Friday, 14 January 2011

Student Fees


People often ask me "Dan? What is your view on the student fees situation?" Well, finally, I will tell you!

Uncap them. Uncap them completely. There are a few separate issues at play here, and almost all of them would be fixed by uncapping fees entirely whilst maintaining the current funding system of loans to people.

The system as it has now been changed to, means that if you earn an average of £28k over your life, you'll pay exactly the same overall as you would now. If you earn less than that, you pay less. If you earn more than that - which is likely, really; remember, this is an average - you pay more. So we end up in a situation where the rich (relative, but....) pay more and the poor pay less. And yet this is considered regressive...

Another funny thing is that people who are against the changes often consider a graduate tax as an effective alternative. This current system IS a graduate tax! If you don't earn anything, you don't pay anything? If you earn more, you pay more? If you don't pay anything, no one hounds you? All of those are equally applicable to to the new system as they are to a graduate tax. It's no different, in my mind, to an income tax, except it has a ceiling. I know that next year I'm going to pay roughly £11k in deductions from my income. Does this mean I'm in £11k of debt? No, because until I get paid my monthly salary, I won't have to pay any tax, and when I do it's taken immediately from me. Just like my student loan repayments. It really is no different.

BUT I want the fees uncapped. Why? Because at the moment lots of science and engineering departments are closing down. This isn't because people don't want to do them, it's because they cost a lot to teach. This has two effects. Firstly, it means they can't get enough funding as the caps are a funding straight jacket. The new system doesn't give them a great deal money, so they're still in the same position is just now the students are paying for it rather than the government, by and large. This means they close. But the second effect of is is that, despite the caps being merely caps, it means everyone pays the maximum precisely BECAUSE universities cant get enough money. Humanities subjects cost a great deal less to teach than science subjects. In a free'ish Market (ie uncapped fees) universities wouldn't need to gouge History and Geography students in order to subsidise the more expensive degrees, so the cost of those would go down (relative).

So there we go. As long as the same funding exists as now, there's no need for anyone to not go because of their income. If people have a problem with the cost of the burden this will put on people in the future, they should consider income tax. Under the new system, I'd pay 9% on everyone above £21,000. Also, I'd pay 20% on everything over £6,500. Also, I'd pay 20% on top of every non-essential purchase. And road tax, and petrol, alcohol and tobacco duty, and council tax, and and and and. I think taxes are way, way too high. I think a lot of them should be gotten rid of. I don't think the one that's actually directly related tl what you take from the state is one that should go.


Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Cuts and Banks

They are, rather predictably, the issues on everyone who has a view on
'stuff's mind right now; the cuts, and the banks. In both cases, the
questions appear to boil down to 'are they going the right way?' and
'do we even need them?' If you're not too big on the whole reading
thing, I'll summarise now by answering simply 'yes' to both questions.

But, because national finances and economics are a fairly daunting
topic for even the most bored but aspiring Eton student, I shall begin
by sketching out a brief outline of the two problems we have - and it
*is* two issues. Don't let sneaky ruffians tell you they're the same

The first is the recession. Most recessions in the last century
occurred as a result of increased inflation. This is when a currency
effectively devalues. The 'inflation' here refers not to the value of
the currency, but to the supply - that is to say, that the government
has either printed, or the central bank has lent out to other banks, a
bit too much money. The more money there is sloshing around like this,
the less it ends up being worth, as there is no wealth to back it up.
If the Qatari government buys £10bn worth of fighter jets from a
British company, that's £10bn coming into the country in exchange for
goods, which bolsters the net worth of the UK by that much. If that
same British fighter jet manufacturer, instead, went to a bank for a
£10bn loan - and received it - they would still have as much money,
but because it's just a loan and not actually in exchange for any
product, all it's done is increase the number of pounds in the
country, which in turn devalues them all slightly.

