Making up numbers

Nothing provides more authority to a policy than supporting it with made-up numbers, it seems. Here is a shameless example:

The communities department estimates that it costs each taxpayer £35 a week to keep people in affordable homes, and it is argued the tenancy for life is an inefficient use of scarce resources. from the Guardian

I don’t know how much income tax you pay but I’ve just worked out – very roughly, based on the allowances and basic rates on the HMRC site – that a single person earning £20k a year pays £52.03 per week in tax. So, the Prime Minister is saying that 67% of this tax goes to “affordable housing”?

And £20k isn’t a great wage. (It’s slightly below the median wage but easier to calculate from.) But it’s much higher than minimum wage.

Millions of people earn minimum wage. A yearly minimum wage is £12,234.40 (from October 2010 anyway, when it rises to £5.93 an hour) So a single person on minimum wage will pay £22.53 tax a week. The magical £35 a week is 1 and a half times their entire income tax bill.

This doesn’t just defy credibility. It spits in its face with a mocking sneer.

These numbers seem to be targeted directly at that section of Middle England which expresses views of the kind that can be seen at their most typical on the brilliant Speak You’re Branes site. (Ie., people dumber than a box of nails. )

The imade-up numbers may be used to obscure the fact that Cameron’s plan actually implies evicting tenants if they have an empty bedroom or if they earn wages.

Cameron did’nt even bother to explain how this is supposed to cut down on the imaginary costs. In fact, he gave a pretend-egalitarian, justification for this mad policy: that there are millions of needy people on waiting lists. .. who would presumably then move into the vacated houses and … start eating up their own share of the taxpayers’ £35 a week.

This makes no sense at all as a deficit-reduction plan – even if the numbers were real. And even if the social consequences wouldn’t be predictably horrific.

Cuts in housing benefit – to a level lower than the “affordable” rents charged by many social and private landlords – already threaten to put thousands of unemployed and disabled people into serious arrears and to drive many into homelessness. When these people are joined by workers earning a bit more than minimum wage and older people whose children have left home or whose partners have died – i.e. the people Cameron is presenting as stealing taxpayers money – it looks as if tent cities will have to start springing up all over the country. We might then get to see what a truly “broken Britain” looks like.

Landlords – Public Enemy Number 1

Again, this is a long, non-Atheist, rant. If you are reading on the magnificent Planet Atheism, or have come to the blog looking for philosophical insights into religion, please feel free to skip.

Depending on which sections of the UK media you have access to, you could be mistaken for thinking that, recently, buy to let landlords are the Earthly incarnation of evil itself and that any day now George Bush will declare war on them. As always, this is especially prevalent in the “left” media (what remains of it) but it has echoes all over. An example, is this weeks “Guardian Money” pages which has a massive spread about the evils of Buy-To-Let, along with a page of letters from readers who also think landlords are the definition of scum. The joys of the internet mean you can now read this online.

Highrise StockholmPersonally, I think it is all nonsense. I am pleased about this, as I have noticed a slight left-wing tendency in my previous posts, so hopefully this will bring me back to the centre 😀 .

Blocks of Flats in StockholmThe basic premise, in this article anyway, is that buy-to-let landlords have little regard for the local “community” and allow their properties to fall into disrepair. The secondary premise, and the main reason people hate buy-to-let-landlords in general, is that people who can afford to buy multiple houses are pushing house prices up, beyond the reach of any first time buyer. This is (sort of) supported by the data which shows the average UK house price is now around seven to nine times the average UK salary.

Before I attack some of the nonsense in these premises, I must declare an interest. I own a house which is rented out. I bought the house knowing I was unlikely to live in it for many a year and I still don’t live in it. I don’t even live in the same country the house is in. As a result, I do worry that legislation which affects buy to let landlords will affect me, and this gives me a fairly strong opinion – I may not be fully objective…

Continue reading

Wonderful Web Weirdness

The internet is the most fantastic source of weirdness the universe has ever seen. I am, generally, at a total loss as to what is spoof and what is real, which could explain some of the posts on this blog…

Picture of floating home - Copyright 2005, Underwater Vehicles Inc. All rights reserved., I was innocently surfing the net when I discovered a “Floating Home” (see pic or original site). This is brilliant and I really do hope it is real.

