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Monday, February 28, 2011

Why don't EU stop posturing?

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/28/2011 10:10:00 pm

Your humble Devil has finished performing in Barnes Charity Players' triumphant production of Terrance Rattigan's Flare Path (a production of which, starring Sienna Miller, is about to start a run in the West End); as such, it is time for me to ease myself back into the sordid tedium of commenting on the deeply sordid political scene.

Scanning through the blogs, I was heartened—if not entirely convinced—by my friend Mark Wallace's assessment of the politicos' current attitude towards the EU.
When The Freedom Association launched the Better Off Out campaign in 2006, its aim was not to convert every MP overnight but to demonstrate that the doomsayers were mistaken.

By proving that the sky did not fall in on the heads of Philip Davies, Philip Hollobone or Douglas Carswell, they started a process of erosion that has seen many other MPs feel free to speak out on the topic. There are now 21 MPs as well as numerous MEPs, councillors and Members of the Northern Irish Assembly who are signed up.

Davies, Hollobone and Carswell turned marginal seats at 2005 into hefty majorities in 2010 despite or because of their EU views – they drank from a supposedly poisoned chalice and they are in hearty health.
...

To change the politics of the EU debate, we need to sweep away a deeply entrenched system of perception and assumption. The cracks are showing in Parliament, the stubborn obstructionism of our opponents is starting to break down, Fleet Street’s unanimity is broken and – crucially – there are signs that there may be sales and votes in the issue.

Make no mistake about it, the plates are shifting.

Perhaps so, especially since Mark links to a James Forsyth report that Oliver Letwin has even mooted the idea of a referendum on our membership of the EU.
Constantly being told what you can and can’t do by Brussels is driving Ministers and No 10 deeper and deeper into the Eurosceptic camp.
Oliver Letwin, Cameron’s mild-mannered and cerebral Policy Minister, has become so frustrated by this constant interference that he has told colleagues he thinks Britain should leave the European Union if it won’t give us all the opt-outs the Government wants.
Letwin is not alone in thinking this. In one department, a recent meeting between a Secretary of State and a junior Minister ended with the pair agreeing that the only solution to the problem they were discussing was to get out of the EU.

If true, this is indeed something of a turnaround for that turn-coat Letwin; long-time readers might remember that, in 2007, I reported on an email conversation I had with Oliver Letwin—a conversation that was updated, after an incredibly spineless reply from Letwin, in June 2007.

In essence, Letwin delivered three reasons for being in the EU, all of which I rebutted in a long reply; Letwin's considered response was that "we shall have to agree to differ". If even he is considering a referendum then we may have turned a corner.

However, I think it very unlikely that this is the case—I have neither seen nor heard anything in the last four years to make me think that Letwin has changed his mind on this issue.

No, I think it far more likely that this is the first in a series of bargaining gambits: having seen their naive leader get shafted—and made to look like a total idiot—over the EU budget, the Tories have decided that it is time for them to play at being tough. This idea is contained within one of the paragraphs quoted above... [Emphasis mine.]
Oliver Letwin, Cameron’s mild-mannered and cerebral Policy Minister, has become so frustrated by this constant interference that he has told colleagues he thinks Britain should leave the European Union if it won’t give us all the opt-outs the Government wants.

This is a warning shot across the bows to the EU and the other member states—it is most emphatically not a "cast-iron" guarantee of a referendum. Nor is it even a particularly convincing gambit.

The EU will simply call Letwin's bluff, we won't get the opt-outs—and Ollie will not call for a referendum.

Apart from anything else, the Tories are in a Coalition with the deeply EUphile Liberal Democrats, and they simply don't have enough clout to push anything at this stage.
The Tories try to keep their newly hardened Euroscepticism under wraps when dealing with their Lib Dem colleagues, who remain committed to the European project. But even the Lib Dems have been shocked at how much influence Brussels has on decisions that should be taken at a national level.

Indeed. However, whoever leaked this particular news to Forsyth must be gunning for Clegg...
Nick Clegg was appalled when officials told him that the EU wouldn’t allow VAT to be set at a local level.

It is simply inconceivable that Nick Clegg—an ex-MEP, a party leader and general policy wonk—is unfamiliar with the constraints on the setting of VAT levels. It is entirely conceivable, however, that the Tories are setting Clegg up for when the inevitable backlash over the VAT rise finally hits home.

