Thursday, October 21, 2010
British government rolls back the State
George Osborne yesterday launched a historic attempt to turn around the juggernaut of state spending. After decades of relentless expansion, the Chancellor set out plans for nothing less than a dismembering of the welfare system and a rolling back of the bloated public sector.
Unveiling his ambitious reforms, Mr Osborne told MPs: ‘Today is the day when Britain steps back from the brink, when we confront the bills from a decade of debt.’
But middle-class families and women will be particularly hit as the Coalition battles to wipe out an unprecedented budget deficit. Households on incomes of £48,700 or more will lose most during four years of austerity.
The deepest cuts since the 1970s will see £18.5billion a year hacked from benefit spending. There will be a time limit on sickness handouts and a ban on young single Britons getting council flats to themselves at taxpayers’ expense.
Benefit claims are to be limited to £500 a week per household, regardless of family size, saving £270million. More cash will be clawed back through tax credit cuts.
But Mr Osborne’s vision for a leaner, fitter Britain will entail massive pain for the public sector. One in ten state workers will lose their jobs. Their pay will be frozen and they will have to contribute 3 per cent more of their income to fund their gold-plated pensions.
Women will be particularly badly hit. Two-thirds of public sector workers are female, and they will also be worst affected by a dramatic acceleration of the timetable to increase the state pension age for all.
In a blow to the retirement hopes of five million, the pension age for both men and women will rise from 2018, hitting 66 by 2020.
Hundreds of thousands more families will be hit by an end to child benefit for higher-rate taxpayers. The Chancellor said 1.5million households would lose the benefit, saving the taxpayer £2.5billion a year.
Overall, Whitehall spending will crash by a fifth by 2014. Local government, welfare spending, universities, the Home Office, justice, and culture, media and sport will take the biggest hits. Even the Queen will not emerge unscathed, with the Royals’ spending falling by 14 per cent by 2012/13.
Only the NHS, schools and – controversially – overseas aid will get more money.
The Chancellor concluded his long-awaited comprehensive spending review statement with an extraordinary political flourish. Instead of the predicted departmental cuts of 25 to 40 per cent, he revealed his reforms had limited them to 19 per cent on average. That is less than the 20 per cent planned by former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling.
Mr Osborne said that he had acted to restore ‘sanity to our public finances’ and deal decisively with the record peacetime deficit left by Labour. ‘To back down now and abandon our plans would be the road to economic ruin,’ he added. ‘We will stick to the course.
‘We will secure our country’s stability. We will not take Britain back to the brink of bankruptcy. We have made the decision to take the hard road – but it is the right road to a more prosperous, fairer Britain.’
The cost of government borrowing fell as business leaders and the financial markets welcomed the £81billion-a-year cuts package. Richard Lambert, of the Confederation of British Industry, said: ‘The spending cuts, though painful, are essential to balance the UK’s books and build its future prosperity.’
But Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson said: ‘Today’s reckless gamble with people’s livelihoods runs the risk of stifling the fragile recovery. ‘We believe we can and should sustain a more gradual reduction, securing growth.’
The Institute for Fiscal Studies said the measures represented the deepest cuts since the 1970s. Acting director Carl Emmerson warned it was ‘quite possible’ that the Chancellor would have to make further spending cuts or tax rises in order to meet his deficit target.
The Multicultural Cult
There was a reason why employers in the middle of the 19th century had signs that said, "No Irish need apply" -- and why employers in the middle of the 20th century no longer had such signs. It was not that employers had changed. The Irish had changed.
The Catholic Church for years worked to bring about such changes among the Irish immigrants and their offspring, just as various religious and secular organizations among the Jews, among blacks and among other groups worked to bring about changes within their respective groups. By and large these efforts paid off. All these groups were advancing, long before there were civil rights laws.
Yet today, attempts to get black or Hispanic youngsters to speak the language of the society around them are decried by multiculturalists. And any attempt to get them to behave according to the cultural norms of the larger society is denounced as "cultural imperialism," if not racism.
