Sunday, June 27, 2010

Nick Clegg's Extremely Odd Definition of "Liberal" Taxation.

Nick Clegg has an article in today's Independent which had me spluttering into my coffee over breakfast. He is attempting to defend the immoral budget he has agreed to, whilst simultaneously trying to place the blame for a global economic meltdown at the door of the previous Labour administration.

Under the headline, "Tackling the poverty that Labour ignored", he tries to make Osborne's ridiculous point that theirs was a "progressive" budget.

He begins with an utterly bogus point:

We did not announce the Budget with any relish – no incoming government lightly risks widespread unpopularity so early on. But our basic assertion is sound.
This is a perfect example of the way in which the Tories have Clegg in a box. The Tories are under no risk of "widespread unpopularity", especially not amongst their own supporters who have wanted the government to tackle "social security scroungers" forever and a day. A glance at the Daily Mail and the Daily Express the day after the budget showed that they were in seventh heaven as Osborne brutalized benefit claimants - and did so with Lib Dem cover - in a way which Thatcher could only dream of.

The person risking unpopularity is Clegg and the Liberal Democrats. It is they who are betraying their electoral promises, not the Tories. Although Clegg seems not to get that point.

He goes on:
It would have been a moral betrayal to have chosen the easy route, ducking the difficult decisions today at the cost of jobs and prosperity tomorrow.
Except Clegg's argument all through the election - when he was considered wildly popular - was the exact opposite of that. Clegg argued that doing too much too soon ran the risk of a double dip recession. Oh, how quickly he changed his mind once shackled to the Tories.

He then argues that Labour are simply hoping "the problem can somehow be wished away." How strange. His position during the election was far closer to Labours than it was to the Tories, so he's almost saying that his own electoral campaign was merely an exercise in wishful thinking.

Continuing this theme, he then enters into fantasy land:
In the past, every time budgets have had to be cut, the poorest have suffered the most. This time, the richest are paying the most, not just in cash terms but as a proportion of their income. This is completely different from the budgets of the past; this was a coalition Budget.
Except the rich aren't losing anywhere near as much as the poor have lost because of this budget.
The institute's [Institute for Fiscal Studies] director, Robert Chote, has noted that the poorest tenth of society will lose 2.5% of their incomes, whilst the richest will suffer a loss of merely 1% of their income.
Then we get to the attack on benefits:
Decisions on benefits have been controversial, but I believe they meet the same test of fairness. It is not fair, progressive or liberal to make people better off living on handouts than they would be earning a living.
Again, the Tory belief that people choose to live on benefits rather than accept employment. And Clegg is making this argument at the very time when the budget he is talking about is calling for savings of 25% from all government departments, which will inevitably lead to people being let go, which will increase the number of unemployed in the country.

When his policies see people being paid off and losing their jobs will he still make the argument that they are probably unemployed because they preferred a life on benefits?

Then he drops what, for me, is the biggest bombshell of them all:
They come, of course, together with an unpopular increase in VAT. But when it comes to a choice between taxing what people choose to buy and taxing work, it is liberal to come down on the side of consumption rather than payroll taxes.
That's simply the most illiberal thing I have ever heard any supposedly "progressive" politician say.

Let's take that to it's logical conclusion and imagine that we were to raise all taxation in that way, which, let's face it, is what the Tories would love to do.

If I earn £100,000 a year and spend £45,000, then I would have (with Vat at 20%) contributed quite a large sum to the treasury. However, I would still have £55,000 (and 55% of my income) on which I have paid no taxation at all.

People on a lower income, who do not have the opportunity to save; and who spend all their money by necessity simply trying to feed, clothe and house their families, would find that they had been taxed on 100% of their income whilst I - who earn more and have more disposable income - had only been taxed on 45% of mine.

On what planet is that "liberal"?

I know some Tories who would be embarrassed to make that argument; and yet, Clegg not only makes it, but he claims that he is carrying on liberal traditions "from John Stuart Mill to Jo Grimond" as he does so.

Simply calling something liberal don't make it so. And Clegg has just served up a text book example of that.

Click here for full article.

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