Tag Archives: jobs

UK ELECTION – SECOND TV DEBATE

Grimsby Dock Tower, Lincolnshire
     Grimsby Dock Tower, Lincs – Grimsby fishing port at the height of its glory

I first saw BBC World in Uganda back in 1993.   I remember then expressing the hope that we would soon have it in Michigan.   I did not expect it to take 22 years, but we do finally have it, thanks to AT&T.   However, I’m not sure it’s worth over $100 per month.   This includes a zillion other channels I have no desire to watch.   CNN International is also good and comes with the package.

However, thanks to BBC World I’ve been able to keep up on the British election, which takes place on May 7th.

The first live televised debate was between seven leaders of seven political parties, including Prime Minister David Cameron and his coalition partner, Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats.   The debate was very interesting.

It was followed by a second debate last week, this time without the prime minister and his coalition ally.

Again, I found it very interesting but, at the same time, quite disturbing.

Each party leader was making promises.   The four left-of-center party leaders were all promising more and more, competing with each other on how they would improve this or that service, spending more millions (or was it billions?) on this, that or the other.   Only the leader of UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party) seemed to have any sense of the need to balance the nation’s accounts.

The Coalition has been trying to do that since austerity measures were introduced almost five years ago.   Their policies stabilized the country while some continental nations were in a rapid downward spiral.   Now, the other leaders feel it’s time to ditch austerity and throw a big, no-expense-spared party!

Two members of my family in England sent me a rather long article in the London Review of Books about the election in my hometown of Grimsby, on the east coast of England.   Once the world’s premiere fishing port, the town fell on hard times after the country joined the European Common Market (now the EU).   It’s revived somewhat, but is still way behind when it comes to economic development.   It has been a Labour Party stronghold since 1945. There is a connection!   No matter who wins, the next representative for Grimsby will be the first woman, as both leading candidates are women.

The Conservatives never stood a chance of winning the seat for parliament.   David Cameron’s posh accent did him in!   But a new party may actually take the electoral cup from Labour.   That party is UKIP.

Resentment against the EU is so great that working class voters seem just as inclined to vote UKIP as they are to vote Labour.

It’s not just the EU, which is the problem.   Immigration is another concern – and the perception that, in an area of 10% unemployment, jobs are being lost to immigrants, both legal and illegal.   UKIP is promising to pull Britain out of the EU and to do something about immigration.

Unlike the other left-of-center parties, UKIP does not look upon the English tax-payer as a cash cow, or a bottomless pit, whichever metaphor you prefer.   I think you get the picture.

The leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, makes Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, seem positively restrained, in her enthusiasm for spending other peoples’ money.   In her case, although she would never use the terms, all the money she is demanding for Scotland and Scottish development would come from the English taxpayer.   None of the others participating in the debate commented on this, perhaps because they all (except for UKIP) were looking to get more from the English taxpayer themselves.

The British (read, the English) are upset because they subsidize much of Europe through the EU.   How long is it going to be before there is a tax-payers revolt against all the subsidies to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, none of which pay their own way?

Ms. Sturgeon is also enthusiastic in her desire to see Britain scrap its nuclear weapons in order to partially pay for all this largesse.

Of greater concern is her insistence that, if David Cameron’s Conservative coalition is returned to power, and the promised referendum on EU membership is held, Scotland must have the right to remain in the EU, if England votes to depart.   This would automatically give Scotland independence, even though voters rejected independence in a referendum last September. Independence is what she and her party are committed to.

But how would they pay for it?   Scotland depends for roughly 10% of its expenditure on the English taxpayer.   This will only increase if the SNP joins the Labour Party in a left-wing coalition.

If Scotland remains within the EU and England withdraws, Scotland will need all the help it can get . . . from Germany, Europe’s other cash cow!