The multicultural dogma is that we are to "celebrate" all cultures, not change them. In other words, people who lag educationally or economically are to keep on doing what they have been doing -- but somehow have better results in the future than in the past. And, if they don't have better results in the future, it is society's fault.
Such notions have been tried, and failed, in other countries and times, long before they became a fashionable dogma called multiculturalism.
In 19th century Latvia and Bohemia, among other places in Eastern Europe, the great majority of Germans were literate, while most of the indigenous peoples around them were not. Not surprisingly, Germans had more education and skills, and enjoyed a higher standard of living.
In both Latvia and Bohemia, the German minority held most of the jobs requiring education and skills. But, in both places, the indigenous people -- Latvians and Czechs -- could rise by acquiring the German language and culture, and many did.
But, for the newly rising Latvian and Czech intelligentsia, that was not enough. They wanted to be able to rise without having to learn a different language and culture.
Nor were Latvians and Czechs unique. Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, Malays in Malaysia and Maoris in New Zealand are just some of the others who have wanted the same thing -- namely, to cling to their own culture and yet achieve the same success as people with a different culture.
Many of these efforts have failed and few have succeeded. But what is truly painful is how often the polarization created by these efforts led to tragedies, such as civil war in Sri Lanka and brutal mass expulsions of millions of Germans from Czechoslovakia, to the detriment of both the Germans and the Czech economy.
The history of blacks in the United States has been more complicated. By the end of the 19th century, the small numbers of blacks living in northern cities had, over the generations, assimilated the culture of the surrounding society to the point where they lived and worked among the white population more fully than they would in most of the 20th century.
In New York, Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia and other Northern cities, black ghettos became a 20th century phenomenon. It was after the massive migration of far less acculturated blacks out of the South in the early 20th century when a massive retrogression in black-white relations took place in the Northern cites to which the migrants moved.
The blacks who moved to these cities were of the same race as those who were already there, but they were not the same in their culture, values and behavior. No one complained of this more bitterly than the blacks already living in these cities, who saw the newcomers as harbingers of a worse life for all blacks.
This same process occurred on the west coast decades later, largely during World War II, when the same influx of less acculturated blacks from the South marked a retrogression in race relations in places like San Francisco and Portland.
Cultural differences matter. They have always mattered, however much that may be denied today by the multicultural cult.
Disapproval of Islam Is No Indication of Bigotry
Does a negative opinion of Islam amount to conclusive evidence of bigotry?
Those who warn of a raging frenzy of American “Islamophobia” base their case on the assumption that anything less than enthusiastic approval of The Religion of Peace automatically qualifies as hate-mongering and ignorance. On ABC News, Christiane Amanpour pointed to recent survey figures on public uneasiness with Islam to prove that Muslim Americans faced an unprecedented tsunami of hostility and discrimination. Actually, the Washington Post/ABC poll she repeatedly cited hardly indicated seething, volcanic anti-Muslim sentiment: less than half the public (49%) held generally “unfavorable” views of Islam, while fully 37% felt favorably disposed toward Koranic values.
Far from reflecting an alarming new surge of groundless hatred, these figures remain virtually unchanged from results of an identical Washington Post/ABC survey from four-and-a-half years ago (March, 2006), which showed 46% unfavorably inclined toward the Muslim faith.
The real question raised by all such expressions of public opinion should confront the nearly 40% of Americans who say they feel positively impressed by Islam and its influence.
What aspect of Muslim teaching and achievement most inspires such respondents? The daily reports of suicidal violence from every corner of the globe, with fellow-Muslims (invariably) as the primary victims? Or the well-known association of Islamic piety with open-hearted respect for the rights of women, homosexuals and infidels? Or is it the sterling record of economic progress, cutting age technology and social justice achieved by precisely those societies (like Saudi Arabia, Iran or Afghanistan) that take Shariah law most seriously? Or would Islam’s American admirers cite the record of Muslim charities in the U.S., the most prominent of which (remember the Holy Land Foundation?) have been shut down by the government for their lavish support of murderous terrorist groups like Hamas?
