Nick Clegg hit the headlines yesterday by proposing that the rich pay an "emergency tax" to help in the "economic war" against recession. Predictably the right bleats that that this wouldn't be fair (!!) because the rich already pay a lot of tax, and if we demand that they pay more then they might leave the country. Well, good riddance: our society would certainly be healthier without them, and I doubt that it would be poorer.
That redoubtable Labour MP Michael Meacher has analysed the affairs of the rich and points out that the wealth of the richest 1 000 in our society has increased by £315bn over the last 15 years, £155bn of it since the crash of 2007/8. If they were charged capital gains tax on this at the current rate of 28% it would yield £88bn, enough to pay off 70% of the entire deficit.
Advocating such a measure is not the "politics of envy" as Tories rush to claim, but the politics of fairness. As such I do not necessarily believe that we comfortably-heeled need be exempted from an emergency tax cull. I should prefer a wealth tax of 5% or so on my modest savings if that would give the government the courage to fiscally stimulate the economy. The alternative is, I suspect, to see the purchasing power of my savings frittered away by the inflation which will be the almost inevitable result of ineffective quantitative easing.
So all power to Nick's elbow in his struggle to make the rich (and comfortably off) share the pain resulting from the bankers' errors and general greed, rather than dumping the whole burden on the bottom 20% as at present.
Only two cheers for Nick, though. According to reports he is still wedded to "unequivocal support for the government's deficit reduction plan," apparently blind not only to the predictions of Keynesians that the plan would make matters worse, but to the clear evidence now that that is precisely what is happening. Life in the Westminster/Whitehall bubble must be blinkered indeed.