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1) I actually cooked tonight: seared tuna steak, organic couscous with pesto, baby green cabbage and some kind of outrageously expensive Spanish red peppers that taste heavenly. I feel so accomplished, given that toast is usually as far as my culinary adventures extend.

2) I have just taken my first swig of over-the-counter, laden-with-codeiney-goodness cough syrup and I plan to be cheerfully bombed on it all weekend. I won't be able to drive but I won't be coughing either. Huzzah! I plan to listen to the footie on Radio 5, call people up to wig them out with my lovely Harvey Fierstein voice and watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition while playing the "Oh!My!Gosh!" drinking game. And read a lot.

3) I flipped past American Idol while I was eating dinner. America, as arrogant, arse-chinned and truly dreadful as Constantine was when he tried to pull a Chad Kroeger, I can't believe you preferred to boot him out rather than the smug, wall-eyed, god-bothering serial killer-in-waiting that is Scott Thingywotsit. If he's genuinely humble then I'm a teapot called Eric.

4) Some time ago leadensky said I was getting the impression that all the polls were running a 15 to 20 point difference, favor Labor (or whatever Blair's party is) and that nobody was taking odds for the Tories, much less anyone one else. Is there some reason to expect a Spain-style upset?



There's not much reason to expect a Spain-style upset because the parties are not *that* close in the polls that something like the Madrid bombing and the subsequent festival of lying, panicking and misdirection engaged in by the Aznar government could tip the vote the other way.

As in Spain, the involvement in Iraq is, barring something dreadful happening next week, an issue which impacts in different ways across the electorate. I don't know whether this has been reported at all in the media outside Britain, but the secret advice on the legality of the war which was given by the attorney general has been slowly leaked over the course of the election campaign. It proves that contrary to what Blair advised parliament, the case for war was not cut and dried and it is likely that Britain engaged in a war which was illegal according to international law. This actually matters in Britain, which is a signatory to a number of treaties on the subject and, in general, has historically been a proponent of creating a useful framework of international law.

For most people it's way down the priority list compared to say, issues of healthcare, education, taxation and immigration (the main areas of argument this election)

But for others, hardcore Labourites, Iraq was one break of faith too far from Blair, who is a centre-right social democrat when most of his party span the spectrum from social democrat to socialist. They despised him for other reasons of policy but the Iraq war is what convinced them that the compromise under which leftwingers united behind and supported someone from the right of their party because he was electable was not worth it. (Labour was out of power for 18 years before Blair, and it was scarred by the experience) Iraq was the issue that broke that particular devil's covenant for them.

However, the main opposition party, the Conservatives (AKA, the Tories), also supported the war in Iraq, so there's no leverage for them in that issue. It is led by Michael Howard, a former home secretary of frighteningly rightwing, illiberal views, who is now trying to come across as Mr Everyman. Michael Howard is the lawyer son of immigrants from Romania who fled the Nazis, and in that respect, a huge success story. However, he has chosen to run on a very tricksy platform in which the issue of stopping immigration is heavily foregrounded in a way which plays to the basest, most racist impulses of the electorate. Most hardcore Labour voters would rather drown themselves in a bowl of lentil stew than vote for him.

The voting situation is further complicated by a third main party, the Liberal Democrats. They were a midpoint between the Conservatives and Labour but now stand slightly to the left and side of Labour, supporting higher taxes to be ploughed into education and healthcare and an ethical foreign policy which would have permitted, say, the intervention in Bosnia but not the intervention in Iraq.

There are also a number of smaller parties, mostly operating on single issue tickets, the most odious of which are
(1) Veritas, a party which exists only for a permatanned former talk show host to parade his anti-Muslim and anti-European integration views;

(2) UKIP, The UK independence party, which is anti-European integration and would pull Britain out of its European alliances in favour of transatlanticism. This party took a huge bite out of the rightwing vote in the previous election but is now in disarray because Europe is no longer a live issue (this is because the French referendum on the EU constitution on May 29 appears likely to reject its adoption, and oh my god will that put the cat among the pigeons);

(3) The British National Party. Like Aryan Nation, only a wee bit brighter and in suits. They target poor wards and constituencies with large minority ethnic populations and target the white working class vote by playing on their fears. Words cannot express how much I despise these people. Unfortunately, they will probably make gains this election.

The UK has a majoritarian system of government that works like this: the country is divided into constituencies, some 646-odd of them, each of which returns an MP -- the person who has the most votes even if they've won by only 33 votes (which is the smallest majority in the country at present). The party with the most MPs at the end of Thursday night forms the government and the leader of that party is prime minister. Winner takes all, everyone else has to sit down and shut up.

The third party means that tactical voting assumes a large importance in the UK whereas it does not in the US, which also has a majoritarian system of government and bicameral legislature but elects them much more directly.

Labour won by a landslide in 1997, when the electorate administered an unheard of spanking to the loathed Tories. This was accomplished by tactical voting: hardcore Labour voters switching allegiance to the Liberal Democrats in seats which Labour could not possibly win and Liberal Democrats voting for Labour where their candidate could not possibly win.

In 2001, UKIP split the Tory vote and delivered a 167 seat majority to Blair, which allowed him to push through as much legislation as he liked without having to negotiate a huge amount of opposition, except on issues like Iraq and university fees.

The real battlegrounds are probably fewer than 200 constituencies where the vote is close. These marginals are where the parties pour most of their money and where tactical voting makes the contest the most volatile.

It would take a huge swing for the Conservatives to retake the seats they lost in 1997 and that requires a huge swing away from Labour. While Blair's numbers show that he is both distrusted and disliked, they also say that the country thinks he is doing a reasonably good job as PM. The Conservatives cannot win this election, barring a miracle or a terrorist disaster, because Labour has (though it pains me to admit it) been a fairly good government in many areas. And the electorate is content and apathetic.

Yet the Conservative vote is very strong this year, with up to 80% of those who identify as Tories likely to vote while only 64% of those who identify as Labour voters are likely to actually turn out on Thursday.

Therefore the twin-pronged Conservative strategy is this: (1) you depress the Labour turnout by admitting that the election looks lost. This means that weak Labour supporters won't bother voting because they don't think the Conservatives could possibly win.

(2) You tell the furious Labour voters who hate Blair to send a message by voting *against* Labour as a vote against Blair, weakening his position in the party and possibly forcing him to stand down at some point in the next term.

This has the side effect of encouraging slackness of allegiance and discouraging anti-Tory tactical voting. In a tight race, the Green party supporter, for example, might vote for Labour as the least-worst option, but when he/she believes Labour are sure to win, that person will vote with their conscience and go Green. In 2001 this slackness of allegiance hurt the Conservatives -- their voters were sure they would not win and so voted for UKIP to express their anger at the European policy of the main parties.

This differential turnout is hard to calculate in polling data and means that while the official lead for Labour in most polls is 5-8 points, when you count only the responses of those who are certain to vote, it drops to around 2 points, a very manageable swing.

And this is why electoral volatility should have made this an exciting election. Somehow, though, it hasn't been. I'm hoping for a lot of surprise victories for the Liberal Democrats and a much-reduced majority for the Labour party. It's not healthy for one party to have a majority in parliament of more than 100. It encourages dictatorial government.

My tribal loyalty is to Labour but not so much that I won't vote for someone else (who is not a bloody Tory)

Questions? Comments? Yawns?

***

matociquala may be interested in this article from today's Grauniad about 'Ryanair-style'-publishing in which the author receives no advance and bears all costs of professional editing. Looks like there's a division between those hoping it gets more people published and a large number who are appalled at authors getting an ever-smaller sliver of the pie.

