back to article Feeling poor? WHO took all your money? NOT capitalist bastards?

Lies, damned lies and statistics: we all know the saying, but you'd be surprised just how many of these “facts” manage to enter the national consciousness, emerging as Guardian headlines and stories on Radio 4's Today. Allow me to tiptoe through the process as to how this happens. Let's start with this lovely little chart: A …

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Boffin

This is news?????

Any organisation that does present 'the facts' showing that their particular argument is 'proved to be true' probably has something to hide.

Slow news day methinks.

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Big Brother

Re: This is news?????

This is all bollocks - it's obvious where the gullible publics money has gone. Moats don't clean themselves, you know, and the last time I checked there was no such thing as a free duck houses, cable tv porn or poppies to lay at the remembrance services of those who gave their lives fighting to give our noble, honest and trustworthy MP's the freedoms they now enjoy.

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FAIL

Re: This is news?????

There's one for certain claiming that last one was just another a Balls up, but have no fear - we will remember. Could it be the same person admiring another mans fake buttocks whilst wearing a Nazi outfit in this photo? I think there is a worrying pattern here regarding this loathsome individual and his attitude to our fallen. Still, at least he knew how to spend our money when he had the one and only chance he'll ever get.

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WTF?

Re: This is news?????

I wonder, who are the sad FLICKT@RDS who down voted this comment?

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http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171766_263808.pdf

Try this paper.

4,700 billion's worth of debt missing from the government books, and that's not the only omission.

e.g Taxation with no services is the order of the day.

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No time to read the paper but... PFI by any chance?

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Anonymous Coward

superb trolling as usual

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Starting figures are well out

one problem is including financial institutions imaginary gains in the GDP. This lie is what gave the impression that GDP was increasing so it was OK to borrow.

Now we know the financial figures were out by at least £420Billion it would be interesting to go back and see how much debt would have been signed for if they knew at the time it was completely unsustainable rather than believing the cities bullish claims.

There's an old saying about not counting your chickens before they hatch. The city was counting chickens when they hadn't even evolved legs let alone wings.

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Re: Starting figures are well out

I think the City was counting the chicken before it came out of the hen's bum

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Mushroom

Re: Starting figures are well out

"how much debt would have been signed for if they knew at the time it was completely unsustainable"

A bit naive that.

By "they" I take it you mean the government of the day. If they didn't know that their borrowing was completely unsustainable it was because they didn't want to know.

Anyone see William Hurt in that sycophantic pile of dogshite "Too Big to Fail"? That was typical of the government attitude - "How could we be expected to know what the banks were doing?" Er - maybe cos you were at Goldman Sachs before you were Treasury Sec you dickhead. And then surprise, surprise a load of ex bankers regulating a load of current bankers gave the current bankers shed loads of tax money with no strings attached. And Dick Fuld portrayed as the bloke who got screwed over? Really - the CEO of Lehmans as a sympathetic character?

As for this author suggesting that the tax burden is the fault of public sector employees is laughable. Sure there are some problems in the public sector but it isn't their employees.

The biggest public sector problem is the way it is used these days simply to channel money and assets to crap private sector companies who couldn't make any money if their government mates didn't give it to them. PFI has already transferred billions to private interests and we are just at the start of the programme. In twenty years time we will have given them the NHS and all our schools together with paying a large chunk of our taxes to those same companies as compensation for the maintenance of those assets. PFI is like a guy nicking your car but you have to continue to pay for the petrol/tax/servicing and MOT - and if he knocks someone over you will have to cover the insurance claim. As for wanting to use the asset in future - stand in line in descending order of wallet size.

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Alert

Re: Starting figures are well out

Using this analogy I expect our thieving pals in the City would have dipped-into someone else's savings to buy half a dozen battery-farmed eggs from Tesco that they knew would not hatch, then sold 250% of the shares in each egg on the basis that on maturity each egg would become 100 plump & delicious organic free-range self-basting roasting chickens.

The rest is smoke and mirrors, just like Tim Worstall's piece. Never mind the vast omissions, what about that old turkey: "the public sector ate my breakfast"? Who do you think does all the jobs that makes life tolerable in this country? Largely low-paid public sector workers: refuse collectors that prevent us from drowning in crap, hospital cleaners who make sure that we don't die horribly from MRSA if we're injured, transport workers who keep our cities from grinding to a halt with cars, carers who look after our parents.

