If Margareth Thatcher had been progressive

I fully disagree with The Iron Lady's policies but I have to acknowledge her leadership skills, even more impressive considering how hard it was for a woman to be listened to during her time and unfortunately also now. As Obama said she was an example that there is no glass ceiling for women. Her terms were full of privatisations, deregulation, fights to diminish union's rights, demonisation of poors, denial of the idea of society and the rise of individualism as justification to social cuts (technique Cameron is using nowadays to reduce social welfare and restrict immigration). According to Owen Jones she is responsible for the current UK's class division. A country that nowadays is divided between the people that caused the global crisis without having any punishment for it and the working class suffering austerity cuts without any fault on the situation the global and local economy is in.

She was a leader outside United Kingdom due to her role in a new way of understanding government. It is called neoliberalism but in simple terms is a system where big companies and multinationals control economy and politics, reducing laws to their own benefit with the excuse that companies with more freedom generate more jobs, trickle down economics as Reagan called it. However history shows that more deregulation implies less control on human greed and since humans chair companies they put their search for bigger profits over working and society rights. Neoliberalism also supports reduction of government's control although many of its defenders approve laws that give government control over women reproductive rights, or who are you able to marry. Introducing government in such private issues doesn't seem much liberal but somehow they have manage it to stick.

Perhaps if Ms Thatcher had had progressive ideals her terms would have guaranteed nationalisation and access to first need services (water, electricity but also health and education), understood society as the collaboration among all classes and regulations would have been put in place to make sure companies obtain profits in a reasonable way, not exploiting working class. Maybe we would have a capitalist system with classes nearer to each other and a real possibility for moving up the ladder. And since it would have been implemented in the UK, it would have spread to other countries and right now we wouldn't be in a financial crisis originated by the deregulation started by her.

However it is more likely that should her been progressive she wouldn't have made it to the top because left movements tend to constantly disagree with each other and hardly offer an unified front as Beatriz Talegon Leader of Socialist Youth said. Furthermore companies would have lobbied strongly against anyone dearing to challenge them, recurring to defamation or bribery as they have done with all political parties on the north hemisphere according to Stéphane Hessel. Since almost anyone has a price, in the current system is very hard for someone honest and willing to put society first making it to the top and stay there enough time to change things. In the end as Owen Jones says current politics is just class war, wealthy against everyone else. Wealthy introduced themselves into conservative and progressive parties, often representing “the markets” and manage to create policy to privitise everything to their own benefit. When the crisis started and the financial void had to be filled politicians chose forcing citizens to pay the bill because corruption is part of the system and economical and political powers are one and the same after many years of partnership.

All this has happened on our watch. This is not an ideology argument, is a fight for the chances of having a decent life despite of being conservative, progressive, liberal or moderate. The social ladder is vanishing in front of us due to cuts on social services and raising of living costs. Instead of a ladder with different levels is becoming a two level system with low and middle classes below and the wealthy on the top of the ladder enjoying spectacular views. Being poor shouldn't be the reason for which a person dies. All society and countries should unite and demand a system more just and regulated that guarantees everyone's basic rights. Thatcher's individualism has penetrated so much in our minds that we don't realise it is today's selfishness, “if I am good I don't care how people are”. It is easier living only caring about ourselves, thinking that progressive and socialist ideologies want to take our money to give it to people that don't deserve it although they are trying to make sure everyone has a shot to a decent life. Humans group themselves into societies because union makes strength. A business won't be successful without clients nor existing infrastructure previously built with taxes as USA senator Elizabeth Warren said. However individualism has spread across the world and while everyone minds their own business wealthy people takes what belongs to everyone.

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Getting angry is not enough. Major conservative and progressive parties are using the financial crisis as the excuse to diminish middle class rights. Applying austerity measures to the ones that need more help while the people that created and profited from the crisis are at large and getting richer and richer. We have to stop voting parties that have promoted these policies. Stop looking at ourselves and join our fellow citizens to unify the front. We are the majority. We just have to show it. Stop thinking one person doesn't make a difference, Margareth Thatcher was only one person; after all every sum begins with the number one.