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Comments

( 46 comments — Leave a comment )
coffeeandink
Apr. 30th, 2005 01:21 am (UTC)
Questions? Comments? Yawns?

Just a thank you for the explanation, as I've always meant to look up more about the structure of the UK gov't (which looks fairly confusing to me) and never done it. Which is shameful, but there you go.
infinitemonkeys
Apr. 30th, 2005 01:08 pm (UTC)
I think it *is* fairly confusing because it evolved very slowly rather than being written and agreed upon like the constitutions of other countries and also because there is no written constitution or bill of rights etc. British democracy still has its vestigial tail. *g*
leadensky
Apr. 30th, 2005 01:38 am (UTC)
Going to try to be as moderate as possible here, 'cause you're a drug-laden sickee and I'm taking an "over the hump" evening off and am currently two ciders down and counting. *g*

Thank you ever so for the explaination. I had the impression that the split was much further apart, and was not aware of the difference in voter turn out.

BTW - what is the "core constituancy" of Labor, LD, and the Tories? Not the stereotypes, but something close to reality, if you can. And do you have regional variations? And what percentage of the population is "hard core"?

My tribal loyalty is to Labour but not so much that I won't vote for someone else (who is not a bloody Tory)

Hmmm. Coming from the bi-partisan USA, I can understand a conservative/liberal split, but get lost on the third party. And I would have thought you more a LD, given:

supporting higher taxes to be ploughed into education and healthcare and an ethical foreign policy which would have permitted, say, the intervention in Bosnia but not the intervention in Iraq

(I will ask, some other time, if this means they actually *did* support (on-going) intervention in Bosnia, and what they say about intervention in the Sudan and where they would get the money to spend on education and hc from.)

You mentioned Greens - what is that party?

And I understand that the MP from a district isn't a resident, but whoever the party decided should run there - is this right? How do the residents of that district decide who to vote for, then?

And one last thing I'm fuzzy on - the election results (back on Thursday night? So fast?) determine the winning party. If Labor wins, does that mean Blair is in for sure, or can they pick someone else (like the Tories did with Thatcher? I think?)

(And are they offically the Conservatives? Whence comes this "Tories"? I could look it up but it's more fun to ask you, and then look it up.)

- hg




infinitemonkeys
Apr. 30th, 2005 02:13 am (UTC)
Going to try to be as moderate as possible here, 'cause you're a drug-laden sickee and I'm taking an "over the hump" evening off and am currently two ciders down and counting. *g*

Thank you kindly *cough*

BTW - what is the "core constituancy" of Labor, LD, and the Tories? Not the stereotypes, but something close to reality, if you can. And do you have regional variations? And what percentage of the population is "hard core"?

The "core constituency" splits sort of like Republican/Democrat in the US except religion is *not at all* a factor most of the time, except when it comes to the Muslim vote

Conservatives = Reaganite republicans, in favour of privatising services, reducing taxes, letting the market have free reign. Very old party, nicknamed the Tories (which is I believe an Irish word for a brigand or horse thief. Why they came to be called that I don't know without looking it up)
Current leader is Michael Howard. Traditionally supported by businessmen, the wealthy, landowners, the aristocracy, the jingoistic working class.

Their heartlands tend to be rural and rich areas. In the 1980s they held on to power because they took huge swathes of the south of England, leading to a situation where the industrial north, which suffered disproportionately from loss of jobs under Thatcher, was entirely red (Labour), as was Scotland, but their electoral wishes meant nothing because the south wanted the Tories (blue). These days their rural heartlands are under threat from the Liberals, mostly, I suspect, because the liberals have proved very adept in local government there and are translating this into national power.

Labour = slightly to the left of the Democrats but not by much. Believe in the NHS (as does about 90% of the population btw), a social safety net, tax breaks for families. Traditionally tied to the unions but not so much any more.

In the 1980s, Labour switched to hard leftism as Margaret Thatcher took power, to the extent that its 1983 manifesto was described by a Labour moderate, Denis Healey, as "the longest suicide note in history". Many of its moderates pulled away to form a new party called the SDP, which eventually merged with the Liberals (whigs)

By 1987, it had managed to pull away from its near-Communist stance and move to the mainstream. The key events in the recent past were (1) its abandonment of Clause 4 of its manifesto, which was about redistribution to the workers;
(2) The 1992 election, in which the Tories sneaked into power by a thin majority when it seemed as though Labour would win, a bitter setback which paved the way for Tony Blair to move the party rightwards;
(3) The unexpected death of the Labour leader John Smith, the last of the respected old-guard Socialist moderates, which led to Gordon Brown and Tony Blair taking control of the party.
Labour is now firmly among the mainstream Social Democratic parties of Europe, ie only leftwing by US standards, given that the US is, overall, a rightwing-dominated country.

Labour's heartland is those parts of Scotland not won by the Scottish Nationalists, the north of Britain and the cities. It's very much seen as an urban party, particularly after the fox-hunting ban.

infinitemonkeys
Apr. 30th, 2005 02:18 am (UTC)
Part II
The Liberal Democrats are the third party. It used to be the second party of British politics, before the founding of the Labour party in about 1900. The Liberals were the Whigs of the history books. These days they tend to be the party most closely attuned to the Green movement, to tax-and-spend economists etc etc. It's the kind of party supported by teachers and so on.

Whereas Labour and the Tories usually poll between 30-40% of the vote, depending on who is winning, the Lib Dems hover at about 18-23%. Leader is Charles Kennedy, tremendously affable and bright but not convincing as a possible prime minister. Their policies tend to be somewhat lacking in detail because they have not been close to power for years. They're moderately left, favouring a strong health service and education, paid for by tax hikes for the very rich. Pro-European, pro-conservation.,

The Liberals have no real heartland, they take what they can. Their biggest successes have come on the fringes of the cities where people are slightly wealthier but not as rich as Tories, and in socially mobile rural areas.

I will ask, some other time, if this means they actually *did* support (on-going) intervention in Bosnia, and what they say about intervention in the Sudan and where they would get the money to spend on education and hc from.

I can't remember if they did or did not. I know that some of their core constituency is pacifist, but tthey were led at the time by Paddy Ashdown, (formerly the British equivalent of a SEAL) who later became the UN High Commissioner in Bosnia. They support humanitarian intervention but could probably argue about the criteria all day. They pay for it all through tax hikes. The only one they're committed to at the moment, IIRC, is the 49% tax rate for those earning more than £100,000 a year.

You mentioned Greens - what is that party?

The Green party are pro-conservation, anti-pollution, anti-free market economics where it impacts on the planet ... basically a party based on ecological awareness. They're very powerful across Europe (Germany, for example, has a Red-green coalition government) but not so much here.

And I understand that the MP from a district isn't a resident, but whoever the party decided should run there - is this right? How do the residents of that district decide who to vote for, then?

Correct. It's often someone from the area but not always. The parties tend to parachute their bright, young hopefuls into safe seats even if they have no local connections. This may not go down well with the local party but the electorate seldom cares. We vote on national party lines rather than on local issues.

