taxation

Put the Planet and the People First and the Fiscal Deficit Will Look After Itself

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 03/11/2018 - 4:50am in

Gold coins with £ sign on each oneImage: © Chrisharvey – Dreamstime

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, delivered his Autumn Budget on Monday. Hammond took an upbeat tone, congratulating the public for its hard work and sacrifice which were now paying off, he said, allowing the economy to recover. Reassuring the House that austerity had always been about necessity and never ideology, ‘Spreadsheet Phil’ indulged himself at length in his introductory words in the classic but false framing of household budget economics focusing on tax windfalls, borrowing, deficit and debt narratives.

It was a budget that had no connection with the real world. Conveniently, the targets to eliminate the deficit (which have faded repeatedly into the distance and national debt has ballooned) were set aside. After eight years of punishing cuts and service closures which has caused economic and social distress to so many, the narrative is stuck in the myth where money for investment in the common wealth of the nation is still limited. It must be cautiously doled out, as gifts or rewards for good behaviour, not as the necessary spending of a government taking proper responsibility for the nation’s security and wellbeing.

Austerity is not over by any means.

Tax and Pay

Wealthy earners have benefited disproportionately from the income tax threshold increase. Hidden in the small print and left unmentioned in the Chancellor’s speech was an increase in National Insurance which diminished the income tax gains. Nonetheless, The Resolution Foundation has calculated that 84% of the gains related to the income tax cut will still flow to the top half of the income distribution and 37% to the top 10%.
There is substantial evidence that inequalities in income distribution have a direct relationship with inequalities to access essential services. There is a wealth of evidence that Universal Credit is having a seriously damaging impact on people’s lives and that people with disabilities are suffering disproportionately in cuts to their income and from cuts in services.
This budget does nothing at a time when wealth disparities are at their highest and people with low incomes and employment insecurity are already struggling to make ends meet. It would make far better economic and business sense to improve living standards of the lowest income section of society as they are the people who spend their additional income, unlike the richer sections of society who have a greater tendency to save.

Universal Credit and Social Security

The Conservative flagship policy Universal Credit has been coming under increasing pressure over recent months because of the suffering and hardship that has been caused. In 2017 The Resolution Foundation called the current design of Universal Credit ‘not fit for purpose’ in 21st century Britain. The UN rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights is due to come to Britain in November to examine the impact of austerity, including Universal Credit.
The Chancellor has responded by allocating an additional £1bn to ‘smooth’ its roll out. He has made it clear, however, that Universal Credit won’t be slowed or stopped, and the cash injection will do little to deal with the inherent structural problems causing suffering and hardship often rendering people homeless and hungry.
The Treasury purse may have opened a crack but it will do nothing to make up or restore the losses of the last eight years of austerity. This is window dressing of the worst kind.

Environment

Three weeks on from the publication of the IPPC report the Chancellor did not mention climate change once in the budget. Caroline Lucas has challenged this inadequacy pointing out that it is in complete denial of the reality facing the country in our immediate future. Compare this to the Spanish Government’s recent announcement that they are closing coal mines and retraining the miners to develop sustainable energy.
Philip Hammond, by contrast, tinkered around the edges announcing a new tax on the manufacture of plastic packaging. For the ninth year running there is no increase in fuel duty but an allocation of £30bn for roads. This demonstrates a preference for cars over a strategic plan for developing an ecologically sound public transport system. Fossil fuel subsidies will continue. The Chancellor has allocated £60bn for tree planting, but environmentalists have questioned the value of this in the face of government support for environmentally damaging fracking over renewable energy.