Whilst I would like to believe that Mark is correct in his assessment of the EUscepticism of our MPs, I suspect that the Tories remain as wedded to the EU project as they ever were. Although, believe me, I would be happy to be proved wrong on that...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/28/2011 10:10:00 pm


Sunday, February 20, 2011

The common good

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/20/2011 12:55:00 am

Via Counting Cats, I see that Richard Murphy has approvingly reviewed a book called Common Good, by Martin Large.

Now, it really should go without saying that anything that someone as evil, stupid, contradictory and ignorant as Richard Murphy approves of must be repulsive, but what really got me incensed was this extract from the book jacket blurb quoted by our favourite, tax avoiding accountant from Wandsworth.
However, tripolar society is emerging as an alternative, where civil society, government and business push back the market, and work in partnership for the common good.

What is this "common good" exactly? Who are these commoners and who is to decide what is good for them? I would imagine that we are all the commoners and it is to be people like Martin Large and Richard Murphy who are decide what is good for us.

This is always the way, you see: those who espouse socialism are always those who think that they will be the ones doing the telling. (Equally, of course, those who whinge about how people or companies are quite legally avoiding tax are always the ones who have done precisely the same thing—eh, Richard?)

Perhaps it is because I am, once again, reading Atlas Shrugged* that I got so irritated and outraged by the phrase "common good"**. Or perhaps it is simply that I am thoroughly sick and tired of thugs like Martin Large, Richard Murphy and Andrew fucking Lansley telling me how I should live my life.

Why don't you all fuck off to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and fucking stay there...?

* Last week, the trailer for Atlas Shrugged Part 1 was released: it actually looks as though it might be rather good...

** Ayn Rand lived in Soviet Russia: she knew what "the common good" really meant.

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/20/2011 12:55:00 am


Andrew Lansley is an utter bastard

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/20/2011 12:00:00 am

Andrew Lansley: an utter bastard, authoritarian thug and all round scumbag.

Do you remember how NuLabour used to talk about "voluntary" rules for certain industries? And yes, if the industry did not comply voluntarily, these vermin would then say, with a deep note of fake regret in their voices, that they had no choice but to legislate because evil businesses would not ruin their markets themselves?

Usually it was over some perceived vice—such as drinks companies advertising their wares—or some non-existent scare, such as that over salt.

Well, it seems that the Coalition in general, and Andrew Lansley in particular, is doing exactly the same thing.
Restaurants and work canteens will put calorie counts on menus and food manufacturers will promise to cut down on salt and artificial fats under a set of agreements to be announced today.

The three voluntary “responsibility deals” agreed with the food industry are aimed at helping the public to eat more healthily, in a drive to tackle the growing problem of obesity among both adults and children.

Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, believes that firms will be more likely to set ambitious targets for themselves if they are negotiated on a voluntary basis.

Rather than a “nanny state” approach, he is keen to arm the public with the tools they need to cope in an “obesogenic environment,” where people are bombarded with adverts for unhealthy food.

What, in the name of fuck, is an “obesogenic environment”? And why the bastarding hell should I—a 6' tall, 10 and a half stone man—be lectured at by Lansley and his fat fucking fellows?

Might I remind everyone that salt—in this case, sodium chloride—is absolutely essential for nerve function? If you do not get enough salt, you will die: if you eat rather more salt than you need then... Well, it does nothing much at all.

Furthermore, you need to have fats too, although I don't know what Lansley would class as "artificial fats".

But I bet that he also means to include that evil steroid, cholesterol—the great demon of the "fatty food" world. Like salt, cholesterol is absolutely vital to life, being...
... an essential structural component of mammalian cell membranes, where it is required to establish proper membrane permeability and fluidity. In addition, cholesterol is an important component for the manufacture of bile acids, steroid hormones, and Vitamin D.

This is what so annoys me about this bollocks: politicians legislate on the basis of rent-seeking obsessives waving false fucking information in their faces—such as the five myths about alcohol—and then they do active damage to people's lives because the average MP is so screamingly pig-ignorant about anything other than being a total cunt.

And quite apart from the rightness—or otherwise—of Lansley's policy, why the fuck should the food industry be forced to build the altar on which they are to be sacrificed? Because that is what is going to happen...
If firms break their promises, the Government will however consider taking compulsory measures.

Ah, yes, of course. The food firms totally understand that these are voluntary agreements. Unless, of course, they don't agree—in which case they will be compulsory.

