Socialist Worker

Don't blame the weather for the bankers' hunger games

Issue No. 2325


Millions of people in Britain are cutting back on the essentials as food prices continue to surge.

And whatever the media say, it can’t all be blamed on the weather—however much of a washout the summer turned out to be.

Food has been getting dearer in Britain for five years now. Fruit, milk, cheese and egg prices have gone up by nearly a third in that time.

Frozen wages and slashed benefits have also left people with less cash in their pockets to fork out for them with.

No wonder new figures show the poorest 10 percent of people were already cutting back on fruit and vegetables two years ago.

This year’s harvest has been hit by everything from rains in Britain to drought in the Americas. But global food production actually went up over the previous four years.

And they certainly brought a bumper crop for bankers, who gamble on commodity markets—from food to oil and metals—to profit from rising prices. And governments who try to end the crisis by throwing more money at the bankers are making it worse.

Commodity prices across the board went up this month, for reasons which had nothing to do with the weather.

The US Federal Reserve had just launched its third round of “quantitative easing”. That’s printing money for the bankers, to you and me.

And what’s the most profitable thing for them to do with the money in the middle of an economic crisis? Buy up commodities of course.

Under this kind of pressure, farmers are expecting grain prices to keep rising well into next year. The United Nations expects world prices to hit a new record, bringing starvation and hunger across the world.

Still, at least there are some winners in these hunger games. Barclays bank alone made half a billion pounds profit on food commodities last year.


Hubble doubled

Older readers may remember the 16 year battle for funding to launch the Hubble space telescope. It launched seven years late after US politicians cut its budget every step of the way.

But it turns out there was cash for two more advanced space telescopes to be built in secret to spy on Russia. They are now to be palmed off on Nasa in their retirement.


Landlord MPs

Just why are politicians so callous about people who struggle to pay the rent? A new survey may have found an answer.

Over a quarter of Tory MPs are themselves landlords. So are 15 percent of Lib Dem MPs and 12.5 percent of Labour MPs. Tory James Clappison boasts a rental empire of 26 homes.


Have you had your privatisation jab?

As flu season sets in, we can all be relieved that GPs can now order their vaccines directly from private suppliers.

Except for the 2,000 patients whose appointments were cancelled thanks to a problem with supplier Janssen/Crucell. Now government advisors have raised “grave concerns” about how Tory NHS reforms could disrupt immunisation.

Meanwhile Jim Easton, the “director of transformation” for the new NHS commissioning board, has a new job. He is moving to Care UK—one of the companies set to gain the most from NHS privatisation.

Mind you, Atos Healthcare, the firm that puts disabled people through humiliating assessments, seems to have bitten off more than it can chew. So in Scotland it has outsourced tests for the new PIP disability benefit… to the NHS.

But getting NHS subcontractors to do their dirty work won’t stop Atos bosses taking their cut of the £40 million contract. Everyone’s a winner. Except disabled people, obviously.


Grieving dad jailed for offending cops

The tabloids were quick to go for “thug” Barry Thew last week, when he was jailed for eight months over an “offensive” anti-police T-shirt.

They must have agreed with the judge, who said Thew’s mental illness was “not a factor”. Nor was the fact that he put the T-shirt on three hours before the Mottram shootings he was accused of mocking.

And Thew’s own side of the story has been strangely absent. He accuses cops of a three year campaign of harassment. Their row began with the death of his son. But it seems none of this justifies a strongly worded T-shirt.

The force has been more forgiving for PC Paul Woollard. The Police Appeals Authority ordered his reinstatement after he was sacked for emails to a sex offender.

Woollard sent a rape “joke” to Robert Meade, and “lent him a shoulder to cry on” while he was on bail for molesting a 14-year-old.


Faulty Firm: Facebook

The anti-social network doesn’t like paying tax. It paid just £238,000 in corporation tax on an estimated £175 million in Britain last year, thanks to a legal tax dodge. Co-founder Eduardo Severin also saved millions in tax on his Facebook shares by giving up his US citizenship.


Fined for F1 cheating? Tell the tax man

Racing bosses at McLaren Group must have been rubbing their hands with glee last week. They lost £32 million back in 2007, thanks to fines for spying on Formula One rivals Ferrari. But appeal judges have now ruled it will be tax deductible.

Judge Charles Hellier said “the penalty was something which arose from its trade” and was therefore a legitimate business expense.


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

The Troublemaker
Tue 16 Oct 2012, 16:05 BST
Issue No. 2325
Share this article


Tags



Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.