Sunday, 24 March 2013

All in it together? What a lie.

Must read book by ex-tax inspector Richard Brooks 'The great Tax Robbery' [272 pages Oneworld] is subtitled: ' How Britain became a tax haven for fat cats and big business'. Just a few gems. Osborne has allowed chunks of his corporate tax policy to be written by companies with the help of the same accountants who design avoidance schemes. Under the previous Labour regime penalties levied by HMRC on very large companies for transgressions had fallen to 0.01% of their 'error' – around 200times less than the fines imposed on small companies. Also, since a Private Finance Deal in 2001, HMRC's offices have been owned by a company in Bermuda. HMRC cannot therefore scrutinise the finances of its 'landlord'. Lots more. Read the book.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Defending Politics

I have just been reading a book called 'Defending Politics' by Prof. [of Parliamentary Government & Governance] Matthew Flinders of the University of Sheffield. His contention is that democratic politics delivers far more than most of us recognise and that “If more & more people are disappointed with what modern democratic politics delivers then it is possible that the fault lies with those who demand too much, fail to acknowledge the essence of democratic engagement, and ignore the complexities of governing in the 21st Century” and “Would politics be interpreted as failing a little less if we all spent a little less time emphasizing our individual rights and a little more time reflecting on our responsibilities to society and future generations?” These statements are taken from a summary on the dust cover but the book argues the case very readably and even handedly and I personally agree very much with him. You do not have to spend long on Facebook/Twitter to see how the 'debate' on pretty much anything is reduced in pretty short order to hysterical rants in which vicious character assassination is the prime thrust.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Some key Questions about energy security

Why are we British so allergic to having key energy utilities owned by [and making profits for]  the British Taxpayer when we are quite content to let the French Sate Owned EDF operate here? Is domestic energy security not as important as building dinosaur weapon systems like Trident replacement?  The defence industry gets about £40bn annually from the Treasury. Rail gets about £4bn [silly me I thought the point of privatisation was to get rid of taxpayer subsidy] and DECC gets £4bn of which more than half goes to dealing with old nuclear plants. Are our priorities right? Answers on a postcard.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

A 'bog standard' £400k

The Observer 10th March 2013 interviewed eleven City of London finance workers to seek views on the EU plan to restrict payouts. What was weird was the fantasy land in which these people live - except it's not a fantasy, it is the reality. One man in his 30's said “If you are a bog standard trader you make maybe £400k of which £150k is base pay”. He went on to point out that the cap would reduce his total remuneration by £50k & that would not encourage him to move abroad. One other in his mid 40's queried whether, if his pay was drastically cut by this cap, he would want to go on getting up at 5a.m & not finishing work until 8p.m. Can someone tell us in what other job can a 'bog standard' 30yr old make £400k per annum? Anyone on average earnings has to work for 15yrs to make £400k. And as for working from 5am to 8pm a hell of a lot of cleaners, hotel workers & others do that for less than a total of £25k per annum because they need two jobs on mimimum wage to make ends meet. It is not the politics of envy to suggest that this delusion in the financial world about what a proper entitlement for effort is worth must be fixed.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Democracy in trouble?

From Australia: Three contractors are bidding to fix a broken fence at Government House. One is from Cabramatta, another is from Marrickville, and the third is from Lane Cove. All three go with an official to examine the fence.  The Cabramatta contractor takes out a tape measure and does some measuring, then works some figures with a pencil. "Well," he says, "I figure the job will run about $900, $400 for materials, $400 for my crew and $100 profit for me."The Marrickville contractor also does some measuring and figuring, then says, "I can do this job for $700. That's $300 for materials, $300 for my crew and $100 profit for me". The Lane Cove contractor doesn't measure or figure, but leans over to the government official and whispers, "$2,700."
The official, incredulous, says, "You didn't even measure like the other guys. How did you come up with such a high figure?"
The Lane Cove contractor whispers back, "$1000 for me, $1000
for you, and we hire the guy from Marrickville to fix the fence." "Done!" Replies the government official.

I do, in fact, find it a bit worrying that this sort of story has moved from being very amusing cynicism to pretty much mainstream expectation. Democracy in developed countries seems to me to be in deep trouble.