This is a general rule, it doesn't always work. Sometimes local issues do come to the forefront and then you get very interesting races. (examples given on request *g*)

cazling
Apr. 30th, 2005 08:49 am (UTC)
Re: Part II
Hasn't it been Lib Dem peers who have been agitating for us to do something about Darfur? I dunno what the official party line on the Sudan is, mind. I suspect if they have one it got submerged by the Iraq obsession a while ago. I'm sure Menzies Campbell has something to say about it...
infinitemonkeys
Apr. 30th, 2005 01:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Part II
I'm sure he does. I've realised that thinking about it, I'm not sure what the Lib Dem policy is on international intervention -- it seems as though they would be likely to be in favour of it in cases like, say, Rwanda, given UN backing, but not in the case of Iraq. I think they supported Labour over Kosovo but I can't remember properly.
infinitemonkeys
Apr. 30th, 2005 02:25 am (UTC)
III
And one last thing I'm fuzzy on - the election results (back on Thursday night? So fast?) determine the winning party. If Labor wins, does that mean Blair is in for sure, or can they pick someone else (like the Tories did with Thatcher? I think?)

Well, yes. We tend to get the first result about 11pm. usually from Sunderland, and the last ones, (from northern Ireland) tend to appear by about 4pm the following day, recounts permitting. We have no electronic voting. Everything is counted by hand. Exit polls should show who has won by 10pm but we should *know* who has won by about 4am, even if the result is close.

One possible wrinkle this year -- the postal ballot has been gradually introduced in the past five years or so and this year applications are up hugely.

The only problem is that they are not fraud-proof. There was one recent case in brighton of voter fraud through postal ballots when the judge, during his summing up, said the UK now had a voting system that was so susceptible to tampering that it "would disgrace a banana republic"

For that reason there may be some argy bargy about results. So far, it's Labour that mostly stands accused of malpractice w/r/t postal voting so we shall see.

If Labour wins, it's all about the size of the majority. If it's small, Tony Blair is likely to go. If the party believes its leader is an electoral liability or they just cannot stand them to be in charge any more, they chuck them out, as happened to Thatcher in 1990. If the majority is small, Blair will go at some point in the next parliament, I think.

If his majority is over 100, he'll probably survive this term in office.

Okay. Done. *g*
leadensky
Apr. 30th, 2005 02:43 am (UTC)
Re: III
Wow.

That was a lot.

(49% tax rate? are they insane?)

Thank you ever so.

- hg
cazling
Apr. 30th, 2005 08:45 am (UTC)
Re: III
49% tax rate? are they insane?

It's a policy that plays very well with their target audience, though (ie people like me who fall into the 22% income tax bracket). The current highest tax bracket here is 40%, which I think you fall into if you make anything over £35 000 a year. However much more you make over that, the rate isn't adjusted upwards, so even if you are a meeeeeeeellionaire you don't pay more than 40%. Relatively poor peeps like me *g* like the idea of getting much-needed cash into the health and education systems by people earning over £100 000 ($150 000) a year paying more tax, and people who do earn that much (about 1% of the population) will never vote for the Lib Dems anyway. It falls into one of those Lib Dem policy categories of 'plays well with people who like the idea of it and know it will never actually happen because we'll never get into power'.

Where I differ from the Lib Dems is that I don't think the theoretical money raised from taxing the top 1% that much should go to scrapping student tuition fees - I have no problems with the current system of student loans which pay for your (still heavily subsidised) student fees, and are then repaid according to income on a sliding scale after graduation. I do agree with them about pumping the money into care for the elderly, though, especially with the looming pensions crisis in this country.
leadensky
Apr. 30th, 2005 02:20 pm (UTC)
Re: III
It falls into one of those Lib Dem policy categories of 'plays well with people who like the idea of it and know it will never actually happen because we'll never get into power'.

Not insane, but crafty. And, if I can paraphrase infinitemonkeys, "playing to the basest concerns of the populace."

It's not right for the government to take that much of people's money. Even the rates we have now are too steep, imo, and at 35K pounds (our $67K) the rate is still only 25%.

What is your lowest tax bracket, btw? (USA is 10%)

By "not right" I mean both "keep your freaking paws off the money I earned, bastard!" and "It hurts more than it helps." Because if people don't feel like they're being encouraged to make more money, they won't, and people making money makes money for other people. (ie - I'm not buying a lot of theater tickets or fancy clothes or new cars, so the people working in those places need people making money to shop there.)

The USA is going to have a pensioner's crisis, too, but ours is further off. We have a strong postive inflow of immigrants and a historically higher-than-replacement birthrate, which means a broader tax base.

- hg
cazling
Apr. 30th, 2005 02:51 pm (UTC)
Re: III
What is your lowest tax bracket, btw? (USA is 10%)

The intarweb would have me believe the current tax brackets here are as follows:

up to £4,745 tax free
between £4,745 - £6,765 10%
between £6,765 - £36,145 22%
over £36,145 - 40%


That's income tax - we also pay National Insurance contributions, which come out of our paycheques, and then of course there's 17.5% VAT (sales tax) on pretty much everything, and the awful council tax (determined by how much your property is valued at, you pay a monthly tax to the local authority).

I think the big difference between how British voters and American voters might feel about tax is that, while no one much likes the government taking their money, British people are so used by now to the idea that all healthcare should be free at the point of use to all, regardless of ability to pay, that I guess a lot of people will trade paying more taxes for a functioning National Health Service (and state education system, of course, but then you have that in common with us). THEN the big political issue at elections becomes "Hey, how come we're paying all this tax and the NHS still creaks at the edges?" (because equally no one wants to accept the idea that if you want a really great NHS, you have to be prepared to accept Swedish-style levels of taxation). Labour are really pushing the position that the NHS has improved enormously under their management without majortax hikes, and pushing the idea that voters need to resist the Tory lure of tax cuts, because it will be the equivalent to pushing the NHS, and all the other public service, back over the brink of the abyss.

I do hear where you're coming from on how you feel about taxes. At the same time I remain unsure of how much the trickle-down theory benefits the members of Britain's ever-growing underclass. The gap between the haves and the have-nots is getting ever wider here and while the answer isn't welfare, necessarily, I don't know if the answer is a return to Thatcherite economics.
leadensky
Apr. 30th, 2005 03:45 pm (UTC)
hmmmm
One of the things I've heard about NHS is that nobody actually goes to a doc unless they're already sick. How true is this in your experience?

My experiences with free-at-point-of-service anything have been that "you get what you pay for."

That's income tax - we also pay National Insurance contributions, which come out of our paycheques, and then of course there's 17.5% VAT (sales tax) on pretty much everything, and the awful council tax (determined by how much your property is valued at, you pay a monthly tax to the local authority).

Yeah, it's all the other stuff that's the real killer. Social Security is about 8%, iirc, out of paycheck. Sales taxes are set by local (state and county) governments and they're typically about 5 or 6 percent. (So imagine my heart attack when I saw the VAT levels for the first time.) Property taxes are also local (city or county) and can vary widely.

You can pretty much tell who's supporting what kind of measure by what kind of tax funding they want for it - sales taxes hit everyone, while property taxes are only for those who own houses or land or businesses. There is also a (much smaller) divide on gas (petrol) taxes (which I think take up about 90% of the difference between UK/EU gas cost and USA gas cost - if we had to pay $7 a gallon, we wouldn't have SUV's either) - in my city, they pay for the bus service out of gas taxes. Which really chaps some people's hides, as the ones who want the bus services extended won't be supporting the cost.

The gap between the haves and the have-nots is getting ever wider here and while the answer isn't welfare, necessarily, I don't know if the answer is a return to Thatcherite economics.

Hmmm. Not trying to start a fight here, at all, please read this as kindly as you can - if the government provides free education, free housing, and free healthcare, what don't the have-nots have?

