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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.

Tags:

Comments

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.
hmmmm - leadensky - Apr. 30th, 2005 03:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: hmmmm - cazling - Apr. 30th, 2005 04:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: hmmmm - leadensky - Apr. 30th, 2005 06:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: hmmmm - cazling - May. 1st, 2005 10:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: hmmmm - infinitemonkeys - Apr. 30th, 2005 08:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: hmmmm - cazling - May. 1st, 2005 10:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: hmmmm - leadensky - May. 2nd, 2005 09:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: hmmmm - cazling - May. 2nd, 2005 09:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: hmmmm - cazling - May. 2nd, 2005 09:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
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.
Re: III - leadensky - May. 2nd, 2005 08:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
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.
Re: III - leadensky - May. 2nd, 2005 08:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
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