Monday, 5 November 2012

Beyond Powder Treason

Remember, remember the fifth of November
The gunpowder, treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, twas his intent
To blow up King and parliament.
Three score barrels were laid below
To prove old England’s overthrow.

By God’s mercy he was catched
With a dark lantern and lighted match
Holler boys, holler boys, let the bells ring
Holler boys, holler boys, God save the King.

Our politicians make decisions that affect our lives but they are too far removed from the lives of everyday people to make informed decision.  Every MP really does live in an ivory tower, even if just for the term of the job (it comes with the job), and even those from working class origins may quickly forget the pressures manifest on the minimum wage (a wage below the living wage).

Few things annoy me in politics like a politician saying "we've listened to people...", I mean come on, they're supposed to represent us.  How they hell can they justify losing touch?  Surely listening to 'the people' is a fundamental prerequisite to be a politician?  We need a mechanism to ensure they do not lose touch...

Parliament is currently dominated by millionaires, many with privileged backgrounds and so it is unsurprising that they can lose touch with the common wo/man.  We're ruled by a bunch of career politicians who bring the unpleasant whiff of student politicking to the House of Commons.  They seem more focused on what politics can do for them, rather than what they can do for the electorate.  Few are what you'd call leaders - although they hide behind titles that give them leadership status and rank.  Even fewer seem to have been to the edge of British economic life which makes it easy for them to deal with the cold numbers of a budget, slashing expenditure, and to ignore the real people affected by their actions.

How can we change this?  Here is my three point plan.

Year 1: Work Experience.  On being elected, politicians will defer entry to parliament for one years and instead work as a front-line nurse (but drawing their MPs salary and benefits). 

This will filter out the work-shy and those who have never really done a hard days graft in their life (there are many of them in the House of Commons).  Even though their income will be several times that of career nurses, I think this will add some perspective on what real work is about, and make MPs themselves reappraise their own value.   Who knows - this may even make them think twice about voting a pay rise for themselves - particularly in these harsh economic times.

Year 2: The MP enters Parliament, on a nurses wage for one year!
When it comes to leaders of industry of selecting MPs we seem to hear a lot about 'attracting people of the right calibre'.  Yet when it comes to jobs like nursing, when mention is made of the lowly wages we hear justification along the lines of "well it's not all about the money, and people go in to nursing for different reasons...".

Now to focus on 'people of the right calibre', Parliament is filled with ex-convicts, thieves, swindlers, fraudsters, (possible) sexual deviants and other dishonest and avaricious types who easily fall before swords of power, money and fame (politics has been referred to as 'rock and roll for ugly people').  There are a few good-guys in politics but we need to filter out those with a weak grip on their own moral compass. 

After a year working as a nurse (step one), I reckon most MPs would be happy to work their second year as an MP on a nurse's salary.  This will give a visceral understanding of the financial pressures key workers in society are under and give some measure to their decisions when it comes to wielding the axe.  

We like to think that MPs seek election for altruistic purposes, and perhaps steps one and two will filter out weaker career politicians who, thus far in life, have walked a privileged path without the wisdom of experience.

Year 3 Onwards: MPs get their full wage (and benefits), but remuneration works like a student loan! 

So now our MP has done some hard frontline work, and earned a realistic salary.  How good does that sound?  But there are further problems.

Many people who have been an MP and particularly those who enter high office seem to do VERY well on leaving politics and some simply view it as a stepping stone.  Being an MP gives them a degree of fame and a general raised profile that they can (and do) exploit for personal gain.  Being a politician confers a commercial value on the MP.  Furthermore their wealth is often underpinned by morally dubious activities including manipulating expenses, lucrative property investments, and taking up jobs after leaving office with companies that they'd have been VERY closely involved with via their position in office and other practices illustrative of conflicts of interest and vested interest.  This STINKS! 

We need to restore the public's faith in politicians and redress this financial mire.  First of all we need transparency in how they are spending OUR money - including expenses - which should be published online.  But the bigger picture is to tackle how they cash in on their time in office? 

The increased profile enjoyed by politicians gives them a great advantage on the jobs market on leaving office.  They are hired not for talent - but for who they are; their commercial profile. So for every penny they earn over a rather generous limit of, say £150,000 per annum, all MPs should have to repay their MPs salary and expenses. 

Voila!  Power corrupts.  The change can start here!


FeelGoodEating said...

Wonderfully written A.

Your plans are not only very interesting, they are potentially viable!

Same "plan" would work also here in the U.S


Asclepius said...

Hi Marc. They are definitely viable (particularly step 3), and I've proposed this plan in a few forums that lobby for change in government.

I will post up if anything comes of it!

Hope you're well.

Anonymous said...

Honestly don't like the plan. It assumes too many things, I think.

Working as a nurse is a good example; military service should also be an option. But all pre-existing funds - including annuities, 401's, ROTHs, stocks, ETC - ANY source, or even POTENTIAL source, of income - is LOCKED. Cannot be touched. They MUST live off the salary of their job: housing, food, clothes, bills, etc. If they have a family, learn to make it work. (Spousal income might be exempted as it would be "on the table" for family use even if the spouse earns high wages - but all passive income would have to be in a "dormant" state. Investments can be managed - stocks sold to buy different/better, for example - but any financial gains cannot be touched WRT living expenses. INCLUDING medical emergencies. It's ALL out of pocket or via insurance, from Day 1.)