Basically for a mere US$4 – 5 million you can get one of these submersible houses. Words can not do justice for how cool something like this would be (strains of Homer Simpson singing “under the sea” are reverberating through my head now), especially given modern house prices.

Looking around the site (albeit briefly), it seems this was actually published in Popular Mechanics in 2002. This makes me wonder why there aren’t a good few of this wonders floating around. Even in the poor UK, there are a lot of people who can afford to spend GBP2.5 million on a house – especially a six bedroom one like this claims – and getting a house you can move, dont have to mow the lawn and get to see underwater from strikes me as a major selling point.

Add in the way this looks like an ideal means for an island with limited land and an increasing population and I think Gordon Brown should get involved as part of his major social housing scheme.

Obviously there are a few downsides, I suppose. The commute to would could be a pain in the ass (but we should all be telecommuting or working in VR anyway – even China has got in on the act here but more of that another time) and I can imagine docking fees every time you want to go to the shop could be tiresome. Would this be outweighed by the advantage of being able to move your house to a warmer clime whenever the mood hit you? Probably.

The only insurmountable hurdle I can see would be piracy. Can the Flying Spaghetti Monster help here? 🙂

Still, I am willing to take the risk. If people can help me raise enough funds, I will buy a floating semi-submersible house and report back what it is like. Currently the fund stands at US$0.00. All donations welcome…

[tags]Housing, Gordon Brown, Pirates, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Virtual Reality, Society, China, Scam, Spoof, Floating House, Technology, Adventure[/tags]

Hodgesaaargh at it again

Obviously impressed by how far she has raised her previously minimal public profile by pandering to racism. the barking Margaret Hodge has sounded off again in the Observer.

Enough said.

Last refuge of the scoundrel

Margaret Hodge, the government’s Industry Minister, not random nutter, has been trying to snatch votes from the BNP – i.e. voters who are blatantly three courses short of a 2 course meal – by coming out with anti-immigrant nonsense.

Shoe made some cursory efforts to distinguish her call for housing to be kept for British people from the far-right ranting of the BNP by phrasing it in supposedly inclusive terms:

She said white, black and Asian British families on low incomes, who had lived in an area for several generations, could not get their own homes and all felt there was an “essential unfairness” in the system

Getting votes by adopting the policies of parties that exist only through pandering to racism by stealing their policies does nothing to challenge these parties. Her whole argument is particularly insidious because she has taken on the whole principle of “Seek power by blaming some weak and visibly different group for all social ills” and just shifted it towards blaming Eastern Europeans and “asylum seekers” – the 1930s German Jews de nos jours.

This is unlikely to fool the black and Asian families who’ve lived here for generations and have therefore probably developed a healthy fear of the whole principle. Or is the BNP also trying to attract these people now?

I suspect that would certainly alienate their core constituency, but, hey, rabid racism is nothing if not inclusive – they can happily add Eastern Europeans to their mental rolls of hate figures. It’s not very good at shrinking though, so I dont hold out much hope of the BNP welcoming their previous core enemies into the fold so they can happily gang up on the Eastern Europeans.

Social housing, especially in the South East, is so close to non-existent now that the idea that it is getting handed out freely to immigrants and asylum seekers is laughable. Is there a shred of evidence of this?

There is no easier and more shameful way to get political power than by picking out a group of people to scapegoat. The fact that Margaret Hodge – former the 70’s anti-Thatcher London council leftwinger 🙂 – is driven to using this strategy tells us a lot about how deep principle runs in the average politician (granted, no surprise there.) It also draws attention to the horrifying fact that the BNP are becoming a viable political force.

Yes, these people are basically morons and rogues. They are still dangerous. That must be more of an issue than whether a Barking MP (you can obviously read that with or without the capital) is so afraid that her constituents are being seduced by racism that her major response is to try and keep her seat in Parliament by adopting their policies.