Health

The NHS continues to suffer as it not only faces the continued real squeeze on its finances but also on-going privatisation. The Chancellor’s award of extra money for mental health services by 2023-24 is not extra funding and will come from the £20.5bn announced by the government in June this year. This is too little and too late. The crisis in mental health is happening now.
Furthermore, funding for public health services, training doctors and nurses, buying equipment and building new infrastructure will be cut by £1bn next year. The NHS is under increasing pressure in real terms as it tries to cope with picking up the slack after eight years of cuts to social care. The £650m increase to the budget for social care is only a sticking plaster.
There is an extraordinary piece of double-speak in the budget as the Chancellor announced he would abolish the Private Finance Initiative. However, he pledged that existing PFI contracts would continue to be honoured thus locking the hospitals into repaying their substantial debts until 2050. The future direction of who runs public services is also sealed as he indicated that he was firmly ‘committed to the [continued] use of public-private partnership.’ PFI is dead, long live PFI.

Conclusion

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned that as a result of the Budget the public finances could deteriorate and that an increase in spending could push the national debt higher.
The current reality in the UK is that we have both unmet need in terms of provision of services and unused resources in the number of people who are currently in low paid work which does not sustain them, or have given up looking in despair. A respectable and responsible budget should address those needs first and foremost if we are to have a successful economy.
This budget continues to frame government debt as a burden which must be dealt with. What is more it makes it the overriding concern well ahead of any real life public purpose such as addressing human suffering or the urgent need to combat the effects of climate breakdown.
A political illusion has been created that government has to finance its spending through borrowing or that it needs tax before it can spend. On the contrary it is the government’s duty as an elected body to assess the real resources that it requires to deliver its public and social purpose policy.
The Chancellor prefers to couch his budget in the narrative of fiscal discipline because it enables him to present spending as a kindly act and careful budgeting as a prudent one. This enables the continued dismantling of the NHS and the welfare state. Indeed, it reframes spending as an act of Victorian philanthropy rather than as the creation of common wealth for the benefit of people and a sustainable planet.

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Budget Day 2018: The Gower Initiative Rules for a Successful Public Purpose Budget

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 29/10/2018 - 6:00pm in

Scales balancing inflation on one side and unemployment on the otherSeen through the MMT lens, the success of the Chancellor’s Budget would be measured against a set of criteria agreed through the democratic process in the interests of the nation’s economic and social well-being. 2018’s Budget should address ecological concerns, inequality and access to essential services first and foremost. This means addressing which resources are available, not whether the use of those resources will ‘cost too much’ or upset the balance-sheet.

Philip Hammond has announced that this budget will increase spending in some areas. But in the event of a no-deal break with the EU, he said he would be forced to tear up his plans and institute an emergency budget, while setting the economy on a “new direction”. We think a new direction is needed right now to tackle all the major problems that we are facing from climate change to the devastation wrought by austerity. The government’s combination of penny-pinching and ideological objection to using the state’s machinery to deliver good public services will have an impact that will last for generations. It’s time for a change of direction. Brexit or no Brexit, the state of the nation depends first and foremost on the government’s actions.

Will the Budget fulfil all or any of the following criteria?

• Facilitate the best use of real and available resources either goods or services both in the private and public sector to meet the government’s public purpose objectives. Has the government got the balance right between the two?

• Meet the goals set for reductions in poverty, homelessness, improving nutrition and reducing infant and maternal mortality? And if not, what real resources might have to be freed up by government through taxation to achieve them?

• Meet the needs of citizens for well-paid employment either in the private or public sector, or when necessary through a government funded, locally delivered, Job Guarantee scheme? Does that employment give them the wherewithal to live a decent life and spare income to save?

• Enable the construction of sufficient numbers of good quality and truly affordable homes to meet the housing needs of all citizens?

• Enable the development of a strategic plan to develop a top-quality education service with adequate infrastructure including schools, teachers, support staff, equipment and school canteens to provide an engaging, happy and healthy environment for children to learn?

• Ensure that our universities and colleges are fostering the skills essential to deliver public purpose – research, engineering, education and health?

• Guarantee the health of the nation from cradle to grave through a well-funded, publicly managed and delivered health and social care service?

• Provide sufficient investment in the provision of a low-cost and efficient public transport network and ensure that the road network is kept in good repair to facilitate both the needs of the public and business?