Is anyone else ashamed at the fact that Lansley and his ilk claim to represent us?

And just in case Lansley's approach is not clear to you, here is a nice little illustration from Perry at Samizdata.
Imagine you are walking down the street and a man in a suit walks up to you holding a large cudgel...

"Excuse me," he says, "I have seen you walk down this street on a daily basis wearing a tee-shirt and in future I would like you to wear a suit and tie to raise the tone of the neighbourhood."

"Er, no," you reply, "I am happy dressed the way I am."

"I see," the man replies, "well I would rather not have to threaten to hit you with this cudgel if you do not do what I say so I want you to voluntarily agree to wear a suit and tie."

"But you are threatening to hit me with that cudgel!" you point out.

"No," he says, "I will only threaten to hit you with this cudgel if you don't do what I want voluntarily."

And some people thought that the Coalition might bring more freedom...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/20/2011 12:00:00 am


Saturday, February 19, 2011

AV

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/19/2011 06:21:00 pm

The wife has done an amusing Q and A on the relevance of AV—she's not a fan. And why would anyone be when Australia, the only other country to use the system, has compulsory voting—and still can't get a decisive result.

Not being a psephologist, I have very little interest in the forthcoming referendum, personally. However, I've pretty much made up my mind to vote for keeping the current system.

Why?

Well, mainly because I received an email "from" Eddie Izzard, urging me to vote for AV: whilst I find Izzard quite amusing as a stand-up comedian, his political views have always been utterly fucking wrong. As such, voting to retain the status quo must be the right decision.

In any case, it is all bread and circuses, as one ex-MP quite clearly stated a few days ago: it was Guido who linked to the Daily Politics episode in which various ne'er-do-wells—such as John Hurst and disgraced ex-MP Jonathan Aitken—debated the question of votes for prisoners.

It was the latter who said this (and let's face it, an ex-MP would know)...
"One vote every four or five years is not tremendously important."

Quite right: it doesn't matter who you vote for or in which manner you do it—the soft socialist politicians with the guns in their hands always get in.

UPDATE: just in case anyone was in any doubt that this whole rigmarole is a really fucking bad idea, our Lords and Masters have decided that this should be the first referendum in British history to be binding.
Two things today convince me that our democracy is deeply flawed. First, Parliament's decision that the referendum on the Alternative Vote will be binding, and will be won by a simple majority.
...

Making a referendum binding for the first time in the UK's history is, let's face it, a constitutional change of some magnitude. As is changing the voting system itself. Whether you support AV or not (no parties actually proposed it in their manifestos), it seems reasonable that it should require a large measure of public support to happen. Few people know much about the subject, so in some areas the turnout could be miniscule: it could be a constitutional change chosen by a small minority – an interested, informed minority – that could have major consequences for the rest. Likewise, the decision to make the referendum binding is made not by the people but by a simple majority in Parliament, a body whose democratic credentials are rather tarnished right now. If this is allowed to stand, who knows what other binding referendums might be proposed in future?

Well, I shall tell you what referendums will not be binding—any referendum in which the answer might be something other than that desired by the politicians.

As an example, does anyone seriously think that a referendum on the UK's continued membership of the EU—a state supported by the majority of politicians and opposed by the majority of the people—would be binding on the government? If you are in any doubt as to the answer, just look at how binding our politicians' "cast-iron" promises of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty were...

So, why would our corrupt and venal MPs make binding a referendum on the very way in which they are elected? Simple—they don't expect it to change anything of any significance.

As I said, it's just bread and circuses...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/19/2011 06:21:00 pm


Friday, February 18, 2011

Youth unemployment

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/18/2011 08:12:00 am

Youth unemployment has, apparently, reached a record high.
The latest official statistics showed that youth unemployment rose by 66,000 to 965,000 in the three months to the end of December, the highest level since comparable records began in 1992.

The youth unemployment rate was 20.5%, compared with a general unemployment rate of 7.9%.

Well, as both Timmy and the ASI point out, it is not as though we didn't warn you—the National Minimum Wage prices low value workers out of jobs.
And for the reasons that I have outlined above, the National Minimum Wage "achievement" should be thrown as Gordon—along with the rotten fruits and turds—when he is finally driven out of Downing Street.

And the unemployed should be on the front line because, of course, the NMW has had another effect: someone whose labour is worth less than £5.80 per hour will now never, ever get a job. And that means that they cannot get either the experience or finance to better themselves—and that means that they are condemned to a life rotting away on benefits, a seam of potential destroyed.

