Sunday, 27 March 2011

I Predict a Riot

Could someone please explain to me how smashing up a Spanish-owned bank and generally causing the state to spend money on policing and cleaning up desecrated memorials that it patently doesn't have is an appropriate way of complaining about public sector cuts?

I'm a little confused. If you know there isn't enough money, why go out and waste some more? And what do Santander have to do with it? The one bit in the budget about banks was an increase in the bank levy to pay for the increase in the personal tax free allowance. So why the anger at the banks, especially not just at the ones we 'own'?

Perhaps one answer might be that the several hundred morons who decided it'd be a great idea to smash up central London again are not even aware of the topic of the day on these organised riots/protests. So frequent are the protests maybe they got a little confused. You half expect to see placards bemoaning the rise in university fees and flying fire extinguishers.

Anyway, I suppose it is neither here nor there. There will always be party poopers who turn up for a ruck instead of peaceful protest. As with the student protests the actions of a minority (though very sizeable one still) rather drown out any legitimate message that people might have wanted to get across. Where this weekend's fracas differs from the student protests is that this lot didn't have a legitimate point to be drowned out.

I have mentioned it once or twice before, but if you missed it, here's my brief "how to run a country's finances 101" … If you spend more money on stuff (public spending) than you get given each year (taxes), you will rack up debt. If this is the general theme not a one off, the interest on this debt will eventually take up all the money you get given (taxes) so there's no money to spend on stuff at all (public spending). So, when inheriting a country where the bill for all the stuff is many billions more than the bag of cash, you have two options. This is where I'd like all those who wasted their weekend and our time and money to listen in…

Your two options are a) make your bag of money bigger (raise taxes), or b) don't spend as much on stuff (cut public spending). Now, hands up if you would like to volunteer to pay more taxes to pay for the current public spending levels? No-one? Ok, who'd like fewer public services? Oh, some of you seem indignant about that, perhaps you could revisit the basic maths in the last paragraph. Which one do you want, no cuts but tax rises to cover the enormous gap or cuts to move spending back towards the income from current tax levels? Ah yes, prat at the back, you have a question - "are you suggesting that there should be some kind of relationship when coming up with a budget between what you have and can therefore afford and what you decide to buy?" Catch on quick this lot don't they - one might be unkind enough to suggest that the clue might even be in the definition of the word budget?

It's a shame to look out on those violent scenes and realise depressingly not only that your vote counts exactly the same as the ignorant rioters (unless we get AV in which case theirs will perhaps count many times over - another day), but that about a third of Parliament also haven't grasped the basic mathematics. Clearly the failure of Blair's "education education education" policy extended even to his own Parliamentary party.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Incompetence to Make the Mind Goggle

Two blogs in three days - shock, horror. I must be bored. Or have been sacked. Today we are going to return to an old theme, seeing as I've already said most of the things I think, I figured it's about time to start regurgitating the old rubbish with a shiny new bow on it.

Not wanting to dive into a deep new topic, and I know I still owe you some more on human rights, I've gone for a clipping which has been lying around for a while. Another article from the papers this week reminded me of it. The old article was a ruling by my very own Oxfordshire county council that swimming goggles are to be banned for schoolchildren. Deep breaths (and scrunch up your eyes presumably)…

Yes, what upsets me today is the groundbreaking news that goggles are deadly weapons. So concerned are the local Government members of Oxfordshire that goggles could "snap" onto children's faces, they have banned them in state school swimming lessons. Brilliant. World gone crazy. It is not that someone is so stupid that they think this a good idea; I expect that from a reasonable percentage of state employees. It is that nobody within the council within earshot of this totally ridiculous rule being made stopped it. Nobody from the desperately simple originator of said rule, to their boss, their boss' boss, to the chap who put it on the website or printed it out, and to the press officer who announced it. It is genuinely unbelievable the levels of stupidity which you must be able to find at all levels of local Government. And you can bet dollars to doughnuts that they're all still in their jobs today, being paid for by our taxes, and will enjoy their final salary pensions.

