I've always been a huge fan of Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell, both for his If series, and his topical cartoons which appear on the comment pages. But today the great man excels himself, as you can see here.
The consistently excellent Prem Sikka has this piece over at Comment is Free this afternoon, in which laments the current state of democracy and the rising power of corporations:
As he concludes,
The taxation debate is indicative of a deepening crisis of democracy.
Public confidence in parliamentary democracy will continue to be eroded
until the power of corporations is checked. Normal people pay a large
share of their income in taxes, but the political structures are unduly
influenced by corporations and their controllers. They seem to enjoy
representation with little or no taxation. The choice is clear: we can
have either democracy and public accountability or rampant corporate
power with enormous private wealth and power concentrated in the hands
of a few business executives, but not both.
Fred Harrison, whose recent book, Ricardo's Law, I reviewed on comment is free last year, has now made a short film in which he outlines the book's central message: that our failure to address poverty is a direct result of a tax system which favours the better off, and discriminates against the poorest; a tax system which taxes the wrong thing: people's labour, while leaving the unearned wealth that accrues to landowners largely untaxed.
He makes a persuasive argument, and it's a rather good film. You can watch it in high definition via the producer's website, here, or on YouTube here:
Fred's book is available here, and other books on land value taxation are available through his (and my) publisher, Shepheard-Walwyn.
Prem Sikka has an interesting piece at comment is free today. He argues that instead of forcing pay cuts on the public sector to stave off the looming economic crisis, the government should be cutting taxes for the least well-off in order to increase the spending power of the poorest.
Sikka's call is echoed by The Item Club, Ernst & Young's economic forecasting unit, as reported in today's Observer. This piece points out that a tightening of fiscal policy is required under Gordon Brown's golden rulebut that it is likely only to exacerbate the current slowdown. Let's hope Alistair Darling has the authority to overrule Brown on this one.
I have a great deal of sympathy with Sikka's trickle-up argument. Giving a small amount of money to a large number of people will be much better for demand at all points in the economy than the alternative: giving large quantities of money to a small number of people; the upshot of the government's fiscal and deregulatory policies during the last decade.
Like most commentators and academics however, Sikka, who writes very well elsewhere on the problem of corporate accountability, appears to think determinedly within the confines of economic orthodoxy. While his prescription is the right one as far as it goes, he does not acknowledge that the patient is fundamentally sick, and the wider economic framework in need of radical structural change. His piece is worth a read though, not least because it contains a plethora of useful statistics which show how the economy is failing large numbers of ordinary people.
If you think George W. Bush has been bad for America, take a look at this piece by Paul A. Moore over at Counterpunch. Moore describes the way the president's brother, Jeb Bush, has used his time as Governor of Florida as to destroy the traditional, mildly progressive, tax structure in the state and replace it with a system by which the poorest are forced to underwrite the totally irresponsible investment decisions of a few powerful politicians and wealthy business people (well, businessmen actually), who run the state.
As Moore writes:
.... Bush tried to privatize
all things profitable and make the people assume all risk associated
And it seems that he pretty well succeeded. The only consolation is that just as America's sensible term limits have now forced the ex-Florida Governor from office, so the constitution will later this year see his brother leave the White House. It's hard to imagine how future historians will view this short, disastrous, episode in the country's history.
Fred Foldvary has an informative piece over at The Progress Report in which he rates the policies of US presidential candidates from both parties against the essential change criteria of the geolibertarian movement. He's especially good on the wacky tax plans of Republican hopeful, Mike Huckabee.
And why not check out Fred's fledgling political party, Free Earth. It's easy to dismiss such initiatives as marginal and therefore inconsequential, but as a concise programme for transformative social change, it's right on the button.