PS:  I thought you would all appreciate the following letter which appeared in the conservative Daily Telegraph of London. It’s a very astute observation on the British election campaign:

British election question

ALDI BAROMETER IS A GOOD READ ON US ECONOMY

aldi_logo1

The US government has just released its latest employment figure.  148,000 jobs were created last month, far fewer than hoped and far less than needed.  The numbers did, however, reduce the unemployment percentage down to 7.2%, a drop of 0.1%.

Even this is misleading.

What’s happening is that many people have given up looking for a job altogether.  These include many who formerly earned good salaries but can now only find low-paid jobs.

That 148,000 figure also hides the fact that many of the jobs are part-time jobs that offer no benefits.  Why would employers take on full-time staff right now when that means they have to provide medical care under the new Affordable Care Act?

In short, it’s very difficult trying to figure the economy out when government statistics are so deceptive and do not even attempt to give the full picture.  With 148,000 jobs supposedly created last month, Administration spokesmen will no doubt boast of a great accomplishment and those employed by government (on average, receiving double the remuneration of people in the private sector) will continue to think the economy is improving and that everything is ok.

They should all go check out the “Aldi Barometer!”

I’ve mentioned Aldi before.  It’s one of the fastest growing grocery chains in the US and around the world.  We have two of them here in the Lansing area and there are two in my hometown in the UK.  They claim they can reduce your grocery bill by 40%.

Aldi is a no-frills grocery store.  Your groceries will not get bagged, you don’t even get a free shopping cart (trolley) – you have to put a quarter in a gadget attached to the cart, then you can use it, receiving your quarter back at the end when you return the cart.  This saves money on hiring somebody to retrieve the carts as other stores do.

Aldi does not sell brand names but they claim that all their no-brands are just as good.  I would agree, except for their tea!

So, what exactly is the Aldi Barometer?  It’s purely a figment of my own imagination but I still think it’s reliable.

It comes down to this – the busier Aldi is, the worse the economy is!

People shop at Aldi when money is tight, when every penny has to count.

A poll in the Wall Street Journal recently found that, for the first time since they started polling, people are concerned about having enough money to buy groceries.  After healthcare and retirement, groceries were the third biggest concern.

The latest Consumer Sentiment survey showed that 71% of people think the economy is bad and getting worse.  Clearly, there’s something very wrong.

We have an Aldi close to us.  On Sunday, we drove by twice.  Each time I was planning on going in to buy a couple of items but I finally decided to wait until Monday morning.  The first time I went into the store the lines were so long I decided to wait; the second time I couldn’t even find a parking space.

I’ve also noticed that more and more affluent-looking people are shopping there, driving up in newish SUV’s and wearing expensive clothes.  I’ve even overheard people confiding to friends that they never thought they would go to an Aldi but they are there –openly admitting they have financial problems.

Although they do take EBT cards (food stamps), most of the customers I’ve seen either pay cash or use debit cards (no checks or credit cards).

Sunday seems to be their busiest day, suggesting that most of their customers have full-time jobs Monday through Friday.  I’m told Saturday is also a very busy day at the store.

Aldi isn’t the only barometer of the country’s economy.

Food banks report increased demand on their services.

The ever-increasing number of thrift shops selling second hand clothes and other used items is another good indicator.

As is the declining number of good restaurants and the obvious lack of business in those that survive.

I don’t expect our local movie theater to last much longer, either – their parking lot is usually empty (perhaps they can rent spaces to Aldi customers across the street?).  Who can afford a movie and popcorn nowadays?

I realize things may be different in other parts of the country.  There must be some areas doing well.  Actually, Michigan’s economy has been improving – Governor Rick Snyder has made some good pro-business decisions following years of bad ones under his predecessor, who is now advising President Obama on economic development issues!  But we still have a long way to go.  It’s not Michigan that’s the problem so much – it’s Washington.

Before next month’s employment stats are published by the federal government, perhaps some of their employees could pay a visit to Aldi, assuming they even know how to find one.  On their much-better-than-average salaries, they have never had a need to go!

(I will keep checking the Aldi Barometer and share the information with you.)