Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mild crookery? So what?

So, the world economy is collapsing; idiots in the media are giving vague credence to madmen like Jim Rogers (who's failed to notice than on absolutely every metric, the US is more screwed than the UK); unemployment has risen; and generally there is an awful lot of serious stuff worth bothering with.

In the meantime, the main issue for the day for our elected representatives is some nonsensical hair-shirted attempt to ensure that we can all peruse the scanned receipt for every coffee they buy and every taxi they take home.

This is ridiculous petty nonsense of the first order. These people/idiots/crooks [*] are in charge of trillions of pounds worth of our money, and get paid very little: as someone who's been mildly successful at 30ish in the not-financial-services private sector, there's no way in hell I'd take the pay cut, tedium, job insecurity, and utter public crucifixion if you ever do anything human and trivial but irrelevant (cheat on partner, get beaten by hookers, take big lines of coke, etc) of being an MP. Most people I know in a similar situation would never do the job either, for the same reason.

While I accept that abolishing allowances and raising MP salaries to the point where a grown-up with a bit of life experience and who'd been vaguely successful beforehand might consider applying for it would be better, that's not going to happen while idiots who're grumpy about earning fuck all because they deserve fuck all get to choose what happens (this is called 'democracy'). So instead, MP salaries are kept low, and the only people who enter are either pathetically grateful to make anything higher than you'd get for cleaning windows with your tongue, or ropey cheats on the make who realise there's scope to go beyond the official pay through crookery.

Now, MPs actually have a lot of say in what happens in the country. Not as much as they once did, sure, but still a lot. Given that the only people in parliament who aren't stupid are on the make, which situation would you prefer: the one where they shaft their allowances until their salary approaches something liveable; or the one where they actually rely on directorships, companies, think-tanks, European institutes, and other people who'll happily reward them in exchange for making public policy that serves the paymasters' interests?

It's clear that the negative consequences of the MPs who take the second option, given the assorted way that vested interests screw all of us all the time, exceed those of the ones who take maximum allowance. Back of envelope: gbp250k x 650 MPs = gbp163m per year. That's the cost of *one* stupid initiative in one fairly minor department...

So yeah, I don't give a fuck about MP salaries or expenses; if you do you're a moron; and they're a distraction from the real issues that surround government. Like business people, or indeed anyone, they should be held to account for the benefits and costs of their actions. Their wages and expenses are completely irrelevant.

[*] I accept that George Galloway, frinstance, counts under 2 here; Neil Hamilton under 2 and 3...

15 comments:

PDF said...

(see DK's post upthread for comments on this)

Andrew said...

"So, the world economy is collapsing; idiots in the media are giving vague credence to madmen like Jim Rogers (who's failed to notice than on absolutely every metric, the US is more screwed than the UK)"

Did you even read the article you linked to, or know anything about Jim Rogers beyond that piece? He's one of the most prescient living commodities investors, and, far from being some sort of nationalist US fanatic, thinks that the dollar is collapsing under the weight of loose monetary control. He's put his money where his mouth is: he emigrated to Singapore to relocate his investment strategy in the emergent Asian markets.

From the same Times article to which you linked in support of your claim(?!):
"Mr Rogers gave no further reasons for his contemptuous assessment of Britain's prospects, but his view of America's bail-ut plan, which is similar to Britain's in many respects, probably explains his scepticism.

“The idea that you can fix a period of excess borrowing and excess consumption by more borrowing and more consumption to me is just ludicrous,” he has said.

He is also deeply gloomy about the time it will take to resolve the problems of the credit crunch. “Most Americans alive today won't be around by the time the last of this credit market mess is finally cleared away,” he said last August."

[emphasis added]

I'd recommend you remove this ridiculous claim. It simply verifies the observation that, when posting online and anonymously, people bullshit with extraordinary confidence.

Mac the Knife said...

"the one where they shaft their allowances until their salary approaches something liveable;"

Uh? What the FUCK are you talking about?

These people's basics are three times the median (if you even believe that, I suspect the average salary is closer to 17k). Liveable my arse.

Would you take on any job that didn't meet your salary needs if you didn't have to?

These cunts are thieves, bums and bastards. I loath them.

Henry Crun said...

"So yeah, I don't give a fuck about MP salaries or expenses; if you do you're a moron; "

Well I must be a moron. I do give a fuck about MPs expenses. I have to account to HMRC for every penny I spend in the course of business. Likewise, so must MPs. That is not their money they are forking it out, it's our taxes they are spending. I, for one, want to see what they spend it on.

It isn't the minutiae of the expenditure, it's the principal of them claiming up to £25 per day sans justification.

Obnoxio The Clown said...

I don't even know where to begin with this. I guess all I can say is that you are completely and utterly wrong from start to finish.

dalethecaptain said...

'they're a distraction from the real issues that surround government. Like business people, or indeed anyone, they should be held to account for the benefits and costs of their actions.'

I agree with that comment in general. However, unless you are proposing anarchy and ritual torture of the current flock of MP's, you are not going to get anywhere with the 'real issues' in government unless you/we continually chip away at the bullshit laws piled on the populous in the last 10 years. One down, thousands more to go...

Roger Thornhill said...

PDF, Jim Rogers foresaw the problems in March 2007, almost two years ago.