The difference between richest and poorest doesn't get the same reaction from me as it does some. If you put a bottom on how poor people can be (like, say, "you can lose everthing but yourself (ie - no slavery) and if your debts get too high you can file bankruptcy and get it wiped away, instead of passing on the debt to your childern") and you *don't* put a cap on how rich people can get, well, then, yeah - the gap between the richest and the poorest is going to get bigger, in the direction of people having more.

Having said all that - I'm not 100% sure that limitless free market makes for the best society (it just works better and longer than anything else tried so far). I *would* love to have five or ten roughly equally sized nations that I could set up different economies for, and let them run for a hundred years or so, to see what would happen.

I put in a request, but it was denied due to logistics. *g*

- hg



cazling
Apr. 30th, 2005 04:03 pm (UTC)
Re: hmmmm
One of the things I've heard about NHS is that nobody actually goes to a doc unless they're already sick. How true is this in your experience?

Not true in my experience. I use the NHS for all sorts of preventative and 'wellness' stuff - free STD screening, free family planning clinics, free cervical smear checkups, dental checkups, sight tests (which I get free on the NHS because I have a need for contacts/glasses). Blair says he wants to move it towards being a true National Health Service rather than a National Sickness Service, which sounds quite well and good but does raise a lot of people's 'nanny state' hackles.

Hmmm. Not trying to start a fight here, at all, please read this as kindly as you can - if the government provides free education, free housing, and free healthcare, what don't the have-nots have?

Okay, well, I am much better-placed to answer this than I used to be *g*, cos I see it first-hand via work. Yes, the government provides council housing, but the state of the majority of the country's council housing stock has to be seen to be believed. Most of my students live in council housing and it's overcrowded, squalid, and high-density. A lot of the sexual abuse issues many of our students have arise from family overcrowding in council housing - when you have 10 year old girls sharing rooms with their four older brothers, things tend to happen (this I have from the school's child protection office). Council estates are usually lacking in green space, plagued by social/crime problems like gang violence, joy-riding, drug-use in the few public places the kids have to play, and so forth. They are horrid places, mostly.

My kids live in these areas because social mobility is a real problem in this free market economy. Their parents generally have little or nothing in the way of educational qualifications, and don't have the leisure of going back to adult education to get them because they have to raise families and feed kids. They're usually in full-time employment, but it's unskilled and therefore very poorly paid (a lot of their parents clean hotel rooms or toilets at the airport).

Crap, I have to go, my houseguests are here, although I have more to say about this! *g*

leadensky
Apr. 30th, 2005 06:20 pm (UTC)
Re: hmmmm
When you get the chance, do say more. I'll wait to comment until then.

- hg
cazling
May. 1st, 2005 10:33 pm (UTC)
Re: hmmmm
*tries to remember what else was going to say*

Hmm, I think I was also going to bang on a bit about the free education part. Yes, every child in the country is entitled to an education up to the age of 18 regardless of ability to pay for it. In reality, though, the quality of that education varies enormously. This is what Teach for America and TeachFirst both sprang out of - the recognition that very few well-qualified people want to work as teachers in schools in the poorest areas of the country, where the school buildings are often falling apart and overcrowded, there are overwhelming problems with poverty of aspirations, childrens' schooling is often chaotic and interrupted due to family problems springing out of poverty, such as ill-health, and kids come from family backgrounds where parents are often basically illiterate and innumerate, with negative experiences of schooling themselves. A child born on the estate where I teach, which feeds several comprehensives as well as our academy, does not get anything like the same quality of state education as a child born in the catchment area of, say, the comprehensive school I went to in Gloucester. So yes, they are getting a free education, but the quality of it (and the obstacles to success they face outside school too) is such that it makes it very hard for those kids to leave the educational system with the qualifications to achieve any kind of social mobility. That isn't right, and it affects us all IMO because we are basically feeding kids back into lives of crime and the prison system, which our taxes pay for; back into the abuse cycle, requiring future generations of social workers and foster carers and care homes, which our taxes pay for; back into long-term, intergenerational unemployment, leading to another generation in need of welfare cheques, which our taxes pay for, and so on and so on.

I could probably bang on in this vein for ages, and we'd never come to an agreement *g*, but I am hungover and knackered and going to bed now :).

infinitemonkeys
Apr. 30th, 2005 08:49 pm (UTC)
Re: hmmmm
One of the things I've heard about NHS is that nobody actually goes to a doc unless they're already sick. How true is this in your experience?

This isn't necessarily true. They're not so bad on preventive things either. I think everyone could tell you a horror story about the NHS -- my dad remains chronically ill and I could tell you horror stories about the local hospital. However, I could tell you wonderful things about the stroke nurse he's seeing, the local GP who is always there for he and my mum and the patience of the neurology consultant with someone who is a truly *awful* patient. It's a curate's egg. You can get wonderful service and awful service -- this is true of the private sector also.

My experiences with free-at-point-of-service anything have been that "you get what you pay for."

Yes, but we pay a lot for the NHS. I think one factor that outsiders fail to consider is how much the average Briton *believes* in the NHS as a force for good, and how much many of those who work in the NHS believe in it as a project. I seem to remember a survey in which it was considered the country's greatest post-war achievement. It has many, many faults but it also has unwavering support from the vast majority of the population, who want to see it succeed.

Hmmm. Not trying to start a fight here, at all, please read this as kindly as you can - if the government provides free education, free housing, and free healthcare, what don't the have-nots have?

This is a really interesting point. I read it argued recently that Labour's anti-child poverty targets were meaningless because in this country there was no such thing as true child poverty: children had a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, clothes on their backs, a free education. Lacking holidays abroad, satellite TV and posh trainers just made them unfortunate, not deprived.

However, I find it hard to argue that the present growing gap between the wealthiest sliver of the population and a burgeoning underclass who have nothing and no hope of getting anything without turning to crime will do anything but add to social instability. Social mobility is also particularly low in Britain, and getting worse, and that needs to be addressed.

One way it can be addressed is providing the best education possible for children, but research has also found a correlation between poor areas and very poor schools, and that's harder to deal with. Sometimes I think the teachers are left marooned in areas where relative poverty in material and aspirational terms means that they're a mile behind the field even as the race begins.
cazling
May. 1st, 2005 10:07 pm (UTC)
Re: hmmmm
I read it argued recently that Labour's anti-child poverty targets were meaningless because in this country there was no such thing as true child poverty: children had a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, clothes on their backs, a free education. Lacking holidays abroad, satellite TV and posh trainers just made them unfortunate, not deprived.

I've heard this argued too, that what we're calling child poverty is just relative and really not that bad. I can see how the argument gets made - most of my kids have mobile phones, and wear expensive trainers, and smoke, even though none of them have winter coats and every so often kids will miss weeks of school because they split their only pair of trousers or get a hole in their only pair of good shoes and their parents can't afford to replace it (I strongly suspect many of those trainers and phones and fags come to them, directly or indirectly, by dodgy means, however). They don't look starving, although they are - they are absolutely ravenous by the time morning break comes around, because many of them don't get fed at night at home and hardly any of them get breakfast. We have real problems, despite the breakfast club where we feed any child that wants it a healthy breakfast for free, with the kids not being able to focus in the first two lessons of the day because they're so hungry. They do look malnourished, though. They're pale and pasty and the head of P.E. said to me that one reason our sports teams always lose when we compete against other schools is that all our kids are simply two inches shorter than the other lot, thanks to a crappy diet and smoking. We had to give every kid in the school a free uniform when it changed to the academy uniform, because their parents couldn't afford to buy it for most of them.