No-one turned round and said "aren't we going to look like total pillocks if we go ahead with this?" No-one asked if perhaps goggles should be made mandatory instead, or at least make it compulsory for children to open their eyes underwater lest they smash their faces into the walls of the pool when doing lengths. They could employ people to sit underwater to check all eyes were open. But the CRB checks would have to be pretty watertight. In fact, statistically more children have probably been hurt by crashing into other swimmers or the wall in a desperate attempt to keep out the toxic levels of chlorine and wee wee.

If this council were instead a company dependent on profits and accountable to shareholders, it would be out of business. But it isn't. It just bleats that it doesn't have enough money to carry out the many important roles it has (like banning goggles or making them compulsory in schoolyard conker fights), and we keep giving it our taxes to keep it going. Rather like a frivolous child frittering away handouts from its despairing parents who keep hoping it will finally do something useful with its life. This is how I feel about local Government.

There must be some relatively competent types, but they allow the morons to tar the whole system with their brush, so they too are accountable. It is reported a council spokesman declined to expand on the reason for the ban. No wonder.

The article which re-aroused my pique told the story of a Royal Academy painter who was twice ordered to stop painting and remove his easel from Trafalgar Square lest someone trip over it and hurt themselves. Yes, good old health and safety at work, or more accurately a clinical idiot trying to compensate for his feelings of inadequacy by massively misunderstanding a regulation and putting his small amount of power into force. Yet again though, we see not just one, but many fools. A spokesman for the Greater London Authority defended the action of the over-zealous official. He stated, "it's about people with fixed equipment, such as tripods, which can set a precedent if other people want to congregate in the square." Right.

In case anyone is uncertain of what I think should be done, here it is: Boris should find which dolts within his organisation were in any way responsible for this action and the subsequent justification and punish them. Their punishment? Standing on the fourth pedestal in Trafalgar Square writing out lines on an easel that simply say: "I must try harder to not be a moron." Maybe they could invite someone along to paint them.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Hey Big Spender...

Ah, budget day. And a real budget too, in the real sense of the word - the one you and I understand. That is, one where we look at all the money we have and don't have before we decide which section of the society to buy off. You may recognise the latter strategy as that of the last Government.

In a couple of years' time, there's a pretty good chance either Labour are going to get egg on their collective face, or else the Tories, to some extent the Lib Dems, the money markets, the OBR, the IMF and countless more economic bodies are. That is because everyone except Labour agree that if you don't deal with the staggering deficit quickly, there will be no economy left in which to 'encourage growth by spending' - the Labour line. Around the end of this Parliament we'll see who was right. I'm inclined to think that the ones with the right idea on how to deal with the deficit are not those who created it. Labour's idea of how to get out of the budgetary hole we are still in, remains to be to throw in a spade and dig.

It was a sensible budget. It gave a couple of breaks here and there to signal that the end of the pain was in sight; to signal the Government has positive plans to help people, not just save the economy; to signal that it is listening. There were no ludicrous and uncosted giveaways. Some people seem genuinely upset at this. Some of them seem to struggle with the idea that it may be possible that a nation does not enjoy a rise in living standards every year until eternity. Yes, sometimes, we have to tighten our belts, sometimes we have less money than last year. Yvette Cooper-Balls proved herself one such moron on radio today.

She thinks it totally unacceptable that the Government didn't increase living standards of everyone in Britain with the backdrop of an economy on a slow road to recovery with a war chest barer than a nudey centrefold. Presumably she would like headlines like "all benefits doubled", "NHS spending to top £1 trillion" and "Cooper-Ballses fall to number two on poll of world's most irritatingly, smug-for-no-reason couples". However, there is only so long you can give away money you don't have and call it a budget. 13 years wasn't a bad record in a way.

The main themes continue to be pay off the deficit and encourage private sector growth. The former continued with a neutral budget of no giveaways. The latter by the simplifying of planning regulations and reduction in corporation tax and plan for its continued downward movement through the life of this Parliament.

There was too a show in where this Government thinks money should be coming from and going. Motorists were given a 1p tax reduction in addition to the cancellation of Labour's proposed 5p increase in April (it was their fuel duty escalator). This is a 6p reduction, not 1p as Ed Miliwho tried to claim when suggesting the January VAT rise of 3p on fuel duty dwarved today's cut. Accusing the Coalition of Del Boy economics when his basic mathematics is more akin to Plonker Rodney's left him looking like a bit of a silly boy. This fuel cut is being paid for by a windfall tax on the oil companies who have been raking profits in hand over fist with spiralling crude oil prices and even higher charges to customers. An increase to the bank levy, not a lowering of the 40p tax rate band paid for the rise in tax free personal allowance.

