31 March 2010

I Just Read a BBC Immigration Article...

(My thoughts are in green.)

Brown tells illegal migrants: "You are not welcome"

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has stepped up his pre-election rhetoric on immigration by telling would-be illegal migrants: "You are not welcome." No shit Sherlock. (Of course he's addressing the electorate, not would-be illegal immigrants.)

With Labour facing a challenge in some areas from the anti-immigration BNP, Mr Brown urged a "united front" among the main parties to combat "xenophobia". You expect me to unite around your nasty, populist, xenophobic rhetoric? Fuck off. Talking tough on immigration doesn't combat xenophobia, it creates it. It plays to the BNP's agenda.

But he said it was right for politicians to talk about immigration and address people's "needs and fears". People need immigration and shouldn't fear it. Sorted.

The Tories said Mr Brown had "failed on immigration" and had no new ideas. The Tories haven't changed from their ideas in 2005.

In his third major speech on immigration (I thought you couldn't talk about immigration these days?) since becoming prime minister in 2007 Mr Brown said Labour's points-based migration system for workers from outside the EU would reduce the UK economy's dependence on migrant labour as British workers were trained up to meet skills shortages. It doesn't work like that… skills requirements fluctuate, but training is slow and costs money. Immigration allows for skills shortages to be filled quickly and cheaply, which is good for the economy.

But he also stressed the importance of addressing voters' concerns about the impact of immigration on their communities. If you don't like your community, move. Don't stop others from moving.

He highlighted recent tightening up of restrictions on newcomers and changes to housing rules to allow councils to favour local people and a new fund to help high-migration areas cope with the added pressure on public services, paid for by migrants. Migrants already pay their taxes and put in more than they take out.

'Fears' Oh piss off, BBC.

And he delivered a stark message to illegal migrants: "To those migrants who think they can get away without making a contribution; without respecting our way of life; without honouring the values that make Britain what it is - I have only one message - you are not welcome."Illegal immigrants are forced into this position by the government. They don't choose to be illegal, the government has made their circumstances illegal. They can't make a contribution because of their status.

Giving his reaction to Mr Brown's speech, Conservative leader David Cameron said: "I'm delighted that the prime minister has converted to the cause of controlled migration, but people will wonder what he has been doing for the last few years." He's been blurting out the same nasty rhetoric as usual throughout his premiership, David. Why haven't you been paying attention?

The Conservatives would broadly continue with Labour's points-based system, which sets criteria immigrants from outside the EU must meet to work in Britain, but would also set an annual cap on the number of work permits issued. i.e. discriminating based on application order. Huge human cost + cripples business.

They say they want to cut net immigration - the difference between those coming into the UK and those leaving - from "about 200,000" people a year to the "tens of thousands a year we saw in the 80s and 90s".

The Conservatives say they would achieve this by stopping students transferring automatically from study to work (this will mean breaking up relationships formed at university) and by capping the number of skilled workers admitted from outside the EU, although they would encourage more high value migrants such as entrepreneurs, doctors and scientists. How about letting the market decide who is of value? Blummin' Marxist Tories!

They would also introduce a border force to combat illegal immigration and English language test for the spouses of legal migrants. More breaking up of relationships. I thought the Tories were meant to be pro-marriage?

Shadow immigration minister Chris Grayling said: "We want to continue to attract the brightest and the best people to the UK - but with control on the overall numbers coming here."

'Amnesty' Nice work BBC. Plant the opposition's spin into the reader's mind before they get to the explanation. Cocks.

In his speech, Gordon Brown called the Tory capping plan a "pre-determined quota" which he said was "misleading" as it will not apply to 80% of migrants, including EU nationals, family members and students. Wow, something true! I think I'm going to faint!

The Liberal Democrats favour a policy of earned citizenship for illegal immigrants - dubbed an "amnesty" by their opponents. Much better than Labservative policy, but I don't like "earned".

They also say they would channel skilled migrant workers to parts of the country where there are labour shortages, away from the overcrowded South-East of England. Immigrants would channel themselves there if it wasn't for government interference.

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said there was "more consensus than meets the eye" on immigration and that "after many years of chronic mismanagement Labour have now got their act together". Sigh. Could someone please remind Chris about the word Liberal in our party's name.

But he said a border force, with police powers, was needed and he called for the reintroduction of exit and entry checks.

