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Build Back Greener and the Magic Money Tree


Blake Lovewell

21st Century Wire

I’m young enough to remember times before the apocalypse. I recollect the announcement of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto in 2019. It was a modest manifesto focussed on education, health and social care and other social needs. It sought to address the rampant inequality in British society through investment in local services which had been gutted by decades of privatisation. By all means it was a good manifesto, as they go. It was clear in its aims, and having been constructed by experts in their respective fields, offered hope to a great many Brits. As with any policy formulation it had to be budgeted, a modest £80 billion was the cost which would surely be recouped by a growth in productivity. The play was made, Corbyn was at his zenith, having almost clinched the previous election; 2019 was seen as his last chance for premiership and he had momentum on his side.

Then word came from on high. The spin doctors and wizardly wonks at Conservative HQ had their retort crafted. It was a simple three word phrase, which when repeated over and over, became an incantation: “Magic Money Tree”. ‘Where does communist Corbyn think this money will come from?’ they asked. One can’t just conjure up money from thin air, there is no magic money tree. This painted the Labour leader as a reckless spender and the landed gentry Conservative party as fiscally trustworthy.

At first, it seemed like a weak attack, the Conservatives proposed no alternative policy to address any of the problems raised. But as any mature political observer knows, facts don’t matter in politics. Through a supplicant, lenient media, through guffawing boorish sessions of parliament and through boisterous speeches at the bully pulpit, Corbyn’s case was demolished. At every juncture the spell was chanted, the mystical utopian ‘magic money tree’ was not realistic and Corbyn lost the election, and soon after he was ejected from the party at large in favour of a centrist alternative.

The successful Conservative campaign preyed on the uninformed electorate. Most voters don’t comprehend the intricacies of government finance, as I’m sure many experts don’t. The implication of the argument was that all government spending must come from taxation, thus any increase of expenditure would mean a concurrent increase in taxation – with ‘more tax’ being the worst electoral move a politician can make. However, it is not the case that all government spending comes from taxation.

A large chunk of the spending power of most governments comes from their ability to create debt. They can ask a central bank to issue more currency and create debts. This covers the shortfall in spending. I argue that it also allows for a huge and ineffective bureaucracy to spring up around this easy money. When a government can literally print money, and issue loans backed by no gold or asset, they have access to the proverbial magic money tree. Interestingly, this swindle goes by the acronym “MMT,” which stands for Modern Monetary Theory, which bears a striking resemblance to the Magic Money Tree. Make no mistake: there are though real world consequences to MMT. One of which has become startlingly apparent in 2022: inflation. When the money supply is expanded to feed parasitic banks, to pay off their gambling debts and to pay off huge corrupt contracts to politicians’ friends, it devalues the currency. Whilst the UK government on paper spent £1 trillion on who knows what in 2021, its financial hound dog, the Bank of England, undertook a huge program of quantitative easing – money printing. They effectively created £900 billion, out of thin air – these central bank creatures do not even need sunlight or water, as a tree would, to achieve their magic. I use these maleficent words to describe them as the true cost of their quantitative easing is inflation that today means poor mothers can’t afford to feed their children, elderly face a winter without heating: a death sentence for many. Once again the power brokers are able to play magic tricks behind closed doors at the real life cost of the vulnerable in society.

Upon the undertaking of a new era of government spending, in July 2020, Alexander de Pfeffel ‘Boris’ Johnson, the UK’s Prime Minister delivered a rousing speech to an imprisoned population.

“This is a government that is wholly committed not just to defeating coronavirus but to using this crisis finally to tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades. To that end we will build, build, build. Build back better, build back greener, build back faster and to do that at the pace that this moment requires.”

One consequence of the government’s policy of locking adults away in their homes and shutting down most small businesses was a breakdown of the economy. This gave those in positions of power, the chance to manifest their great reset, to reshape society and the economy in a way more suited to their liking. One may look hopefully at the part where Johnson would redress inequality and corrupt financial activity which marred British society in the last three decades. But it turns out that was just more hot air. The real thrust of this speech pertains to the phrase “build back greener”. It almost fades into the background, another politician saying ‘green’ this ‘green’ that is not uncommon. However, it emerges that the ‘green’ route will be a strong avenue for governments to establish greater control over the populous and to reap great profits in the process.

The keystone of the ‘build back greener’ policy framework is the almost 400 page ‘Net Zero Strategy’ document. There is an obsession amongst environmental politics with ‘carbon’, that being the demonic molecule whose sole purpose seems to be to boil off all life on Earth. Nowhere in this document is mentioned pollution, reducing waste or reforming industry. There are no forward-thinking plans to tackle “e-waste,” or to address light, sound and chemical pollution in the air and in our environment. And of course, no mention of the bees, even though most people would welcome any policy which would save them and rebuild their colonies.