Of course, the above was written a little time ago: the NMW now stands at £4.92 per hour for 18 to 20-year-olds and £5.93 for those 21 and above. Which means that, of course, anyone who's labour is worth less than those figures—plus, of course, 12.8% Employers' NICs—will never get a job.

This applies particularly, of course, in more depressed areas of Britain—which also have the highest levels of general unemployment—because £4.92 (or £5.93) per hour is much higher relative to other wages in the area. Just as with the National Pay Deal, the National Minimum Wage takes no account of the differences in living costs in the various parts of Britain.

And, naturally, the situation is only going to get worse when the 2% rise in National Insurance kicks in—it is, after all, a direct tax on job-creation at a time when the economy is struggling. Brilliant.

Of course, young people could work for free—and, luckily, on W4MP (a recruitment site for MPs' bag-carriers and political party wonks) you can see many, many opportunities for young people to do precisely that.

It appears that MPs and political parties view researchers as being utterly valueless.

Or is it simply that MPs and political parties want to be able to pay the going rate for these jobs, i.e. nothing, whilst preventing businesses from doing the same...? Yes, I think it is.

Anyway, Timmy sums up the solution to this problem very neatly...
Us bastard capitalist neoliberal pig dogs said that the effect of a minimum wage would be to push the lowest skilled people out of the employed, into the unemployed, part of the labour force.

We now have that minimum wage and in our first proper recession since we have had, we’ve got 20% unemployment among the least skilled, the young, as opposed to 8% more generally.

We said this would happen and lo and behold, it has come to pass.

The solution is therefore obvious: abolish the minimum wage.

Quite.

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/18/2011 08:12:00 am


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Can't see the wood for the trees

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/17/2011 01:05:00 am

It seems that—as they did over the piss-poor Book Trustthe Coalition are about to show just how easily a collection of ball-less, dickless government ministers can be brow-beaten by a bunch of pious, holier-than-thou, rent-seeking lunatics.
Ministers are preparing to ditch controversial plans to sell thousands of acres of state-owned woodland in England, the BBC understands.

Which just goes to show how the flexible the Coalition's convictions are. Let us contrast their lack of action over the forests with the decisive measures taken by the New Zealand Labour government of 1984 (and you are going to hear a lot about this because the parallels are excellent)—as recounted by ex-NZ-minister Maurice P McTigue in his 2004 lecture to Hillsdale College. [Emphasis mine, on the grounds of relevance.]
When we started this process with the Department of Transportation, it had 5,600 employees. When we finished, it had 53. When we started with the Forest Service, it had 17,000 employees. When we finished, it had 17. When we applied it to the Ministry of Works, it had 28,000 employees. I used to be Minister of Works, and ended up being the only employee. In the latter case, most of what the department did was construction and engineering, and there are plenty of people who can do that without government involvement. And if you say to me, “But you killed all those jobs!”—well, that’s just not true. The government stopped employing people in those jobs, but the need for the jobs didn’t disappear. I visited some of the forestry workers some months after they’d lost their government jobs, and they were quite happy. They told me that they were now earning about three times what they used to earn—on top of which, they were surprised to learn that they could do about 60 percent more than they used to! The same lesson applies to the other jobs I mentioned.

I do recommend reading the entire speech—several times. I wish Cameron would.

But the paragraphs immediately following the one above are very much worth highlighting, especially in view of the fact that the Tories are aiming, in five years, only to reduce the deficit to zero—not actually to pay off any debt.
Some of the things that government was doing simply didn’t belong in the government. So we sold off telecommunications, airlines, irrigation schemes, computing services, government printing offices, insurance companies, banks, securities, mortgages, railways, bus services, hotels, shipping lines, agricultural advisory services, etc. In the main, when we sold those things off, their productivity went up and the cost of their services went down, translating into major gains for the economy. Furthermore, we decided that other agencies should be run as profit-making and tax-paying enterprises by government. For instance, the air traffic control system was made into a stand-alone company, given instructions that it had to make an acceptable rate of return and pay taxes, and told that it couldn’t get any investment capital from its owner (the government). We did that with about 35 agencies. Together, these used to cost us about one billion dollars per year; now they produced about one billion dollars per year in revenues and taxes.

