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The commonalities between bankers, blame-based lawyers and union bosses that touch us all and can only be dealt with by a change in the mind-set of Government first and the policies which will then follow afterwards

February 22, 2013 Leave a comment

Crazy as it may seem, many of the problems and fears facing society as a whole are inextricably linked and propagated by us all through a mesh of similar behaviours and actions. These are marked apart only by simple interpretation, knowledge, and the differences of public perspective that are all too often profitable for politicians and activists to retain.

One such example of this within this libertarian age is the ‘feel-good’ which comes from targeting those who most openly profit through the exploitation of others, and the apparent greed and avarice of high-level bankers and wealthy tax-dodgers has captivated ill-feeling within many. But is it really possible for just those few to ride off the backs of many others within a society which paints itself as being considerate of all others; or is this just the one end of a predominantly passive chain slowly strangling the UK as part of an evolving something-for-nothing and therefore self-before-all culture?

As unpalatable as it may seem, there is a distinct thread of commonality which runs from the profiteering of the hated fat-cats, through the behaviour of politicians, the influence of those promoting and making blame-based-claims, to the actions of union leaders and their seemingly strike-happy members to beyond in a way that very few would outwardly wish to knowingly associate. The sad reality is that each and every one of the self-beneficial acts that we probably at some point will have all pursued, goes on to have a negative impact upon others and usually so in a much greater number than just ourselves.

At one end of the spectrum, bankers and pension fund managers sat in plush London offices think little of the impact that pressure on retailers or energy providers to raise profits will have on end users – a point which may turn out to have been very well illustrated by the horse meat scandal and the continuing issues surrounding milk prices for farmers where margins are squeezed to unsustainable levels.

A few miles down the road, ‘career’ politicians make decisions which will affect 60 Million people based upon their chances of getting re-elected or promoted, whilst the oversold age of austerity does little to deliver any real reduction in deficit but leaves the very same people paying a higher price just the same.

Meanwhile clever animations with manipulated pop-songs and actors posing as glamorous lawyers promote the resignation of any self responsibility in accidents and the idea that somebody else is always fully to blame and must therefore pay in a very easy way, whilst the prices of almost every insurance policy in the land rises as a result.

Then in the papers, public sector union barons tell us that the Government is to blame for the slashing of services up and down the Country, when it is actually the unrealistically beneficial working conditions, wages and the limitation of responsibilities they have ransomed for their members over the course of many years which have contributed most to the destruction of a once enviable system which is sadly no longer able to sustain itself.

It is indeed ironic that it is the rise of ‘rights’ for the individual in the workplace and in just about every other part of life thereafter that strangle the rights and lives of others at every turn, and then come back full circle to a point where it is the jobs of those who sought those rights in the first place which are no longer sustainable because of the costs of the legislation and conditions that those very same enhanced rights have come to impose – generally because they have long since surpassed the point of doing good.

In every case, the public and customers at large end up paying through higher prices for food, fuel, taxes, insurances, lessening standards and losses within public services which are destroying quality of life and in some cases will probably lead to deaths if they have not already done so.

The true impact of the rising cost of living itself and the growing impact it will have upon low-income families and those in middle England who end up subsidising just about every other part of life has yet to truly manifest itself. But without change in each and every part of life and the way that every one of us approaches it, what we consider to be painful now, may soon become truly horrific.

Most of us do of course read every situation we face in life in terms of how it makes us feel and how it will impact upon us personally, rather than how it will affect the others involved, irrespective of how near or how far from us through a chain of resulting reactions they may actually be.

So in the same way that the banker raises profits by indirectly pushing the price of food up by continually pushing for better margins from the retailers that they own, union bosses demand higher wages for members so that they can afford to keep ahead of cost of living rises, with the ultimate effects being pretty much the same whichever way you choose to look at it.

Getting to a point where the balance is redressed in every sense is not a journey that any of us can toy with lightly, even though it would be politically expedient for any one of the groups discussed or their libertarian or profit-hungry apologists to do so.

The complexities brought into being when people prioritise themselves or manipulate others to do the same are enormous and much easier to embrace than they are to replace. Sadly, those who have become emotionally tied only to themselves without due regard to the result of their actions upon others are caught in a spiralling trap. One which is increasingly negative and encourages the growth of the ever evolving paranoia which accompanies the concept that all problems are of someone else’s making and that others must be made to pick up the tab.

Tackling a problem which is now cultural and has become so through many years of conditioning via the self-serving leadership of successive Governments is no easy task. Fundamentally, this is a problem which does not discern between demographics or social class and is defined only by the medium in which it is applied by the individual. It has been enhanced by the perception of close proximity, delivered by ease of communication through distance and propagated by the ease of buy-in which has itself been empowered by the two-edged-sword which is the media age.

Ultimately, self awareness and therefore responsibility of the individual has to be the aim of real Government as it will prove to be far more liberating and beneficial to everyone than the fleeting benefits any impractical plot cooked up by politicians as an easy and profitable crowd-pleaser.

It is the responsibility of those who led us here and are most likely to be happy with the status quo to lead us away from it and that is where the greatest difficulty arises.