Yet, amongst the green waffling about “our planet” and “our future” are some insights into an actual policy agenda. To save you the time, I will highlight some of the salient points…

Amongst the new privations the government would like to roll out is a pledge to ban the sale of all combustion engine cars by 2030. Gone will be the days when a person could buy a relatively cheap vehicle for their business or personal use. By 2035 they wish to make using any existing petrol or diesel car illegal. Yes, you read it right, and they intend to push this policy forward wholeheartedly, with no consideration for how it will affect people across all strata of society. There is a little mention of improving public transport, albeit with a very modest budget, and an interesting yet strange section about making cycling mandatory in city centres. Yet, the policy is to ban first, and offer alternatives later. The alternative which the British will be funneled into is electric cars (if you are lucky enough to afford one that is). Clearly, these top-down diktats haven’t been very well thought out, if at all.

Now electric cars have been proven to be highly polluting to produce and unsustainable. To replace every car in the UK with an electric vehicle would require: twice the global supply of cobalt, the whole global annual supply of neodymium, three-quarters of the world’s lithium and “at least half” of the world’s copper. Yet the government is going full speed ahead with their plan, ring fencing £300 million of the green budget to electric vehicle research. The green budget by the way made up of public and private money, a cosy backroom deal which means that “HM Government has mobilised £26 billion of government capital investment for the green industrial revolution”. Another branch on the magic money tree.

This £26 billion is not in the hands of the government, as that would open up avenues for corruption. Instead, they follow a squeaky clean model whereby the money is held by a non-departmental body which oversees the handing out of grants. This department is called ‘Innovate UK’ and is part of the UK Research and Investment body. So we can be safe in the knowledge that the UK’s net-zero build back greener policy is in the hands of honest and trustworthy individuals. Such as the Chairman of UKRI Andrew Mackenzie. He is also currently chairman of Shell plc, the oil giant. He has also worked for BP, so we know he is even-handed, and was also recently the chairman of BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company.

It comes as no surprise then that, even as electric cars are unfeasible and ecologically harmful, £3 million has been put up by Innovate UK for a new lithium mine in Cornwall. I’m sure that Mr Mackenzie (how is he not a Sir already?) is capable of making sure that mining takes place in a safe and clean way and that any profits from dredging traces of lithium from the Cornish coastline will go back to the local populations.

Putting such facetiousness aside, the net-zero strategy is an absolute boondoggle. So much money has been spent and is pledged to projects which, when we scratch the surface, benefit the exact guilty parties who wreak havoc on the environment they purport to protect. It’s no surprise to find out from Cory Morningstar that Shell amongst others like Deloitte, Tata and other industrial giants help draft legislation for global environmental policy through groups like the Natural Capital Coalition. I encourage you to look at her work to see how “The Natural Capital Coalition has been developing the tools and protocols for a new global system of finance where all nature will be assigned a monetary value.”

Mark Carney, former governor of the Bank of England and now freshly segued into a new role as UN special envoy for climate and finance, said:

“The transition to net-zero is creating the greatest commercial opportunity of our time. Net-zero targets must be underpinned by transition plans so that investors can assess which companies will seize the opportunities in the transition and which will cease to exist.”

Without question, you will see the Shell logo, given a green tint in years to come. Another of Mackenzie’s former employers, Rio Tinto, will be armed with a stack of ‘sustainable’ stickers to slap on the back of their mining bulldozers. The same car giants who lied about diesel engines, the same oil companies who put lead into the fuel despite knowing its toxicity will be green washed and neatly woven into the net-zero tapestry. I’m sure that some forests will be planted as part of this, who knows of what actual ecological benefit, but they will only be planted for the carbon-credits. To build back green is to build a new system of control over nature.

The only ‘green’ part of this fusion of venture capitalism and government regulation is the wads of cash that are doled out to suitably obscure corporations. And the only net-zero is the zero-sum game where the global poor continue to be exploited and poisoned for the enrichment of a small cadre of oligarchs. As far as I have seen there is little pushback from either environmentalists or the public at large. The machinations of monetary theory are murky, but we must get a grasp of what is going on before we’re sold down the river. There is huge hope in my eyes when I see the passion of young people to manifest a healthy and clean environment and to nurture nature. That hope is to be protected and not put down as naïveté. It must also be kept from the corporate overlords who wish to force inhuman actions to be taken, to remove our most natural birthright: the planet Earth in all her majestic bounty.

What got me riled back in 2019 was the misuse of the phrase magic money tree. Now the MMT has taken root and ‘green’ politics has fertilised a magic money forest.

***
References:

Corbyn’s ‘magic money tree’ manifesto:
https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/1207689/labour-magic-money-tree-labour-party-manifesto-2019-election-jeremy-corbyn-costs

Dept for Business Energy and Industry ‘Net Zero’ document:
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1033990/net-zero-strategy-beis.pdf

Electric cars are polluting and unsustainable :
https://www.greencarcongress.com/2011/06/lowcvp-20110608.html

Mark Carney – Building A Private Finance Strategy for Net Zero
https://ukcop26.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/COP26-Private-Finance-Hub-Strategy_Nov-2020v4.1.pdf

Natural Capital Coalition :
https://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/category/non-profit-industrial-complex-organizations/organizations/carbon-markets-redd/

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