theguardian.com
20-year-old Member of Parliament Mhairi Black attacks benefit cuts in first speech.
After housing benefit for under-21s abolished in budget, new MP says she is now only 20-year-old whom chancellor is helping with housing.
By Libby Brooks

Mhairi Black, the youngest person to be elected to parliament since at least the 19th century, used a barnstorming first speech in the House of Commons to mount a withering attack on the chancellor for cutting housing benefit to young people.

To laughter in the Commons, Black declared that she was the only 20-year-old in the country whom George Osborne was helping with her housing bill.

“My housing [in London] is subsidised by the state … but in this budget the chancellor abolished any housing benefit for anyone under the age of 21,” she said. “We are now in the ridiculous situation whereby, because I am an MP, not only am I the youngest, but I am also the only 20-year-old in the whole of the UK who the chancellor is prepared to help with housing.”

“Food banks are not part of the welfare state, they are a symbol that the welfare state is failing.” THIS SPEECH IS DAMN GOOD.

10

Greeks said no to EU austerity — and threw an epic party to celebrate 

Greece went to the polls on Sunday to vote, with nearly a two-thirds majority, a resounding “no” on a referendum to decide whether or not the country would accept the terms of the European Union’s bailout package amid the nation’s deepening debt crisis. While thousands celebrated the liberal victory, they’re not out of the woods yet.

“The West still hasn’t fully recovered from one of the worst economic crises in modern history, caused by greedy financial institutions and weak regulation. The politicians answer to this, largely, has been to give those who caused the crisis (including themselves) a free pass and make ordinary working people pick up the tab. They call it ‘Austerity’. I call it bullshit. “ .. (more here)

independent.co.uk
While the rest of us face austerity, the Lords refuse to drink cheaper champagne
Nothing highlights the gulf between the governing class in this country and the rest of us than today's story about champagne in the House of Lords.

It’s been revealed that a proposal to save taxpayers money by making the House of Lords and House of Commons share a catering department was rejected “because the Lords feared that the quality of champagne would not be as good if they chose a joint service”.

It might take you a while to digest the sheer breathtaking callousness, arrogance and snobbishness of this. However, once you have passed through the various stages of reaction that I did – slack-jawed disbelief, hysterical laughter, genuine anger – I invite you to share with me a brief analysis of why this illustrates just how out of touch the governing class are from the people whose lives their decisions affect.

Obviously there is the mind-boggling elitism and disdain towards the less privileged which is revealed here. During a time of food banks, unemployment and waves of benefit cuts, when the rest of us are supposed to accept austerity lying down, the mere mention of a change to peers’ taste in bubbly is met with uncomprehending scorn. This is the thing that first cuffs you in the face. And there are only further, follow-up slaps to come.

We already suspected the House of Commons was disproportionately posh, with its overwhelming number of privately schooled members, its ludicrous expenses claims, and patronising tweets about white van men. But new, dizzying heights of snobbishness are revealed when we realise that, to members of the House of Lords, even this privileged bunch is considered too plebeian to have a trustworthy taste in champagne.

There’s also the unspoken assumption that during times of austerity there should be a budget for champagne at all, in either House. I don’t know about you, but I have never worked for a company that had part of its budget ring-fenced for sparkling wines, let alone roughly £65,000 a year (for the House of Lords alone). Is there something different about running the country which requires all that bubbly? Maybe it provides peers with the Dutch courage required to clock in for just a few minutes each day to claim their £300 daily attendance allowance?

It would be bad enough if our taxes were being spent on the champagne fund belonging to a group of people who didn’t have the capacity to enact any real harm on society. But let’s not forget, this a gathering of people who are predominantly white, male, and wealthy, and worse yet - entirely unelected. Despite this, our country’s lords still have the power to block and delay government legislation.

This needs to change, and the first step should be an imposed austerity on their £1.3M annual catering budget, starting with the complete abolishment of champagne. If they complain about the lack of bubbly I have a handy tip – try adding value lemonade (under 50p) to a large bottle of Liebfraumilch (under £7 for 1.5 litres) for a cheap alternative. It may not taste like Cristal but it does the trick, and after the first three glasses you can’t tell the difference anyway.

This advice is free by the way. After all, we’re all in it together, right?

LEE WILLIAMS

washingtonpost.com
Puerto Rico closes dozens of schools as economic woes deepen
Francisco Oller Elementary School once bustled with kids, but now birds nest in classrooms strewn with leaves and glass from shattered fluorescent lights. Long-discarded homework assignments paper the ground. Graffiti covers the walls.

Located in a city just outside San Juan, the school is among more than 150 shuttered in the last five years as a worsening economic crisis has prompted hundreds of thousands of people to move to the U.S. mainland over the past decade.

Driven by a combination of budget cuts and declining enrollment, the loss of so many schools is having a profound impact on communities in the U.S. island territory, forcing many children to commute to new campuses and creating a blight in places already hard-hit by recession.

The government says the situation could get much worse. It warned just days ago that by early 2016 it may run out of money to pay its bills, and over the next five years it may have to close nearly 600of the 1,460 public schools that once existed to save $249 million a year. Currently, there are 1,387 schools across the island.

Even in the Guardian, the most left-wing of the major broadsheet UK newspapers, the “race issues” page is almost entirely full with stories that come from outside the UK. Obviously, there’s a need to report all that stuff, especially at a time when insitutional police racism has become highly visible in the US, but isn’t it weird that even the most left-wing UK newspaper has relatively little to say about racism in the UK right now?

We know that austerity has a bigger impact on groups that are already disadvantaged to begin with. We know that both Islamophobia and anti-semitism have significantly increased in recent years. We know there hasn’t been that much progress since the Metropolitan Police were first accused of institutional racism 16 years ago. We know that the jobless rate for young people from BME backgrounds is much bigger than the rate for white young people. And UKIP managed to get 12.6% of the vote in our last election despite a long history of racist statements from candidates.

Obviously, when a new story breaks in the US about a black man or woman that’s been killed by the police, it grabs our attention. Racism in the UK is not always so loud and attention-grabbing (largely because we have a lot less racists with guns). But I feel like we’re headed for trouble if we focus purely on what’s going on in other countries whilst reassuring ourselves that at least it’s not so bad here. The reason British police don’t kill so many black people is purely because most of the police don’t have guns. It doesn’t mean that we’ve dealt with racism or that we can afford to forget about it.