Yes we all know about the horror stories in these various lines of work but they are largely caused by lack of investment in the people doing the work: wages, training, supportive management. If Tim Worstall has his way less money will be spent of these things and it will be a short walk to hell.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Starting figures are well out

Low paid public sector workers! That a bad joke, the average public sector worker earn's 23% more than the equivalent private sector worker. Thats excluding better holidays, better job security and much better pensions.

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Re: Starting figures are well out

Could that be because many private sector jobs are nothing but mcjobs? Do you propose to get police to work for minimum wage? Most of the criticism of what public sector people earn is from crazy right wing radicals who want everyone, but themselves, to be wage slaves. The upcoming battle in society is going to be between the upper 1 percent and everyone else

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Starting figures are well out

Maybe so, but just because the private sector workers gave up trade union membership in exchange for a short-term bonus is no reason for the public sector to drop its trousers, bend over the desk, and spread its cheeks as well.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Starting figures are well out

Well it just shows if you are going to borrow money, borrow a lot because they you will have to support you in the hope they will get it back, borrow a small amount of you will get thrown to the wolves. Probably the only think we learn't from the Maxwell saga..

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Unhappy

Re: Starting figures are well out

"the private sector workers gave up trade union membership "

Indeed they did, and often for no bonus at all. The clever thing was convincing a huge slice of the working class that they were middle class, rather than the reverse which is the truth.

The question that is going to become louder & louder is "Whose benefit is the country run for?"

We should be like the French used to be & have revolutions every so often. The ruling class in the UK are far too "intensely relaxed".

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Re: Starting figures are well out

How many transport workers are in the public sector? Is it all those bus drivers on Arriva, the Virgin train staff, FirstRail?

Public sector is way too big, many of the tasks done by the local or national government should not be done by the state and those that are tend to be vastly overstaffed, targets focussed and have exceedingly perverse incentives.

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Mushroom

Re: Starting figures are well out

The real irony is that States in the US where unionizing is basically undermined and the laws that

enforce it are called 'Right to Work' States and 'Right to Work; laws....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Starting figures are well out

There's something distinctly wrong when entire areas of a country have more people working for the government (national and local) than in any other job. That's nothing other than welfare payments disguised as other things.

Even services industries can only ride along on the back of the income from "real" production.

There's an old saying that universal democracy only lasts as long as it takes the masses to realise that they can vote themselves bread and circuses. At the moment that seems to be happening at both ends of the economic spectrum, leaving them in the middle starting to realise the best way forward is via the exit door.

Brand me a right winger if you wish (I'm not), but there's no fundamental entitlement for anyone to have work brought to them. The UK's (and most of the world's) cities are where they are because people moved to where the work is, not the other way around and the motivation to move for a better life has a lot to do with why migrants (both from inside and outside the country) generally do better than those who stay at home.

Perhaps there should be hard restrictions on the percentage of govt jobs as a proportion of the entire workforce in any given region.

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Facepalm

Re: Starting figures are well out

Upper 1%? Pony poop. You do realize that most of the workforce IS in the top 15%. The bottom 50% is made up of the MINORITY of lower paid workforce, not the MAJORITY who are well paid.

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Re: Public sector

Totally with you on the banks - and it is unclear to me why it was obviously a good thing to bail them out; what would the effects have been if they had been allowed to fail?

On the public sector / tax thing you're obviously right as far as the money chain goes but doing it this way (rather than just paying public sector workers less and not taxing that income) does mean that they are affected by taxation changes in the same way as the rest of us - and as their number includes people who advise on taxation matters this is probably a good thing.

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Unhappy

Re: Public sector

Considering the entire 5 years of recession has been caused by just Lehman Brothers failing, who knows how bad it could have got if they all went down.

Something to do with just how interconnected all finical institutions have become so when the big boys fail they take a lot out on their way down.

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Re: Public sector

In my mind its not quite as simple as the private sector just paying for the public sector. The services the public sector provide enable the private sector to be successful. No one would be buying much if it wasnt for roads, healthcare, education etc etc. A private sector worker gives their money to provide these services. A public sector worker gives their time to provide these services.