First year of the elected period is also a freebie - select "Job X" (which you must be qualified for), and then work at that salary for a year. No startup nest-egg, either; perhaps a living place is provided, rent paid forward, if you will, so you don't default in Month 1 - but you'll still pay the expenses, ALL of them, as any renter would.

AFTER that year, they go on to be a full MP, at full salary. Reason for no MP salary year 1 is to make sure the lesson STICKS. WITH an MP salary, the work sucks, but the REWARD is good. So these people could go have fun and enjoy themselves, where a nurse or soldier cannot. Then, in year 2, the pay cut is good - but it will create a problem atmosphere. It's a social thing, the new MPs would be "untouchables" - and they'd likely look it. In the world where appearance is all (modeling and politics), it's important to blend in in appearance. If your lawyer in court walks in wearing a clown suit, do you take them seriously? Or a banker? In a t-shirt? Not the strongest point, but valid.

The "student loan" idea is great. I'd also look into a Constitutional Amendment - not sure your equivalent, my knowledge stops with Magna Charta and House of Commons formation - to cap salaries and earnings, AND close down the loopholes. [Loophole example: Chairman of Charity X is paid for his time, including meals and transportation and housing; as it is "provided" by the charity, he doesn't pay income taxes on it, so his "income" is only $50K USD, but his lifestyle is equivalent to $250K or more per annum, without the taxes. This is just a way to hide wealth, and should be blocked.]
Further, a variable salary "cap" should be created. They cannot EARN more than 4/3 the AVERAGE salary in their country. ALL sources of income, not just their wages as MP (Representative, senator, POTUS). So, stock incomes + speaking engagements + running their own businesses = 4/3 (Average Salary) with the rest gifted, donated, locked away - objective being, they CAN'T fit in with the true Elites.
And another amendment: They are SUBJECT TO ALL LAWS, at MAXIMUM PENALTIES. They are supposed to be an example of who our best are: Let them PROVE it by paying a heavy cost if they fail. For instance, insider trading in the Congress is LEGAL. WTF? They should go to prison for the MAXIMUM term. Public eye.

Instead, we have made our political offices VERY pleasant places for someone to spend other people's money, and enjoy prestige and privilege far above the "normal" citizen. Remove the incetives of money, power, connections, you'll stop getting exploitive b@st@rds in there. Leave it open to profiteering and manipulation, and you'll always have the turds floating on top of the cream...

Over here, it's impossible until AFTER forcible "redress of greivances." I'd guess it's the same in MOST civilized countries - though the EU is falling apart, and the US isn't long for this world (likely will become blatant empire soon - Mobocracy will find their "One" yet again...)


Asclepius said...

Wow Jean - some strong ideas there! I do agree with tightening some of those tax loopholes. Google, Amazon and Starbucks have all come in for some heat about this recently. They seem to forget that what makes the UK great for business comes at a price.

I wonder who Starbucks would rely upon to put a fire out at one of their buidlings? Or if their staff were hit by illness - who'd they expect to fix that person?

The fabric of UK society requires a funding base that EVERY business is morally obliged to pay in to; that is what makes this country stable, hence somewhere they find attractive to do business.

Anonymous said...

In America, the "elites" haven't had to bleed since the 1920s or so.
Meantime, the middle calss is hemmoraging.
The poor are starving in the streets.

And we elect the elite's toadies because we don't have the balls necessary to correct the system. Our founders warned us; Americans are too stupid (en masse) to read, let alone hear the words.

Funny thing is, our very founders betrayed us.. But that's not the history you learn in (Government indoctrination centers called )schools...

If the political (et al) elite can afford bodyguards - why can those of us who cannot afford bodyguards have weapons?
If the elite (political et al) don't have to pay taxes - why should we?
If they don't have to obey the law, why should we?
If they get to do whatever the F they want - why shouldn't we?

And if they want to Fiddle all summer, like grasshoppers are wont to do - why do they expect US to be the ones dancing all winter?

(Aesop's Grasshopper and the ants, identified 'cause I only read this version ONCE - the ants told the grasshopper since he had fiddled all summer, he could dance all winter, and closed up for the cold weather. Most versions have them taking in the grasshopper and feeding him for their winter parties. Everything's been given the "sparkly" "My Little Pony" treatment these days - but there's a reckoning coming for those who have the cajones to take it.)


Asclepius said...

Hi Jean - We have a similar situation in the UK. During this recession the rich have got richer, the middle classes have been squeezed for tax (to an unsustainable extent), and the poor have been crushed - they go cold and hungry. The middle classes cannot afford to 'escape' tax, unlike the wealthy.

Greece, and latterly Italy, have lost democracy and the streets of many European capitals are burning as grass roots rebellion foments over unfair tax, loss of liberty and ugly inequality of power.

Interesting times!