Ad Fontes

Politics, Theology and Christian Humanism


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A budget both unnecessary and vicious

The Liberal Democrats are doing most of the talking on this week’s budget, in an apparent attempt to convince themselves about it. My MP, Vince Cable, has been writing in the local rag about how we all knew that a tough budget was needed, that it will hurt, but is totally necessary. It is clear from various media vox pops that a number of people are being taken in by this ‘tough but fair’ line.

The only thing that is obvious is that there is a deficit in government finances. The threat that is wafted before us is that of Greece, but the UK’s credit rating is in a far better state than that of Greece. And the assumption is that the markets trump all other needs in our society. This is a deeply offensive attitude towards the people of this country, and demonstrates the hateful ideology behind this budget.

Vince Cable has been all over the TV trying to drum up support for this budget. However, when all its viciousness against families, disabled people, those on housing benefit and anyone who buys anything is listed, he defended the budget by pointing out the positives: all for business. So, the Con Dems are not only putting markets before people, but also business before people. They may retort that helping business creates jobs, and reduces unemployment, and thus is better for the general population. However, we have plenty of evidence that helping business mostly benefits upper management, and there is no ‘trickle down’.

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The horror of the slasher budget

Today, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced his budget. Variously named an emergency budget or an austerity budget, it is clearly more a slasher horror.

We already knew that the Tories were going to be savage with the public purse, but we are beginning to see a Liberal Democrat Party beholden to a liberal economic theory, and the sidelining of that party’s social democratic wing in the name of coalition government.

As everyone predicted, the new budget is a screw-the-poor budget: child benefit frozen for three years (huge impact on low-income families), housing benefit capped (those on low incomes will be forced out of some areas), SureStart maternity grant limited to first child (affects most families), tests for disability allowance to get tougher (fairly degrading to many claimants, costs to administer and will likely find fewer ‘bogus’ claimants than the Daily Mail expects)  and VAT to increase to 20% (massively affecting the spending power of the poorest in society).

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The CSM discusses family values

The CSM badgeYesterday evening, I was down at Westminster Central Hall for the Christian Socialist Movement AGM and the following Tawney Dialogue. Unlike other sections of the Labour Party, the CSM still uses the word ‘socialist’, and is actually proud to do so. It makes a refreshing change to hear people talking openly about praying for socialism, or interceding for the renationalisation of the railways. Although the CSM does not represent the left wing of the party, it does bring a radical commitment to social justice that often seems to be absent from the discourse of the party’s right.

This year’s Tawney Dialogue was titled ‘Will the general election make any difference to the family?’ with Ann Holt, Director of Programme at the Bible Society, Elaine Storkey, philosopher, sociologist and theologian, and Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families.

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Money as Debt

Money as DebtI’m a fan of Paul Grignon’s animated films Money as Debt. They are pieces of advocacy for monetary reform, a tough issue that needs plenty of explanation. Almost any type of reform would be easier than this — electoral, political, social, ethical reform — which is perhaps an indicator of how important it is. Grignon’s new film, Money as Debt II: Promises Unleashed, introduces a light focus on bank bailouts, and it takes the educational message of the first film and develops a call for monetary reform.

The two films describe how around 95% of the money supply is bank credit, or debt money. This money is created by banks in the form of loans and mortgages. The loan isn’t taken from so-called ‘deposit money’ and given to the borrower, but created from nothing by the bank as a promise to pay. This promise to pay is considered to be money and may be exchanged for a house, car or for whatever we took out the loan. The first problem then is that the money supply is overwhelmingly in hands of private banks, generally unaccountable to governments. The second is that if a large proportion of the money supply is created by banks as the principal of loans, there is very little other money available from which to pay interest on these loans — it is almost as if the monetary system is designed to bring all money into the possession of banks and, no matter how diligent borrowers are, some will always default on loan repayments. To keep the economy working there is a demand that new loans are always taken out so that more money is introduced to pay off the interest on old loans. The treadmill never stops, demanding exponential growth and creating constant inflation. Problem number three is that natural resources, and the total global value that is derived from them, are finite, meaning that real economic growth can only occur with the discovery of new resources, greater efficiencies or redirecting the resources from another local economy (that old chestnut: imperialism is theft). Thus, a system that demands exponential growth in order to function is also demanding environmental destruction and the impoverishment of the poorer regions of the world. Continue reading