I recently sent the following tweet.
I pay top rate tax. I don’t want a tax cut. I want better benefits for the disabled. Tax me more, you inhumane twat.
Which was unwise, given the flurry of abuse it generated. Not, sadly, from George, but from the type of feral UKIP intellect which occupies that perfect grey area between being fiercely patriotic about Britain, yet totally unwilling to pay a penny to fund it.
I am not patriotic. I find patriotism very uncomfortable, in that it automatically assumes the specialness of this country and therefore the lesserness (not even a word) of everybody from other countries.
But perhaps that’s why I’m a fan of taxation, and the patriotic right aren’t. I don’t feel I’m more special or more deserving than anyone else. Luckier, sure, in some ways (but also a cancer survivor, so not particularly lucky in the matter of kidneys).
It’s been pointed out to me that, if I want to be taxed more, I can just write a cheque to HMRC. And I could, it’s true. But this misses the point of taxation.
Firstly, my excess money wouldn’t help much. Disclosure: my salary is £40,000, which puts me in the top 12% (just), but I’m fortunate to have the kind of job that lets me freelance, so in a good year I can earn another £8,000 or so, pre-tax.
So my massive cheque to HMRC would amount to, at best, about £40 a month.
If everyone on £40,000 paid another £40 a month (and pretty much all of them could) it would fund university education for everybody, or better social care for the disabled, or… Christ, at least some improvement to our shambolic, crumbling, failing nation. But my forty quid on its own? Not so much.
Second: I have an old friend who works at HMRC, who tells me (and this is my only reference for this, so if I’m wrong, forgive me), that HMRC don’t want your bloody cheque unless it’s for about £20k. It’s too much paperwork. They have a facility to accept it, but not the manpower; not since the closure of 108 tax offices and 60% cut in staff. Cos Osborne is all about chasing those tax avoiders. Yeah.
But, say the right, I could give it to charity. They’re right. Except, well…
Third: how many bridges have been built by charity? How many hospitals? Yeah, I could (and do) give money to charity. I worked for charities for 13 years, gave up 20% of my earnings, built free websites for them (and still do, in evenings and weekends); and I do all the usual standing-order stuff.
Good for me, aren’t I a saint? No, I’m not, I’m a smug git, but sleep well knowing I’m doing my bit (and probably your bit too)
But my bit isn’t much, and isn’t mandatory. Tax is mandatory. What about the poor sods who need to know – not hope, know – that their disability allowance will be paid each week? Charity, on the whim of comfortable smug arseholes with spare time and HTML skills, does not replace a functioning society. Only those who assume they’re better and more valuable than other people could be so blinkered and greedy. Cough up, you self-centred git.
Fourth point: government is useless, wasteful, thick. It says so in the Daily Mail. Well… yes. It is. So is private enterprise, and to the same extent. This shows us that:
CEOs, no matter how much they are paid, have no effect on the performance of a company: the idea that they are worth what they are paid, which is gigantic compared to the average member of their workforce, is nonsense. A report in 2013 found that between 1993-2012 40% of the USA’s highest paid CEOs had either their companies bailed out by the taxpayer, had their companies charged with fraudulent activity, been fired for poor performance, or have overseen the death of their companies
Are charities any better? If so, why don’t FTSE100 companies headhunt charity CEOs all the time? They don’t. Inefficiency, failure, stupidity – they’re human factors, and exist everywhere. But collective taxation does things charity or private endeavour can never do. Those things have a vital role, but so does government; and if you don’t understand that, you’re an ideologue and there’s no hope for your mind: it’s ossified in the position chosen for it by The Sun.
Fifth: lower corporation tax has not grown the economy. We have a lower rate than anyone in the G20, but still lose investment to Germany (with a rate 8% higher). Reduced tax receipts hit our deficit, and increase the debt (which has doubled under Osborne’s low-tax regime). Our tax income has fallen almost a quarter since George the towel-folder took charge. Reducing our tax income yet more is idiotic in the extreme.
And you know who has super low tax and super tiny government? Sierra Leone. I bet they’re all glad they saved a few quid on tax and had stopped funding the state, when the local warlord is demanding their daughters down the barrel of a gun.
Finally, there’s an assumption that champagne socialists like me (and, by the way, I don’t like champagne and am a pretty rational middle-of-the-road business owner who struggles deeply with Corbybism and thinks functioning capitalism is a positive thing) – there’s an assumption that we just want “richer people than us” to pay. Well… yeah! I do.
I’m 45. But after 25 years hard work, often 2 jobs at a time, I can’t afford to buy a house. I can’t replace my 10 year old rust bucket of a car. I saved for 2 years for an engagement ring, cos I have no savings, no pension, and for 6 years I had no holiday whatsoever. And I’m lucky. I’m in the richest 12%. Most of us have seen no pay increase since 1980 (in real terms) even though the total amount of wealth has more than doubled.
But the richest 1000 Britons increased their wealth by £155 billion since the 2007 crash – coincidentally the amount cut from government spending is also £155 billion.
Where on earth could that money have gone to? Gosh, it’s a puzzle.
I live in Knutsford, which is all posh’n’that: but I rent here because I need to be here for work. I can’t live elsewhere, it’s utterly impractical. And I’m no silver-spoon wet liberal: I was born and brought up in a tough working class place called Ashton Under Lyne, which has just about the lowest life expectancy and highest social deprivation in the UK (certainly in the lowest few percent). If I live in Knutsford now, it’s cos I worked damn hard for it. That’s how it should be – see: no communism here, mate.
But there are many, many people much richer than me, who can comfortably afford to pay the same top rate tax that I want to pay on my own higher earnings. There is, for example, £13trillion – yes trillion – hidden offshore, untaxed, and squirrelled away by the wealthiest 0.1% of psychopaths. Can they not afford to pay 5% more on that, to secure food and heating for our poorest and most disabled?
Yes they fucking can.
So when I argue for higher tax for myself (and others who are doing ok-to-spectacularly-well), I do it from a position of knowledge about how much is out there. And from a moral understanding that I am not better than the people our best patriots are currently driving into starvation, poverty, misery and death.