Its often a good idea to try and view the world through something other than the lens of money.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Public sector

Well said jm83, but not only that there are a huge number of private companies that rely on government contracts to survive. When the government stop spending tax money with private companies, job losses soon follow

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Re: Public sector

"who knows how bad it could have got if they all went down"

Your statement assumes facts not in evidence as we'll never know how "bad", or good for that matter, it would have been. We also don't know that all banks would have failed as the ones not playing quite so fast and loose would have survived albeit that likely means only smaller banks that weren't hoovered up in the M&A banking phase just prior to the "too big to fail" failure and the few stronger big banks that that wound up absorbing the zombified corpses of the failures.

What we do know is that new business creation plummeted during the financial crisis. While I'm sure part of that was because some people were afraid of starting up in a severely down market, I'm equally sure that part of it was the lesson taught by government at the same time. That lesson was that small business doesn't matter but the big guys will always be saved so this illusion of a capitalist society we supposedly have is exactly that, an illusion. There are other ways of handling problems that appear "too big".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Public sector

This article is a good example of the old expression 'If you can't impress them with knowledge, baffle them with bullshit'.

First of all, in the United States, it is a well documented fact that money has been flowing from the manufacturing sector to the upper one percent and the financial sector since 1970. No amount of BS can deny this! One major reason is that the US has exported most of it's high paying manufacturing jobs to third world nations thanks to f ree trade agreements. If you bother to look it up (Wikipedia has the info), a high percentage of free trade agreements made by the US are with extremely poor or third world nations who have little ability to import little from the US. The reason for those agreements is not trade, but to make it possible for the US companies to send their highly paid manufacturing work force to those countries where people work under slave labor conditions. The Apple - Foxconn connection is a good example of this happening. Believe it or not, many US companies export most of their manufacturing to these countries. In the US, all political parties support free trade agreements. These agreements between the US (a countriy with a relatively high standard of living) to a third world nations creates a bidding war between workers in both countries!

Also, it has been documented that even though the bottom 99 percent has lost wages since the 1970's, the upper 1 percent has gained dramatically since then. With US CEO's getting record salaries (hundreds of times higher than their employees) paints a poor picture of unbridled capitalism.

As far as taxes are concerned, the US income tax is at a record low. Another myth of the radical right is that if the government spends less, it would mean more for the private sector. That is a lie as government spending and taxes are part of the GDP. For instance, assume the US government cuts defense spending by 80 percent. This coupled with a ripple effect would send the US into a serious depression

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Re: Public sector

From what I've read- while basic wages have dropped over the last 5 years, those of the 1% have increased 16%

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Mushroom

Re: Public sector

We could have tried the Icelandic solution - bail out the public, jail the bankers

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Re: obviously a good thing to bail them out;

You're right in that it wasn't an obviously good thing to bail them out. Problem is, we were expecting a bunch of incompetent boobs to come up with the correct solution.

There was a real problem in that the credit market was frozen and businesses which have become accustomed to using those markets for day to day operations couldn't switch to a cash basis quickly enough to themselves avoid bankruptcy. Remember, Lehman's assets were worth more than they were bought for, their problem was a short term cash crunch. If they could have funded themselves for another 90 days, they probably would still be an ongoing and profitable concern. They certainly would be if they could have secured funding for another year.

I don't know exactly what the right solution looks like, but it has to involve this: that when a company files for bankruptcy, while shareholders might be protected from losses beyond their immediate stock holdings, officers of it aren't. And those officers ought to include anyone in any Cx0 position for the last 10 years (exact term negotiable) even if he wasn't serving when the bankruptcy occurred.

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Re: Public sector

Roads, healthcare, and education all started life as private services. And frankly only got bolluxed up after government seized them.

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Re: Public sector

You were going great until you entered your own tautological fantasy with

"The correct way is to tax people less and to have SMALL government that spends less. That way the economy grows because the money flows more in the private sector (wealth creator) than in the public sector (wealth destroyer). yes the public sector is needed but it is too BIG!".