 

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What government is for

Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other. Ronald Reagan, USA president.

Many people see government like Mr Reagan, as a monster that only goes after their taxes without giving them anything in return. This concept helps Liberal and Conservative ideologies to diminish government’s role. In my opinion that hides another issues; is easier cutting something down rather than make it efficient but most of all it is an economic manouver. Services not directly provided by government would have to be offered by private companies at a higher cost for governments and particulars; the end game is clear millionaires, usually infiltrated in conservative parties, would make profits out of things that were out of their reach. Using this message they have managed to cut government’s ability to provide jobs and services because they portrait them as money holes, instead of an essential element for a prosper functional society. Likewise Mitt Romney's view that poor people were poor because they were lazy makes easier cutting and privatising essential services. He uses the argument of so many conservatives that while workers work to pay for services unemployed people are just lazy and taking advantage of them creating a division within the society and making taxes look a burden for them and a gift for others. But things are not black and white; for example there are lots of people that work but simply can't afford health care or other services because cost of living has gone up much more than salaries. In USA for example the national free clinics association has denounced that 80% of their customers have a job but can't pay for health care anyway. Likewise in Europe austerity measures are making education and health less accessible for lower a middle class due to higher costs and lower wages to dispose of.

Reagan's view of government is true in some countries where people pay taxes and politicians don’t use that money for the improvement of society but for their own economic advancement. Sometimes we think only underdeveloped or developing countries have that problem, but we can also see it in Europe, for example Greece, Italy or Spain where corruption is much more spread than it should. However government is much more than that; corruption that perhaps should be legally penalised as an act of treason since they are stealing nation's resources, shouldn’t taint the function of government. There are many reasons why governments are beneficial and should be given funds to function properly.

On one side we have the services they provide at an affordable cost to citizens, through their taxes; for example education, health and security (police and firemen among others). These services are a commodity for people but at the same time a job for millions of citizens. Thus everyone benefits from “cheap” high quality services necessary for a decent living (not every job allows people to be able to afford private pricey services no matter how much they work), a part of society gets a job at the same time. Furthermore in countries with good public services that also creates a society with equal opportunities, because money doesn't make a difference on education or quality of life.

On the other side we have the millions of jobs government contributes to indirectly. For example in London, the public company in charge of transportation did in 2010 a comprehensive study of their providers so UK government, eager to cut TfL’s budget could appreciate the economic contribution of this company towards the whole of the UK economy. One recent example is the new 600 buses that the Mayor of London has ordered, which will safeguard 220 jobs across the UK, forming part of the 40,000 jobs annually supports outside London that add to the 19,000 it supports within the supply chain in London. Indeed every public organisation that delivers a service has to procure elements for their day to day business that would become profits for the private companies marketing them (from expert consultants to toilet paper).

One can argue some characteristics of public entities: how many attributions they must have and if they are as efficient as possible. But on public services like transport, education, or health essential of any advanced society it is undeniable that those institutions contribute to society providing a service as well as improving the private sector; without public contracts many companies wouldn’t make profits. The fact that a public company spends much in itself is not the problem, as long as that spending is necessary for society and generates private growth. If a public entity misuses funds (either through private appropriation of funds, contracting companies without managing the contract properly or investing money without a clear return of investment) an exhaustive review ought to be carried out to find any deviation and set rules that prohibit it from happening again. But no crisis nor misused should be the justification for cutting public funding which will only lead to privatising services, making impossible for a big part of the society access necessary services.

This change in policy is even more necessary in countries where the austerity measures have provoked public investment to drop. In Spain since 2008 around 180,000 companies have close down; some they were owed money and their creditors didn’t prorogued their loans, others had to close because in an economic crisis discouraging private investment they were not able to survive without public contracts. Companies closing down and governments reducing their budgets means letting go millions of people; in the middle of a crisis they will unlikely find another job and will add to the amount of private jobs lost and people claiming their benefits. Thus government will have to spend more money in due services with less income. On top of the economic benefits that public investment creates for the society there are moral implications on providing or not public quality services. After all who is to say that our lives will be perfect forever, we will always find a job and have enough income to have a decent life. Companies shut down, illness appears without asking, there are many reasons why we may be unable to work even if we want to. At the end when a sector or an individual needs help they often ask government, even banks did it. We should have a government that helps everyone to grow and provides help when necessary, always doing it in an efficient, reasonable and justifiable way.