• Provide for the restoration of strategic industries to remain in the control of government?

• Ensure that the nation meets its climate targets through reducing its carbon footprint using new technologies and investing in renewable energy?

• Support agriculture by developing a plan for national food security and encourage local food production to serve the needs of all income groups?

• Deliver sufficient deficit spending in the economy to meet the government’s economic and employment targets through a Job Guarantee as well as a Basic Income (for those unable to work due to illness or disability) to meet the needs of citizens to lead a comfortable and decent life and support a healthy economy?

• Is the banking system adequately regulated to avoid a repeat of the Global Financial Crash in 2008, are levels of private debt within serviceable limits and do businesses have access to sufficient bank credit to support their investment plans?

• Deliver the tax policies needed to ensure a balanced economy that matches the productive capacity of the nation without inflation, that wealth is redistributed fairly through progressive taxation and express the government’s social and environmental goals?

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Protests against UKIP Racism at their Party Conference

A few days ago, on the 21st and 22nd September, 2018, UKIP held their annual party conference at Birmingham’s International Convention Centre. The event was billed as the party’s 25th birthday celebration.

The Kippers’ were expected to launch their new manifesto at the conference, copies of which were to be given out to everyone attending. The party announced that they would have “brand new policies on the economy, housing, taxation, policing, the foreign aid budget and many other important areas, all designed with the key principle of putting our people first”.

Hope Not Hate have pointed out that Batten himself is a long-time anti-Muslim activist, and since he became the party’s new fuehrer in February has taken it even further to the right. The anti-racist, anti-religious extremism organization said that the manifestos would indicate whether Batten was putting his islamophobic rhetoric into policies.

The conference was also going to include three other extreme right-wing personalities. These were Paul Joseph Watson, Carl Benjamin, alias ‘Sargon of Akkad’, and Mark Meechan, alias Count Dankula. Watson used to be the British best mate of Alex Jones, the notorious conspiracy theorist, on his channel, InfoWars. He seems to have gone his own way and is now putting out his videos on YouTube. According to Hope Not Hate, in 2013 Watson declared that the 7/7 bombings were a false flag event, and that Media Matters also reported Watson’s extreme views on race. He claims that liberals are anti-science, because they don’t accept that people from Africa and the Middle East have lower IQs and are more aggressive. Benjamin, or ‘Sargon’, is a Sceptic who has decided that his mighty intelligence has allowed him to perceive how false feminism is, and posts videos on the internet attacking it. Which suits UKIP, some of whose members have extremely misogynist and reactionary views about women. As for Count Dankula, he’s the idiot that got tried and convicted of anti-Semitism ’cause he taught his girlfriend’s do to do the Nazi salute.

The conference was also due to vote on whether to accept Tommy Robinson, the former founder and leader of the EDL, as a member. Robinson had been banned under the party’s rules forbidding former members of the BNP and EDL from joining the party. Despite Batten’s support, the vote was cancelled by Tony McIntyre under a legal technicality. But Robinson’s supporters were still expected to turn up at the conference to make their views known.

See: https://www.hopenothate.org.uk/2018/09/21/watch-ukip-conference/

There were mass protests against the party and its racism outside the conference. Yesterday, RT UK put up this video of the demonstration on YouTube. The video show protestors chanting ‘We are here to say racist UKIP go away’. They hold placards denouncing UKIP’s racism and also saying ‘Refugees’ welcome. One elderly lady tears up one of the placards, saying ‘That’s what I think of them.’ Presumably she’s an irate Kipper, not a member of the protesters.

The video shows one man talking to the camera, who states that

UKIP is becoming increasingly irrelevant in British politics. I think that’s why they’re clutching at straws, trying to court the Far-Right to try and rebuild their ranks because they are really on the margins of politics with very few supporters.