Politicians can not only make the necessary policy changes to bring about a change which is much bigger than being about policy itself; they can also lead us in a way that advertisers, union reps and bankers simply cannot or never will be able to.

The real question here is where a change of this magnitude is going to come from when it is the political system itself which is responsible and politicians themselves who attain most benefit from maintaining the status quo.

After all, it is only politicians who have a genuine and meaningful mandate who will be selfless enough to take the risks to make those long overdue changes which nobody in Government today seems willing to outwardly contemplate. And these are indeed changes that are needed as a beacon for all to demonstrate a better way of living where a thought for all on the part of one is seen for its benefits to the one as a consequence of its benefits for us all, rather than for us continuing to live a life where the self must always come first and it seems ok for us to do so.

Osborne’s threats to break up Banks: True banking reform will take leadership by example rather than the issue of diktats to the financial leviathans for whom God is profit first and the interests of the very customers who keep them there come a distant second

February 7, 2013 Leave a comment

Commercial Altruism is perhaps an aspiration, but a term which certainly describes the kind of ethics that we need to see exhibited more often within industry and certainly within the Financial Sectors where its absence has been so painfully apparent.

Any resistance to George Osborne’s plans to require Banks to split their retail and less-stable investment arms in attempt to avoid further Taxpayer-funded bail-outs will hardly come as a surprise,  and particularly so when politicians themselves hardly exhibit anything near that type of mentality. But is this really all that the Government actually has within its power to do?

Few could actually believe the sums thrown at the rescue packages of the Banks which had effectively beached themselves through little more than acts of greed and complete disregard for anything other than maximising profit on the part of a few – all at the cost of people who have paid perhaps not just once through fees; but twice by then paying out on the losses when speculation – upon what is effectively thin air – crashed to the floor, as anything without true foundation surely would. The true wonder is how they kept the charade going for so long.

Forcing banks to ‘ringfence’ funds and therefore prevent further Government intervention through the creation of dedicated retail arms, is hardly likely to encourage a growth in benefit to domestic or small business customers. It is in fact more likely to increase the cost of basic banking services to people who already struggle to make ends meet and to those small businesses that need to be subsidised themselves, rather than to be given no option but to subsidise focussed services that banks are currently reluctant to give.

The development and provision of a an easy-to-access or ‘peoples’ bank which would provide the basic account services that everyone is entitled to access is the responsibility of Government, and should be set up as such.

Providing basic free-banking services in this way would provide Government with many advantages such as access to unfettered borrowing streams without 3rd party profit margins being included. But it could also support the administration of ‘smart’ card payments to retailers by customers, restricting the purchase of certain items by those being encouraged into work, with the added benefit of instantly losing the stigma which would be associated with payments made with a non-bank-derived payment card.

Better still, a Government-based bank run as a public service and with a customer focused culture, rather than one based upon benefits to employees and stakeholders may be able to provide many of the products which those on low incomes currently seek such as ‘payday loans’ without the utterly unrealistic levels of interest, and also provide the low-cost services and low-margin lending which new and existing small businesses need in order to survive and then thrive as we have so very long been seeking.

Creation of such a new bank – or indeed adaption of one of those that the Taxpayer already owns – would require a radical change in thinking and the type of leadership which has been sadly lacking in British politics for far too long. But it could be done.

The real question here is whether the Chancellor and the Government really want to affect change in the way that the Financial Sectors operate.

True banking reform will take a lot more effort than simply telling the banks to split their operations or even go back to employing managers within every branch.

Reform will take leadership by example and the provision of the best services possible for those who have the least money first; not by sound-biting newsworthy diktats to the financial leviathans for whom God is profit first and the interests of the very customers who keep them there come a distant second.

Credit Rating Agency Standard & Poor’s to be sued for role in Financial Crisis: Government has the responsibility and obligation to protect everyone and it’s time that they began getting on with reform that would really make a difference to us all

February 5, 2013 Leave a comment

One of the most sinister, yet least reported stories that has highlighted itself in this mornings news is the power of independent credit agencies to wreak havoc not only on the lives of us as individuals, but also at Government level.

Credit Rating Agency Standard & Poor’s are set to be sued by the US Government for their assessment of mortgage bonds before the financial crisis, and the question must surely now be asked about the role that credit rating agencies play in our lives and if their methods of calculation are really that sound.

Much nearer home and in an article published by Observer last February, the causes of the banking crisis and its relationship with the ever increasing use of formulas in the financial world were made only too clear.

Formulas and their use it seems, are the logic and basis upon which many of the highly speculative – and dangerous – deals which now take place, are based. They are the very foundation upon which risk is calculated by apparent professionals who themselves would not be qualified or experienced to write such theories in the first place.

Odds on, it will be the use of such formulas which enable Companies like Standard & Poor’s to make such analysis upon which they are able to suggest that a financial ‘product’ can have the gold standard AAA rating or in fact go on to label the robustness of a whole Economy such as that in the UK. But it doesn’t stop there and each and every one of us have our lives touched by companies working in the very same way; albeit on a much more individual but nonetheless damaging scale.