 

Do you live better than five years ago?

Do you feel you are living better than 5 years ago? Do you think Government is doing all it should to protect its citizens? Or is it providing for the big companies and multinationals instead? Is austerity a necessary step towards a better growing economy or just an excuse to devaluate labour salaries while companies’ profits rise?

For many years societies fought for their labour and social rights through mobilisations in the streets and working places. Unions were created to guarantee minimum safety rules at places of work and minimum salaries that allowed a decent life. Economies were growing bit by bit through a moderated consumerism, but it was not fast enough for some. Mrs Thatcher was the first proposing in the 70’s that governments shouldn’t provide subsidies or benefits for jobs; she reduced the amount of public jobs available whilst privatising and deregulating many industries in particular the financial sector, under the pretext that companies know what is best and they can regulate themselves. USA (with Ronald Reagan first and Alan Greenspan and others repeatedly using the same argument) and many industrialised countries followed that approach. However whilst they were promoting this change as a necessary step to guarantee fast economic growth, people failed to realise that companies base their existence in obtaining profits at all cost and without rules to control their actions a voluntarily morality check wouldn’t do the trick. Banks, one of the deregulated industries that has impulsed the world economy over the last 20 years is the perfect example; they started creating their own products and marketing them as if they were the safest thing on earth and anyone that wouldn’t invest in the stock market or a mortgage was not of this age.

Then Leman Brothers fell, all banks took their investments away leaving “poorer” banks with huge holes provoked by foreign banks over exposure that governments decided to cover, because after all they were playing with everyone’s money. Now that workers have bailed them out and their deficits have come up to the surface it seems they have found a new way of filling their void and help multinationals at the same time which are their main partners in the world economy. They are obtaining more profits while consumerism stays the same by reducing worker’s salaries and benefits so they could pass those savings into their pockets as profits. A clear example of this strategy is strongly happening in South Europe with examples across the continent.

Due to a lack of stimulation of innovation and industry South of Europe based all its economy around the housing and construction bubble, which was the easiest option in our culture since everyone prefers putting the same money towards owning the house rather than renting and it is easier for politicians letting the bubble grow instead of finding ways of developing innovative industry like Northern countries which requires more thinking. In Spain in particular, for 30 years our politicians had been selling public industry at a low price, building disproportioned infrastructures to give contracts to big construction companies keeping a part of the investment for themselves, privatising all they could and keeping a close relationship with multinationals and banks modifying labour and social laws to their benefit. When the financial crisis started and our banks lost all the foreign capital that they had been misusing to invest into more houses, we had to bail them out. This investment of public money hasn’t been returned nor is flowing into the economy (as we were promised to give credit to small companies) it has stayed within the banks so they could cover their indecencies and pay back their creditors. Now since millions are out of job companies with politicians’ help are blaming all our problems on our lack of productivity, saying that we were living above our possibilities and they need to cut our salaries and the benefits we had paid for during years with our taxes to pay for the financial debt and become competitive. All with the excuse stated in an Excel document that to have a prosper economy national debt should be under 3% of GDP. The same document that a University student was able to dismantle finding inconsistencies in the method of calculation; history has shown that in a time of reduced private investment governments are the ones that have to invest in the economy to provide jobs for people and for private companies, otherwise less jobs lead to less demand, which leads to less jobs in an infinite down way spiral.

