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British-American democracy hijacked: Professor Luis Suarez-Villa

Professor Luis Suarez-Villa (Social Ecology and of Planning, Policy and Design at the University of California, Irvine) wrote in the FT recently:

American democracy was hijacked long ago by money and powerful interests, turning it into what amounts to a system of legalised corruption.

Lobbying, political action committees (super-pacs), myriad forms of campaign contributions and patronage are at the core of this phenomenon.

By comparison, the so-called Russian meddling in the 2016 election seems amateurish at best, and perhaps (more seriously) a way for the political establishment to divert the attention of the American people from the real problems of a corrupt system of public governance, whose patrons and beneficiaries want the rest of the world to think it is democratic.

A review of his book Corporate Power, Oligopolies, and the Crisis of the State (2015) expands his argument:

“The largest, wealthiest corporations have gained unprecedented power and influence in contemporary life.

“From cradle to grave the decisions made by these entities have an enormous impact on how we live and work, what we eat, our physical and psychological health, what we know or believe, whom we elect, and how we deal with one another and with the natural world around us.

“At the same time, government seems ever more subservient to the power of these oligopolies, providing numerous forms of corporate welfare—tax breaks, subsidies, guarantees, and bailouts—while neglecting the most basic needs of the population.

“In Corporate Power, Oligopolies, and the Crisis of the State, Luis Suarez-Villa employs a multidisciplinary perspective to provide unprecedented documentation of a growing crisis of governance, marked by a massive transfer of risk from the private sector to the state, skyrocketing debt, great inequality and economic insecurity, along with an alignment of the interests of politicians and a new, minuscule but immensely wealthy and influential corporate elite.

“Thanks to this dysfunctional environment, Suarez-Villa argues, stagnation and a vanishing public trust have become the hallmarks of our time”.

His charges apply just as accurately to the British scene: British democracy has also been hijacked by money and powerful interests, turning it into what amounts to a system of legalised corruption.

 

 

Emeritus Professor Luis Suarez-Villa is the author of several other books, including Globalization and Technocapitalism: The Political Economy of Corporate Power and Technological Domination and Technocapitalism: A Critical Perspective on Technological Innovation and Corporatism.

 

 

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Austerity 8: the prison service

Impressive new entrance (Winson Green) and corporate/political rhetoric: fearful reality

winson-green-prison

After a series of violent incidents in recent months at HMP Lewes and HMP Bedford, four wings at HMP Birmingham in high-security Winson Green, had to be sealed after disturbances broke out. About 260 prisoners were involved.

Despite the record of G4S, which now runs five prisons in the UK, management of this prison was handed over to the private sector company in 2011. Unions opposed the deal which reduced staff numbers and pay rates.

So many public sector officers had to be drafted to ‘manage’ the Winson Green ‘dispute’ that control had to be transferred to the public sector HM Prison Service.

There have been sharp cuts to prison staff numbers as part of the 2010-15 coalition’s austerity drive even though the prison population has doubled since 1993 to more than 85,000. There are now 65 assaults behind bars every day and in the year to June, assaults on staff jumped 43% to 5,954, with 697 recorded as serious.

gove

Yesterday former Conservative Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove appeared to have a change of heart. His words, reported in a recent speech, were: “I am convinced that we cannot provide the effective level of rehabilitation we need for offenders without either increasing expenditure significantly or reducing prisoner numbers overall, because overcrowded prisons are more likely to be academies of crime, brutalisers of the innocent and incubators of addiction rather than engines of self-improvement.”

 

 

 

Private hospital profits boosted as NHS struggles

A Solihull reader draws attention to a major investigation by Pulse, the leading publication for GPs in the UK, which has revealed that private companies are boosting their profits by up to 100% as the health service struggles to cope.

 pulse-header

An analysis of company reports and statements from all the major private hospital chains that make their figures available shows all have boosted their revenues this year. They say they are gaining from the plight of the NHS, with patients more likely to pay for their care to avoid lengthening NHS waiting lists, which have led to 3.7 million NHS patients wait for treatment – the most since December 2007.

Commissioners pay millions to private hospitals

The investigation – the most comprehensive since the introduction of the Health and Social Care in 2012 – also shows that local commissioners are paying hundreds of millions to private hospitals and that hospitals have also boosted their income from private work.

GP visit for £120 fee

It comes as Pulse yesterday reported that one private GP firm is expanding its service which promises to deliver a GP to patients’ doorsteps in 90 minutes for £120 – one of a number of companies taking advantage of long waiting times for GP appointments.

gpc-text

General Practitioners Committee (GPC) leaders say the Government is undermining the NHS in favour of the private sector through ‘scandalous’ underfunding, and ‘sleepwalking’ us towards a US-style health insurance system.

The Pulse investigation found that companies are looking to expand services to take advantage of waiting lists. News concerning the following providers may be read here:

  • BMI Healthcare
  • Spire
  • Nuffield Health
  • Circle
  • BMI
  • CareUK

David Hare, chief executive of NHS Partners Network – which represents private health companies – said: ’Independent hospitals play a vital role in keeping NHS waiting times low during a time of huge service pressures. NHS patients are also increasingly choosing to be treated at private hospitals, paid for at NHS prices, to NHS standards and free at the point-of-use.’

But GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul says the rise in private use ‘represents a clear diversion of funds out of the NHS and into the private sector’: “In many cases private providers will cherry-pick low-risk patients, adding further strain onto impoverished NHS hospitals caring for patients with greater morbidity. This is unfairly undermining the NHS in favour of the private sector”.

 

 

Health corporates rampant

The FT reports that private health companies are seeking talks with ministers and health service leaders to secure a bigger role in providing NHS care amid frustration that the Conservatives have failed to drive the growth of the sector.

A BMJ analysis showed that 54% of just under 3,500 contracts, awarded between April 2013 and August 2014, went to NHS providers. A total of 33% were awarded to private sector providers, 10% to voluntary and social enterprise sector providers, and 3% to other types of provider, such as joint ventures or local authorities.

nhs partners network2

The NHS Partners Network, which represents private [independent] providers, extolled the performance of private groups, which it said had:

  • better than average NHS waiting times for elective operations,
  • lower than average cancellation rates
  • and patients reporting better results for procedures such as hip and knee replacements and groin hernias.

david mobbsDavid Mobbs [exBUPA, former consultant to Ernst & Young] chief executive of private hospital group Nuffield Health, said the relationship needed to be “revisited & refreshed” to keep the NHS financially sustainable as it faces a £30bn funding gap by the end of the decade.

Companies that would take part in any expansion of the private sector’s role include Ramsay Health Care UK, BMI Healthcare, Care UK, Spire Healthcare and Nuffield Health. The NHS Supply Chain’s biggest suppliers of procurement, logistics and ecommerce, include Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics, Philips Healthcare, GE Healthcare Clinical Systems and Johnson & Johnson Medical.

Yes Minister?

yes ministerDavid Cameron’s recent speech is said to reflect a belief in Whitehall that the NHS will be unable to satisfy growing demand without the additional capacity that the independent sector provides. Many have noted the large number of MPs in the last government with links to private healthcare companies (names and details here).

“We can’t do it without the private sector,” said one government insider. The health department said: “Independent providers play an important role in the NHS and have done for many years, helping patients get prompt care free at the point of use. The decision to use independent providers is made by the NHS itself, based on the best interests of patients.”

An important question

Shouldn’t the focus on increasing privatisation for the benefit of corporates and their shareholders be redirected, instead, to investigating this finding: “The cost of standard clinical procedures can also vary enormously between hospitals. Research commissioned by the FT last year found taxpayers were paying up to five times more for operations in some NHS hospitals compared with others”.

dr david_wrigleyLancashire GP David Wrigley’s verdict: “We are wasting billions annually on administering an unwanted healthcare market where providers fight each other for contracts and NHS managers spend their lives refereeing and sorting this all out. No one (except the private health industry) has asked for this. The money saved from scrapping this market system could fund decent social care for all the elderly and vulnerable people in our society”.

Media 43: an ethically motivated press would focus on the damage repeatedly done by so-called ‘turnaround’ companies

The business press focusses at length on ‘systemic problems – the costs and mechanics of parcel delivery – following the collapse of City Link, after its nominal purchase by Jon Moulton’s private equity company, Better Capital.

Ethical media would be moved to focus on the damage repeatedly done by so-called ‘turnaround’ companies, underpinned by a government which decrees that the taxpayer will shoulder private equity’s responsibilities and come to the aid of jettisoned employees.

jon moulton city link

Thousands of employees and sub-contractors were faced with an uncertain future on Christmas Eve; see an earlier post.

The speculator will be paid before the employees who have actually done work for the company.

Administrator Ernst & Young said that it would be referring employees to the government’s statutory redundancy payments scheme because “the company is insolvent and unable to meet these payments”. Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT union, has deplored the fact that a former donor to the party of government can walk away and leave the taxpayer to pick up the redundancy costs.

How many of these injustices will be rectified and how many subsidies received by the so-called private sector before electors demand change?

Electors fund City Link redundancy payments: Better Capital evades moral responsibility

jon moultonAs approaching 3000 households were cruelly faced with an uncertain future on Christmas Eve, those playing roulette with their lives cheerfully walk away.

On a sister website see reference to another such operation: the Phoenix gamble in Birmingham – and the fate of Jaeger and Reader’s Digest at the hands of Better Capital.

Better Capital is described as a ‘restructuring specialist’ which specialises in ‘distressed assets’, buying companies for a nominal sum ranging from £1- £10.

As it relies on the taxpayer to fund redundancy payments for nearly 3,000 staff, Jon Moulton’s company will rank ahead of staff when proceeds from the liquidation are distributed and will recoup up to £20m of its investment.

It is reported on the Investegate website to have invested £40m as a secured loan to protect its interests as a ‘secured creditor’ in the not unlikely event of City Link’s collapse.

Press and government support this form of piracy

Moulton has made friends in political circles asa former donor to the party of government’,.. These, and media outlets, celebrate his ventures which so often lead to disaster for the employees of the firms ‘rescued’. The Telegraph’s 2013 upbeat article about his acquisition of City Link – for £1 – according to the Daily Mail – now makes sad reading: under Jon Moulton, City Link “will deliver the goods” – “His style is old-school investment and turnaround”.

We see once more the damage done by casino capitalism, underpinned by the government with public money, as the taxpayer comes to the aid of jettisoned employees. How many of these subsidies will be received by the so-called private sector before electors demand change?

An earlier post on this subject: http://ourbirmingham.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/beware-spin-phoenix-paradise-and-now-better-capital/