So yes, they have clothes on their backs, but they're crappy ones that they wear until they fall apart, and they have food in their bellies, but it's shitty food that doesn't nourish them properly, and they have a roof over their heads, but the homes they live in are overcrowded and crappy and have lovely things like infestations of cockroaches. It's pretty insidious, this level of poverty, because it isn't obvious from the outside.

However, I find it hard to argue that the present growing gap between the wealthiest sliver of the population and a burgeoning underclass who have nothing and no hope of getting anything without turning to crime will do anything but add to social instability.

Yes, in a nutshell this is how I feel too. It's heading us down a cultural, social dead end as a country. Poverty of aspirations is another invisible type of poverty, but it's wretched and widespread and is breeding an underclass that generates social problems that affect us all.

Sometimes I think the teachers are left marooned in areas where relative poverty in material and aspirational terms means that they're a mile behind the field even as the race begins.

Um, YES *g*. It's very, very hard to teach children who have simply no concept that there is a better life available to them, and that they can get it via means other than crime. Poverty of aspirations simply deadens children in a schoolroom. Sometimes it's like teaching a class full of zombies for all the energy and engagement in their eyes. They have absolutely no models for education improving lives, and so they're extremely difficult to engage, full stop.
leadensky
May. 2nd, 2005 09:11 pm (UTC)
Re: hmmmm
So what you're saying is that they (or their parents) have all the necessities provided to them, so with the funds they have, they purchase luxuries. Play luxuries, instead of better clothes or food.

How much of the cycle the kids are in is due to them/their parents essentially not owning anything, but being reliant/dependant on others for everything?

And how much is due to them being placed in council housing with others in the same situation, unable to move to a different/better neighborhood, and surrounded by others who don't value education, conservative financal choices, and the like?

As for the kids coming in ravenous - is this because the food is lousy or because their parents are not feeding them at home? (you said both) Why leave children with parents who won't feed their kids?

Please don't get me wrong, it's not that I'm opposed to charity or helping out those worse off than one's self. I understand wanting to help people, and I think it's necessary for a society. But it's the faceless entitlement that I think is a mistake.

If all you're teaching people is that someone will always be there to bail them out, and that they can survive just fine day to day on the dole, there's not much motivation for them to move off. And is that really a help to people?

Had you seen this article?

- hg
cazling
May. 2nd, 2005 09:49 pm (UTC)
Re: hmmmm
So what you're saying is that they (or their parents) have all the necessities provided to them, so with the funds they have, they purchase luxuries. Play luxuries, instead of better clothes or food.

Some of them, yes. Others...well, I can't prove it, but I have very strong suspicions about how some of my students come by their luxury goods. Petty crime is endemic on the estate - it's one of the reasons our school has its own police officer assigned part-time to it. I strongly suspect some of my older students deal drugs. I KNOW some of my younger ones do stuff like steal cigarettes and sell them on to other kids, because they've been caught at it, and I know that the money from that is going on stuff like new mobile phones and new trainers.

I hadn't seen that article. I'm not a big fan of Theodore Dalrymple - he writes for the Daily Telegraph, which is a bastion of right-wing frothers-at-the-mouth, and makes a living out of telling upper middle-class people what they want to hear about the disappearance of the 'deserving poor' (a concept that has hung on over here since Victorian times and still, I think, does a lot of damage to our social fabric).

That's not to say I think he's making it all up. I believe it (apart from the bit about the state paying to entertain people, because I've never heard that buying people new tellies is part of council housing provision, and I do think he's on crack if he thinks the British urban poor aren't still living in overcrowded housing, or working 14 hour labour-intensive days), and I do accept that there's a problem in our culture now where people are obsessed with knowing their 'rights' but have no idea of their responsibilities. I see that in many of the children I teach, never mind in their parents. But I'm not sure that the answer is a Darwinian, 'take away the support and let them sink or swim' approach to the people at the very bottom of the pile (and yes, it may be relative, compared with the scale of poverty in the Third World, but it is a fact that these people ARE at the very bottom of the pile). I especially don't know if you can do that where there are children involved, and I don't think that the answer is to take kids away from parents who aren't doing a good enough job, because then what do you do with all the kids? Put them all in care homes or with foster carers? The offending rates, and the levels of educational under-achievement of looked-after children, are frightening.

As for the kids coming in ravenous - is this because the food is lousy or because their parents are not feeding them at home? (you said both)

With some of them, it's that they don't get fed by their parents. There are varied reasons for that - with some kids it's a case of neglect, with some it's a case of both parents being out at work all hours (contrary to the stereotype of the wasteful, indolent mums and dads on the dole, quite a lot of our parents are actually working two or three jobs just to keep their family fed and clothed, because the only jobs they are qualified to do are so shittily paid) and the kids being latch-key kids who fend for themselves. In other cases, they do get fed at home, but it's that the food they get at home is so shitty - their parents don't know about nutrition, or know how to cook, and so they feed them cheap processed rubbish. I don't have numbers on this, but I have a hell of a lot of anecdotal evidence (I started asking the kids about it more and more after the whole Jamie's School Dinners thing blew up).
cazling
May. 2nd, 2005 09:49 pm (UTC)
Re: hmmmm
[continued]


I do think the blanket perception of 'dole scroungers' is harmful. For starters, you have to distinguish between different reasons for people to be on benefits - what we always called the dole when I was young is now officially called Job Seeker's Allowance, and to get it you have to prove you're actively trying to find paid employment. Someone on JSA may be in a very different situation than, say, someone on long-term incapacity benefits. I also think something that often gets overlooked is that in order to function, a Western society needs people to do the shitty jobs - cleaning toilets, cleaning hotel rooms, working on supermarket checkouts, street-sweeping, etc. But those are the shitty jobs, they're unskilled, and so the pay for them is shitty. This would be why, rather than just lying around on benefits, which is the popular perception, a lot of my kids have parents who work two or three jobs of that kind in order to make ends meet. The bummer is, that doesn't leave them with a whole lot of time to be parents.

I dunno, are we differing on the definition of poverty, on the question of whether or not you can have a roof over your head, running water, electricity, and still be 'poor'? Or are we just differing on what the best solution is?
se_parsons
May. 2nd, 2005 05:22 pm (UTC)
Re: III
You are such a child of Ronald Reagan, it's cute.

What you're talking about is the "deadweight loss" created by all taxes from income that doesn't get created in the first place because taxes encourage people not to provide labor beyond a certain point and also reduce the amount of jobs there are in the first place.

However, it's basically a proven fact that the taxes have to be INSANELY FUCKING HIGH for people to be disinclined to work. (A similar example is the daycare cost for multiple children vs. mother staying home issue.)

Ronald Reagan's favorite example was that beyond 4 pictures a year back when he was acting, his tax rate went from whatever it was to 80%. So he and his acting buddies didn't do that fifth picture, because the raise in taxes taken from them by being in the new tax bracket wasn't covered by the amount of money they'd make.

But note the insanely high bracket it was.

The argument doesn't hold. Even if you're making half what you normally make for the 5th picture (to keep with Reagan's analogy) the vast majority of people will continue to work even for diminishing reward as long as they can see that they're actually making money and getting ahead.

If you get to the point where you're losing money or making a miniscule amount, you stop working. But even a 49% tax bracket isn't sufficient to make that argument work.

Yes, it is nice to have lower taxes. But you have to decide what the priorities are. Does government exist to restrict its citizens (in keeping them from killing and stealing from each other and from being attacked by citizens of other nations) ONLY or does it exist to benefit its citizens by providing services agreed upon by the majority?