We achieved an overall reduction of 66 percent in the size of government, measured by the number of employees. The government’s share of GDP dropped from 44 to 27 percent. We were now running surpluses, and we established a policy never to leave dollars on the table: We knew that if we didn’t get rid of this money, some clown would spend it. So we used most of the surplus to pay off debt, and debt went from 63 percent down to 17 percent of GDP. We used the remainder of the surplus each year for tax relief. We reduced income tax rates by half and eliminated incidental taxes. As a result of these policies, revenue increased by 20 percent. Yes, Ronald Reagan was right: lower tax rates do produce more revenue.

I've said it before and I'll say it again—this is the way that you produce better services and reduce both taxes and debt.

Stuff you and your Big Society, Dave: try showing us that you can take some responsibility for what needs to be done, and maybe we'll have a go at it too.

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/17/2011 01:05:00 am


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How do you fancy an 8% rise in National Insurance?

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/16/2011 11:08:00 pm

For some years now, your humble Devil has been pointing out that National Insurance is a colossal, £110 billion per annum Ponzi scheme: there is no NI fund, and old "investors" are paid from the funds of new subscribers.

Of course, many Ponzi schemes are able to carry on for many years—the scam run by Charlie himself continued quite successfully for a time, as did Bernie Madoff's. The trouble is that these frauds always collapse eventually (otherwise no one would bother prosecuting the fraudsters): eventually, there are simply too many old subscribers and too few new ones.

In the UK, the NICs Ponzi scheme is creaking partly because the birth rate has been rather below the replacement rate for a few decades now: put simply, there are too many old subscribers and too few new ones.

Further, with medical costs and life expectancies soaring (this latter unaccompanied by longer pay-in times) the old subscribers are demanding ever greater pay-outs.

With more and more of those who should be new subscribers actually being beneficiaries of the scheme—I refer, of course, to the large numbers of working age people in receipt of benefits—the whole edifice has become unsustainable.

In other words, whilst National Insurance is supposed to cover unemployment benefit, your health treatment and your pension, there simply isn't enough money in the kitty. Although actually, as I said, there never was a kitty, just the income from new subscribers.

This is why the government has, for some years now, been mooting a number of ideas that would reduce the required payouts. These "solutions" generally fall into two categories: those that will save money and those that will rake money in.

Obviously, the idea that one should deny treatment to those whose lifestyles the government doesn't like falls into the money-saving category, whilst those schemes that will force people pay yet more for their old age care or for their pension fall into the money-grabbing category.

Obviously, all of the above examples mean that the government has made promises that it cannot keep; and, whilst the venal bastards who rule us insist that we abide by the "social contract", they are merrily refusing to keep their side of the bargain.

And I am afraid, despite all of the thousands of words that I have written about this subject, that your humble Devil took his eye off the ball because I had not realised that at least one of these schemes has now been made law. Yes, indeed—starting from next year, we are all going to have to start paying into a compulsory pension scheme.

(Well, I say "all"—but, of course, it only applies to those who have jobs. People who have never worked in their lives can continue merrily to pay fuck all.)
The Pensions Regulator has just issued a reminder (PDF) that all employers will have to provide a pension arrangement to all employees, beginning in October of 2012 on a widening basis until 2016. This requirement calls for a minimum total contribution to an approved pension scheme of 8% of salary, of which at least 3% must be contributed by the employer and the rest by the employee. Employers may choose to introduce a more generous scheme if they wish but the 8%/3% is the minimum requirement.

Alright, so I exaggerated slightly in the headline: the employee will only pay a minimum of 5% into this "approved" pension scheme. However, anyone who thinks that the 3% employers' contribution (plus the costs of administering the scheme, of course) will not adversely affect wages is a total idiot.

Of course, the whole thing seems so sensible—yes, we do need to save for our retirement and, yes, too few people save anywhere near enough (especially when they are younger). And yet...

This is, effectively, the government admitting that it is unable to meet its pension obligations despite already taking 11% from the employee and 12.8% from the employer—money that is supposed to cover these obligations.

Plus, the government is also adding 1% to each set of contributions for 2011–2012: that is, you will pay 12% of your salary and your employer 13.8%.

Let's try to put some figures on this, shall we?

In 2010, the median wage for a full-time employee was £499 per week = £25,948 per annum.

