2012/04/30 EWG Meeting minutes

Economics’s Docs 2012/04/30 EWG Meeting minutes

1) Addition to the agenda: Tim’s Roadmap – to be discussed (see below).
2) Accuracy of last meeting’s minutes.
Chris FD notes that it was agreed people should email him their thoughts, in two paragraphs
or so, on his QE proposal.
David: Item 7 modified in the light of Chris’s objections & will be recirculated.
3) Matters arising from the minutes. Chris FD: when are we next going to talk about QE?
Perhaps, it’s suggested, during the ‘any other business’ section. Chris says he is “very keen
to keep the thoughts alive.”
4) Interruption from a slightly edgy character called Rob. He staggers in, and expresses
annoyance that “stuff” has been moved around. His friend/minder Arthur tries to coax him out
of the dome. Rob scrabbles around and fishes out a muddy sleeping bag that may once
have been green. “I’m mentally ill so don’t mind me,” he says, and exits grandly.
5) Matters arising from the minutes (cont’d)
We’re back on QE & social housing…. Chris FD explains (for the benefit of Tom & Charlie):
Social Housing in the UK has been sold off, and they want to sell more off – we need more,
so why not link it to QE?
QE (says Chris) is “not a sound economic policy as it stands” (David D harrumphs at this),
Chris continues: so why the hell can’t the government use it for something constructive?
Janos arrives.
Here’s Chris’s plan: “let’s build 200,000 houses a year, with everything well worked out to
minimize cost, and link it to QE to support a housing programme – to the tune of 30bn a year
or so.”
“Housing should be a priority issue” agrees Eleanor. She says: QE isn’t really money, but it’s
topical. “If QE is topical, we should use it,” urges Dave. Eleanor nods.
Chris FD says he was “surprised by the reception” that was given to his QE proposal at the
last meeting: Michael strongly objected. Tim would “no way accept QE.” Vlad was faintly
against it in “a broad general way.” Tom Lines – doesn’t agree with QE in principle. Harry
Shutt sent in his Exocet via email – saying the EWG shouldn’t have a link to QE.
Chris keen to distinguish between “political” objections to QE, and ideas for what to do with it
if it’s going to go ahead anyway.
Tom M clarifies Chris’s position – distinguishing between the questions:
i) is QE working or not? – there are many reasons why it isn’t working (e.g. banks
holding onto their money, no trickle down…)
ii) what is QE, and what is the use of the money raised, whether it’s raised via QE or
some other way?
iii) Do we take the banks & the insurance companies out of the equation? Put
funding directly into social initiatives (e.g. housing, or youth centres etc.)
This, says Tom, is the bigger issue: how take the banks out of the equation? The
government is definitely going to continue with QE – so let’s just put it into a £50bn housing
pot. “If we deal with the devil we know – then a practical way forward might be to do as Chris
FD is suggesting.”
Chris FD is thinking about taking a petition to Number 10.
Dave notes: Mervyn King is being interviewed later this week on Radio 4. Apparently you
can email in your questions to Mervyn King… It’s suggested that Chris should consider
emailing in.
Dave explains his earlier harrumph: QE might be a sticking plaster. But if not QE – we either
cut faster, or borrow more. Or radically increase tax. It may be an anaesthetic, but we’d be
worse off without it. [To clarify at next EWG: is QE a sticking plaster or an anaesthetic?]
Tom – is yet to see the evidence that the money has gone through the system and made it
down onto the High Street.
Tim arrives.
Outcome of QE talk: members of EWG to email thoughts/suggestions to Chris FD.
Tom notes: a good time to make a statement re. QE & social housing would be the next
issuance of QE – “We note today, we have hit £Xbn of quantitative easing…” etc. Suggests
Chris draft something so the group can hone the details on email.
6) Feedback from the St Bride’s meeting: ‘After Occupy, What Next? (Apparently there was
much objection to that title).
There were 3 main speakers: Naomi Colvin (Occupy Press), Giles Fraser (our ally from St
Paul’s Cathedral), and Robert Phillips, head of Edelman PR (and fairly anti-Occupy). Phillips’
position was characterized as: “the City is sorting itself out – we realise it’s been bad, there
have been oversights, we’ve got to find the moral high ground, we don’t need to be
regulated, we’ll sort it out, don’t worry.”
Re. possibility of “shareholder activism” – Peter D (at St Bride’s) argued that it doesn’t work:
You can’t control the major corporations through their shareholders. Most shares are held by
institutions – with votes cast by buddies. Rolling contracts of execs. Companies forced to
pay “market rates” for execs, etc.
Tom notes: 50% of shares in FTSE 100 companies are held in tracking funds.
Initial statements at St Brides were followed by a group discussion. Input from the Head of
Debt Jubilee & Clive Menzies (EWG). Chris FD: The Occupy people said some good things,
placed an emphasis on debt economy. Tim asks: were there any positive proposals re. debt?
– as it’s hard to write-off international debt, as sovereign debt is v. interlinked; not a simple
The main suggestion from the Head of Debt Jubilee was to write-off the debt, to stop
unmanageable interest payments. Clive Menzies also spoke about debt, with reference to
fractional reserve banking.
Size of audience? Peter suggests 50. Closer to 100 says Eleanor. Peter readjusts upwards.
Dave observes that people underestimate the size of small crowds, and overestimate the