I think probably the biggest difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals view government as a service entity - it's there to do stuff for the citizens that they don't have the resources to do individually. That is prohibitively costly for more than 50% of the population, for example, like healthcare and pensions. Because, let's face it, there are still a LOT of people in any country who never make enough money to save. There are surely stupid assholes who are wasteful consumers, but there are a LOT of people who don't have two cents to rub together and just barely make enough to live on all their working lives. And this is not necessarily any fault of their own because they work and work hard. Liberals believe these folks should be able to turn to the government for help. But, in the interest of fairness, you have to help the idiots at the same time.

Conservatives basically seem to believe everything should be done individually. That collective effort toward a common goal is inherently evil and wrong unless it has to do with war or law enforcement. Please correct me if I'm wrong here, but those are the arguments I see again and again.

I mean, seriously, if you could get rid of taxes except for a minimal amount to run the armed forces, what would you do with all the starving poor people with no health care and old people in the street you'd suddenly have on your hands? If you handed all of them over to their families who are barely making it now, they would suddenly have more mouths to feed and be eventually homeless and starving as well. Or you'd have Alzheimer's patients left to watch daycare age kids and burning the house down because all the able-bodied familiy members would have to work just to try to feed them. Or, I imagine, an epidemic level of murder among the elderly. Because, grandma is too told to work and is confused and is producing no resources but is consuming a lot of them, and is a burden. Maybe we should just let her wander off and get hit by a car or just push her in the river. Because it's either that or let the baby starve.

And, seriously, I will laugh at the idea that religious charities will pick up all the slack.

If you could dismantle the social welfare system, what would you put in its place?

I should have asked you that in your questions thing the other day. You can consider it asked right now.
leadensky
May. 2nd, 2005 08:39 pm (UTC)
Re: III
I think probably the biggest difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals view government as a service entity - it's there to do stuff for the citizens that they don't have the resources to do individually.

No. The difference is that liberals think that someone else should pay for the stuff I want but don't need.

They also have exaggerated ideas of what a person "needs", *and* think that the best person to decide what a person needs is some bureaucrat up in HUD and not the person themselves. Liberals also don't want people to make their own choices - they want to make choices for everyone.

That is prohibitively costly for more than 50% of the population, for example, like healthcare and pensions.

ANYTHING that 50% of the population can't afford IS TOO DAMN EXPENSIVE. And check your stats - a majority of Americans do have some form of health care and some form of a pension. And we could afford more if we weren't paying as much in taxes.

Further more, the problem with healthcare is not that it is prohibitively costly, it's just got a lower return than people want to spend on it. People don't see it as worth the investment. And the kind that pays for doctor visits isn't. Catastrophic healthcare is affordable for nearly everyone. It's the kind that pays for every time you run to the doc that's expensive.

Because, let's face it, there are still a LOT of people in any country who never make enough money to save. There are surely stupid assholes who are wasteful consumers, but there are a LOT of people who don't have two cents to rub together and just barely make enough to live on all their working lives.

Not in my town, honey. And not in my family, which is a lot closer to "poverty level" than you'll ever be.

This is the thing I don't think you get. I have been "poor" all my life, until I got out of college. So has most of my family, except for the ones who were engineers, and they were never better than lower middle class.

I have seen the corners cut and the decisions made and I've seen my parents waste money and time and make bad choices. And I've made them too. And that's my right and responsibility as a free adult, to make those kinds of choices and live with the after effects, not go running for a handout 'cause life deals you a bad set of cards.

Life deals *everyone* a bad hand. You roll with the punches, and get back up again. The pendulum will swing back again. You don't sit there in the dirt bawling that you got hit, like it was some great tragedy that never happened to anyone else before.

Conservatives basically seem to believe everything should be done individually. That collective effort toward a common goal is inherently evil and wrong unless it has to do with war or law enforcement.

No, fiscal conservatives have just seen, over and over again, that as soon as you tell people they're "entitled" to something, it starts being a right instead of something they should work for. It's not the collective part that bugs us, it's the lack of "effort" put forward.

And every time some starts saying "well, we should just tax the rich more because I can't afford to get what I want on my own" it only confirms it.

Liberals, on the other hand, are just fine with "collective effort" - unless it's a church organizing the effort, which they won't allow. 'Cause that's evil.

what would you do with all the starving poor people with no health care and old people in the street you'd suddenly have on your hands?

For starters, you're hitting emotional buttons with your apocalypse notions again. Secondly, if you make the changes slowly, people adjust. Just look at what happened with welfare - tell people the free milk ain't coming any more, and they start pitching hay for that cow pretty quick.

And, seriously, I will laugh at the idea that religious charities will pick up all the slack.

Considering your loathing for and disinvolvment with any organized religion, I'm not surprised this is your response. Lucky for a lot of people out there, there are folks who are willing to put effort into organizations like that, even the imperfect ones.

- hossgal
marakara
Apr. 30th, 2005 04:06 am (UTC)
Re: III
Thank you for explaining all this. It is so different than what we do here.

The only one they're committed to at the moment, IIRC, is the 49% tax rate for those earning more than £100,000 a year.

Wow. I think this is a disincentive. Why work hard, why try to succeed, why stay in England if the government is going to take a shade less than half your money?

And is that $100K (sorry, no pound signs on my computer - Ugly American Syndrome) for a person or for a family? A police detective and his school teacher wife in New York can pull in $140-$160K. I don't think they see themselves in the same tax class as movie stars, real estate moguls and software magnates.

I believe people should pay their fair share - don't get me wrong. I just think you'd wind up with a lot more tax exiles and the best and brightest moving to more tax friendly countries if the government gets half.

Take Care
Mara
loligo
Apr. 30th, 2005 01:51 pm (UTC)
Re: III
I think this is a disincentive. Why work hard, why try to succeed, why stay in England if the government is going to take a shade less than half your money?

Enh? This is a perspective on taxes that I've never quite understood. Keeping 51% of your 100,000 is still more money than keeping 60% of 80,000, which is still more than keeping 22% of 40,000 -- how is there not an incentive to continue earning more money?

And frankly, I think people really under-rate the benefits of living in a society with a functioning social safety net, mostly because we here in the US haven't experienced one in a long time. Most people have no idea how close they might be skating to disaster. I have a friend, formerly a well-paid tech writer at a major software firm, who lost her job and her house when she became severely disabled by a condition similar to lupus. She has been couch-surfing between various friends' and relatives' houses for TWO YEARS NOW as she waits for our pathetic social services system to process paperwork & find funding for public housing, disability benefits, etc. If she didn't have so many people who care about her (and some people *don't*), she'd be stuck shuttling from homeless shelter to homeless shelter, in her wheelchair, wracked with pain. I would pay a very large amount in taxes to live in a society where things like this don't happen.
marakara
May. 1st, 2005 02:06 am (UTC)
Re: III
Keeping 51% of your 100,000 is still more money than keeping 60% of 80,000,

Yes, but it exactly the same as earning $85K a year. Why bother going for a promotion that pays 100K a year when you'd make more with a simple cost of living increase? Why would a small business owner ever expand his business? If he makes $100K in a year and the guy across the street makes $99K, the guy across the street clears $8K more.

I'm a nice Catholic girl. I believe that everyone in society is responsible to and for everyone else. To much is given, much is expected but I worry that when the government becomes your partner, you may want to drive the both of you out of business.

Take Care
Mara
leadensky
Apr. 30th, 2005 02:06 pm (UTC)
Re: III
And is that $100K (sorry, no pound signs on my computer - Ugly American Syndrome) for a person or for a family? A police detective and his school teacher wife in New York can pull in $140-$160K. I don't think they see themselves in the same tax class as movie stars, real estate moguls and software magnates.