Everyone from a Southern European country would admit that we are not as organised as in the North. We work many hours a day but we don’t manage our work as efficiently as we could; partly because we are quite good at improvising at the last minute and we rely on that gift to loose a bit of time and then do everything the last days and partly because while North European societies were learning management methodologies for projects (PRINCE2, PMBOK) or for processes (Six Sigma, Lean) most of South European companies decided not to invest in high technology nor training for their employees, assuming that they would get efficient by force of working less people the same amount of work instead of learning efficiency techniques. If the root of the problem is our productivity, why aren’t we trained on how to improve our work instead of devaluating our salaries and make us poorer?. If the reason is that we lived above our possibilities, why there is no punishment for banks lending above their possibilities and giving loans to people that clearly were not going to give it back? Why there hasn’t been implemented any new strong regulation that prohibits this from happening again? People spend because banks gave them loans even to go on holidays, and banks gave it to gain more profit not to make a favour to a greedy person (that leaving a side the millions of people that got a loan to pay normal things because they live on a minimum wage that is not enough for the cost of living nowadays). I would like that everyone had common sense but not everyone has the same level of intelligence or self-control. Governments should regulate industries to protect societies from big bullies like banks or multinationals and silly greedy people that spend more than they have or want to steal another’s savings.

One can conclude that multinationals want cheap working labour in Europe; governments scared under the perspective of all companies outsourcing their jobs to developing countries accept these new measures and apply them. At the end this is a problem between rich and poor. Until there are no poor countries willing to accept any deal because a bad deal is better for their economy than no deal, industrialised countries will have this dilemma. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other solutions. I wouldn’t suggest that people have to stop buying from those companies because that would imply that our shopping list would become much more expensive, and being realistic we have to look for our money. But there is something that would force companies to treat every country with more respect: governments could demand that every company that wants to sell its products in their country must have a manufacturing facility in that country and apply the same selling prices in all countries with similar GDP to avoid they inflate the price and pass on the cost of production in that country to the buyer. This would work for final products such as clothing; for other products as groceries another measures could be put forward like requiring distributers to invest part of their profits in each country where they sell because not every country can grow potatoes but we all consume them. To guarantee that companies provide national decent wages while selling at a competitive price the law should include the obligation of doing so unless they have had four consecutive quarters of net loss, in which case a new salary could be negotiated always with workers approval and being applied to all roles, to minimise job cuts or depreciation of low skilled jobs as unique measure. This way we are also protecting companies profits allowing them to renegotiate and also workers. As for banks and remaining deregulated industries, they need to be regulated again strongly in every country to guarantee they grow applying economic principles instead of dubious techniques.

For some this may be an interventionist state, maybe some called it communism or something worse. After this crisis and all the suffering is bringing to millions of people I think it is better having a government protecting its working force’s rights to a proper salary and decent way of life rather than companies using salaries and prices only to their best convinience. We have to keep in mind that companies earn because we buy, we should use our power as buyers and stop being taken advantage of, with companies taking our money from their sells and now from our salaries while we are making them profitable. Otherwise we will keep transferring wealth from the middle and working classes to the elites until there are only two classes, very poor and very rich.

This is not my Europe

I live in europea country with a strong anti-European feeling. Most Britons I know refer to Europe as the continent, making clear there is water between them and Europe. I always felt European. Partly because I was born in that continent but also because I liked the idea of a united Europe; perhaps Spaniards often think we are not good enough on our own due to an inferiority complex heritage from the dictatorship.

I liked to think that all countries would unite and we learn from each other, growing all together. That we would be able to travel easily across the continent. That should Spain have a problem we wouldn´t have to confront it alone. I was sad about loosing our currency (peseta) but I thought it was the price to pay and that Euro would help Spain expand internationally.

But from one day to the next something that was 100 pesetas was 166. We thought ¿where is the difference going to? Obviously to the pockets of the intermediaries, politicians and fathers of the Eurozone as payment for their two hours drafting effort, such a bad system shouldn´t have taken longer to be designed. Whilst the cost of every day life was rising up without salaries increasing accordingly, from Europe we were told that our VAT, water and electricity were too cheap. Since we had to be European the price rose without production costs justifying it. In the meantime our politicians sold all the utilities and any industry they could to get the economy Europe was demanding to get into the Euro, without caring if the price was appropriate or the consequences for the country’s future.

Years pass and  like everywhere else housing prices skyrocketed because banks wanted to earn more money through loans, politicians (because it was easier for them letting construction create a bubble than investing and promoting real industry) and Spaniards, some wanting to earn money speculating and others because even though they realised they would have to stretch their salary to pay the mortgage, they were obsessed with the idea of having a property more than Gollum was with his precious ring (also we have to acknowledge that in Spain there is no real incentive to renting). And as Gollum fell off the cliff because of the ring, so did we.

