Vast Inequality Is a Stain on Our Society

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By Green Party MEP Keith Taylor

Is there a starker reminder of the inequalities in our society than the publication of The Sunday Times Rich List?

Once a year the paper adds fame to the fortune of the richest people in our land. 2014’s list revealed that we have now have over 100 billionaires enjoying the high life in the upper echelons of our society.

The publication of The Rich List this year came just after new figures revealed what’s going on at the other end of our economy. Those stats, from the Trussel Trust, showed a huge increase in the number of people needing emergency handouts from food banks. In my constituency, where many of the billionaires have a property or two, the number of food bank users was up by over 100%.

For some, the food bank figures won’t be cause for alarm. If the food bank users work hard enough, some will say, they too can become the billionaires of tomorrow. But, behind this British adaptation of the American dream, lies the fact that those born into poverty are highly unlikely to make it to the top while those born into wealth will probably die rich. Indeed a study by the OECD showed that Britain has the lowest level of social mobility of any of the similar countries surveyed.

‘Working your way out of poverty’ is an appealing slogan for politicians, but the reality is that the majority of people in poverty are working. Many employers don’t pay staff enough to get by on, so people are forced to work all of the hours of the day to keep their heads above water.

It’s no coincidence, by the way, that a highly unequal country like Britain has low social mobility. According to economists like Joseph Stiglitz, inequality stifles people’s chance of climbing up the ladder.

It’s astounding, when you take a moment to think about it, that we live in a country where your chances in life continue to be closely linked to the income of your parents. For the 3.5 million children living in poverty in the UK, the chances of ever appearing in the Sunday Times Rich List, are impossibly slim.

Free marketers will accuse those of us worried about inequality of engaging in the ‘politics of envy’. But this is the politics of justice. The market is not free and never will be. Instead it is rigged against those with the least. It shouldn’t be seen as radical to say that we don’t want billionaires to get richer while poor people suffer, yet the media derides those who dare to stand up against inequality.

Thomas Piketty’s new book, Capital, hits on one of the great injustices in our society. That the super rich – who own multiple properties as house prices surge, gamble on the stock market and set up offshore bank accounts – are drowning in income they aren’t working for, while many people are working for an income that doesn’t even cover the basics.

In the UK the level of inequality is shocking. Figures released today show that the top 10% of households own 44% of the wealth in this country, while the bottom 50% own just 9% of the wealth. One if five people have no savings whatsoever.

There can be no greater challenge to a just society than a gaping divide between rich and poor. And it’s a problem that, by it’s very nature, will only get worse unless serious action is taken. That means both lifting the poorest out of poverty and also bringing the richest back down to earth.

And that is where the European elections on May 22nd come in. For Greens these elections are all about the kind of economy we want in Britain. Do we want an economy run for 104 billionaires, or for everyone else? Neither the Coalition, nor Labour have used their chance in power to deal with the soaring wealth at the top of British society – and UKIP would prefer to blame migrants for the country’s problems while letting their millionaire mates off the hook.

Greens are different. We aren’t afraid to say that we want social security protected and the richest in society to contribute more. We have no millionaire backers stopping us from clamping down on the speculators in the City. The bankers don’t like it when Green MEPs cap their bonuses, or curb the power of finance firms, but we’re not in politics to please them, we’re in it to build a fairer society.

At this election everyone has a stark choice. You can either vote for ‘business as usual’ or you can vote Green for a party that takes inequality seriously, and isn’t scared of addressing the deep rooted imbalance in our economy. It’s time to say no to an economy which rewards the gamblers in the city and punishes the poor. And it’s time to say yes to a politics that dares to challenge the power of those with the money.

 You can read the original article in Huffington Post here

Follow Keith Taylor on Twitter here 

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Obama’s in Brussels to Negotiate a ‘Polluters Pact’

ktBy Green Party MEP Keith Taylor

Across Europe, anti-fracking campaigns have been picking up momentum. Yet this movement could soon be spectacularly crushed.

From Romania to Poland to the UK, local uprisings amongst affected communities have quickly escalated into wider protests.

In the European Parliament, attempts by the Greens and other groups to bring in proper regulations on fracking have been blocked largely by the pro-industry lobby. We came close to ensuring a minimum level of protection through environmental impact assessments, but this was squashed at the last moment by countries (such as the UK) desperate to exploit another fossil fuel. And so the push by Green MEPS for adequate laws continues.

It appears that in some countries, the fight against fracking is being won, at least for now. 9 European countries have implemented either regional bans or national moratoriums (Luxembourg, France, Bulgaria, Czech Rep, Austria, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Denmark). In a world where people increasingly feel powerless, we have seen the peoples of these countries gain local, regional and sometimes Governmental support in their fight against major fossil fuel companies. However these moratoriums are temporary, and we see at international level that these same countries do not always defend their national bans.

These triumphs, and the successes we’re hoping to achieve in the future are fragile, and could soon be abruptly reversed. Barack Obama’s arrival in Brussels on Wednesday for a EU-US summit will see further negotiations of an EU US trade deal that’s being labelled as the ‘polluters pact’.

The deal aims to ramp up trade relations by removing protections such as tariffs and regulations, and by ‘harmonizing’ EU and US laws. It could well impinge on our food, environmental and social standards, in order to enhance trade between the countries.

For citizens calling for an end to fracking in Europe, this deal could destroy all progress made so far. This is because if the deal goes ahead, the harmonization of EU and US laws could force the EU to reduce protections which regulate energy extraction including shale gas.

Companies have been able to drill all over the US because of a lack of regulation, basically doing as they please with little regard for human health and environmental protection.

A new EU US trade deal could make Europe compromise on safety and regulation even further, at the expense of its citizens. Such an agreement could sabotage the important steps made so far by so many campaigners, activists, Greens and other environmental groups.

The deal could also force countries such as France to lift their bans on fracking. This is due to a particular part of the current deal which would enable countries to sue national governments when they believe their investment opportunities are restricted by a given law. It’s possible that fracking companies wanting to frack in a country with a ban could then take that country to court for restricting its investment opportunities.

In the UK, the Government is, all too often, a servant to the profiteers. So unsurprisingly, it backs the companies who are determined to frack our countryside. To provide a glimpse of this support: the UK Government are offering financial incentives to the companies themselves, and to local Councils who allow fracking in their areas.

Test drilling has already taken place in three British Counties, and the Government’s paving the way for more. It’s now eyeing up more than 60% of the country to licensing for the shale gas industry, mistakenly assured of the economic benefits it could have. So it’s no surprise then that the UK government is backing the new EU US trade deal which could make things even easier for fracking firms.

This trade deal, which is being negotiated by top officials behind closed doors, is a genuine threat to our environment, and our democracy. It’s time to stop this polluters’ pact in its tracks, before it’s too late.

Original article by Keith Taylor in Huffington Post here

Green Mep condemns Gov’t Fracking report

Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor, responded to the Strategic Environmental Assessment report produced by AMEC for the Government which sets out the potential economic and environmental effects of further oil and gas activity in Great Britain, including shale oil and gas production, comparing a ‘low activity’ and ‘high activity’ scenario.

The report, released today by the Department for Energy and Climate Change, comes ahead of the Government announcing new extraction licenses in 2014.

Keith Taylor said:
“This report shows us the extent to which fracking could affect people’s lives across the UK.

The report suggests that up to 2880 wells could be drilled in the UK creating over 100 million cubic meters of waste water. Communities near fracking sites will have dozens of heavy trucks passing by every day, causing noise and air pollution. Continue reading