12 March 2008

Darling fiddles on while the planet burns

You can't really feel surprised by the pitiful response politicians show in the face of global meltdown, it's the pusillanimous hypocrisy of making grand claims and then coming up with policies to confront plastic bags that really sticks in the craw. If the Chancellor can't fight his way out of a wet one of those, how can we trust him to steer a course through the choppy waters that unquestionably lie ahead?

Of course the main issue is not confronting climate change, it is confronting the corporate power blocs that are - if you will forgive a mixed metaphor - driving us towards the abyss. If anything became clear this year it is that finance capitalism is a high-risk strategy, but Darling has shown no courage in confronting this threat either. Of course the two threats are inextricably intertwined. The creation of money as debt forces economic growth; companies founded on debt have to grow exponentially if they are to avoid implosion.

Last year and this, the Green Party's policy supremo Brian Heatley has taxed his brain (no civil servants at his disposal except himself) to work through a budget that counts carbon as well as cash. The maths may be complex (and fairly heroic!); the policies are not. We can afford to raise the state pension to £100 as well as offering free personal care for the elderly, free school meals to all children, and the reintroducing student fees and maintenance grants. How do we pay for this? By addressing the real source of growing inequality - the unfair tax changes introduced since the time of Thatcherism with a new 60% tax rate for those receiving more than £100,000 per year.

For the excitement of fiscal nerds, other policies include re-introduction of the fuel-duty escalator to fund public transport investment; an increase in Air Passenger Duty to £100 for all flights; and the reduction of all speed limits to outlaw inefficient motoring. In addition, in a package that is revenue-neutral but would cut emissions by 6-9% in one year, the Party proposes to insulate at the public expense every home in Britain and offer £500m. in incentives for renewable energy.

That's right, Alastair, the art of the possible. That's what you signed up for: and all of this is possible, so why aren't you doing it?

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