Friday, 24 February 2012

Let's all join the Taxpayers' Alliance

Of all annoying American imports, right-wing ginger groups with mendacious names may well be one of the most pernicious.  Having attempted to infiltrate the soi-disant Taxpayers' Alliance and being told that it is "not a membership organisation", clearly as a result of being a black-listed Liberal with a disdain for hyperbolic misrepresentation, I am beginning to wonder whether, firstly, they should be reported to the Grammar Police for a misplaced apostrophe as the representation is clearly one deluded plutocrat's view of why everyone else should subsidise their lifestyle, and, secondly, whether a truthful campaign on the benefits of collective action and the merits of the state could ever take off.

For the TA (I shall abbreviate it as otherwise my fingers will curl in contempt) any tax is a bad tax, especially if it falls on the corporate sector.  Yesterday hamster-cheeks derided any criticism of business as "snobbish", when in fact the Bullingdon Brain-dead was actually reaching for the phrase "informed and socially-engaged".  Anything government does to improve the general lot of the population is a drain on entrepreneurship and the self-defined "wealth-creating classes", as collective action is by its very nature inefficient.  I intend to return imminently to the oleaginous cretinry of Gove and Lansley so will confine myself to observing that privatisation creates corruption, crony capitalism and the syphoning of profits into the hands of oligarchs, seldom offset by reductions in the costs of providing services or maintaining the quality that the victim encounters at the end of it all.

For entertainment value, and to boost recycling rates, I occasionally pick up the chip-wrapper "City AM", which for those fortunate enough to have escaped it is a vapid neo-con freesheet, and its constant apologies for the TA and its agendas.  The parallel universe that it inhabits would be risible did it not extend to the Government and its advisers (the mountebank Steve Hilton is Exhibit A).  Despite the citizenry having bailed out banking, the City and suffering the consequences, the TA and its clients seem to regard any attempt to hold companies owned by the state to account as unwarranted interference - the recent furore over unearned and indefensible bonuses shows a lack of backbone by the Government in not facing down the wrath of the majority - and the existence of any state spending without profits and dividends at the end is an insult to their desire to achieve a US-style redistribution of income in the direction of the parasites.  The TA doesn't like infrastructure spending, so has been standing firmly behind the flat-earthers who don't consider that HS2 and improving the lot of those beyond the South-East is a legitimate output from Government.

From time to time, pimply wonks appear on television, engaging in the method acting that suggests that the TA is a popular movement rather than a sectional interest group with a view to increasing inequality and social division.  Whenever one commences the hysterical right-wing bleating I tend to shout, loudly, "HOW THE HELL CAN YOU CLAIM TO REPRESENT ME, A TAXPAYER?" and then debate whether to compose another futile complaint to the news organisation for giving them the credibility that a bunch of whack-jobs (to adopt the TA's Republican argot) does not deserve.

Quite frankly, these people do not scare me in themselves, but more for the credibility that is given to them.  Thankfully not everyone buys into this particular scam, including "Private Eye", which has been assiduous in calling out the cant.  Yet there is a reluctance to challenge right-wing nutters that gives the lie to any systemic left-wing bias in the media.

It is difficult to imagine a discussion taking place about why tax is a good thing, but it is elementary economics as well as basic social cohesion that drives the need to collective action.  Services such as health, education, sanitation, energy, policing and even transport cannot be provided solely on an atomistic benefit - so the argument should be about how much they cost and how good the services are, whether or not they are funded through taxation or what people are prepared to pay for them.

The state has a duty to its citizens, and to promote their welfare and advancement.  The nutter tendency regards this as a challenge - they have not really grasped the theories of utilitarianism and the basic divergence between public and private outcomes - because their tendency is to authoritarianism.  The TA believes that you should be able to buy yourself out of being ordered around by becoming rich, because the parasites at the top don't like paying tax and hold people who have either no luck, no ambition or an active repugnance to their selfish toxicity in contempt.

So I propose that a genuine TaxPayers' Alliance is set up that can have a sensible debate on the merits and demerits of the state, ensuring that spending is efficient and doesn't line the pockets of corporate larcenists.  It's not either/or, but the success of the neo-cons has been based around a "Daily Mail" mix of aspirationalism, envy and resentment of anyone who has something that you haven't got.  In the meantime, I shall give up not complaining about right-wing media bias for Lent.

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