Another man say that

Since the Brexit referendum, where they were very important and very influential, they have declined and have internal squabbles and a much more smaller organization, and they’ve been associating themselves with Far-Right demonstrations against Muslims.

A third man gives his opinion on the Kippers, saying

Gerard Batten has taken UKIP to the extremes of the Far-Right, the fact that he wants Tommy Robinson to be in his organization speaks volumes.

It’s significant that Tommy Robinson is still a controversial figure for the Kippers, despite the very public islamophobia and racism of some of their members. But Robinson has been welcomed in Israel, and the Blairite MPs and Marie van der Zyle, below, of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, were more than happy to attend the fake protest against anti-Semitism organized by the North West Friends of Israel. Who are firm friends of Tommy Robinson and the EDL.

Yes, it is childish, but I’m still not sick of this joke yet.

This shows very clearly just how racist and islamophobic the Blairites and the Board are, when even UKIP is more liberal and anti-racist.

The Fundamentals of the Amazon Economy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/09/2018 - 5:00pm in


Just where are your taxpayer dollars going?

What are taxes actually for?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/08/2018 - 3:06pm in

We need to talk about taxation. I do not think it means what you think it means.

(This piece was originally published on Patreon)

While some of us are pretty conscious of the importance of using the correct terminology when it comes to issues of social justice, race, gender and sexuality, when it comes to addressing inequality, we are still using language straight out of the neoliberal handbook.

We need to be honest about how the tax system works and what it is for. To do so isn’t radical, or even progressive. It is simply the economics of reality.

What are taxes for?

In countries whose governments issue their own currencies, taxes do not pay for federal services.

Governments like those of the US, UK, China, Australia, Canada, etc run spend & tax economies, not tax and spend. They do not need your taxes to pay for anything. You might be angered to know that, actually, your taxes are not used for anything after you pay it. Not at a federal level. Your taxes are essentially destroyed upon receipt. Taxation is the act of taking currency out of the economy. Using your taxes to pay for public services would keep that money in circulation, thus serving the very opposite of its purpose.

There are some exceptions here which are important to underline: Taxes pay for services at state and local levels, but that is only because they are themselves inadequately funded by federal governments and therefore raising taxes becomes necessary to make up the revenue shortfall. Taxes also nominally pay for spending in countries whose governments adopt foreign currencies (most EU member states, for example), or peg their gold to a foreign currency.

So why pay tax at all?

Taxes are important. Just not for the reasons that are often talked about.

Taxes exist for a number of reasons:

- To maintain the value of the currency.

- To stabilise aggregate demand.

- To manage growth and distribute wealth. and, depending on what you think government is for and who it exists to serve, ensure prosperity and equality of opportunity for their constituents.

- To discourage bad behaviours (taxation on cigarettes, for example, are designed to discourage smoking and reduce the burden on health systems) & encourage good behaviours, (like promoting sustainability through a tax on carbon and investment in renewable energy).

- It also exists to accurately cost public spending requirements: infrastructure, education, health, public safety: police, fire, ambulance, defence, intelligence etc.

As economist, Professor Randall Wray recently pointed out: Governments do not need a single dime from the wealthy to address inequality. That is not how taxes operate, or what they are for.

“Taxes on the rich might take ‘resources’ from people who have too much — in that their demand deposit account is debited,” he writes for Naked Capitalism. “But taxation does not ‘give resources’ to people who have too little.”

“Rather, government spending directed to those who ‘have too little’ is what gives the poor access to resources. (They can use their demand deposit credits to buy food, clothing and shelter, etc). They are functionally two separate entities.

“Government can spend to help the poor without taxing the rich or anyone else.”

Buying into the myth

Nonetheless, the idea that taxes pay for government spending persists as an inaccurate bipartisan consensus, one of the greatest collective myths of modern capitalism.

When you hear politicians or pundits squawking about workers’ hard-earned tax dollars paying for this or that, you can almost certainly guarantee they have no idea about how taxes work either.