In 2010, the total tax taken (directly) on that median wage of £25,948 was...
£3,894.60 Income Tax + £2,225.08 Employee NICs + £2,589.18 Employer NICs = £8,708.86 (NICs total = 4,814.26)

Now, let's try and work out the cost with the new figures (I don't have a fancy website to do the figures for me, so I'll try to show my workings)...
Income Tax: (£25,948 - £7,475 PTA) × 0.2 = £3,694.60

Employees NICS: (£25,948 - (52 × £110)) × 0.12 = £2,427.36

Employers NICs: (£25,948 - (52 × £110)) × 0.138 = £2,791.46

Total tax take on median wage of £25,948 = £8,913.42 (of which NICs = £5,218.82)

[Trying to match up the NICs figures to the ones given on the ListenToTaxman site, I would say that the above are a little high—but I have no idea why. I followed HMRC's advice for the above.] Fixed. Thanks to Adam Schlumberger in the comments.

Now, this seems like a substantial proportion of anyone's wages: and, please remember, that NICs is supposed to pay for healthcare, unemployment benefit and a liveable state pension.

+++ UPDATE +++
Although the end figure for 2011–2012 is only £200 higher than that for 2010–2011, it's worth noting how the distribution has changed between Income Tax and NICs. Whilst Income Tax has dropped by £200, NICs has increased by £400—and that split roughly 1:1 between employee and employer.

This has allowed Nick Clegg, for instance, to put out a good press story about raising the Personal Tax Allowance whilst, in fact, the £200 is clawed back in National Insurance. In the meantime, the employer is saddled with a further £200 rise but, in terms of sheer numbers of votes (if you know what I mean) there aren't as many employers as there are employees, eh?
+++ UPDATE +++

And yet successive governments have pissed our money up the wall with such abandon that they now feel the need to force us all to pay another 8% of our salaries into a private pension scheme. Why? Because the government knows that, in a few years, it will not be able to afford to provide a state pension at all.

The government is going to keep our money, of course: there will be no rebate because it cannot deliver the service that it promised. No, the solution is simply to force us all to pay more. And more. And more.

How lucky we all are.
In practice, the impact will fall mostly on the lower paid since larger companies already have pension arrangements that meet minimum requirements. The greatest impact will be on the smallest companies like local traders where salaries are lower or on companies using a fluctuating workforce like restaurant chains where, again, the salaries are lower.

For employees of such companies, this pension requirement will mean an immediate cut in take-home pay of 5% if the employer chooses the minimum 3% contribution for itself. To be sure, the employee doesn’t “lose” that money; it’s just not available until retirement.

Oh joy. The Adam Smith Institute carries on its assessment...
We’ve already warned here of the dangers from government meddling in NEST, a cheap’n’cheerful pension scheme being set up by the government for those companies who can’t be bothered to set up their own. The 8%/3% rule will also be vulnerable to political manipulation by successive Chancellors, just like NI has been.

Yes, of course it will. And, of course, as soon as a big pension fund goes bust, then the government will insist that—in fact—it would be far safer if we all just paid that extra money to the state. You know, for safekeeping.
Britain, like all modern economies, must significantly increase retirement savings so, on the surface, a mandatory regime may seem justified. However, compulsion seldom delivers the desired result. After all, wasn’t the original National Insurance scheme supposed to deliver a proper pension?

Yes. Yes, it was. And what happened? That's right: the government pinched the money and spent it on shiny baubles—or, more likely, bribing its client state in time-honoured fashion.

Once again, politicians have proved that the only interests that they serve is their own; although, of course, they do also serve to prove the point that governments do everything very badly—if not actively fraudulently—and, as such, they should do as little as possible.

Leave aside Gordon Brown's profligacy! This country is suffering the effects of many, many decades of financial mismanagement, utter incompetence and outright fraud.

And, as usual, it is the productive members of society who have to pick up the slack and work even harder so that they can pay through the nose—so that benefits (that the productive themselves are not entitled to) can be doled out to the indolent, the corrupt and the rent-seeking.

Across the entirety of Western civilisation, social democracy is bankrupt—financially and morally. This cannot go on.

It is time to look to the past to find the answers for the future.

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/16/2011 11:08:00 pm


Monday, February 14, 2011

Quote of the month...

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/14/2011 01:50:00 pm

... comes from Nick Clegg, in his Grauniad interview on the Protection of Freedoms Bill (a tip of the horns to Guido). [Emphasis mine.]
"I need to say this—you shouldn't trust any government, actually including this one. You should not trust government—full stop. The natural inclination of government is to hoard power and information; to accrue power to itself in the name of the public good."