And now after years of foreign banks buying Spanish bonds and earning money with our mortgages and economy, we end up in an international crisis of trust because there were too many lies and rip offs together. Europe´s solution is austerity, but not for the banks and markets that caused the crisis, but the citizens that had already made rich the banks with their work and savings but were fools not to realise that their vote was going to people bought by the economic powers. After years of these measures and seeing it is not working they keep doing the same, which must mean that by condemning citizens to misery politicians are also getting a big piece of the cake.

Far away in U.S.A Obama won the election and made cuts (as Republicans wanted) but he also invested inestimulo the economy (as Democrats, citizens and economists wanted) and now they are getting out of the mess and creating jobs (if the sequester allows it). A crisis generated by banks should be paid by banks (they keep saying citizens should be responsible for their actions, is only fair we apply the same to companies, after all some even say companies are people and in any case they are managed by people, funny enough none of them are in jail). However to contribute to social and economic stability we all would have agreed to cut a bit on social spending. The problem is all the cuts are directed towards citizens’ rights and social benefits we have already paid for through our taxes across the years, without even touching politicians waste (unnecessary politician roles, assessors, travels, payments for attending their meetings…) nor banks and companies excessive profits neither making any positive structural reform (they are going to delete from the map many municipalities which are the closest point of contact, instead of modifying the regional structure where there is a huge room for improvement).

I am a political junkie, especially of polite, constructive and conciliatory politics that Obama always has and we lack so much in Spain. Every time I hear Obama talking about economy I think “what Europe could  be”. Right now he is fighting the Sequester, what could be an European austerity plan that Republicans passed in the House and implements social cuts across the board. Democrats on the other hand wanted to minimise the spending cuts and generate revenue by closing corporate loopholes and investing to create public jobs. On the 1st of March, without an agreement that would avoid the cuts Obama gave a press conference and expressed his preoccupation for the people, saying that citizens have already lost money because of the crisis and they shouldn´t carry any more burdens.

This europaCuervosseems like a dream in Europe. On one hand Germany and the markets demanding to all the countries paying debt only from their side (not the banks or markets that generated the debt) so they don´t have to assume any loss on the voluntarily investments they did for years and produced and produce so many benefits for them. On the other European politicians cutting in social rights rather than themselves or the banks, making citizens loose rights they had paid with their taxes and obtained after years of social struggle. This way they are suffocating more than 150 million people whose biggest crime has been voting a bunch of incompetents because we didn´t have anyone better to vote for and were indulgent with the system because we didn´t see the huge scale of the treason it will force upon us.

Germany killed thousands of millions through history and instead of condemning them for life to isolation and economic crisis we forgave their debt so they could grow. Now they threaten all the Southern European countries. Abusing and killing people you don´t like is wrong; we offered them redemption even though there is no turning back from those crimes because people don´t come back to life. However they are inflexible on an economic issue. This is generating rage and frustration towards politicians, institutions and anyone related to these austerity politics, including Germany. We are seeing it in Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal; since politicians and markets keep applying the same policies, citizens are organising themselves and protesting every week.

My Europe doesn´t do economic and social experiments with countries in crisis when there are other options, forcing their citizens into misery while the perpetrators are germanyliving off the benefits without any consequence. My Europe treats all its citizens as equal, sharing the benefits so we all grow because someone dead can´t use the money in the bank; not saving Germany and France banks from the crisis at Southern Countries expense. My Europe doesn´t criminalise whole countries because of clichés (Southern Europeans are all lazy) that look very much like the nazism of the XXI century (we are better than them). They promoted Europe strongly, letting as many countries as possible and profiting from it, the least they should do is assuming consequences for their greed and poor planning. I don´t want to live in a dictatorship, I rather live poorer and free. Southern European countries should say no to this tyranny. Either they force banks to pay the crisis they created or find other solutions that don´t impact middle and lower classes exclusively.