The BNP (oh fuck here we go), which is seeking to win its first seats at Westminster at the general election, want an immediate end to all immigration to the UK, including from other EU countries, and a programme of "voluntary repatriation".

What? That's it? No criticism? Just regurgitate BNP immigration policy and move on? The BBC are dangerous imbeciles.

The UK Independence Party (I think I'm going to vomit) is also focusing on immigration in its election campaign. It is proposing a five year freeze on immigration for permanent settlement.

UKIP wants withdrawal from the EU, like the BNP, and would end the automatic right of EU citizens to live and work in the UK, replacing it with a work permit system.

Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP's MEPs, said Britain would have an "open door" to the rest of Europe "while we are a member of the European Union". (which has been universally positive for almost everyone)

"This is the great thing that the Labour and Conservative parties don't want the voters to know," he told the BBC News Channel.

...And once again, no criticism for UKIP. I despair.


*Ahem* you covered the BNP and UKIP's immigration policy... so are they the only minor parties? Aren't you forgetting the Greens? Liberal BBC bias my arse.

In his speech, Mr Brown sought to differentiate between the position of parties such as the BNP and UKIP and "mainstream parties" who he said share a consensus that immigration is a positive force in British society and a necessary contributor to economic growth. So stop limiting it!

But he told the audience "how we conduct this debate is as important as the debate itself". Agreed. For instance, it is important that immigrants aren't blamed for things that aren't their fault...

And he called on mainstream parties to unite against "those who want to end immigration not because of the pressures it places on our communities (...like that! That's the government's fault, not immigrants') but simply because they don't like migrants".

Mr Brown announced changes to the points system, which will see two occupations - care workers and chefs - on the shortage list removed.

An aide said this would only reduce numbers entering the UK from outside the EU by about 2,500 and would not come fully into effect until 2014.

Mr Brown said he wanted to encourage young British people to take up social care and catering as careers to reduce the need to employ people from outside the EU. There's no way of doing this without it costing money.

29 March 2010

Criminalising Mephedrone - What Might Happen

Predicting the impact of criminalising mephedrone is difficult. Its use is a cultural phenomenon, and predicting how culture will progress in the future will always be speculative. But here's my best shot.

The existence of mephedrone is testament to the inherent desire of humans to want to get high. This trait can't be changed by the government. So four things are likely to happen:
  1. Mephedrone users will continue to use mephedrone. They like the feeling that the drug provides, and will continue to seek (and may be addicted) to the high it provides. Instead of suppliers who were complying with the law, mephedrone will now be provided to them by criminal gangs, who will command an inflated, untaxed premium for the drug. Some addicts will turn to crime to fund their habit. The strength and purity of mephedrone will greatly vary, to the detriment of the health of users. Rivalry between the drug gangs will bring violence and weapons to inner-city streets.
  2. Mephedrone users will switch to more familiar highs, such as cocaine or ecstasy, that mephedrone attempted to emulate. They will be supplied by criminal gangs, with all the above problems.
  3. Previously legitimate businesses that supplied mephedrone will be forced to close, with subsequent job losses. This is at odds with Gordon Brown's statement that "every redundancy is a personal tragedy. Every lost job is an aspiration destroyed. Every business closure is someone’s dream in ruins."
  4. Mephedrone users will switch to some of the many other legal highs on the market. Like mephedrone, the effects of these new drugs will not be known by science, and may be more dangerous than mephedrone, causing a new wave of deaths, and a new wave of calls for government action. This new market may temper some of the business closures and jobs lost from mephedrone's criminalisation.
Is this really progress?

26 March 2010

This Weekend, Get Pissed Tax-Efficiently

This graph shows how much money you gave to the government every time you bought an alcoholic beverage over the last 12 months.
From this graph you can see why Darling is keen on upping the duty on cider. Strong, still cider is currently one of the most tax-efficient ways of getting sloshed. It is beaten only by drinking fortified wine close up to 22% ABV. Alternatively you could drink heap-loads of excessively weak beer of less than 1.2% ABV tax free, such as this ingeniously-named stuff. Be warned though, this method may cause significant wear to the carpet leading to the toilet.

This is the last weekend to get your booze in at this rate, so make the most of it while it lasts.

I have a more general question: Why are the rates so complex? I don't see why all alcohol should be treated the same. As you can see, there are differing proportional rates for beer and spirits, and then fixed rates for varying strengths of wine and cider, varying even more dependent on whether beverage is still or sparkling. The government doesn't charge different rates of income tax depending on what job you do (although a Have Your Say forum nutter has suggested it); similarly it shouldn't be indulging in this social micro-management.