Some of us will find it indeed odd that as consumers, we can actually run monthly accounts with credit scoring agencies, who for a charge, actually suggest that they can improve your credit rating. But how is it that they themselves harvest and hold the information which can make our lives so very difficult through their defacto credit scoring?

The parallels between all these situations are profoundly frightening and seriously so, as its seems that the ability of individuals, Government and even some brokers to gain credit on good terms is being governed by the very industries which seek to provide it.

Formulas have their place, but even the most simple have the potential to be proven wrong as has most recently been suggested in respect of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and the work at the Hadron Collider which indicates that there are structures which can travel faster than the speed of light. Apply this to complicated Formulae where there are many variable inputs such as those in use within the financial sector, and you can soon see the need for disciplined use of parameters which there would appear no meaningful regulation in place to provide.

So how exactly is it that decisions which will directly or indirectly affect interest rates in all areas for Government, Business and us as individuals can be left in the hands of private companies who have so much to gain by having such horrific levels of power over us all. As has been proven by the misuse of statistics to represent information in a biased way, formulas can be derived to benefit the user, and no less so for the City than it would be for politicians time and again?

Tackling the use of these dark monetary arts which profit the few at the cost of the many can no longer be an uncomfortable truth which is swept under the carpet by politicians whilst lives in the real world are continuing to be ruined. Government has the responsibility and obligation to protect everyone and it’s time that they began getting on with reform that would really make a difference to us all.

Fuel Duty and the OFT: Forcing us to pay more and more Tax on the essentials of daily life demonstrates just how far apart our Westminster politicians are from life outside and the reality of being British today

February 1, 2013 Leave a comment

This week’s announcement by the OFT that the UK petrol market is working well had fudge written all over it and was unsurprisingly met with disdain by motoring organisations across the Country. But just how much does the Government response tell us about the missed opportunities that they could have used to help us, rather than simply using a clever play on words which completely ignores the elephant in the room?

Fuel Duty is of course nothing new where inflammatory issues are concerned. Since the Fuel blockade in 2000, the presence of the Fuel Price Escalator has become only too well known for its wholly disproportionate use as a revenue raising device for successive Governments who have failed to address almost every issue concerning overspending at its root cause.

Use of Fuel Duty in this way has been counterproductive for many years. Whilst making already stretched household budgets even harder to manage for those who have little choice but to use a car to commute, its impact on the all-too-tightly-margined logistics industry reaches into almost every part of our daily lives through the cost of the delivery and supply chains of products that we buy and use each day.

Taxing a product which is effectively the lifeblood of the Country so heavily, just because it is easy to do so is not only morally wrong; it demonstrates just how far detached from reality and void of understanding our politicians have become to the issues facing the Electorate and how desperate we actually are for Government that sees 5 years as an opportunity to do something, rather than the time it takes to work at little more than getting re-elected.

The UK Taxation and Benefits system is far too complicated to understand in almost every place that our lives touch it, and it is little wonder that an entire industry exists to assists to help those who have money to avoid paying every penny that they legally don’t have to.

Worse still are the plethora of revenue-raising taxes which have been put in place on virtually every item that we buy apart from the very minimum of bare essentials. This travesty makes the inability of our leaders to tackle the root causes of the Nations financial difficulties all the more serious when market manipulation and unscrupulous profiteering by the City and its Funds comes ever closer to pushing more and more families into the state of extreme poverty, when none should even be there in 21st Century Great Britain.

In 2007 and as a new Councillor, I argued on the Conservative Home Website that the then Labour Government should consider giving the Logistics Industry the same concession as Agriculture and remove Duty from Fuel.

As just an interim measure, I have no doubt that the impact from such a move would even now have massively positive implications for businesses and the prices of goods. I myself have been in that very situation where a contract has been negotiated which allows haulage prices to be tied and raised directly in line with fuel costs and it is no easy task when those costs will be passed directly to the end user price of the goods carried. But duty-free fuel at an industry-specific level itself would not go anywhere near far enough and attempted in isolation – the method classically used by Governments as an excuse not to do something – it would simply create more deficit of the kind that as a Country we can already not afford to sustain.

Tackling the disenfranchisement caused by our system of Taxation is no mean feat. But the simplification and application of our Tax system in ways that basically make sense to us all, without being left having the inherent feeling that those who give will always be asked to keep giving more has now become essential.

In order to do this, Government will have no option but to adopt and embrace a new and holistic form of politics which uses balance and fairness across all policy areas as the benchmark. It could then more readily face difficult decisions today for a better tomorrow, implementing systems such as a Flat Tax, which at its worst would be relative to income and expenditure, and at its best would be universally fair, proportional and easy for us all to understand.

Cheap political capital is of course made off the back of what each and every one of us does or doesn’t earn and possess. But forcing us to pay more and more Tax on the essentials of daily life, whilst at the same time telling us that the system is fair, not only smacks of a Government treating the Electorate like fools; it demonstrates just how far apart our Westminster politicians are from life outside and the reality of being British today.

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