Quite naturally, the people who look favorably on Islam feel unconcerned over its ancient teachings or loathsome perversions in benighted corners of the globe, and focus instead on the law-abiding, patriotic, family-loving Muslims who have established benign communities throughout the United States. But even the decent people who reside in those communities rightly worry that their impressionable off-spring may become too religious, too zealous in their fervent commitment to The Prophet and his teachings.
There is no real parallel to this fear in Christian or Jewish homes. Christian parents may feel embarrassed by their religiously reborn children suddenly studying the Gospels obsessively, or witnessing obnoxiously to family or friends, but they needn’t worry about wayward kids blowing up themselves or others in the name of Jesus. Jewish mothers and fathers may hate the scraggly beards and black hats adopted by a suddenly Orthodox generation, or resent the refusal to eat non-kosher food at home, but even the most fanatical of their kids feel scant temptation to travel to remote mountain hideouts as part of an international terror conspiracy.
By contrast, the secularized, prosperous parents of the Christmas Day Underwear Bomber (Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab), or the would-be Times Square Bomber (Feisel Shahzad), or the Fort Hood Shooter (Nidal Hassan), or European-educated engineering graduate Muhammad Atta (and his eighteen 9/11 accomplices) can testify what happens when even products of sophisticated, privileged families become too deeply entangled in Muslim fundamentalism.
The spiritual leader of the proposed Islamic Cultural Center near Ground Zero insists that the true problem is extremism, not Islam itself. “The real battlefront today is not between Muslims and non-Muslims,” declared Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf to the Council on Foreign Relations, “but between moderates of all faith traditions against the extremists of all faith traditions.”
This ignores the huge differences --both quantitative (Islamic radicals are vastly more numerous) and qualitative (Muslim fanatics endorse uniquely murderous rhetoric and deeds) – between extremists in one faith tradition and all others.
A Christian fundamentalist may talk about burning Korans; Muslim crazies regularly burn buildings- and people. Even after Pastor Terry Jones called off his idiotic barbeque of the Islamic holy book, Muslims reacted with deadly riots in Kashmir that killed 16 and wounded sixty, while burning several schools and other government buildings.
Some Americans may dislike the style of worship in Pentecostal or Catholic churches, but the faithful (no matter how tackily dressed) never surge out of their sanctuaries on Sundays with fury and blood-lust, looking for non-believers to stone and property to destroy. Every Friday, however, somewhere in the vast Muslim world, some congregations of the devout react to their uplifting prayer services by going directly from their mosques to rousing orgies of rage and violence.
This observation isn’t an expression of bigotry; it’s a factual product of reading the newspaper, and regularly monitoring international news. The lame-brained insistence that all faith traditions deserve equal respect (or equal condemnation) doesn’t demonstrate tolerance or broad-mindedness; it expresses, rather, a refusal to take any religion seriously enough for honest evaluation of its virtues and flaws.
Reservations about Islam, and even fears of the Muslim faith’s influence on the world at large, don’t constitute paranoia or intolerance. These concerns represent an honest and reasonable response on the part of a significant segment of the public to a serious global challenge to the values that Americans hold most dear.
Australian Labor Party suspends top politician over censorship row
Good for her! Rather strange that there seem to be a lot of Leftist morality police around these days. This lady has fallen foul of them
NSW upper house president Amanda Fazio has been suspended from the Labor Party for crossing the floor last night over censorship legislation.
The Australian today exclusively revealed Ms Fazio's objections to a new bill that will give police the quasi power to classify material in adult shops as x-rated, and prosecute retailers on that basis.
Ms Fazio, a leading member of the NSW Right but a long-time supporter of libertarian causes, said the legislation was a “joke” and police should spend their time solving crimes with victims.
A senior NSW Labor source said this morning the rules on breaking ranks with caucus were “crystal clear” and Ms Fazio's party membership would be “in limbo” while a party disputes committee deals with the matter.
Caucus convenor Robert Coombs is expected to issue a statement shortly.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
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