Axe all this complexity and the associated bureaucracy and replace it with a single, proportional rate.

Tasting notes:
  • Small brewers get a 50% discount.
  • 'Tax-efficient' does not mean 'cheap', of course.
  • I'll do an updated graph with the incoming rates once the Treasury releases an updated version of this document.
  • You may be wondering why bother extending the 'beer' line all the way up to 40%. Well you can buy beer that's even stronger than that.
  • This post contains two links to BrewDog's website. Make that three. I'm sure this linkage will be generously rewarded :)

UPDATE: Here is a second graph showing the revenue raised by the government on some other popular recreational drugs:

MORE UPDATE: I've found the rates for the incoming alcohol duty. The graph below shows the new duties.

18 March 2010

Legal Equals Safe

Two teenagers have died after taking MEPHEDRONE!!1!

(oh and alcohol and methadone.)

The toxicology results won't be back for weeks. Until then, we don't know how these young men came to their sad end. But the press have decided: they died because of mephedrone.

What has alarmed me about today's moral panic is the prevalance of the attitude that 'legal' must mean 'safe'. I find this a terrifying attitude for individuals to take towards their own well-being.

This is yet another conseqeunce of prohibition. When the government's remit becomes to protect people from themselves, some people - perhaps inadverently - outsource their personal responsibility to the state. When the daudling machine of government is inevitably too slow to keep pace with social progress, the people who handed their personal well-being to the government are left without a safety net. This will always be a failure of an authority-led society, no matter how democratic and well meaning.

It's one fucker of a problem to solve. Moving away from a culture of state dependancy for our own safety after decades of the nanny state is an almighty effort. All we can do is keep pointing out how the prohibitionist solution fails us. Over and over and over.

17 March 2010

Blog Theme Tune

Yay! Blogs are getting their own theme tunes!

So here's the official Split Horizons theme tune:

15 March 2010

Gordon Brown's 2007 Budget Analysis, Left Foot Forward Style

In the Budget of 2007, the Chancellor Gordon Brown announced to much fanfare that the basic rate of tax would be cut by 2p from 22% to 20%. This policy was great news for taxpayers! Earners received a tax cut of up to £647.

This tax cut was largely paid for by scrapping the 10p tax rate, which hit the lowest earners. But this is immaterial - since the 2p tax cut is worth £8bn, the policy should be looked at on its own merits.

We can therefore conclude that the 2007 Budget was hugely beneficial for the majority of taxpayers, and if we ignore those who suffered, there were no regressive outcomes.

Ta da!

Where Are The Losers?

Over the weekend, Left Foot Forward released a critique of the Lib Dem plan to give taxpayers a £700 income tax cut by raising the personal allowance to £10,000.

Here is the chart they used to demonstrate the allegedly regressive impact of the tax cut:

However, this chart can't be telling the full story. The Lib Dems have always made it clear that the policy is revenue neutral. This means that the policy won't cost the Treasury anything, because the tax cut has been paid for by tax rises in other areas: raising the tax on capital gains, and the new mansion tax on property worth over £2,000,000.

With any revenue-neutral tax change there will be winners and losers. However, the chart above shows everybody winning.

An honest bar chart would show negative bars representing the tax rises that pay for the tax cut. The total area of the negative bars would match the total area of the positive bars. Given the proposed tax rises will hit the wealthiest, these negative bars would be at the 'richest' end of the chart. This wouldn't fit with Left Foot Forward's narrative, so they have used statistical trickery to create a different result.

I suspect that the bars are showing the median of each decile, rather than the mean. This would hide the impact on the richest 5% of households. However since their report does not show how they calculated the impact, I can only guess.

Perhaps Left Foot Forward could come clean on how they have managed to hide the losers in the Lib Dem's tax plans.

12 March 2010

The TV Debates - How Long?!

A week and a half after the full announcement, my brain comes charging in with this:

Each debate will be 90 minutes. So that'll be four and a half hours of debate; no ad breaks. I'm wincing at the thought. It will be astonishing if non-politicos (aka normal people) be motivated enough to watch.

Particularly daunting is the prospect of 90 minutes focused on "foreign affairs". The current mainstream issues are basically the UK's involvement in Afghanistan and the European Union. Are they going to stretch these topics over the full hour and a half? Eeek.