We already know that US taxpayers pay the lowest rates of tax in the developed world.We also know that there are aggressive moves to lower corporate tax rates (see http://www.rantfinance.com/2012/12/02/why-is-the-us-budget-deficit-so-high/ for an objective analysis). Yet the problem in the US is that people and Corporations are paying too little tax for the services they expect to receive. You cannot have Social Security, Medicare, Defense spending, Agricultural programs that pay farmers not to grow crops, foreign aid to make poor people not want to bomb you and not have the means to pay for it. In all of these situations, it does not matter if the solution is public or private. Money. will. still. need. to. be spent. The stupidity of all of this is that lowering taxes for corporations assumes the nonsensical idea that it will trickle down to us. This is wrong. They will simply hoard it, use accounting tricks to create phantom losses or move it around the world wide web just ahead of the auditors. Witness Google's Eric Schmid's non apology for not paying taxes for trade generated in Europe. What people forget is that they are also doing it to Americans as well.

You want a prosperous developed world? Make corporations pay taxes for profits earned in the country it was generated in. No manufactured accounting losses. Ban free trade agreements with countries that do not have the same standard of living as your own. Return jobs back that were exported to employ people with work that is better paying than service jobs. There will be more people employed paying higher rate of tax. (Did you know that 47% of eligible taxpayers in America pay no taxes at all? These must be part of the same 40% of Americans that depend on Medicare because they cannot afford (private) health insurance of any kind.) If there is a job skills problem, have corporations invest in people to help create wealth as well as augment immigration within the countries where they earn their profits. I could go on. Needless to say, these would be steps in the right direction. Oh, and one more thing. Lobbying on Capitol Hill should be made a captial offense.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Nightkiller Re: Public sector

"We already know that US taxpayers pay the lowest rates of tax in the developed world."

Isn't that why the US has a National Debt of over $16 trillion, so they can pay low rates?

Or perhaps Western Civilization is a Ponzi scheme and it's peaking right now?

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Headmaster

Re: Public sector

I do not accept that all public sector jobs are wealth destroying. Police, University research, road construction, and education are all examples of government functions that actively add to the GDP. We need all of these functions to operate in an environment that supports the creativity, public safety, and productivity of our culture. The problem is that there are actually bad apples in government and in private enterprise who are only looking out for themselves. Theft, graft, manipulation of the public sector rules and regulations are just a few examples of this.

The problem with the political fantasy known as "small government" is that we don't need to get rid of all government except for the defense or medical budget that lines the nonproductive "private sector" companies. We need to get rid of any corruption, back room dealing, and legalistic manipulation of the tax code to line particular pockets at the expense of others. The silly idea that greed is always good in the private sector is just baloney. If you steal, whether it is from the government or private sector you are a leach. Pretending that all the people who agree that the tax rate has to go down are all good upstanding citizens is just as silly as saying that all those who want to lower taxes are self interested lazy bums who already have theirs and don't want to support the common good. The question is which taxes should we raise and which taxes should we lower. Which programs really are full of graft and theft, and which are adding to the GDP? The answer is not nearly as simple as "small government", but the correct decision here will count for more growth in the future and less lying to ourselves about the nature of the problem.

The aswer ain't simple, but it will produce real results.

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Re: Public sector

"The reason for those agreements is not trade, but to make it possible for the US companies to send their highly paid manufacturing work force to those countries where people work under slave labor conditions"

Perhaps, but at the same time as jobs are being offshored, hard currency is flowing (in however shitty amounts) to those countries. The entire reason Manchester exists as a city rather than as a sleepy little village is that be British govt decided that sending that much money offshore to pay for manufactured goods was a "very bad idea" for the core of the Empire and started whacking punitive import tarriffs on imported indian fabrics. This is what enabled UK mills to take indian cotton and produce (vastly inferior to the original Indian product) fabrics which could be sold back to the edges of the Empire.

Vassal economies are kept under control by importing their raw products and selling manufactured products back. Economies which keep doing the opposite eventually become vassal states. This isn't rocket science, but it is a lesson that nation-centric western governments seem to have forgotten.

Multinationalism is a nice idea, but only if economies are fully linked up in such a way that money flows from rich to poor areas (North and South Dakota would be incredibibly shitty third world states if they weren't part of the USA) and the persistent notion of nation states prevent that happening. At some point in history they have to be considered as archaic as city-states or fuedal principalities now are.