And on top of that, real estate moguls and software magnates (and people who own small/medium business) make jobs for other people, which your teacher and policeman don't (even though the jobs they do are very vital.)

(Now that I think on it, there might be a trickle down effect on cleaning services, hair dressers, and the like, but not so much.)

I don't buy the "we have to have a safety net!" approach, myself. In part because the government is going to waste (through the laws of energy transfer, and because governments are far more inefficent than markets) huge chunks of the taxes collected. If the cream keeps getting skimmed off, to prop up the lower levels, pretty soon you end up with nothing but skim milk, and not a lot of that.

Half is too much. Heck, working three hours for the government out of every ten is too much, but I'm used to that. (Or was, and will be again, when I'm out of school and actually a functional member of society again. *g*)

- hg
infinitemonkeys
Apr. 30th, 2005 05:30 pm (UTC)
Re: III
And is that $100K (sorry, no pound signs on my computer - Ugly American Syndrome) for a person or for a family? A police detective and his school teacher wife in New York can pull in $140-$160K. I don't think they see themselves in the same tax class as movie stars, real estate moguls and software magnates.

Income tax is based on individual salaries now, though there are various complicated rules related to tax credits for married couples and families with children. However, the top rate remains 40% whether you're a school department head or a software magnate.

I believe people should pay their fair share - don't get me wrong. I just think you'd wind up with a lot more tax exiles and the best and brightest moving to more tax friendly countries if the government gets half.

I believe this happened a lot in the 1970s. The people who were really high earners back then were paying about 70% of their income in various direct taxes and many did indeed go abroad or go to live in places like the Isle of Man or Jersey which were tax havens.

Mrs Thatcher ended that -- probably rightly -- and tried to end progressive taxation. Thankfully she failed in that last aim.

Wow. I think this is a disincentive. Why work hard, why try to succeed, why stay in England if the government is going to take a shade less than half your money?

I think that this probably hits at the difference between the US and Britain (and western Europe to a certain extent) Of every 10 hours I work, I work four for the government just based on income tax, and then there's my National Insurance contribution, not to mention 17.5% VAT on various random things, then there's the council tax, which is the local taxation and about £60 a month and pays for the fire service, local authority etc.

There's also the £12 a month I pay for the TV licence (a public broadcast tax paid by everyone with a TV), which has to be anathema to you *g*

Our basic level of services we demand from our government is higher than in the US, where the more individualistic culture has dictated that you sort out matters such as healthcare for yourself via insurance.

We are used to free healthcare, free education and a certain basic standard below which people do not fall because there's a social safety net there. If that acts as a disincentive among the very poor or the very rich, then that's just the price you pay for it.

I'm not sure that US voters would agree to that because your culture seems to me very much that you stand up on your own two feet and work for everything you have. In the main, this works.

But I think the European standpoint is this: what happens to those who are too old or too ill or too frail or don't have the family/community to support them? What do they do? In the US, according to leadensky, (and I hope I am not characterising her position wrongly), they are caught by non-governmental organisations such as soup kitchens, charities and the very limited welfare net.

The European culture is that this is insufficient and that the poor should be caught by a more extensive welfare net, which is government-administrated so that it can be comprehensive and integrated. If the price of that is that is some administrative inefficiency and that a few workshy bastards live off benefits the whole of their lives, that's the price we pay.

I like the European system of benefits/welfare better, personally, probably because I'm used to the idea of my taxes paying for benefits for other people. I'm okay with it. I'd be okay with paying more, even, though I would bitch like mad. I like a system where if you imagine the worst possible set of circumstances -- a lost job, chronic illness, no family or friends -- you could still have a house, heating, free medical care and money for food without having to beg to charities.

But it's a fact that I would be way better off under the American system.
leadensky
Apr. 30th, 2005 06:47 pm (UTC)
Re: III
In the US, according to leadensky, (and I hope I am not characterising her position wrongly), they are caught by non-governmental organisations such as soup kitchens, charities and the very limited welfare net.

You're not far off.

Compared to people having free health care and free housing (we do have free education for everyone) -

Wait, let me back up. We do have free health care for people at/near the poverty line. Depending on the local government, everyone can get healthcare (not hospital, but clinic care) at the local health department for a very reduced rate. (Again, you get what you pay for.)

We also have "public housing" which is also locally controlled and (thank god for small favors) the administrators are begining to realize that they are setting up a horrible situation by having whole entire developments with subsidy housing, and are now going to renting apartments in ones and threes from locations all across town, so that the childern are atleast exposed to families who have jobs. This provides a motivation for people to get back on their feet and means they don't have to move away when they do.

Landlords like the definite paycheck, but aren't happy about the clients, because (according to the landlord where I used to live) for every one person or family who was down on their luck and trying to work their way out, you had two or three who were going to set up drug operations or start taking stolen goods (LIKE MY BICYLCE!) and "even the good ones, they trash the apartment."

I think that's renters all over, though.

So I think the big difference is how low people have to go before the net catches them. We tolerate a wide range of living standards, in part because people do - every one has different things they would rather spend money on - cars, education, stereos, etc. And we expect people to pull their own weight, and for familes to help each other out.

We also give a *lot* to charity, especially locally. There are huge programs to pay for major medical care for childern who are impoverished, etc. The thing I've seen is that a lot of people want the "charity" stigma taken away - they want to be entitled to these gifts that others are giving them, and not feel beholden because they had to ask for a handout. While I on the other hand have a hard time getting past the damnit, I worked to get this money, I don't HAVE to give it to you, and I resent like hell the implication that I do.

A national system would also have troubles because of the huge variety in cost of living from place to place. For the rent on the average two-bedroom apartment here, in my not-very-large-college-town, I could rent a house, make a car payment, and buy groceries back in my folk's home town.

If the price of that is that is some administrative inefficiency and that a few workshy bastards live off benefits the whole of their lives, that's the price we pay.

I guess the biggest differences in the two systems are cultural, and in perception of what's the worse harm - the reduction in standard of living for everyone, by way of the heavy tax burden, the effects that has on the economy and the growth of new, life-improving tech, vs the very poor living situation for some people. And how many "some" is, and just what you define as "very poor". (Council housing doesn't, to me, sound "very poor", but I get the impression Cazl would not agree.)

Having traveled outside the USA, and seen places where "living good" meant having a concrete floor, vs a dirt one, I'm...rather hard to shock with stories of how badly people have it, living in the USA or West Europe.

Anyway. What I meant is that no, that was pretty much how I would put it, and thank you all for giving me ya'll's perspectives.

- hg



cazling
May. 1st, 2005 10:17 pm (UTC)
Re: III
(Council housing doesn't, to me, sound "very poor", but I get the impression Cazl would not agree.)

You are correct *g*. The standard of council housing does vary around the country, and even around cities, but I would define the conditions a lot of my kids tell me they live in as squalid. They're very matter of fact about it, which is heartbreaking when they're telling you about the mould all over the walls in their house, or the infestation of cockroaches, or how many other people they share a house with (one of my very troubled kids, who is cared for by her sister since dad in in jail and mum abuses her kids, until recently shared a flat meant for two people with her sister, sister's boyfriend, brother and baby niece). The overcrowding, and the poor quality of the housing stock, generates other knock-on effects such as educational underachievement (it's hard to do your homework when you literally have no quiet space in the house to sit down and do it and be able to rest your books on a table or desk), abuse and ill health. I don't think any kid in a highly developed nation should have to live in those conditions.

se_parsons
May. 2nd, 2005 05:32 pm (UTC)
Re: III
Having traveled outside the USA, and seen places where "living good" meant having a concrete floor, vs a dirt one, I'm...rather hard to shock with stories of how badly people have it, living in the USA or West Europe.