Our acceptance of this lie is, to quote anthropologist David Graeber, “collectively acquiescing to our own enslavement.”

The continuation of the status-quo depends upon the public’s ignorance or blind consensus as to the true nature of banking, finance, government spending, job creation and the nature of work itself.

The very myth that the vast majority of us have settled on is the very thing preventing full and gainful employment, and guarantees a future (and a present) where the only way to buy our way out of public squalor is through rising private debt.

In his recent book, Bullshit Jobs, Graeber describes modern day capitalism as a system of ‘Managerial Feudalism’, a form of social and political control achieved through corporate bureaucracy: the proliferation of middle-managers, supervisors, administrators all employed to ‘appropriate labor through usury’, stealing wealth, resources, opportunity and power from the working and middle class and transferring ownership to the political and elite classes and the idle rich.

“Marx appears to have been right when he argued that ‘a reserve army of unemployed’ has to exist in order for capitalism to work the way it’s supposed to,” he writes.

“…we are identifying with our rulers when, in fact, we’re the one’s being ruled.”

To truly address inequality and abolish austerity politics, we must start being honest about how taxation works and what it is for.

Language is important. You can be as woke as you like about gender and racial politics, but using the wrong terminology for taxation is kryptonite for social justice. We cannot subvert the neoliberal playbook while continuing to use the very same language invented to ensure a permanent economy of inequality and austerity.

Thank you for reading. I couldn’t afford to continue my research, or write this book, were it not for the support of my generous sponsors. Support independent journalism, sponsor me on Patreon, starting at $3 a month, or throw some money at my PayPal.

Preview: What are taxes actually for?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 01/08/2018 - 10:18am in

We need to talk about taxation. I do not think it means what you think it means.

While some of us are pretty conscious of the importance of using the correct terminology when it comes to issues of social justice, race, gender and sexuality, when it comes to addressing inequality, we are still using language straight out of the neoliberal handbook

We need to be honest about how the tax system works and what it is for. To do so isn’t radical, or even progressive. It is simply the economics of reality…

To continue reading, subscribe to my Patreon for as little as $3 a month

The case against income tax

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/07/2018 - 11:38pm in


“If income tax were really important, how come those who make the most often pay the least?

Income tax doesn’t really pay for government services federally. So why do we, the 99%, even need to pay it? Isn’t it just punishing people for earning?”

Me at Renegade Inc. on the case against income tax. Click here for the full schpiel.

Frightened May Holds Out Possibility of Undoing Tory Reforms of NHS

For all the repeated smears against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party as a nest of vicious anti-Semites and Trotskyites, the Labour leader clearly has the Tories worried. Last week Tweezer made a couple of pronouncements about the NHS, which showed more than a hint of desperation in one, and a fair amount of the usual Tory deceit and double standards in the other.

According to the I, Tweezer had made a speech in which she discussed the possibility of trying to improve the NHS by going back and repealing some of the Tories’ own recent legislation. The article, which I think was published in Wednesday’s edition of the newspaper, but I could be wrong, stated that she was specifically considering repealing part of the 2012 Social Care Act. This is a nasty piece of legislation, which actually needs to be repealed. It was passed when Andrew Lansley was Dave Cameron’s Health Secretary. The verbiage within the Act is long and confused, and deliberately so. Critics of the Act, like Raymond Tallis, one of the authors of the book NHS SOS, have pointed out that the Act no longer makes the Health Secretary responsible for ensuring that everyone has access to NHS healthcare. The Act gives the responsibility for providing healthcare to the Care Commissioning Groups, but these are only required to provide healthcare for those enrolled with them, not for the people in a given area generally. It has been one of the major steps in the Tories’ ongoing programme of privatising the NHS. For more information on this, see Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis, NHS SOS (OneWorld 2013).