Do this over and over and eventually no one wants to lend you any
money, because the currency you're using to pay it off with is
becoming worth less and less. This leads to recessions, in which
usually the value of things falls back down to what they actually are,
thus house prices falling (homes are particularly susceptible to this,
due to the fact that basically every home bought is done so with a
mortgage, ie a loan, as opposed to, for example, a packet of Rolos.)
Therefore, in these instances, the recession isn't so much a problem
as it is the cure. The problem was an I flared currency. The cure IS
the recession. What governments can do to help in these situations are
make the cost of hiring employees lower, by decreasing company-side
national insurance etc. This is a cure for the symptoms, but as I just
mentioned, the recession itself is a cure and doesn't need to be

This recession, however, was different. Our currenc didn't explode in
inflation as per the norm on the eve of a recession. That's because it
wasn't an inflationary recession, it was a debt based one. Over the
last 15 years or so, many governments around the world pumped a great
deal of money into their economies in the form of low interest rates.
These mean it's a lot cheaper for high street banks to offer loans to
people and businesses, which in turn creates growth. So far, so good.
The problems come when these loans trickle down to a few people who
can not reliably pay back their loans. In the US, the Clinton
administration put through a bit of vote-winning legislation that
effectively forced banks to lend to poorer families to help get them
on the property ladder. These people are grateful, which wins the Dems
votes, and figures of first time buyers going up is good for polls
too. The problem is that, well, banks make their money from loans. The
interest they charge is their income. So, given this, you have to ask
why the banks weren't voluntarily lending these people money in the
first place, and why it required government legislation to force them

The answer is that they were too risky. These groups failed the banks
tests of credit worthiness, which meant the risk of them defaulting on
the loan - not paying it back - was greater than the possible benefits
warranted. When the government effectively forced them too, they
created a demographic that have its name to the now infamous
'sub-prime mortgage collapse' - also known as 'trailer trash that
can't afford their mortgages stopped paying their mortgages and lost
their houses' which subsequently caused the whole house of cards to
fall down, so great were the banks liability in this group.

The US wasn't the only place that this occurred. Greece and Ireland
and Spains construction booms were financed using money that didn't
really exist, and when no one bought them - or, rather, the native
equivalents of the sub-prime mortgage Market did - again, the whole
thing collapsed. These all set off Domino reactions in the world of
finance, with people being less willing to lend to others, making the
whole system seize up. Debt is, after all, vital in any growing

So that's one problem. That's why businesses went bankrupt and why
lots of people in the private sector lost their jobs. This is,
however, different to the cuts.

The cuts are a result of a generation of spending being higher an tax
receipts. Since the recession, our deficit - the difference between
how much money the government gets in taxation and how much it
actually spends - has increased at largely a similar rate to how it
was increasing before the recession. It got a bump from the additional
people seeking welfare and the less people in work, but essentially it
was following an almost exponential progression. Bailing out the banks
were scarcely even considered here (for the simple reason that the
majority of the £850bn figure that gets banded around is actually
liability, and not how much we have actually spent, and the fact thay
the shares we have in Lloyds etc are still ours, and when those
companies become ready for sale, it's likely we will make a profit on
them - we didn't trade the money away for nothing, we got assets for

In short, our spending was vastly largely than our tax revenue for 8
of the 10 pre-recession budgets, getting larger every time. Thats why
we need to cut now. This would have caught up with us sooner or later.
The recession being debt-based was the catalyst that has forced us to
deal with this now, but blaming the recession for the cuts is like
blaming a surgeon for cutting your skin whilst he was operating on
your alcohol-soaked liver to stop you dying. The cuts need to occur
because, even without the recession, we were spending more than we
had, to the point that now, our annual interest payments - not
reductions in the deficit, or even reductions in the debt - are over
£80bn. That's more than our entire education budget. Every single
year. And yet people seem happy to call those endorsing cuts the
selfish ones.

The two issues are, whilst not isolated, also not the same thing. If
we hadn't been spending above our revenue for a decade, we wouldn't
need to be cutting now, recession or no. This may seem obvious, but
it's surprising how many people seem to think it's not. It was the
nasty bankers and their bonuses that enabled the government to borrow
so much for so long in the first place - and now they're the first
being accused of greed, rather than the UK tax payer.

I'll end it here because my trains nearly at my stop, but hopefully
this gives a fairly good indicator of my views on the cuts and banking
issue. Next post? University Fees!


Hello lightness, my old friend.