size of large crowds.
Who else was at St Brides…? “Christians?” asks Dave, suspiciously. Dave insists he wasn’t
meaning to sound suspicious. Eleanor thought the whole event was very good, and thinks
that the organizers intend to replicate it on a monthly basis (6pm-8pm)
7) ‘Shout out’ of latest economic news:
i) Dave heralds the arrival of the Occupy edition of the Tax Justice Network newsletter – 4
articles by Occupy. URL: http://www.taxjustice.net/cms/upload/pdf/TJF_7-1-2_Occupy.pdf
The effort is much praised.
ii) Today: We’ve issued a press release gone out by Occupy re. the announcement that Jim
O’Neill of Goldman Sachs is a candidate to be the next Governor of the Bank of England.
Was a quick turnaround, written by Tom M and others, and issued by Naomi Colvin.
This effort is also much praised.
iii) On subject of Goldman Sachs, Charlie notes that this year’s Bilderberg Group conference
will be in Chantilly Virginia, May 31 – June 3. Perhaps a similar statement could be
prepared? Mario Monti (PM of Italy, Advisor to Goldman Sachs International) is on the
Bilderberg Steering Committee. Is a hotbed of crony capitalism. Charlie notes that last year
the Chancellor, George Osborne, attended in official capacity, for 3 days, without reporting
back a single thing discussed.
Tim: this sort of undemocratic meeting makes useful international co-operation that much
Charlie agrees to send out a short summary to the EWG of some relevant points re.
iv) Dave & Tim celebrate Peter & Tom’s booklet (current title: ‘Book of Ideas’), which is well
under way. They have written 20 chapters between them (also a chapter from Tim pending).
Peter: will circulate to EWG for people to look at the content & pick up on omissions.
Peter proposes: have a GA dedicated to the leaflet, and try and secure funding. Print
out a few copies of the leaflet, hand it out, inspire the GA, if we want to go with this, get
everyone on board.
Tim: make it clear from the outset that we want money for the publishing.
Other suggestions:
i) Tom: go to an educational publisher?
ii) Eleanor: Tie in with Canterbury conference?
iii) Peter – his vision has always been to hand out for free. (Chris FD – it becomes a
business if you sell it – complicated).
iv) Model of Occupied Times: request a donation
v) Charities? Foundations?
vi) Tim: LSE might be approached? Tom observes: people might be worried about
such an association (rightly or wrongly).
vii) Chris FD: will talk to some people from OUP.
8) The Roadmap
Tim explains: Mark Weaver wanted a flyer with challenging economic numbers on one side,
and some positive proposals on the other side. Tim showed his current 1-page summary
(distillation of a much larger 10 page document).
This is running in parallel with the Book of Ideas, but has a “different flavour”. The idea here
is to produce something that might start proposing solutions and be more positive. It’s tricky
coming up with positive suggestions that the whole movement can agree on. Peter notes: in
Occupy, we’re unified by our criticism of the status quo, divided by positive solutions.
The roadmap incorporates thinking from NEF, Chris Cook, Harry Shutt, Spirit Level, EEE
Group, Corporations Group. Tim stresses: this is not a final document – he is constantly
trying to broaden it out. Seeking feedback: how do the proposals work in a wider context? do
they add up? do they contradict each other?
Tom: suggests to Tim to send out to the EWG group email: get feedback. Pick it over online.
Charlie suggests 1-page summary might be presented as an info-graphic: e.g. an interactive
map of the world that you spin, click on a land mass for a solution. Up pops information.
Tom reassures Tim – “don’t worry about feasibility. Just put it out there.”
In summary: Tim is seeking feedback from EWG members on the 1-page roadmap.
9) Seeds of Change. Tim gives report of a ‘Seeds of Change’ workshop: in which
participants made a SWAT analysis of Occupy / Safer Spaces policy / making things work.
Was very fruitful. Hannah from Seeds of Change a very skilful facilitator.
Tim suggests we could contact Hannah from Seeds of Change for a workshop –
possible subject: “How do we end tax havens?”
10) Brief discussion of Banking Campaign Strategy. It was ten to seven by the time this
started, and it didn’t last long.
11) Location of next meeting. Dave: being at Finsbury Square “gives us credibility of a sort”.
Peter observes: it actually gives us quite a lot of credibility, and shows willing. And if it gets
dangerous, there are some pretty heavy guys who are on our side.
Chris FD: “This is disgusting here. It’s shameful. It makes you want to pick people up by the
scruff of their necks… If we think Occupy is worth anything, we have to say Occupy is a real
bunch of people. You could argue this is a Health & Safety issue…”
A dangerous precedent, suggests Tim, slinging his ukulele over his shoulder. But says that
he understands the sentiment.
Eleanor: There are people who don’t want us here. We’ve been left in peace this week,
they’ve made an effort. Peter agrees – “even some of the bad guys make an effort some
times. The space here was cleaned up for us. Well, sort of.”
Tom: “Eventually it will end here – in Finsbury Square – and it should. None of these people
look like they’re on the same page as me.”
“We don’t have to stay here if we don’t feel comfortable,” says Eleanor. Whatever happens,
says Tom, we should “stick to our knitting. And keep on meeting somewhere, even if we
don’t meet here.”

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