As usual term time, been very busy, too busy to do much blogging but over the week I picked up on a few random stories.
Immigration is good for the economy
A group of London economists have conducted a study that has concluded that immigration provides a net benefit to the economy. Immigrants are substantially less likely to claim benefits than UK citizens and contribute more in taxes while ultimately costing the taxpayer less. In short, the current strop the tories are pulling about benefits tourism is a myth and in all likelihood it will cost more in admin costs to the country than it will actually save.
There where one or two specific groups of immigrants who did claim more in benefits than they paid in taxes, but this probably relates to working tax credits for families with children. As Ive pointed out before working tax credits (to everyone in the UK who works, foreign born or otherwise) represent a substantial portion of the welfare budget, far more money is spent on them than on job seekers allowance (just 3% of the welfare budget is spent on jobseekers allowance (to all claimants, foreign and UK) which represents just 0.7% of the entire UK budget).
And this study is far from the first such report to reach this conclusion. Indeed anybody whose even vaguely glanced at the relevant national statistics would quickly reach a similar conclusion. Then again, right wing nuts arent exactly known for their skills at reading and doing basic arithmetic. This is how we end up with global warming denial, creationism and anti-vaccine woo.
Ultimately I would argue that what this study shows is that if anything the government needs to change tactic. Tell the UKIP bigot mob to get lost and encourage immigration. Or indeed try and get more of the UKs unemployed into the labour market. And no, cutting benefits wont or putting them into welfare chain gangs in Poundland aint going to help.
Many on benefits are a mix of genuine hardship cases or people who would like to work, but realise that with a family to keep or the high rents and transport costs demanded in some UK cities, they simply cant afford to work at the rate of pay offered by many employers. Instead Id consider increasing the minimum wage as a way to encourage the latter group into employment. And of course, rather ironically, the government were themselves berating some employers for not offering a living wage to employees. Well why not force the issue and raise the minimum wage?
Actually he is smoking crack
And speaking of right wing nuts with a poor grasp of reality. Im often known to accuse some of the more extreme voices on the right, be they UKIP types or the US Tea party types or the Tony Abbott (Australias newly elected climate change denying PM…when do we take back the colony?) or Steven Harper (Farrages evil Canadian twin) of being on crack or something.
Well I might need to be more careful about that in future as Rob Ford, Torontos notoriously right wing Mayor (notorious for being a blow hard buffoon of epic proportions) has admitted to smoking crack.
Well theres a surprise! And it does explain a lot of things. Then again if you believe certain rumours G. W. Bush was snorting coke on the Oval office table, so I think this isnt an uncommon practice among those in power.
The real price of drugs
Which brings us to the issue of where Bushs or Rob Fords Charley comes from. Which is generally from somewhere in South America but via Mexico (possibly by submarine) with a substantial profit for the transaction going to some psychotic drug lord in Mexico. And Im not just tossing words around, a few weeks ago there was some controversy over Facebook censoring a Mexican drug cartel death videos.
However lost in that story was the wider story about Mexicos drug wars. The demand for drugs in the US has led to vast corruption within the Mexican police and political system (hence why nobody in Mexico has been able to, or is willing, identify the victim in these videos). It also means that there is a defacto war going on within the country between rival drug gangs, the military and the few honest cops with many innocent bystanders getting caught up in the conflict. Estimates are that over 90,000 people have been killed in this conflict to date.
This is the very real price to be paid by certain peoples (and generally were talking the better off, such as Wall Street traders) cocaine habits. Like blood diamonds, the ethics behind such a habit is morally reprehensible.
And indeed one has to note the obvious parallels between this story and the history of prohibition in America in the 1920s. Then US religious conservatives (the sort who would now be members of the Tea Party) succeeded in getting alcohol banned. The result was to unleash a massive nationwide crime spree and the root of organised crime to take hold. Even though prohibition was repealed within a decade, it was the 1980s before the major criminal gangs set up on its profits (notably the Italian Mafia) were finally brought down to their pre-prohibition levels.
The only difference now is that this present era of prohibition has led to history repeating itself on an even vaster scale worldwide. The global narcotics trade is now believed to be a $320 Billion a year industry. Indeed the corruption within Mexico is a common problem across South America. Many of the nations here are hampered in their development by their own internal struggles and corruption often fuelled or sustained in one way or another by profits from drug trafficking.
And ultimately whats driving all of this is demand in the West. Or more to the point the hypocrisy of us on the one hand banning drugs, but then quietly accepting that many of the rich and powerful can and will use them, just not in public. Inevitably, given that present policies are failing, one is forced to question whether it might be worth trying a policy of decriminalisation instead.
Certainly however I would argue that if were going to keep drugs like cocaine illegal the only thing that will work is to choke off demand. In other words start arresting the rich and the powerful caught doing drugs and making examples of them (such as Torontos Mayor).
Indeed I recall hearing of some US Police forces who came up with the tactic of rather than arresting (predominately black) drug dealers on the streets of working class neighbourhoods, they started sting operations in more affluent areas to catch the drug consumers. Within a few weeks the result was usually significant drop in drug consumption across the city with the gangs really feeling the pinch (they can replace dealers and the drugs but not customers!). Unfortunately political pressure has often halted such as it seems city hall doesn’t like the image of mainly white upper class professionals being perp walked into court.
The ultimate hoarder
German police made a startling discovery recently of a vast collection of art that had originally been confiscated by the nazis and had long been assumed lost. Indeed records of the existence of some of the paintings had been lost and forgotten altogether. The result is a treasure trove of a billion euros worth of modernist art.
Oddly enough it was in the process of investigating tax fraud that the paintings were found. They were searching a cluttered apartment looking for evidence in this case when they located the paintings under piles of rubbish and other odds and ends. Turns out one of the guys relative worked for the nazis and had built up this collection during the war.
Ironically it was the fact that the nazis considered such modernist art degenerate that has created something of a demand for it and hence the high value of this collection…not that its owner will be seeing much of that!
Indeed these paintings are just one of a handful of lost or stolen works of art, notably Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt and The concert by Vermeer, both stolen along with 13 other dutch paintings from a museum in Boston in 1990.
The Burka Runaway
Then there was the story of a terrorist suspect who went on the run, evading the cops by dressing up in a Burka. I recall seeing the photos in the newspapers and even before I read the article my thought was, whats that guy doing wearing a burka? I think those UKBA agents should consider a career as a referee!
Inevitably this story has the usual suspects calling for the Burka to be banned…So hell just have to dress up as santa claus next time!
The end of Britain?
I came across this add for some right wing rag which talked about the end of Britain. It turned out to be the usual libertarian disaster porn. However I also came across this blog by an economist who picked it apart.
Ultimately the UK economy is not exactly in a healthy state, the Tories can dress mutton up with lamb all they like and policies like QE are probably counterproductive in the long term. But comparisons with the Weimar republic or Mugabes regime is just childish paranoia.