Ho ho ho, it's that time of the year when every blog and Twitter
entity hilariously asks the question "When is it appropriate to stop
signing emails with 'Happy New Year!'?"

Happy New Year.

I apologise, as seems to be the theme for my last several posts, for
the disgusting delay in posting this since the last load, but my
political fire has been reignited. Most of my posts were from before
the election, when I had a list as long as the distance between the
Green Party and sound fiscal policy (haw haw haw) worth of things the
government were doing that annoyed me. After the election, this list
was cut significantly by the government simply not doing a great deal
of anything, and has remained short by my general agreement of what
they have started doing.

But this means, as per the clockwork routine if British politics, it's
time for the slightly leftish, sane but wrong, socially democratic
wings of the press to malt their sensible cocoons and explode in a
gorgeous butterfly of absolute financial monstrosity and lunacy. As
such, I have a new target, and it's for this reason that my
aforementioned political fire (read as: vitriolic hate) can be
reignited, with an almost endless supply of disgusting shit being
spewed by people who, obviously, don't understand the world as much as
a 22 year old white male whom still lives with his dad.

So, with that said, hello and welcome again.


Monday, 31 May 2010

Israel and Palestine, Mrk 384729837

Hey, it's time to play the Same Game! Again!

Every time there's a thread about Israel and Palestine, the same thing happens. It's such a polarising issue, in a way that no others are. In reality, basically all civil wars (and I know this isn't exactly a civil war, but it's a war between two groups of people who both claim to control the same bit of land) are at least as complicated. They're always steeped in history and the sense of unfairness and a general heap of attacks and counter attacks. It doesn't matter if it's the Basque's in Spain or the IRA in Britain or the Tamils in Sri Lanka or or or. It's the same. Yet Israel and Palestine are so polarised.

And herein lies a big part of the problem. There are so many vested interests, that the whole thing just becomes a PR game. The US, the UK and the west in general have an interest in Israel not falling into the hands of others, for obvious reasons – they are a stable democracy (and for all the cries of genocide and second-class-citizenry, the simple fact is that Arabs in Israel enjoy a greater standard of living and level of human rights than Arabs in basically any Arab country do). But at the same time, it's in the nations in the Middle East's own interest that the issue never be closed. It's a simple exercise in diversionary tactics, and it's literally straight out of 1984 – the populus will swallow a lot more interference from the government if they think they're being protected from a big evil neighbour. So you always have people willing to jump on one side, and criticise the bias and one sidedness of the other.

But the sensible person realises that, if a solution's actually what's desired, rather than just political point scoring, you have to acknowledge that both sides are flawed, and you have to be willing to give away a bit of history. The Palestinians have to acknowledge that, whether it should have been created or not, Israel's here to stay. The Israeli's need to realise that, whether it should be their responsibility or not, they can't keep kicking the issue into the tall grass. The Palestinians need to stop asking for more, the Israeli's need to be willing to give more. The countries around the area need to acknowledge that it's time to stop using Palestine as a football and actually help, and Israel's allies need to acknowledge that their support of Israel damages their standing in the region considerably and that they'd all benefit by putting way more leverage on Israel to actually offer a deal the Pally's can accept.

Israel need to stop carpet bombing cities whenever a rocket hits a farm. Israeli's would argue – understandably – that an eye-for-an-eye is a ridiculous direction to take if your goal is to actually thwart the attacks, rather than simply to give a meaningless gesture. Palestinian's need to stop claiming to be the victims of unprovoked attacks of genocide when they repeatedly smuggle in weapons from the surrounding nations and randomly rain down ordinance on Israeli villages. They would argue – understandably – that they are responding to generations of being downtrodden and restricted, as well as being constantly fearful. But the Israeli's need to realise that every time they kill 10 civilians to kill two Hamas militiamen, they create another 20 attackers who're pissed off because Israel just killed their dad's. And Palestine need to realise that it's they who suffer when they attack Israeli villages, because you can't divorce the result of Israel's actions and their own that caused them in the first place.

