Elections on both sides of the Atlantic have dominated the news cycle over the last couple of days. Hilary Clinton, looking a bit like everybody’s favourite, folksy granny, launched her bid to be the democratic candidate for the presidency of the USA. According to her video she wants to be the champion for everyday Americans. She is embarking on a tour of the country taking her “motherhood and apple pie” message across the country.
Perhaps she is taking to heart the preamble to the American Constitution, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
These are fine words; however it is hard to discern what she really stands for in this ad. It was long on let’s make life better for hard working families (where have we heard that before?) and very short on real policies. There’s the Middle East, climate change, failing banks, health care, race relations, to name but a few. Perhaps we will hear more as she heads off to Iowa, then New Hampshire at the start of what looks like being a long campaign.
In the UK the election campaigns are getting very repetitive, all we are hearing is the endless regurgitation of the same sorry phrases, “hard working families”, “deficit reduction” my guy’s better than your guy. It is all rather tedious, no one is challenging the prevailing paradigm and it is wearing me down.
Dealing with the deficit is perhaps the most talked about policy difference between the parties, but it’s not just current debt. A century ago the First World War was well underway and the UK ran up huge debts in fighting that war. In the last Autumn Statement the Chancellor, George Osborne, told us it was time to pay these debts off. Not just WW1 debt but hangovers from the Crimean war, the Irish Potato Famine, the wars with Napoleon and the South Sea Bubble. These so called perpetual bonds were never supposed to be paid off. And he’s not actually “paying off” those debts. He’s going to issue other, more conventional, gilts in order to have the money to give to those who hold these bonds. In other words he is refinancing the debt. It’s a bit like taking out a bank loan to pay off the credit card; so much for not leaving our debt to future generations to sort out. There’s a good summary here.
So what is there to be cheery about? Well hidden in the detritus of elections is a statement by World Bank Chief, Jim Yong Kim that the world should end fossil fuel subsidy and tax carbon. Around the world politicians spend something north of £650bn per annum subsidising fossil fuels. Well, just stop it and bang goes the debt, WW1 or otherwise, two birds one stone.
And again hidden away on the inside pages there is a story from the Netherlands. 886 Dutch citizens are taking the government to court over its failure to reduce carbon emissions. Urgenda hopes that this class action will encourage others to do the same and it looks like they are getting some traction with 8000 citizens of Belgium preparing to do the same.
Reasons to be cheerful, part 3. In Scotland The Scrap Trident Coalition’s held a Bairns Not Bombs blockade at the Faslane nuclear submarine base on the Clyde. Partick Harvie, Green MSP from Glasgow attended the blockade and said “Trident is an obscenity. Through direct action and through the ballot box we can make the case for the UK to play a new role on the world stage. By pursuing peace, a global deal on climate change and ending the arms trade we can stand tall rather than clinging to outdated and dangerous status symbols.”
Sounds like a plan to me.