unlikely to be very accurate, but are all we have to go on at present).

A cut of £140 million.

A drop of about £20 million 
which is much less than 1%.

A drop of £1.6 billion

Up, then down, and now on the way up again

By Contrast some departments have seen massive increases:

Interest payments spiked in 2011 and continue to rise, 
though we're supposed to have low interest rates

Spending on defence is expected to increase by £170 million; 
but welfare by £2.4 billion, and pensions by £7.8 billion.

The increase in spending is clearly being drive by increases in welfare and pensions from this point of view. Though the IMF points to a drop in government revenue as the primary driver of increased borrowing overall.

Consider that older people are more likely to vote, and tend to vote Conservative. Cutting pensions would be a disaster for a Conservative government. And consider that the government have spent a huge, but undisclosed, amount on anti-welfare propaganda since taking office, and have made every effort to popularise the idea of welfare as payments to the unworthy.

Since they cast the main economic problem as one of too much government debt, this has made welfare cuts a popular policy. This has allowed government to attack people on out of work, illness and disability payments. And note that unemployment is 8% so a lot of people are out of work. Seen in this light the government scramble to cut welfare, thereby placing a heavier burden on the poor and disadvantaged makes good political sense - it not only protects Tory voters, but appeals to Tory moral arguments about the undeserving poor. They may be economic morons, but they have political cunning.

Meanwhile the country is slowly going downhill. The latest reports suggests that removing more regulations (i.e. protections from rapacious business) is the way to prosperity. The trend is to maximise regulations for people and minimise regulations for business. And I can't help thinking that the equation can not add up to anything very prosperous or happy for the masses.