Andrew Fisher, author of The Failed Experiment ... and how to build an economy that works
Some plain speaking inspired by speaking at the Lambeth Pensioners' Action Group and joining an impromptu occupation of Lambeth Town Hall by housing campaigners
The economy is not the performance of the FTSE index, whether economic growth is up 0.2 or 0.5% - and it's not whether business profits are up or down. The economy is the pound in your pocket, whether your pay, pension or benefits make ends meet.
We live in a society in which it is acceptable for someone to own hundreds of homes, but for others not be entitled to just one. People get evicted from their homes because their incomes do not make ends meet. Due to landlords (social and private) wanting to sell off higher value property, poor people are being kicked out of the homes and communities they live in. For profit.
In fact, evictions of tenants are at a record high.
New: Official figures show 42,000 evictions from rented homes in 2014 - highest number since records began & equivalent to 8,000 ppl a month
— Shelter (@Shelter) February 12, 2015
We cap people's benefits, but not the amount of rent a landlord can charge, not the number of homes one person can own. The laws governing our economy state that the rich have a right to buy as many properties as they like, but the poor have no right to their stay in their home. Housing should be a right, not a commodity.
People die from cold-related illnesses in the sixth or seventh richest country in the world because they worry about turning on or turning up the heating due to the exorbitant energy prices charged by highly profitable companies (and excess winter deaths this year look like they will be very high - despite a relatively mild winter). Many homes are not properly insulated because landlords haven't invested or householders can't afford it. Profit kills.
We're told austerity is necessary, that there is no alternative, that the money isn't there. Yet corporate profits are at record highs and the richest 1,000 Britons last year increased their already gargantuan wealth by £70 billion. The money is there, it's just in the wrong place - and that's the philosophy of the last 35 years: belief in the trickle-down effect - the belief that if you put money in the wrong place it will end up in the right place. It doesn't and the result is poverty, inequality, homelessness and death.
What is the solution to this? It has to be a democratic economy which gives us, not a few rich people or big businesses, control over what matters.
"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed"
- Mohandas K Gandhi