Go to Youtube and search for it, I am sure it is there.

PDF said...

It simply verifies the observation that, when posting online and anonymously, people bullshit with extraordinary confidence.

Similarly when Cassandra-ish cranks, having been proved 'not entirely wrong' for the first time in their careers, are being interviewed as 'experts' on the radio. Rogers is wrong; his comments are irresponsible and damaging for the UK and global economy; and his analysis yesterday ('oil prices are down and FS is down so the UK is screwed') was ignorant nonsense. Yes, it's probably true that he's talking up a UK crash because if one happened it'd vindicate his view on the US; that doesn't make him right, or not a twat.

Budgie said...

PDF said: "... madmen like Jim Rogers (who's failed to notice that on absolutely every metric, the US is more screwed than the UK); ..."

"absolutely"? So even on one "metric" (how pompous is that?) PDF would be wrong. In fact the USA is better off than the UK in a number of respects. The US is richer, has more resources, more land, more minerals, is more productive, fairer taxation (the poorer the less tax paid cf UK), less personal debt, less government debt (USA 70% UK over 100%), better able to defend itself, has an accountable government (UK part of unaccountable EU), etc.

In fact none of the developed economies are in good shape: Japan has stagnation, asset deflation and massive government debt; the Eurozone is strangled by the "one-size-fits-all" euro; the UK has Brown's boom and bust; the USA has repealed Glass-Steagall and strengthened the CRA (both by Democrats). It's doom all the way - just wait for Brown's UK inflation to kick back in.

Pogo said...

Concerning Rogers... Just remember that he's speaking for one person only, Mr Rogers, not the populace in general. He's doubtless sitting on huge short positions in Sterling (and maybe Dollars) and is using his notoriety to talk his position up. Nowt else.

pdf said...

"The US is richer"

Meaningless: the UK was richer until November.

less government debt (USA 70% UK over 100%)

That's just balls. Before the latest set of bail-outs, US was 70% and UK was 50% (in both cases I'm not including healthcare and pension payments that the government might have to make at some unspecified future point, because that isn't debt). If the UK is currently higher, that's because the US hasn't yet gone through the current round of bank saving - but it will.

better able to defend itself

Yeah, because war is our major concern right now. Who's invading exactly...?

has an accountable government (UK part of unaccountable EU), etc.

US: people vote for State and Federal congressmen. Europe: people vote for national and EU MPs. The only difference is that the Senate-equivalent is chosen by state representatives (as the US one was until 18mumble), and the EU doesn't have an elected President...

Budgie said...

PDF - you said "absolutely" - you have not been able to defend that.

The USA is richer than the UK. Moreover, you cannot just arbitrarily dismiss the pension liabilities as "not debt" unless you are Robert Maxwell in disguise (and I claim my £5).

As for the EU being as remotely accountable as the US government is - are you insane?

pdf@pigdogfucker.com said...

The USA is richer than the UK.

So you keep saying. Until this crisis started, the UK was richer than the US. It doesn't make sense to make comparisons until both sides have fully written down their assets, put their banks on the books, etc.

you cannot just arbitrarily dismiss the pension liabilities as "not debt" unless you are Robert Maxwell in disguise (and I claim my £5).

In the context, it's not debt, because it's money owed to the UK by the UK. It doesn't affect the country's position, it's just a question of how future income will be distributed between taxpayers and public sector pensioners.

Budgie said...

PDF - you originally stated "on absolutely every metric, the US is more screwed than the UK". You have failed to justify that statement even on the few issues I highlighted. Using "absolutely" is almost always foolish.

The relative wealth of the US vs UK does depend on whether the criteria is total or per capita, and when that wealth is estimated. However "Among the largest economies, Britain boasted the third-highest average wealth of $126,832 (£64,172) per adult, after the United States and Japan (UN report - Times). And "According to the World Bank [in 2004], ... the UK, at $2.14 trillion [GDP, was] fourth richest behind the USA, Japan and Germany." (ESRC)

Since the US is richer than the UK with lower per capita government debt and less personal debt, it must be better placed than the UK.

As for your claim that state pension liabilities are "... not debt, because it's money owed to the UK by the UK", it must be a joke, right?

Debt is debt even within the UK. The pension fund that should have been built up by the state employees' contributions does not exist. If the fund existed the government clearly would not have to find that fund of money. If the fund existed, current tax revenue would not be needed to pay pensions.

So the value of the fund required to finance the pension liabilities is the amount of debt owed by the government. This must be added to all the other UK government debt such as PFI, Network Rail, (new) bank liabilities, and the admitted debt.

We are in an extremely bad position, mainly as a result of Brown's incompetence.

PDF said...

"Since the US is richer than the UK with lower per capita government debt and less personal debt"

But we actually know that at the start of the crisis the US had *higher* per capita government debt.

'Richer' is a fairly meaningless term, but we also know that at the start of the crisis the UK was ahead on some measures, the US on others, and so 'about the same' is clearly the right answer.

"If the fund existed, current tax revenue would not be needed to pay pensions."

Similarly, if a giant Defence Fund existed, current tax revenue wouldn't be needed to pay for defence. But we don't create a massive accounting fiction called 'future defence of the realm liabilities' and pretend it's part of the national debt.