Every time a Palestinian supporter calls Israel a “terrorist state”, or an Israeli supporter calls the entire Gaza strip an anti-semitic Jihadist sewer, the cycle continues. At the end of the day, if neither side is willing to concede and “betray” their history by basically offering an olive branch, it's just going to continue. Israel need to forget what's happened, and so the Palestinian's, if they actually want the future to end up better. Anyone who thinks that just continuing on as they are is going to get anywhere is crazy, and anyone who thinks that one “side” is going to win decisively is only marginally less so. “Victory”, here, is going to come when both sides concede ground that their supporters will consider too sacred and holy to give up, but ultimately it'll be their children, and their children after that, who reap the rewards of such concessions, and the Israeli kids who's villages aren't shelled and aren't drafted into an expensive military won't care if they used to be able to build settlements in the West Bank, and the Palestinian kids who can now move freely around the world and go to safe schools and hospitals won't care that their parents used to have sole access to a certain area. That's the only way it's going to work, and anyone who tries to say otherwise, and perpetuate this crap, is only doing harm to the people they profess to be supporting.

Friday, 14 May 2010


I promise I'll get back to writing soon!

Monday, 12 April 2010

Vat and whatnot

Quote of the day (for yesterday) had to go to Ed Miliband. He's accused the Conservatives of making unaffordable promises. Hey, Ed? Every minute of the day, our national debt goes up by over £300,000.

Even if we ignore or enormous pensions liability which we have no savings for (I'm glad they're still taking National Insurance from my monthly wage slip though), there is still the £780,000,000,000 debt. I think the time when Labour ministers could act indignant over unsustainable spending  is over.

Now, just because he's a massive hypocrite for saying it, doesn't  mean that Ed is wrong. He's correct, but tough, I reckon. Someone should tell him  to look up the laffer curve on wikipedia. It explains how  Reagan was able to lower tax yet continue previous levels of spending. The greater the growth, the more significant the tax returns. Labour could have done that too, except they put up tax when or economy was growing to the point that the treasury  gained an extra one trillion pounds, and yet here we are almost in that much debt still. In short, Ed really should worry more about stopping his party going to the left and being electorally bankrupt for the next 15 years, and less about the party who want the state to shrink from its current behemothic heights.

Incidentally, did anyone see Cable on the Politics Show on Sunday? He got aggressively fucked up. I can't link to it now, I'm on my phone, but I'll add it in later, it's great viewing.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

My Prediction

It's well known that no political journalists like to make predictions, because the truth is none of them know what they're talking about half the time, and - despite not being anything close to a political journalist - my ignorance is no less hidden but I have the benefit of having no reputation to secure, so I'm going to go ahead and make my predicition now.

I think that, in a month's time, the Tories will have a 25 seat majority.

There, I said it. If you have one, please comment with it!

Brown's Interview on Today

He got riotously hammered. John Humphrey's is a fantastically well informed interviewer, and I'm absolutely sure that when Cameron gets the sam treatment, he won't come off well either. But it still can't be denied that Brown got well and truly battered today. It can be listened to here:

2hrs10 minute mark is where the mony begins.

One thing that a commentor on the Coffee House blog (which is, by the way, absolutely brilliant, and nothing to do with coffee) mentioned is that, whilst Brown mentions that the £27bn apparantly presented by the Tories as savings as equivalent to half the schools budget for the year, he fails to mention that this is also equivalent to half the annual interest of the debt we've been saddled with. The interest. Whilst this puts into stark light the lack of breadth of the cuts being proposed by the Tories, it's worth noting how scornfully flippant Brown's behaviour towards the debt is.

Monday, 15 March 2010


Jack straw has decided now, six weeks before his government of 13 years loses power, that it is time for complicated idea of parliamentary reform to be brought to the fore. Well, I hate this issue being used from an electoral stand point because frankly most people know too little about politics and our system to really come to an educated opinion. Our system and constitution is incredibly complicated and esoteric, having slowly evolved over centuries. So turning it into an election point seems like a bad idea on those geounds to me, though I can understand why they would want to.

My bigger problem with it, though, is that it has clearly been designed and timed so that the Tories are forced to fight an election campaign all the while saying that a non-elected upper House is a good thing. I suppose this loops in with what I said above, about, with most people too ignorant to realise that, democratic or not, it has (in the last decade) repeatedly been the Lords who have been the ones who have been fighting for liberty, and the commons have been those constantly trying to erode it. The obvious example here is 90 day detention.

