Thursday, 26 March 2015

Election 2015

GDP. For those who can't be asked to Google it, It's all the money that gets spent on stuff in the UK. The UK government aims to increase it by 2% each year as a measure that the country is doing well. This 2% increase only considers new goods and services made rather than the resale of existing goods. As the 20th century progressed, it seemed on the whole that the system worked.

In recent decades, the system seems to be running away from us. As we focus more and more on reaching our 2% target, our governments seem less and less interested in increasing the standards of living for its citizens. We now have over 1m people dependent on food banks, 1.8m people on zero hours contracts and a housing crisis. Atleast we hit our 2% target though, right?

Rupert Murdoch's Fox News' rhetoric on 'to solve terrorism we must go to war' and the infamous 'BOMB THEM! BOMB THEM! BOMB THEM!' broadcasts seem a little strong for a news channel. Eloquently put by Russell Brand, this rhetoric is only on Fox News to stir up interest in going to war, because Rupert Murdoch is also a member of Genie Energy, who would financially profit directly from, for example, an illegal war in Iraq designed to obtain oil. It stands to reason then that if we remove the profit incentive for energy companies, prices will fall, the cost of living will fall and standards of living will improve.

Inflation, for those who still can't be bothered to google it, is the 'natural' increase of prices over time. In his last budget of this government, George Osborne boasts inflation at a record low since the 08-09 recession, at 0.3%. Don't be fooled. This is being sold to people as a decrease in inflation, suggesting a fall in prices, when actually, prices have increased by 0.3%. A simple mathematical accumulation of inflation for our incumbent government (since May 2010) results in an increase in prices of 494.77%, meaning goods and services (in real terms) are almost 5 times more expensive now than in 2010 because wages have not risen in line with inflation. The only way prices are going to decrease is with negative inflation, called deflation.

Deflationary economics has been criticised, for if prices are expected to decrease in the future, people are likely to put off large investments because they are expected to be much cheaper at a later date. Therefore, people will only buy the necessities they need, such as food and energy, and save more. If people are spending less and saving more, a 2% increase in GDP will not be met, and if GDP decreases for 6 consecutive months, it is deemed a recession. It is therefore illogical for a society that values profit chasing and GDP growth to implement deflationary economics. In other words, we cannot sustain the current neo-classical economic model above while simultaneously increasing the standard of living for our citizens.

Surely a better measure of how well our country is doing would be to use doctor:patient ratios, teacher:pupil ratios or the number of citizens on a living wage. The privatisation of the NHS has introduced a profit motive in to our healthcare service. Teachers are falling out of education at a record 10 year high due to the introduction of performance related pay. The rise of zero hours contracts has led to a reduction in the number of people on a living wage, despite more UK millionaires than ever.

There is of course an ultimate measure of success. The environment cannot be skewed like inflationary statistics. It is not a man made construct. The result of constant profit chasing to desperately increase GDP has led to greater consumption of oil, for which the planet and wildlife have suffered the most. It is said that we need to save the planet, when it will obviously survive without us. What we really mean is 'we need to save ourselves, from ourselves'. To do this, we need to get businesses to go green. Under a neo-classical system, the cheapest option is used, which is currently Fossil Fuels. To make alternative sustainable fuels a cheaper option, they may require a government subsidy, but there is profit to be made from oil, because it increases our GDP, because we're chasing a 2% target.

It's constant targets that are the problem. We have an education system that requires the memorising and regurgitating of large quantities of information. If you can't do this, you are given a poor grade, you miss your target and are deemed a failure in that subject for the rest of your life. To justify using this system on children as young as four, grades are used to determine the performance related pay that increases teacher drop out and stress levels for children and teachers alike. As a youth football coach, I am told to focus on encouragement and engagement, particularly at primary school ages. We have to encourage children to constantly question the world around them, rather than command them that the world is a particular way. To truly increase standards of education, we have to put greater emphasis on creativity, otherwise people will constantly be made to feel that the world is a particular way and they cannot do anything to change it.

People who feel this way are less likely to vote, as they don't feel like they can make a significant difference to the current political agenda. 35% of the UK population could vote but didn't in 2010. That many people could gain a majority in 2015 if they were their own party. Never vote tactically. Only vote for the policies that directly affect you. 

If we want to improve living standards, we have to stop chasing GDP targets, introduce deflationary economic measures, have greater emphasis on creative arts in education, abolish zero hours contracts, introduce a living wage, keep the NHS public and value the environment.

There is only one party promising all of this. Vote Green.

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