The only pity is that Nick actually needs to say it...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/14/2011 01:50:00 pm


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

A pithy quote on Fake Charities...

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/08/2011 03:30:00 pm

... comes from Guido's analysis of the Big Society.
A charity that relies in the main part on taxes is no more a charity than a prostitute is your girlfriend.

Why not wander over and view a few prostitutes over here...?

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/08/2011 03:30:00 pm


Sunday, February 06, 2011

Ed Miliband: which losers flushed his head down the loo?

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/06/2011 02:03:00 am

Your humble Devil has been taking a well-earned, enjoyable rest from the sordid, depressing shit-pit that is British politics, and so it was The Appalling Strangeness who alerted me to the fact that David Miliband had admitted that he was a total loser.
Labour leader Ed Miliband has revealed he was a "bit square" as a youth, eschewing drugs and under-age drinking.

In a GQ magazine interview with Piers Morgan, he said his greatest talent was being "good at the Rubik's Cube".

Really? I reckon that Ed cheated by taking the stickers off and putting them back in the desired places. And he probably had to get his mummy to help him with that.
Asked if he had ever been in a fight, he said: "Well, I may have been hit a few times. I went to a tough school."

Oh, I bet you had your head flushed down the loo a few times, eh? Although not enough to drown you like an unwanted kitten, apparently.

The wonder here is that Ed makes David "Batshit"* Miliband look cool—well, relative to his idiot brother that is. And yet David Miliband is actually so massively wonkish and uncool that he makes everyone in the world want to beat him up behind the bike sheds.

Alas, the poor little Greek boy's blog is no longer publically available, so I must delve into my own archives to find Mr Eugenides' classic summing up of David Miliband's status in life.
David Miliband is the sort of guy that we used, in our un-PC schooldays, to describe as a spastic. He was the kid on the chess team that you bullied incessantly (or at least, you did if you were a bully when you were at school; I myself was, er, on the chess team). His is an eminently punchable face; the sort of face you want to grab and hold down in the toilet for flush after gleeful flush, roaring with joy that there are such geeks in the world for you to torment.

But David never stood up and described himself as "square": Ed Miliband has just done so, immediately putting himself lower down the pecking order than his loathsome brother.

So, if David Miliband was "the kid on the chess team that you bullied incessantly" then where does that put Ed Miliband? That's right, Ed Miliband was obviously the twat that the chess team bullied.

In short, Ed Miliband was at the bottom of the pecking order: in fact, I imagine that he was the only boy that it was considered acceptable for David "chess club" Miliband to bully.

Which puts a neat little spin on their relationship, don't you think...?

* Note for newer readers: "batshit" as in "batshit insane". Your humble Devil first used this term to describe Miliband back in July 2006, when the speccy tit was proposing "personal carbon points": it was Dave himself who immortalised it when he quoted my post at The New Statesman New Media Awards a few days later. David Miliband's involvement with the preservation of actual bats, whilst at DEFRA, led to the adoption of Batshit as his name and accompanying tag here at the Kitchen. I have yet to decide on a suitably mocking name for Ed, though "Beaker" is definitely in the running...

Suggestions in the comments, please.

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/06/2011 02:03:00 am


Right on cue...

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/06/2011 01:52:00 am

... given my last post, up pops Clegg to tell us all that the Coalition cannot do much about economic growth because... Well, you can guess, can't you?
Nick Clegg has defended the government against accusations that it does not have a plan for boosting the economy.

In a speech, he said the government could not pull a lever to generate growth, and was in the process of unwinding a "toxic legacy" of debt.

Oh, what a surprise.

However, it is always worth reminding ourselves of the awfulness of the alternatives...
But Labour leader Ed Miliband said spending cuts would make it harder for the next generation to stay in school, go to university or own their own home.

No, Ed: what has made it harder is your generation's and your government's reckless disregard for financial probity—or even financial sanity.

The reason that the next generation will find it harder to "stay in school, go to university or own their own home" is because your government—the one in which you actively participated, which you were a key member of—has racked up massive and unsustainable debts.

It is because your government spent vastly more than its income for ten years, and now we are all paying the price.

So why don't you grow a sense of shame and shut the fuck up?

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/06/2011 01:52:00 am


And he ought to know...

