November 26, 2009 Leave a comment
Here is a brain tickler: How best to even out wealth inequality in the UK? In a letter posted in yesterday’s Guardian, spurred on by an article written by one Polly Toynbee, several high-profile folks champion the idea of a fairer tax system, a process which might just save those swingeing cuts from the public sector. The think-tank Compass have also issued a report detailing what a fairer tax system might look like, with an 8-point plan of measures that include
1. 50% Income Tax band at £100,000 2.3
2. Uncap NICs and make payable on investment income 9.1
3. Minimum income tax bands 14.9
4. Reintroduce 10p basic rate -10.5
5. Higher Council Tax bands 1.7
6. Abolish tax havens for ‘non doms’ 10.0
7. Financial transaction tax 4.2
8. Cost cutting measures e.g. Trident, ID cards, 15.1
(The full report is available to download here)
This, as well as the high pay commission (also of Compass), are attempts to look from a different agenda to the current one in the UK, of curbing both wealth excess and huge great gaps, including details on fair taxation of small businesses and the existence of non-domiciles, elements so crucial to an egalitarian society.
Orthodox opinion on maintaining a rich country and providing for the needy before the crash was to allow the finance system relative freedom to do as they wish (although some bankers, namely Sir David Walker, “a former Morgan Stanley grandee ” now refuse the freedom to name his millionaire staff and cap excessive bonuses, as one article in the Guardian today suggests). Risk, for example, was once convincingly (I say with my tongue in my cheek) argued by some to be both necessary and beneficial to the rest of the economy, but now across the political spectrum opinions have changed. Banks, still, however, are not the site of challenges to wealth inequality.
Certainly the results yesterday testify as much, that overdraft charges are legitimate simply serve to show that arbitrary figures (“in some cases fining £25 a month, plus £25 each time the overdraft increases, plus £35 for every bounced payment” says Dan Roberts of the Guardian) match up with gaps between rich and poor. To suggest, as the Telegraph did yesterday, that bank charges are the impetus needed for utilising freedom of choice, and in this sense are a benefit to free systems, is absurd beyond belief.
Further, to justify the banks win as a way to maintain free banking for those who would never go into the red is lunacy. The notion that banks should dip in as they wish without having to justify their behaviour to the Office of Fair Trading, is the only way for individuals to keep current accounts without paying to open and maintain them, makes my skin crawl so much, it’s any wonder I’m not a walking, ever-decreasing mantle of evaporating red curd (and this was opined in a piece in today’s Guardian, not some rightist rag of filth).
To believe that the way finance capital is organised today is anywhere near the hallmark of freedom and equality, humours the realistically minded as much as German banker who robbed from rich accounts to provide for poor clients should humour the sane. To be sure, this is the only Robin Hood anywhere near the appropriate buttons (she avoided jail luckily), who is using distributionist methods for the poor. Methods of distributionism are nothing new for the rich, and in fact the overdraft charge is the very prop used to keep these customers happy. As Dan Roberts so elequently put, “all big banks openly and routinely use this [charge] to subsidise the cost of providing banking services for better-off clients [and it] flies in the face of natural justice”. What happens if there is a particularly low period of charge productivity, how then do these banks keep their high earner clients happy? Who knows? Who even wants to guess?
But should it really take this illegal action to spur on an agenda of change? No. Then when, and from whom? What does our compass say?