So all in all, it was a budget that simply said, things are on track, but look where they will go when we've cleared up Labour's mess. The long road to budgetary balance remains ahead, but at least the Government are staying on it. No foolish giveaways that they can't afford financially or politically. Anyone who was disappointed by this budget has fundamentally misunderstood the situation. This was not a budget designed as a panacea for all our financial woes - it takes more than 1 year to sort out a recession. It is merely pointing out that the road back from a deficit like this is long, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Passing the Buck

An old topic regurgitated today, thanks to the farcical remarks of a labour front-bencher. For a graduate of the London School of Economics with Masters in both Economics and Social Policy she has displayed an incredible lack of intelligence. Not only has she made a horrifically offensive slur in stating the Coalition's motivation in reducing housing benefit (which I wrote about here) is to cleanse London of black, Muslim and ethnic minority women, but she is also demonstrating her total lack of understanding of social policy, economics and indeed statistics.

I refer, of course, to today's news of self-satisfied, soon-to-be ex-shadow front bencher Karen Buck launching a bilious attack on the Government's housing benefit policy. I say soon-to-be, because surely even Miliwho realises he can't allow this kind of political point scoring by implying racial hatred. They should just stick to the classic Labour sexist and classist lines to fight on.

Ms Buck thought it totally appropriate to suggest the Coalition (and specifically the Tories) were out to make London an upper class shangri-la, where presumably the only people one might see there not earning six figures were commuting loo cleaners from the shanty-town suburbs. It never crossed her mind that it might be to try to make sense of a welfare system designed to entrap people and remove any incentive to make their own money. A system where you are often better off doing nothing than doing something. It never occurred to her, no doubt, that there might be a need to save some money since the Labour Government (which covered her entire 13 years in Parliament) used all of it, and then borrowed the moon. She probably doesn't know spending on housing benefits increased from £11 billion in 2000 to £20 billion in 2010. She probably doesn't realise that is a near £10 billion increase, or an increase equivalent to 1/3 of all education spending in the UK - still, seeing as education is the best way out of poverty, let's keep throwing money at landlords.

Yes, you might think that I have little time for Ms Buck's ilk, and you would be right. They are the same people who think that capping housing benefit at £400 a week is social engineering. They think that because this will force people out of homes they couldn't afford in areas they couldn't afford (and whilst we're on it, we as taxpayers can't afford), the Government is socially engineering. No, the opposite is true, and anyone who tries to tell you different is a fool or a liar.

The idea of free market economics can easily be extended to society and housing. It is exactly social engineering to place very poor people on benefits into a disproportionately rich area to make the social cross section more varied. The parts of the country who pay lots of tax and pay for their own housing have to choose where they should live based on where they can afford to live. Lots of them, in fact most, can't afford to live in Mayfair. Why we think the section of society who earn less than them and therefore qualify for housing benefits somehow deserve a better standard of living free of charge is beyond me. Welfare is there to make up the shortfall, to catch people who fall through the cracks. It should be a crutch to those who will permanently need help and a helping hand to lift the others up who fall on hard times. It should never though be there to lift them up to above the level we are willing to let people live at who don't qualify for welfare. This is what housing benefit has been doing for years.

So, I say again, if you think £1600 plus change a month for rent is cripplingly meagre, you're far too used to the good life. You won't be able to rent 1 Park Lane, but why should you? Who do you know that pays that much? If you're not on benefits and you choose to have a big family, you need to budget, so you will probably live in a poorer area to afford a larger house. It's free market housing. Returning to this concept is not a policy of social engineering, it is ending that exact policy. So let's grow up a little when looking at the real reasons for this totally sensible policy.

