Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Flat tax, lies and the Taxpayers Alliance

For those who recall earlier views on the subject, it was hardly surprising that there was a blatant attempt to grab the headlines by the Taxpayers Alliance, this time in tandem with the Institute of Directors and the "pro-business" editor of the freesheet "City AM".

Their cause is the noble redistributive flat tax, apparently, but in fact it remains the dismantling of the state and the removal of power from the electorate to self-appointed oligarchs with the key to all wisdom secreted in their offshore bank account.  And if you didn't catch the irony, because you are a right-wing, prosaic loon without a shred of critical faculty, the only redistribution that a "flat tax" brings is skewed towards the already-rich.

Since at least some of the Taxpayers Alliance funding comes from non-doms, this is hardly surprising, although to be told that Cameron and Osborne see it as one of their favourite "think-tanks" demeans the thought process much in the same way that the term "neo-liberalism" is related to the genuine article.  The entire canard is a gigantic scam that is linked to a greed-based programme of abolishing universal provision and, at its starkest, forcing people who cannot afford to live into either beggary or death.

The real inspiration for the process is the 1830s Poor Law Commission.  The principle of "less eligibility" was put forward for paupers as a means of mitigating the impact on the well-off of relief from hunger and indigence.  This would now have been presented as a watchword for efficiency, modernisation, and, given that these fools think that the rest of the world is even more stupid than they are, accountability.

To fund this bonanza for people at the top of the income scale (a 30% marginal tax rate sounds so much more enticing if you've acquired your wealth through no fault of your own than 45% or the 40% inheritance tax rate), requires the state to shrink by at least a further 10% more than the emasculation already being perpetrated in the name of austerity.  This would have a major impact on health, education, welfare and other public services where the present de minimis provision is already insulting to those who are forced to use them.

The uber-rightists' response to this is that you could drive out inefficiency and reduce costs.  Agreed.  But the inefficiency is mostly due to the snoutage and graft that privatisation and outsourcing has fostered, and the reduction in power and status of those who remain accountable to the electorate with respect to delivering services.  A genuine body representing taxpayers would not be campaigning for an arbitrary reduction in the size of the state, but for an end to the licenced pillage and wealth-extraction in the name of markets and competition, with a view to fostering public service and an efficient, socially-driven outcome.

While this current crop of Tories are in power, the "business" and "enterprise" lobby - the obscenely rich drones with their preposterous, unelected and illegitimate claims to representative status - will continue to dominate.  Using self-styled independent "think-tanks" to propose the ideas that the Coalition constrains is one route forward, as is the unsavoury and potentially illegal access enjoyed by the likes of Murdoch to Osborne, Cameron and Hunt, or paying for the privilege of supping with Ministers to bolster Tory coffers.

Complicity in this is largely down to the media - the concept that "business" is paramount and should have hallowed status is one in which most outlets and commentators are complicit.  In a democratic society, this lobby is no more or less relevant than morris dancers or collectors of 19th century linoleum.  Yet the government and its cheer-leaders pretend that somehow these people, who have not served the country well for the last century, are in some way privileged and everyone should bow down before them.

These noxious poopsticks need to be treated with scepticism and hostility - as their arrogant dismissal of the rights and expectations of other citizens demonstrates that their concern is neither efficiency nor the preservation of social cohesion.  At the same time as the calls to cut taxes yet further for the rich, while increasing the total burden on low- and average-earners, came the report of another Tory donor, the execrable Adrian Beecroft, who had submitted a report calling for the virtual abolition of all rights of workers in the workplace.

As usual, it was dressed up in "common sense", making it easier to sack workers if a firm or organisation doesn't need them.  And again, it picked up on some of the bureaucracy that has built up around successive changes to employment law over the next 200 years, and takes the existence of said process as being a challenge that does not need streamlining but abolishing, to place the worker in the position of an insecure serf with no right to take action or job security, subsisting on the whims of his or her boss, who could well sign up to the theories of the Taxpayers Alliance and their ilk.

The gloves came off.  Vince Cable got as close as he could to describing the whole thing as "bollocks", in line with all sensible people.  Some Tories clearly don't think even that level of control goes far enough, and would probably extend the right to kill to managers who fall out with their staff in company time (which nowadays is 168 hours a week). 

The last couple of days have done a great deal to crystallise the battle lines.  The business lobby has shown its hand - wanting neo-con and authoritarian powers over the rest of society.  If Miliband has the wit, he will exploit this to the maximum extent, making common cause with Liberals, Greens, trade unionists and putting forward an agenda that is focused on the citizen, not on the acquisition of wealth and the dismantling of what remains of the social fabric.  I don't hold my breath, though.

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