Recent Articles

Welfare spending is the most important infrastructure investment we can make

by Adam Ramsay     December 7, 2012 at 2:15 pm

At the Autumn Statement we were told that the Chancellor is increasing spending on infrastructure whilst cutting spending on welfare. Such statements are confusing “infrastructure” for “lumps of rock”.

There are two reasons that you would increase spending on infrastructure. The first is that you believe that the spending itself will be good for the economy: the money will create jobs, the newly employed people will buy new things, shops will employ more people, etc.

The second reason might be that you believe that the underlying framework of your system could be more efficient. The classic example would be that late trains cost people time working, so you invest in better train lines.

However, in practice, I see very little notable difference between what Osborne sees as ‘welfare’ and what he sees as ‘infrastructure’ – other than who it is for. What the Chancellor calls infrastructure, I could call corporate welfare.

Let’s take a specific example: the Treasury is going to pay to upgrade our broadband network. They are doing it so that businesses can have access to faster internet. If the state didn’t pay for this, then these companies, if they really need it, would eventually arrange it themselves. So this is just a whacking great subsidy to them.

And you say “welfare”, I say “social infrastructure”.

The basic underlying framework of our society is not just roads, railways and wires. More important than any of these are the institutions which make our civilisation. And the welfare state is key to this.

If the public sector spends less time caring for old people, then this often means that relatives (almost always female relatives) end up taking on those caring responsibilities. Now, what costs the economy more hours of labour – a late train, or the need to care for a sick elderly relative? Social care is as much a piece of economic infrastructure as are train lines or high speed broadband.

Likewise, if we cut social services for young people, then we see a huge financial cost to society – both in the short term in increased crime rates, and in the long term in a less well educated, less well adjusted generation growing up.

There is no particular economic reason to cut spending on social infrastructure and increase it on physical infrastructure – other than an ideological opposition to the welfare state.

A longer version is at Bright Green Scotland.

Starbucks VP awarded ‘Prize Mug’ following tax avoidance

by Adam Ramsay     December 1, 2012 at 10:27 am

Starbucks VP Marketing Ian Cranna was this week awarded a golden mug ahead of a speech in Birmingham.

The “Prize Mug” was awarded for the company’s ‘mugging’ of the UK taxpayer.

Starbucks: mugging the taxpayer

Starbucks UK was recently revealed to have dodged many millions of pounds of UK tax in the year 2011/12. It has failed to pay any corporation tax to the HMRC for the last three years – and only £8.5m since the company arrived in the UK in 1998. They achieve this through a number of payment scheme, which move money to subsidiaries.

The protest comes ahead of a UK Uncut national day of action against Starbucks on the 8th of December – which already has 24 actions listed on the UK Uncut website.

The day of action will take place the first Saturday after the Chancellor’s autumn statement, in which he is expected to announce further public spending cuts.

To find out more about corporate tax dodging, and get all your questions answered from the comfort of your own home, you can join a conference call organised by People & Planet with national expert, John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network – at 6:30pm on the 6th of December.

Green Party passes its own Clause 4 motion

by Adam Ramsay     September 10, 2012 at 10:01 am

It didn’t take long to discuss, but one policy motion at last week’s Green Party of England and Wales conference marked a line in the turf for the party.

It was a part of broader proposals around economic democracy, and reads as follows:

We will grant employees the legal right to buy out their companies and turn them into workers co-operatives. Buy outs would be funded by a Green National Investment Bank and contingent on the co-ops following green and ethical policies. These co-operatives would localise economic decision-making and give employees incentives for greater productivity.

There was a bit of a debate about whether this should apply to all companies, or if the motion should be opposed as it implicitly includes small as well as medium and large companies.

But one speech about labour rights abuses in small companies put paid to that.

The motion was opposed by one member who said that this was effectively Labour’s old clause four. Much of the conference floor cheered in agreement – yes, it is, yes, that’s what we want.

It passed overwhelmingly. And so the Green Party committed to collective ownership of the means of production.


Get ready for the coming permanent food crisis

by Adam Ramsay     July 17, 2012 at 8:50 am

At what point do you draw a line through the dots on a graph and call them a trend? At what point do we stop calling talking about “another food crisis” and start accepting we are entering a new era in which our food system is perpetually in crisis?

There is a ‘once in a generation’ heatwave in America’s Midwest. As crops are destroyed, corn, soya and wheat prices are soaring – for the third summer in the last five.

