Friday, December 09, 2011

If you’re blaming public sector employees, the unemployed or immigrants, you’re being divided and conquered by the real culprits

While the majority of people in employment in the UK have had pay rises below inflation,  effective cuts of an average of 4.5% ; the average city (i.e London financial sector) employee has seen their pay increase by 12% in the last six months, while managing directors have had a 21% increase (1) – (2). That’s equivalent to 19% and 37% rises in a year, after inflation. So the real division on pay and conditions is not public vs private sector, but ‘the city’ and top bank executives versus everyone else.

The endless rhetoric about supposedly ‘privileged’ public sector workers and unemployed ‘scroungers’ (while there are at least 6 people unemployed for every job vacancy) is just crude divide and conquer tactics.

The average London financial sector employee will get paid £83,000 plus a £20,000 bonus – or £103,000, compared to a median wage of £26,000 for the UK as a whole (3) – (4).

Around 710,000 public sector workers have either lost their job or are about to lose it, along with many people in the private sector  who’ve lost their jobs due to the knock on effects of a fall in consumer demand caused by the reduced income of the now unemployed public sector workers, or because banks have refused their business routine bridging loans.

It’s not so good either, if you are on a low income and live in socially rented housing, with the government having capped housing benefit and allowed rents in the social sector to rise to 80% of private sector rates, which are also rising as less people can afford to buy their own house, resulting in more renting (5) – (7). In fact many people who relied on social housing are being made homeless – and in the case of the others taxpayers are being forced to pay more to support them by the lifting of the cap on how much landlords in the ‘social’ sector can charge.

So the Coalition’s policies are good for a small minority – mostly in the markets or the city, advertising, public relations and media ownership, at the expense of the vast majority. It talks about the need to ‘protect’ the city and ‘maintain market confidence’, rewarding the people who caused the crisis, while punishing people who do jobs that benefit other people (8).

That’s why it’s been vital for the political success of the Conservative party (and their allies in the ‘city’ or ‘markets’ and banks) that the majority who are suffering should be divided from one another to eliminate the risk of the majority uniting against the small minority in whose interests the Conservatives are acting.

The unemployed as ‘scroungers’ – even though there aren’t nearly enough jobs for all of them

Decades of propaganda from tabloids owned by billionaires and from a Conservative party (and sometimes a New Labour party) largely funded by billionaires and multi-millionaires has been devoted to creating scapegoats – targets to divert blame away from the people who have the actual power and wealth.

One target has been the unemployed – supposedly all parasites who don’t want to work, despite the fact that the figures show there have never been enough jobs for all the unemployed during economic booms never mind during the worst recession since the 1930s.

The Office for National Statistics figures for July to October 2011 show that there were 462,000 job vacancies,  compared to 2.62 million people unemployed – around 6 people unemployed for every job  (and due to many methods of fiddling the figures developed by governments over the years, that is almost certainly an underestimate of the number of people unemployed) (9) – (10).

It’s undoubtedly true that a minority don’t want to work. If there are no jobs available for them even if they did want to, that’s pretty academic though.

The Daily Mail was outraged that Chancellor George Osborne increased benefits in line with inflation – by 5.2%, talking about this as a ‘big rise’ – it’s not. It only stops them being reduced by inflation – in practice they stay at the same level – about £60 a week – rather than being cut.

The propaganda seems to work as intended though, dividing the employed from the unemployed and even getting some of each to vote entirely against their own interests in and in the interests of billionaires and big multinational companies, on the assumption that any ‘benefit reforms’ will target only the undeserving, lazy unemployed and not them.

Which is more of a parasite? Someone on unemployment benefit getting £60 a week? Or a large company, a primary PFI contractor, which gets taxpayers to pay it dozens of times the amount they would pay in interest on a loan to fund construction of a new hospital or school? There’s no doubt the latter get a lot more public money for nothing.

Immigrants and the EU

Then there are immigrants – who don’t get any benefits unless granted refugee status – and then get benefits well below those given to British citizens. They, like the EU, are foreign – and so an easy target to deflect blame on to. The city traders who helped cause the crisis are British; and so supposedly on our side, even after causing the entire problem and being grossly over-paid for jobs many of which harm the majority of people.

Public sector Vs Private Sector

Finally there are the supposedly ‘cushy’ jobs held by public sector workers with ‘gold plated’ pensions. Osborne talks about public sector workers being ‘paid for’ by workers in the private sector, as if public sector workers aren’t doing vital jobs looking after NHS patients, saving people from fires, arresting criminals, teaching children; and as if public sector workers don’t pay tax at the same rate as private sector employees.

While Cameron and Osborne sack hundreds of thousands of these people to keep ‘the markets; who caused the crisis happy, Cameron has pledged to protect ‘the city’ against any EU actions that might reduce their profits.

There are some private sector workers who do vital jobs – there are a lot who fit the description ‘parasite’ very well though – the hedge fund managers trading in food futures traders in  ‘the city’ who effectively spend their time betting that the price of food will rise, then buying up food to ensure it does, causing starvation for many of the poorest people in the world and hunger even for some of the poorest here.

What I don’t understand is how so many people are so easily conned over and over again? How long will they continue to fall for such obvious divide and conquer tactics and be diverted into pointless arguments between the middle class and the working class, between the employed and the unemployed, between public sector workers and private sector workers?

(New Labour government ministers who were on a pay of over £100,000 a year and many of them – including Tony Blair – formerly lawyers – also played the ‘middle class’ vs ‘working class’ divide and conquer card, pretending that lawyers turned MPs and government ministers were working class heroes.)

The vast majority of people working in the public and private sectors, even up to the managers of small and medium sized businesses, are doing work that does benefit society as a whole and are paid a fraction of what the bank and hedge fund managers get.

Yet while bank managers and the heads of the biggest firms are paying themselves between millions and tens of millions a year, plus the same again in bonuses, often at taxpayers’ expense in bailed out banks, the Conservatives’ tactics of divide and rule ensure many peoples’ anger is directed not at the real parasites, but at other people who are also their victims.

 (1) = Astbury Marsden Compensation Survey 2011 – Banking Infrastructure London,

(2) = 23 Nov 2011 ‘UK incomes fall 3.5% in real terms, ONS reveals’, people in part-time jobs, fall is 4.5% including inflation – a 0.5% rise minus 4.5% inflation)

(3) = Guardian 28 Nov 2011 ‘Banks under fresh pressure to curb bonus and dividend payouts’,

(4) = Office for National Statistics ‘2011 Annual Survey of Hours and Earning -Median full-time gross annual earnings’,

(5) = BBC News 27 Oct 2010 ‘No change to housing benefit plan – Cameron’,

(6) = 22 Nov 2011 ‘Housing strategy prices people out of homes’,

(7) = 16 Sep 2011 ‘UK rents rise by record amount in August’,

(8) = Guardian 07 Dec 2011 ‘David Cameron threatens veto if EU treaty fails to protect City of London’,

(9) =  Office for National Statistics ‘Labour Market Statistics, November 2011’,

(10) = Labour market statistics: 16 Nov 2011 – Vacancies -

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