When we look at make-believe reasons for this policy to spout off at public meetings in Islington, it might be sensible to check one's facts. 87% of recipients of housing benefit are white, leaving just 13% of the apparently targeted ethnic minorities. Just 46% are single females, compared to 32% single males, and 22% couples. So, if you're going to spew some total crap to score some political points, at least try to get your numbers right even if your political reasonings are barmy. Tutors in Economics and Social Policy at LSE must be shuddering at the ignorance of one of their Masters graduates. For Miliwho, it's probably time to pass the Buck.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Why Theft in the UK Means Squat

I have been somewhat absent of late, but am determined to get back on top of the news of today; well, more like the news of yesterday and that of a few weeks ago. Let's be frank, you don't tune in here for BBC News 24. Think of it as more of a casual review of the news. Like the Sunday papers. Only not always on Sundays. And I don't get to interview anyone cool.

It may not be minute by minute coverage, but at least you aren't paying me hand over fist to deliver politically-neutral news coverage whilst I turn out one-eyed Socialist claptrap. The more perceptive of you may point out with my slightly right-ist tendencies, the only real difference is that you're not paying me. And no-one's listening. And Emily Maitlis is easier on the eye. Fair points, all.

That said, today let's harp on a little more about freeloaders in society and how we have a system designed almost bespoke for them. No, we are not on welfare millionaires building swimming pools in the back garden of their council houses (can you afford to put one in your garden? - thought not; mortgage to pay), today we are going to have a quick chat about squatters.

I might start by asking anyone to comment below if they think they can justify squatting. I've racked my brain. I've even asked a couple of people for their opinions (whilst staring glazed-eyed at them running through my opinions in my head and smiling in a self-satisifed kind of way). I am struggling to understand at what point either trespassing or breaking into someone's house became legal.

Now the law that people tend to hide behind is that they didn't 'break', they simply 'entered'. Who cares? That's my house. Get out. Is there a requisite time period one needs to inhabit a property before one can claim squatters rights? 20 minutes? A day? A month? If you break in at night nice and quietly, is it yours by breakfast? Who cares? If it isn't yours, you don't get to live there. I'm pretty sure if I wander into my neighbour's house, he has a right to evict me. He can even call the police and they might help him. Why if I do it whilst he's at the shops then stick my own lock on the door do I get to say "Ner ner ner ner ner, finders keepers"?

It is absolute sodding madness. You will read about people going through months of litigation to get people to stop living in houses that aren't theirs. Bribe are paid to get them to leave, and then promises broken. Police are apparently helpless. I don't even understand how squatters' rights even exist, let alone how they can supercede deeds of ownership, the 1916 Larceny Act, the 1968 or 1978 Theft Act or the 2006 Fraud Act. If it's not yours, you shouldn't be allowed to stay there.

There are two little topics to talk about here too - a loophole and a caveat. Firstly - method of entry. Failing to lock your house before you leave might invalidate your insurance but it does not have any bearing on whether or not an unknown person seeking to enter your house without your consent to live there is trespassing or not. They are uninvited, therefore trespassing. Hooray if they didn't break a window, but it shouldn't matter - they are there illegally, especially after refusing to leave on being discovered. It also doesn't take much research to find that there are many people within the freeloading squatters community who advertise their ability to break in invisibly. How on earth this distinction matters is genuinely beyond me.

The second point is the caveat against the standard plea of "no-one was using it, why can't I". Firstly, it is clear that it is irrelevant if anyone is using it as people have had their homes stolen from under their noses whilst renovating them (here and here - tried to find reports from left of centre but they were all predictably full of praise for these anti-establishment heroes (read: thieves)). So, that leaves us with what to do with genuinely empty properties - not holiday homes that are irregularly used, those are still legal until the wealth haters of this country ban them. It is down to local Government to deal with this problem, acting on Government-made Law. Neighbourhoods are generally worse for both squatters and for derelict and abandoned buildings. The Land Registry tells you who owns everything - so speak to them. Tell them they have to restore their building to a satisfactory standard or it will be subject to compulsory purchase order. Then the council can re-sell it on at a profit and put the money towards housing or develop the site itself for housing if appropriate.

Either way, it gets rid of the nuisance of people who believe they can take and not give. Their lives are safeguarded by police and military, the roads they walk on are maintained by Government, their healthcare is still free at the point of delivery. These people may think they are new-age anti-establishment rebels, but in essence they are just spongers. You and I are paying for freebies in their life, yet some of us seem to think it right to applaud their stand against the man which is nothing more than common theft.