As for the public sector - there's one simple principle at work: "The central purpose of any bureaucracy is to perpetuate itself."

It's just as prevalent in the private sector and I've lived through it several times. Mid-level managers seek to have more people working under them via any means possible (even if they don't do anything), because more people under them means more "prestige", more "seniority" and more income. There's a distinct need for razor gangs to pass through regularly, however any bureaucratic structure will create as many roadblocks as possible in order to distract and divert the analysts and keep the bureaucracy growing.

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FAIL

Re: Public sector

@AC 2055

You seem to be implying free trade is a bad thing. Free trade is a good thing and is one of the ways that humans who are better off are able to help those that are worse off. We could give money to poorer nations or we can kick-start their self-sufficiency. Only a greedy non-capitalist would think of only themselves.

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All Hail Tony Blair!

The true champion of the noble worker is obviously Tony Blair! Why else would the wage share have risen from 95-2002? After that the evil forces of conservatism must have started to gain a hold again, smashing the proletariat with their wicked petty bourgeois ways!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: All Hail Tony Blair!

I think Id have the whole lot of them - thats the last lot of ruinous socialists, executed in front of their own families.

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Silver badge

Just a bunch of wiggly lines?

Okaaaay, so the "workers' share" dropped a bit during the Eighties: from a long-term figure in the high fifties, percentage-wise to a number a little below 55 once the hump and following dip from 1990-2000 is levelled out.

Now pardon me, but didn't the late 70's and 1980's see a sharp rise in unemployment / jobless numbers? If you have fewer people working (for whatever reason) wouldn't that reduce wages, too?

For all the words in this piece - some of which I could make sense of - I can't see what the author expects to be done. ISTM the point is that workers are getting less, and government is taking more. Maybe that's true, but that's just slicing up the same cake in different ways: it's not as if taxes are removed from society and the money is burned - it's still there and is still spent. If a government took less off us - to spend on public benefits like the NHS - wouldn't all t'workers have to spend a larger proportion of their increased wages on the stuff they no longer got for free? Things like saving for their old-age, meds, child benefits, putting cash aside for time "on the bench" instead of getting the dole / housing benefit, driving granny around instead of her having a free bus pass (and a free TV licence). So the same money would just be spent by different people, but on the same things. There would be some choice: does Johnny get a new pair of spectacles, or do we have a day at the seaside? but there would still only be the same amount of money in the country.

ISTM the main reason wages are dropping is that so few people make stuff we can sell for a profit. You can't run a country on service industries: such as Taking in each others laundry. You'd have nice, clean clothes but no food to eat. Someone, somewhere has got to make / grow / invent all the stuff to earn the money we spend. Flipping burgers and selling insurance ain't going to cover it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just a bunch of wiggly lines?

"If a government took less off us - to spend on public benefits like the NHS - wouldn't all t'workers have to spend a larger proportion of their increased wages on the stuff they no longer got for free?" etc...

What about the deadweight loss of taxation?

How about you give me £1000 and then I'll buy you £1000 pounds worth of stuff I think you need, Trust me. I have your best interests in mind - I'm a politician.

That said, I like the NHS. I like living in a caring society that will offer bypass surgery and intensive care to a homeless drunk and a company director equally.

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Re: Just a bunch of wiggly lines?

Hopefully the company director is altruistic and pays for private medical treatment, thus his taxes (and National Insurance) pay for the homeless drunk to have better treatment.

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JB
Happy

Re: Just a bunch of wiggly lines?

"If a government took less off us - to spend on public benefits like the NHS - wouldn't all t'workers have to spend a larger proportion of their increased wages on the stuff they no longer got for free?"

This is exactly what happens here in the US. Often people in the UK complain that everything is cheaper here and people pay next-to-no tax, but then we have to pay for stuff like health insurance, and our infrastructure is abysmal, where it does exist.

Personally I'd rather pay more tax and have better public services and more reliable infrastructure, but then I'm just a damn liberal European socialist who doesn't understand how a market economy really works!

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Sel
FAIL

Re: Just a bunch of wiggly lines?