So, you want poor people in the USA to be on par with the poorest of the poor in the Third World, then?

I'm sure we'd immediately manage it without social services.
leadensky
May. 2nd, 2005 08:07 pm (UTC)
Re: III
I'm sure we won't manage it.

Where do you get this lousy attitude that the goverment has to provide everything else it all falls apart?

There are tons of differences between here and there, too many to list, but starting with education, attitudes towards education, comminication infrastructure, and simple things like more than enough food so that there's money left over for books and games and social interaction and investments.

And where did you get the "you want poor people in the US to be the same as the third world?"

No, I want us in the USA and West Europe to admit that we're kinda short on poor people, and if we're really looking at aleviating misery, we might start with those folks who don't have either a concrete floor or enough food to eat, much less a functional education system. Instead of making it sound like the house I grew up in was an example of utter misery.

(Roaches? Check. Over crowded house? Check. Family that worked more than 40 hours a week? Check. Mold on the walls? Check.)

- hossgal
marakara
May. 1st, 2005 02:16 am (UTC)
Re: III
There's also the £12 a month I pay for the TV licence (a public broadcast tax paid by everyone with a TV), which has to be anathema to you *g*

When my brother-in-law (who is from Ireland) started explaining this, I was shocked. Paying for cable is one thing - you get different channels, some movies without commercials, dirty words - but to pay for simple news. Outrageous. I remember hearing there was a push to end this around the time the BBC was having their WMD troubles. I'm guessing it failed.

I do see the cultural difference with the social safety net. A lot of places here take pride in the services they provide. Churches that feed and house the homeless, I work with a group that helps repair poor public schools with extras that the city won't pay for (repairing playgrounds, painting murals in the schools) - private organizations doing good work that in Europe is done by the government. Obviously, that all costs money. 49%, though, just blew me away.

But it's a fact that I would be way better off under the American system.

Come by, I'd bet you'd learn to love us.

Take Care
Mara
qowf
Apr. 30th, 2005 04:06 am (UTC)
I'm not talking about the government. I'm talking about American Idol.

There's a site, votefortheworst.com (may be hyphenated between words) that is telling folks to vote for Scott the Body. He is AWFUL.

However, Carrie wasn't good last week either but her country people vote for her. Right now, it should be my man Bo, Vonzel and Carrie.

Bo. BO. Oh my. You see how puerile I've become.
qowf
Apr. 30th, 2005 04:07 am (UTC)
And I'm still glad Constantine is gone. Arrogant with a capital "A" and butchered Nickleback. That's saying something, right there.

More idiocy. Look. More icons.
infinitemonkeys
Apr. 30th, 2005 05:36 pm (UTC)
Not at all puerile. We all need our bread and circuses. Bo is my favourite, I think. The Federov kid is too obviously aiming for the Aiken vote without any charisma. I acknowledge Vonzel's talent but she's a wee bit boring and I hate all that Mariah Careying about the place.

This was the UK's Scott the Body, Rik Waller I'm all for solidarity against the body fascists in favour of talent, but my GOD, what a pair of arseholes.

I can't believe I'm watching American Idol. I say that every season.
se_parsons
May. 2nd, 2005 05:33 pm (UTC)
Welcome to the Dark Side.

Bwa ha haa haha
matociquala
Apr. 30th, 2005 04:30 am (UTC)
Scaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaam.

This is MacMillan getting desperate writers to bear the cost of producing their own work, in the hopes that MacMillan may get something for nothing, essentially. If the book takes off, they make money, If not, they cut their losses.

I'd say if you're willing to take a small or no advance, you're better off going with a reputable small press publisher like St. Martin's.
cazling
Apr. 30th, 2005 08:53 am (UTC)
This is my first election living in a totally safe seat and it's so bloody dull. No bugger has tried to canvass me at all. Labour got about 50% of the vote in Ealing Southall last time and I bet there won't be much swing at all towards the Lib Dems this time round. *sigh*
leadensky
Apr. 30th, 2005 03:27 pm (UTC)
PS
I thought you might get a giggle out of this.

Be sure you read the comments.

Or maybe if we push Blair, they will think we want the Tories and are trying to get them to vote Liberal Democrat to split votes so they will in the end vote for the Welsh Separtists.

(Which is another party you didn't mention...*g*)

Rest assured that I won't be sending any emails.

- hg
infinitemonkeys
Apr. 30th, 2005 05:43 pm (UTC)
Re: PS
(Which is another party you didn't mention...*g*)

Yes, yes, I'm sorry I didn't mention Plaid Cymru, the DUP, the Ulster Unionists, the SNP, the SDLP and the Monster Raving Loony Party *g*

Actually, I did see the Monmouth Voter Project and thought it was pretty funny. They had the geezer behind the Clark County project on the radio the other day to talk about it, I think. They were like "Explain yourself!" *g*

I particularly loved the comment from the indignant Welsh nationalist. Do you think he maybe didn't get the joke?
leadensky
Apr. 30th, 2005 06:54 pm (UTC)
Re: PS
Monster Raving Loony Party

Tell me you're kidding.

They were like "Explain yourself!" *g*

The Monmouth people didn't find the switch funny, and were ticked off at the G?

I think - and this is just me - that the Welshman *did* get the joke, and was hamming it up. I hope so - it's clear to me that this was all in fun to begin with.

- hg


infinitemonkeys
Apr. 30th, 2005 08:31 pm (UTC)
Re: PS
Voilà, the official website of the marvellous Monster Raving Loony Party. I note they are fielding about 20 candidates around the country, including Mr R.U. Seerius, My Twin Brother Mad Crab, Boney Maroney and Lord Toby Jug. Sadly, Baron Retard was unable to find a constituency.

Standing for parliament costs £500 a pop just in fees. These people are serious about their idiocy.

The Monmouth people didn't find the switch funny, and were ticked off at the G?

Nah, I think they just wanted to haul him over the coals over Clark County again for giggles. He probably took it in good part.

I hope the Welshman did get the joke, he just seemed awfully indignant without leaving any clue that he was joking.
raincitygirl
Mar. 1st, 2006 05:19 am (UTC)
Excellent summary. I now understand the situation much better.
raincitygirl
Jul. 25th, 2006 07:11 am (UTC)
Good explanation. I'm already in a parliamentary system, but the stuff about how tactical voting works on specific British parties was very interesting.

So, do you have a credible Lib Dem who might win your constituency, or will you be casting a protest for anybody who isn't Labour or Tory? Not that I can figure out what the Lib Dems actually stand for. Like most third parties, they seem primarily to stand for "We're not the other guys. Or that other set of other guys."
raincitygirl
Jul. 25th, 2006 07:31 am (UTC)
Okay, I have no idea what happened here. I was positive this entry came up as a result of me clicking through on my friends page. So I replied to it as though it had just been posted, because I thought it HAD just been posted. And then I started thinking "Wait a second, I'm sure if there were another election happening in the UK it would've been in the papers. I mean, we're in the colonies, not on Mars". So I checked Yahoo News, and no sign of an election. And then I hit the back button to get back to this post, and realize it's one you wrote a long time ago. Which would at any rate explain the mystery election. I swear it came up on my flist! But when I reloaded my flist, it had vanished, and the only recent post from you was re: the Dr. Who spinoff.
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