So, there it is. Government can claim an easy win here - it's not like they either rely on or need the squatter demographic's vote. It would be a great sign of a step towards common sense law-making, where the Big Society means you take responsibility for your society, not just take from it what you can. They can rid those who worked for their properties a helping and deserved hand, and at the same time legislate to remove ugly and dangerous derelict buildings from anyone's areas. Now if you can justify in any way how stealing other people's stuff when they weren't looking should be legal, I'd love to hear about it. Come round to my house and we'll talk about it - just make sure you leave a house-sitter in case the pikey freeloaders decide you're next and you'll realise theft now means squat.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane...

Quick one. I promise. Holidays. Politicians.

I don't know about you (because I don't ever listen), but I couldn't give two hoots if the PM, Deputy PM or Minister for Paperclips and Ring Binders takes a holiday. I'm rather bored with the "PM sun tans whilst Rome burns" stories, though I enjoy the wordplay.

Two reasons here - firstly, people need rest to operate well; secondly, in today's world of technological/communications advances, out of sight is no longer out of mind. Churchill used to take holidays in Italy during World War II - Lake Garda, more specifically. No-one gave a crap. Bit of painting, lots of champagne. Won the war though.

People require rest to function. This includes politicians, weary though they are from filling in their expenses claims. So, let's not carp on about Clegg taking two days on the slopes with his family (as if we would have felt safer if a social anthropologist from somewhere in the comfortable middle of the political spectrum was running SAS Black Ops in Libya) whilst the Middle East was taking a lamentable, it predictable, turn for the worse.

So let's get a bit of perspective and report on some actual news for once, shall we? Ultimately there will always be something going on in Government, be it foreign uprisings, aid for natural disaster-struck countries or just getting oil companies to stop doubling the price of your tank of petrol because a country where 2% of the world's oil production originates is in political tumult. Politicians need to grip this pathetic nannyism - love them or hate them, they still have a right to a life, and rest assured they will only be a Blackberry Messenger away.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Beauty and the Beast

Now a slight change of tack for today's effort - back to sport. There isn't much midweek rugby on television these days, so I have been reduced to watching 'the beautiful game' the last couple of days. Now I have a couple of issues with the way that football is played these days; mainly that it is no longer beautiful. Things happen on the football pitch that must surely make even the most staunch defender of the virtues of soccer cringe at their sight.

Now I have already blogged at length about the attitude and behaviour of top flight footballers towards referees (here), but I think I have found something that upsets me even more. At least screaming blue murder at the referee is not cynicism borne out of the supposed tenet of sportsmanship. It's just lots of swearing and carrying on that really should get them all sent for an early bath. I'm not even talking about cynical play like diving or pretending you got nailed in the head by a sniper when actually you got a bump on the elbow in an effort to get your opponent sent off. That said, whilst I'm there, if we have a system for citing foul play after games, why not extend it to this awful practice. See how many people will carry on like pantomime dames when the prospect of a ban looms. Just a thought, and naturally one that will be ignored (and not just because nobody reads this drivel). Nope, this evening's rant is about the practice of putting the ball out of play when an opponent is apparently injured.

In the many hours of football I have watched, I think I have probably seen no more than a handful of serious injuries. I have definitely seen somewhere in the region of a billion pretend injuries, though. Slightly polar numbers you say, so let's try to narrow it down. A serious head injury or a broken bone? Maybe 4 or 5 a year on televised Premiership football (and that's pushing it). An injury that causes a player to perform 6 rolly-pollys grasping some part of his body with a face contorted in an agony normally reserved for the VIP suite at the Sanish Inquisition, only to be playing fully fit two minutes later? 4 or 5 times per match (at least)?

Now roll around like a little child if you wish, but why on earth are we now stopping play for these fakers? Surely it is obvious to everyone in football that almost every 'injury' is actually fine in the end and the ones that aren't are very obvious (bones sticking out of socks, or the grass going red) when they are serious, or when they are not do not warrant the game stopping. Pulling a hamstring is painful and serious enough for long term fitness, but no reason whatsoever to stop someone attacking goal 50 yards up the pitch - he'll live, and the game will be the better for it.