The fact that Tweezer was prepared to hold out the possibility of repealing, even partly, her predecessors’ NHS legislation suggests to me that Corbyn’s promise to renationalise the NHS has got her and her party seriously rattled. It shows that this policy, like much else in the Labour programme, is actually extremely popular. And so Tweezer is doing what she had done elsewhere with dangerously popular Labour policies in the past. She’s going to try to make it look as if the Tories are going to do something similar. Like when Labour talks about renationalising part of the electricity grid, the Tories immediately start going on about how they’ll cap energy prices.

Actually, I doubt very much that Tweezer has any intention of revising Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act, or about restoring the NHS to proper public ownership. The Tories have been trying to sell off the NHS and support private medicine since Maggie Thatcher back in the 1980s. But if Tweezer did repeal part of the 2012 Act, my guess is that it would only be to make it much worse. In the same way that Cameron announced he was going to clean up the lobbying industry and make it more transparent, and then passed legislation that actually made it far less so. This gave more power to the big lobbying firms, while making the kind of lobbying done by small groups like charities much more difficult. You can see something similar being done by the Tories with their proposed NHS legislation.

And then there was the report last week, which stated very clearly that due to the terrible underfunding of the past nine years or so, the NHS would need an extra tax of £2,000 to be paid by everyone in the UK. Or so Tweezer and the Tories claimed. Mike dealt with that projection in a post yesterday, where he noted that the Tories have been reducing the tax burden on the rich. He went on to quote Peter Stefanovic, a blogger deeply concerned with the crisis in NHS care and funding created by the Tories. Stefanovic said

“Or alternatively the Government could tax those earning over £80,000 a little more, scrap tax breaks for the very rich, stop PFI deals bleeding the NHS dry & companies like Boots accused of charging NHS over £3,000 for a £93 cancer pain-relieving mouthwash.”

Mike makes the point that with the increasing privatisation of the NHS, the call for more taxes to be spent on it is in fact a demand for more to be given to private healthcare providers, who are delivering less.

Mike concluded with the words:

These people are trying to make fools of us. They are to be challenged. Let them explain why they think the poor should be taxed more when we all have less, thanks to Tory policies.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/27/lets-kill-this-talk-about-more-tax-for-the-nhs-right-now/

I also wondered if there also wasn’t a piece of subtle, ‘Nudge Unit’ type psychology also at work in the statement that we’d all have to stump anything from £1,200 to £2,000. This is a lot of money for those on very low incomes. And the Tories see themselves very much as the party of low taxation. Hence their attacks on ‘high spending’ Labour and claims that their tax reforms allow working people to keep more of their money. Though even this is a lie. The Tories have actually moved the tax burden from the rich on to the poor, and made the poor very much poorer through removing vital parts of the welfare safety net. My guess is that they’re hoping that some people at least will see that figure, and vote against increasing spending for the NHS on the grounds that they won’t be able to afford it. It also seems to me that they’ll probably try asserting that Labour will increase everyone’s tax burden by that amount when the Labour party starts fighting on the platform of NHS reform.

And with frightened working class voters rejecting an increase in taxation to pay for the NHS, they’ll go on to claim that the NHS, as a state-funded institution, is simply unaffordable and so needs further privatisation. Or to be sold off altogether.

This is how nasty, duplicitous and deceitful the Tories are. And I can remember when the Tories under Thatcher were similarly claiming that the NHS was unaffordable in the 1980s. Just like the Tory right claimed it was unaffordable back in the 1950s.

In fact, a report published in 1979 made it very clear that the NHS could very easily continue to be funded by increased taxation. And that taxation should be levelled on the rich, not the poor. But this is exactly what the Tories don’t want. They don’t want people to have access to free healthcare, and they really don’t want the rich taxed. And so they’re going to do everything they can to run down the NHS and tell the rest of us that it’s too expensive. Even though this country’s expenditure on healthcare is lower than that of many other countries in Europe, and far lower than the American’s expenditure on their massively inefficient and grossly unjust private healthcare system.

If we want to save the NHS, we have to reject May’s lies, and vote in Corbyn and a proper Labour government.