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/06/2011 12:44:00 am

It seems that—unlike some advocates of liberty (David Davis: I'm looking at you)—Douglas Carswell MP has become even more forthright since the Coalition gained power. In yet another of his routinely stinging posts, Douglas neatly sums up all of the things that the ConDems have absolutely failed to do...
Yes, the talk is bold, but how much has public policy really altered since May?

Cutting the deficit? Ministers say so, but not the maths. Borrowing is up. Like pretty much every other post-war government, this one seems to be using higher taxes and inflation to solve its debt problems, rather than seriously curb state largesse.

Political reform? All those interesting ideas, mooted at the height of the expense scandal, including recall and open primaries, seem forgotten. Instead we’re to have a referendum on AV—which was in neither Coalition party’s manifesto.

Bonfire of the quangos? It’s gone out.

Localism? Maybe. But what about localising the money?

Great Repeal Bill? Try googling it.

Europe? This afternoon the government will announce we’re opting into yet another EU proposal on criminal justice. Plus ca change.

Welfare reform? Full marks. But is this a change of policy or an acceleration of the reforms Labour’s James Purnell piloted.

Defence? We carry on cutting what we need, while spending on ruinous contracts we can ill-afford.

New politics? Same sofa.

Indeed. What is, of course, most worrying is the Coalition's failure to get to grips with public spending. And I declare this a failure not primarily because the government is continuing to add to Britain's massive debt—although it is—but because the debt is apparently the raison d'etre for everything that the Coalition does.

For instance, do you think that the Coalition has not ripped up enough of NuLabour's draconian laws? Are you wondering where your Freedom Bill is? Or maybe you are concerned about the fact that, far from "repatriating powers from the EU", the ConDems seem to be conceding as many as possible (possibly to beat the deadline on their own referendum lock)?

Ah, well, you see, the Coalition would love to do all of these things but they simply don't have time: the public debt is a ticking bomb and if Nick and Dave don't spend the majority of their time trying to sort it, then we will all—quite literally—go "boom".

Of course, those of us who are interested in liberty thought that the colossal fuck-up that NuLabour made of the finances might be a blessing in disguise. After all, a cut in public spending means smaller government; and if things really are that bad, then the government is going to have to cut public spending, right?

Wrong.

As people like John Redwood MP have consistently pointed out, despite all this talk of "cuts" the government will be spending £92 billion per year more of our money by 2015.

And, as Redwood notes again, public spending (and borrowing) is up substantially (in November, the Coalition spent 10% more than Labour did in the previous November); he also summarises the Coalition's debt reduction strategy.
The figures remind us that the deficit reduction strategy relies on higher tax revenues, not on spending reductions overall. Whilst some individual areas have been cut in real terms and some even in cash terms, the overall trend of current spending growth this year has been one of strong growth in cash terms, with a real increase of around 3% depending on your choice of inflation index. Capital spending has been reduced, which takes a little of the pressure off the deficit. With the exception of October, the growth rate of spending has been accelerating over this financial year.

The main weapons to tackle the deficit will be the higher VAT rate, higher fuel duties, higher National Insurance, and the estimated increased taxes from growth and inflation. As the higher taxes come due, so the questions about value for money and the choices made over public spending will become more insistent from a public worried about the impact of the taxes on living standards.

And this is the absolute crux of the matter—the ConDems have absolutely no intention of reducing spending. Nor do they have any intention of reducing the size or scope of government. No, the Coalition's strategy is to avoid any meaningful cuts in public expenditure and, instead, to plug the gap in the public finances through tax rises.

Worried yet?

It gets worse. For some time now, Cameron has been stressing that the Coalition wants to stimulate growth in the economy and that this will also help to bring down the deficit (and remember that the Coalition are only aiming to eliminate the yearly deficit: they have no strategy for reducing the actual debt itself).

In October, the massively-foreheaded wanker who now leads this country was banging on about a...
"forensic, relentless approach" to ensuring the UK's future economic growth."

We don't need forensics, Dave: we know what delivers growth—low taxes and less regulation.

Unfortunately, the Coalition are unable to undo large amounts of the regulation without leaving the EU—which they are not going to do—and, as we all know, they are increasing taxes like it's going out of fashion.

So, to summarise—the Coalition are doing very little about civil liberties, are spending more, raising taxes, and fucking economic growth.

What a triumph.

And I haven't even touched on the barking insanity of their energy policy yet...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 2/06/2011 12:44:00 am


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