It has become a commonplace that when our politicians talk about "difficult decisions" the difficulties they create impinge mainly, indeed almost exclusively, on those lest able to bear them.
In an astonishing article this week George Monbiot points out that whereas we humble have to pay the full whack of the cost of a passport or driving licence, the price of gun licences, which cost the police £196 to process, is to remain, at the personal diktat of the prime minister, unchanged at £50. And the subsidy for grouse moors is to be increased from £30 per hectare to £50 per hectare. It comes as a surprise to me , and I suspect to most, that there is any subsidy at all for moorland.
And this, of course, at a time when the budget for welfare is being pared to the bone in order to eliminate the government deficit.
Monbiot concludes his article: There are a dozen ways in which [the government] could have discharged the deficit without inflicting cuts in social security or other public services,
and lists them as follows:-
- a land value tax*
- more council tax bands*
- a flat (presumably percentage) council tax*
- a Robin Hood (Tobin-type, or financial transactions) tax
- an effective clampdown on tax avoidance. . . .
- . . .and on tax evasion.
7. an effective inheritance tax*
8. capital gains tax on principal private residences*
9. restoration of the 50% rate of income tax, with provision for higher rates on higher incomes
10. an end to tax exemptions on pension contributions over and above that necessary to create a "pot" sufficient to produce the median income.
We're still two short of a dozen so here are a couple based on my personal prejudices:
11. a fine of £1 000 for every time any politician uses the phrases " difficult decisions" or "clearing up the economic mess left by Labour"
12. a fine of £100 every time anyone says "Absolutely" when they mean "Yes" on Radio 4.
I suspect that few asked to pay any of these would find it all that difficult
Given the current publicity surrounding the findings of the French economist Thomas Picketty that, since the return to capital exceeds the rate of growth, capital accumulation is a major cause of increased inequality, the taxes on capital , marked *, would be particularly welcome.
And since land value taxation (which we called site value rating in my early campaigning days) has been on the Liberal/Liberal Democrat books for over a century, why aren't we shouting more about it, along with that timid step in the right direction, the mansion tax?