The Nero Solution …

Google “Olympics sales boost” and it currently returns “About 39,000,000 results (0.40 seconds)”:

All is not as it should be. Note the second item. That produces this:

Sales volumes including automotive fuel dipped 0.2 percent last month, giving an annual rise of 2.7 percent, the Office for National Statistics said. Economists had forecast a drop of 0.4 percent on the month and an annual rise of 2.7 percent.

Volumes were 0.3 percent lower on the month when excluding sales of fuel.

Non-store retail volumes fell 6.7 percent compared to July — the sharpest decline since December 2007.

“Feedback from online retailers suggests that sales were lower as consumers watched the Olympics instead of shopping online,” the ONS said.

However, retailers of sporting goods and toys reported a boost from sales of football shirts and other items as a result of the new football season, the European Championship and the Olympics.

Between June and August, all retail sales rose by 0.6 percent compared to the previous three months, a slight slowdown from the 0.7 percent increase in the three months through July.

Britons have been cutting back on non-essential spending as their incomes are suffering the worst squeeze for more than 30 years on the back of soaring food and fuel prices, higher taxes and slow wage rises.

Earlier surveys had indicated that many retailers were disappointed with business during the London Olympics, which took place during the first two weeks of August.

The ONS said retail prices rose by 0.2 percent on the year in August, matching July’s two-and-a-half-year low.

While easing inflation and falling unemployment should relieve the pressure on Britons’ incomes and support consumer confidence, a meaningful recovery looks still some way off.

All that quibbling over the odd tenth of one per cent! Oh, for the hell of it, let’s have Suetonius’ full version of Nero fiddling while Rome burned:

Nero showed no greater mercy towards the citizens, or even the walls of Rome herself. When in the course of conversation someone quoted the line:

When I am dead, let fire consume the earth,

he commented ‘No, it should rather be – while I yet live …’ and acted accordingly, since he had the City set on fire, pretending to be displeased by its ugly old buildings and narrow, winding streets, and had it done so openly that several ex-consuls dared not lay hands on his agents, though they caught them in situ equipped with blazing torches and tar. Various granaries which occupied desirable sites near the Golden House were partly demolished by siege engines first, as they were built in stone, and then set ablaze.

The conflagration lasted seven nights and the intervening days, driving people to take refuge in hollow monuments and tombs. Not only a vast number of tenement blocks, but mansions built by generals of former times, and still decorated with their victory trophies, were damaged, as well as temples vowed and dedicated by the kings, or later leaders during the Punic and Gallic wars, in fact every ancient building of note still extant. Nero watched the destruction from theTower of Maecenas, and elated by what he called ‘the beauty of the flames’ he donned his tragedian’s costume and sang a composition called The Fall of Troy from beginning to end.

He maximised his proceeds from the disaster by preventing any owner approaching their ruined property, while promising to remove the dead and the debris free of charge. The contributions for rebuilding, which he demanded and received, bankrupted individuals and drained the provinces of resources.

Now there’s a guy whose economic policies appeal to Treasury hard-liners: bring down the whole structure, then ask the victims to pay for reconstruction permits!

The voices protesting the constant squeeze are finally beginning to be heard. One of the latest comes from a quite remarkable direction:

TORONTO (AP) — The chief executive of Goldman Sachs says he’s against austerity measures in the short term as the U.S. fiscal cliff looms.

Lloyd Blankfein, also chairman of the investment bank, said Wednesday during a talk at the Canadian Club of Toronto that he’s all for budget cutbacks in the long term but not in the short term.

Blankfein says “you can’t austere yourself into a higher GDP” and says “it’s not going to be very good if the medicine kills the patient.”

Even more remarkable is the shrillness of the unrepresentative far Left seems to find points of agreement with the academic mainstream. Compare and contrast:

The Republicans on the whole serve a single master — corporate capital. In some cases, as in the notorious case of Wisconsin governor Walker, they even work directly for billionaire fractions of the ruling class like the infamous Koch brothers, cutting through the normal mediations and compromises of bourgeois politics. Union-busting legislation is literally drawn up in the offices of rightwing think tanks funded by these super-rich sponsors.

In any case, the program of cutting taxes for the affluent while slashing benefits and services for the population, eliminating union protection and business regulation, privatizing schools and hospitals and prisons and everything else up to and including Social Security — even if it’s not only socially destructive but ruinously expensive to do so — fully responds to the wish list of corporate America.

Taken together, these measures will accelerate the already rapid social decline of the United States — a society that becomes poorer, more profoundly unequal, more insecure and repressive and a great deal less democratic — to say nothing of paving global civilization’s road to irreversible environmental catastrophe. On the way to the bottom, however, the Republicans offer a wild ideological celebration of the return of the greatness of America to win the votes of millions of people whose jobs, pensions and kids’ access to education are vanishing.

 with this abstract of an article by James Crotty for the Cambridge Journal of Economics (and they don’t come more pointy-headed and academic than that):

Rapidly rising deficits at both the federal and state and local government levels, along with prospective long-term financing problems in the Social Security and Medicare programmes, have triggered a one-sided austerity-focused class war in the USA and around the globe. A coalition of the richest and most economically powerful segments of society, conservative politicians who represent their interests and right-wing populist groups like the Tea Party has demanded that deficits be eliminated by severe cuts at all levels of government in spending that either supports the poor and the middle class or funds crucial public investment. It also demands tax cuts for the rich and for business. These demands constitute a deliberate attempt to destroy the New Deal project, begun in the 1930s, whose goal was to subject capitalism to democratic control. In this paper I argue that our deficit crisis is the result of a shift from the New Deal-based economic model of the early postwar period to today’s neoliberal, free-market model. The new model has generated slow growth, rising inequality and rising deficits. Rising deficits in turn created demands for austerity. After tracing the long-term evolution of our current deficit crisis, I show that this crisis should be resolved primarily by raising taxes on upper-income households and large corporations, cutting war spending and adopting a Canadian- or European-style health care system. Calls for massive government spending cuts should be seen as what they are—an attack by the rich and powerful against the basic interests of the American people.

Shocked by all this out of any other emotion, one is reduced to laughing. As Private Eye notices,  the best marker of success for “Gids” Osborne’s Plan A for “the New Coalition Academy (formerly Brown’s Comprehensive)” is that:

he has now reduced the … overdraft from a worry ing £700 billion to a far more manageable £1.2 trillion.

Which comes first? Nero or Augustus? The Revolution or the New Deal?


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Filed under Britain, economy, History, Literature, politics, underclass, United States

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