Each time this has happened, it is explained away as unusual combination of mishaps. Weather events that we used to think of as extreme are becoming normal as climate change unravels.
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The Greens must get better at communicating our support for science

by Adam Ramsay     June 8, 2012 at 9:02 am

The Green Party is more pro-science than any other party. Party policy commits 1% of GDP to public funding for science research.

Whilst Labour, Lib Dems and Tories increasingly demand that researchers demonstrate the immediate commercial viability of their work, Greens argue that we should fund science for its own sake, because discovery is key to civilisation.

Even on areas where we once were a little wobbly, various conference motions in recent years mean we can now be proud of our polices.
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How global occupations can play to mainstream ‘99%’ values

by Adam Ramsay     October 15, 2011 at 7:01 pm

It is the classic question of American marketing – will it play in Peoria? Of the many occupations today, one will indeed be in the Illinois city famous as the litmus test for American popularity.

The success or failure of the tactic of mass occupation of public space has been widely discussed elsewhere. And I suspect it is fair to say that on its own, it is unlikely to succeed in securing significant lasting change.

So let’s look at a simple question – how successful have these movements so far been in securing public support.
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Solidarity demo for imprisoned activist Edd

by Adam Ramsay     September 22, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Edd Bauer, the 22 year old who is being held indefinately before trial for the ‘crime’ of hanging a banner off a bridge at the Liberal Democrat conference, will have his second bail hearing on Monday.

Edd, who is Vice President Education at the Birmingham University Guild of Students was denied bail and sent to prison at a previous hearing because he is ‘part of a group‘ and because he was involved in the Fortnum & Mason’s occupation on the 26th of March. Denying an activist bail in this way is thought to be unprecedented.

There will be a solidarity demonstration supporting Edd and our right to protest on Monday in Birmingham. Details are at the Facebook event.

Edd, who is an occasional contributor to Bright Green, is a well respected student activist, known for his hard work, calm demeanour, and winning smile.

The famine in Somali is no natural disaster

by Adam Ramsay     July 25, 2011 at 11:10 am

When we see dying Somalis, it is all too easy to see a natural disaster. But droughts are more frequent because oil executives demand the right to carry on exploring and extracting and to keep our society addicted to burning.

Without the level of carbon we have pumped into the atmosphere, we would have neither the frequency nor the scale of droughts we see today.

But the drought is only one factor. It has arrived in the middle of a perfect storm for Somalia, with very high global food prices and very weak government.
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Edinburgh Uncut activists not charged

by Adam Ramsay     July 4, 2011 at 5:55 pm

In a victory for the right to protest against the tax dodging of big business and the rich, charges against Uncut activists in Edinburgh were revealed to have been dropped today. The activists, who were arrested just over one month ago, were today informed by the procurator fiscal that their cases would not be taken forward and they will not have to attend court this week as previously expected.

Two weeks ago Bright Green co-editor Alasdair Thompson, who was the first Uncut activist arrested in Edinburgh, charged with abusive or threatening behaviour under section 38 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing Act (2010) for holding a banner inside BHS, was told that his case would not be taken to court if he accepted the offer to pay a fiscal fine of £150.

The activists subsequently arrested for the same offence, but charged for a common law breach of the peace, will not have to pay a fine.

Tomorrow, the Defend the Right to Protest campaign will hold a demonstration at 1pm outside City of Westminster Court as the first activists from the Fortnum and Mason occupation face their initial court hearings.

As they say:

Fortnum and Mason are one of many super-rich companies that avoid paying tax. Tax avoidance costs us an estimated £95billion each year, an amount that would pay for the government’s £81billion cuts program and more.

Tax avoiders should be on trial, not protestors who raise awareness of their scams!

Please show support for the defendants and, if you can, attend the demonstration.

Chris Huhne should admit the energy market has failed and fix it

by Adam Ramsay     June 13, 2011 at 11:15 am

Chris Huhne was in the papers yesterday encouraging consumers to punish energy companies for putting their bills up. That’s Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy.

Apparently this is Mr Huhne ‘intervening dramatically’. By, er, giving an interview to a newspaper. He tells the Observer that we shouldn’t accepted the current rise in prices ‘lying down’. So he has bravely stood up and, um, done essentially nothing about it.

We might have thought that the person chosen democratically(ish) to oversee energy in the country may have some kind of control when he believes that companies are charging more than they should. But, no.
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