"it's not as if taxes are removed from society and the money is burned"

Giving money to a bunch of politicians and civil servants is no better than burning it. If there ever is anything produced it will be utterly useless, unfit for its intended purpose or will be counterproductive in some other manner (will interfere with some otherwise productive process).

I first encountered this when the government wanted to learn about successful small technology companies. Their demands for information and the time we had to spend producing it nearly folded the company. I'm sure that the reams of paper they probably printed everything out on in triplicate, are now propping the door open in some Humphrey's office, as he shamelessly plies the minister with whatever lies the big companies have paid him to fill any open ears with.

I can see that the same is clearly true in the rail industry as could be seen in the when Virgin lost their contract for having the audacity to know what they are doing, not duke stats and to top it off, add up in the normal way when bidding for renewal.

The civil service are either as corrupt, or possibly more corrupt that their masters who are uniformly the sort of scum anyone would make sure were kept as far away from the productive areas of business as possible.

Yes, after that band of scum have had their merry dance of vanity projects and pocket lining there is some trickle down to real people in the form of benefits I pay for others to have but will never enjoy myself. Left to my own devices I still save for rainy days but even there I get 'Quantitive Easing' where the scum realised they can just print more money and so long as they don't do it too obviously the natives don't get too restless. But they are still making my pocket lighter.

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Re: Just a bunch of wiggly lines?

The civil service are the puppet masters- Anytime a 'new' government is voted in, all you change are the public faces- the puppet masters are still there with no change.

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Re: Just a bunch of wiggly lines?

"Giving money to a bunch of politicians and civil servants is no better than burning it. If there ever is anything produced it will be utterly useless, unfit for its intended purpose or will be counterproductive in some other manner (will interfere with some otherwise productive process)."

You're right, the roads don't work, we all drive to our jobs off road. The railroads don't work. Nobody ever takes the train. The airport doesn't work. Nobody ever takes a plane. The police doesn't work, criminals roam our street uncontested. Neither do the firemen, fires rage through our cities for weeks and are only put out when everybody starts passing buckets to their neighbor. The school system doesn't work, we all learned reading and writing from our parents. The hospitals don't work, when I was ill the other day my aunt the witch doctor cured me.

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Boffin

Re: Re: Just a bunch of wiggly lines?

"..... I like the NHS. I like living in a caring society that will offer bypass surgery and intensive care to a homeless drunk and a company director equally." Sorry, not true. Due to the shortage of funds, the NHS now categorise cases based on likely success of the outcome and benefit to the patient, which means the homeless drunk will not get the equal chance as anyone else. Having said that, you also neglect to mention that the company director, who will have paid far more taxes and NI than the drunk, and therefore has full rights to the treatment, will probably pay again to go private, effectively paying twice. People that argue against private medicine are simply cutting their own nose off to spite their face due to small-thinking ideologies.

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FAIL

Roads don't work ...

Yep, all created privately and then taken over by the government.

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Sel

Re: Just a bunch of wiggly lines?

"You're right, the roads don't work, we all drive to our jobs off road. The railroads don't work. Nobody ever takes the train. The airport doesn't work. Nobody ever takes a plane. The police doesn't work, criminals roam our street uncontested. Neither do the firemen, fires rage through our cities for weeks and are only put out when everybody starts passing buckets to their neighbor. The school system doesn't work, we all learned reading and writing from our parents. The hospitals don't work, when I was ill the other day my aunt the witch doctor cured me."

Last year I lived in south London, so for a couple of days most of what you portray was actual reality for me. Roads, schools, police the A&E department really are all in a dire state because the money is not getting to them it's being used to line the pockets of various vested interests or prop up 'political realities'.

My beef is not with the "people on the front line" as the platitude pushers like to call them. It is with the management that they have to contend with. Ask any of the people doing those jobs you point out we all depend on (I would have no direct family without the NHS) and they know exactly how to solve most of the problems we all see, they just don't have the power or resources to do so. That's because we let politicians and bureaucrats dictate to the professionals what they have to do when. Teachers, doctors, nurses, police, even local council members all know what needs to be done and even how they could do it efficiently but they have to contend with an army parasites second guessing them.

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