But the worst part is that they're playing such a silly electoral game with constitutional reform. Maybe I shouldnt be too worried, though, since Labour won't ever be in power to actually enact it (which is, perhaps, the point, like all of the Lib Dems batty policies) and even if they were in a position to enact something like this, they've made no qualms over breaking manifesto pledges before, so it may not be an issue anyway. But you can probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of people in the world who are qualified to actually enact constitutional reform of such immense complexity, and the idea of that being wielded as an electoral tool is troubling to me.

More Union Stuff

Oh dear oh dear! What has Lord Adonis gone and done now? He said, of the pending British Airways strike, "I deplore the strike" and that it was disproportionate. Needless to say, Unite arent too happy about a minister coming out and saying something like that about their strike, especially when it is the transport minister in a government whose election campaign (and very existance, actually) is owed to Unite.

It'll be quite interesting to see where this goes. I think its unlikely Adonis will take back his words - it would, afterall, be damaging for a minister of Transport to come out and say that he didnt have all the facts regarding a transport dispute. But how will unite respond? Charlie Whelan can't be too happy.

Friday, 12 March 2010


So for my absence recently, work's been a bit mental.

Anyway, yes, the Unions. They all seem to be up in arms at the moment, don't they? Train strikes, BA strikes, Civil Service strikes. And yet, despite this, the government is remaining startling quiet on it. You'd think the last thing they'd want during the run up to an election is a country ground to a halt due to strikes, especially when the majority of those wishing to strike are on the public payroll (and thus directly the government's responsibility, as opposed to the BA air crews who are not). As David Blackburn over at The Spectator suggests, is this because the Labour party relies on them entirely for their funding and thus existence?

The simple fact of the matter is that without the unions, the Labour party wouldn't exist. The only reason they weren't made bankrupt back in 2005 was because Unite promised to bank roll them. In the last 5 or less years, the unions have given Labour over £30m, and that money (as well as feet) are making big differences in a lot of the marginals (the same place that Ashcroft's money is).

So fair's fair, non? Both parties have big donors funding their campaigns in the marginals. Well, no, because there's an obvious conflict of interest involved here. The government has to deal with the unions on a daily basis, especially when so many of them are made up almost entirely of public service figures. The government also funds the unions via the Union Modernisation Fund - that's tax payers money going into fighting for Labour, which seems a bit wrong. So can we trust the government - when it's a Labour government - to deal with the Unions, when they're wholly relient on them for their own existence?

Here's my solution: Remove from all legislation any mention of unions. That's it. That one move will solve it all. Allow unions to exist, of course. They are merely the free association of people. Let them strike when they want, ballot or no. They can run with whatever rules they want for officers, leadership, whatever. Likewise, allow employers to sack people for any reason. Striking, being a part of a union, whatever. If the union is stronger, they'll win out. If the business is, they will. Unions can still donate to parties, but the government wouldn't be able to fund money back to them, and with their legislative powers regarding unions reduced, they'd be less inclined to fund parties in the first place. This isn't a plan to stop Labour existing - I think they should, and they need to - it's to stop a minority at the top of the unions from controlling either the government or the main opposition. It's worth remembering that if the Unions didn't donate on their members behalves, their members could still donate individually if they so wished.

As it stands, bring on the strikes. It'll only do harm to Labour.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010


A very quick one here:

- One can't "buy" an election, one can merely finance a campaign. If people vote for the Tories because of Ashcroft's money, it's because he eneabled them to better get their literature out, and people liked it enough to vote for it. I don't think many could argue with that.

- Lord Ashcroft's donations have been out-matched easily by non-domiciled Labour doners, one of whom is also a peer.

- Ashcroft has never taken a penny of expenses. The Labour doner-and-now-Peer takes an average of £300 a day when he's sitting.

- Since when was being a non-dom a bad thing anyway? It's only the tax you earn OUTSIDE of the UK you don't pay tax on, and frankly why should you? It's got nothing to do with the UK.