Almost all of these play-acting incidents comes at a time when a footballer loses possession in an inopportune place, giving the opposition an advantage. They then roll around like a bad soap actor; 20,000 people boo the terribly unsportsmanlike opposition for playing on; the attackers then give up their fairly won advantage and kick it out; advantage over; the 'injured party' gets up, grimaces slightly, hobbles for requisite 10 metres then rejoins the game at a full sprint. If you have seen it once, you have seen it a hundred times.

It ruins the flow of the game, and brings further discredit to a game so far from the moral high ground it would require some serious navigational skills and high powered binoculars to find it again. Moreover, it is all without reason; the referee has the right to stop play if he sees fit. Look at rugby - play would only be stopped if the referee deemed it a serious injury (not a twisted eyelash), or deemed it could get worse because play was returning to the area of the stricken man. Meanwhile, medics can pop onto the pitch to sort out said fallen player. I'm pretty sure the rules are the same in football, yet they have descended into this farce of faux sportsmanship that both sides know is just a defensive tactic to be employed when losing the ball.

So, there you go - let the ref do his job, and stop this nonsense. Another thing easily remedied, that doubtless nobody will do anything about. What is frustrating is that football has the ability to be great entertainment, provide role models, bring people together even. However, it is its own worst enemy - there is too much in the game now that is utterly unedifying, yet could easily be rooted out. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder - for me at the moment, I'd say football's beauty is at best skin deep, but its ugly goes right to the bone.

Monday, 7 March 2011

The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth

My, doesn't time fly when you're having no fun at work and no time to vent your angst online? Not long now until resumption of full blogging duties, I promise. Not much time for research this evening, so I'll knock this one out straight from the hip. Today's subject is tax, not the eleventy million pounds we pay the taxman every time we fill up our cars, but the cash we hand over to him when we die. Yup, today, a very quick one on inheritance tax, as you may have gleaned from the title. You may have read that last week the Office for Tax Simplification called for the treasury to overhaul the death duty system of tax reliefs. This would be lovely to hear if it were in line with the Tory pre-election proposal to vastly raise the threshold at which inheritance tax is paid, and hopefully get rid off it entirely in time. However, it was instead a call to tighten rules allowing people to avoid (not evade) paying death duties.

Now, this will be quite a quick one, because the bulk of my argument can be copied and pasted from either the fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper, or from my earlier post on paying for care of the elderly which ripped aforementioned fable off a treat. Ooh, split infinitive, I feel so naughty. So, for revision, feel free to peruse either text.

Let's start with my stance on inheritance tax, just in case you were in any doubt, before I even wrote a word. It is wrong. Totally. Why? Because it is wrong to re-tax those prudent enough to save. It is not because we pay a monstrous amount of tax, though we do, day in, day out. My stance would be the same if we were all taxed at 1% or 99%. The point is, it is yours once HMRC has taken his usually massive slice. We work, we make money (hopefully), we give some to the Government to take care of some services (army, doctors, school, prison, MPs' expenses etc) then see if we have enough left to buy the rest of the things required for survival. Fine. We'll get to levels of taxation another day, but as a system that seems to make sense. Re-taxing those who choose not to splurge their taxed cash on fast women and loose cars is economically and morally repugnant. At this point please refer to ant/grasshopper argument if clarification is required.

Inheritance tax makes no sense. On a moral level, there is nothing wrong with working to feather the nest of one's children; saving and not spending on yourself but preparing a brighter future for your offspring. Is this not what parenthood is about? It is entirely right to want to pass on assets, and fair that one should be allowed to do so. It is what we as a society should and indeed nature does wish us to do - support our progeny. It is typical leftist nonsense where to solve the problems of one end of the scale, one should seek to drag the other down until everyone is equal and therefore the problem solved. On an economic level, it gathers little money, yet encourages tax exiles and expatriation, likely netting a loss for the Exchequer. It encourages fast living on debt, because at least HMRC don't want a share of that. In essence, it promotes a worse society.

Ultimately, it is desperately unfair, anti-aspirational and targets a specific group. You will notice that it is ok to target this group - Labour and the Lib Dems think they are fair game for some more squeezing, the capitalist pigs. Making children sell their parents' house to pay some ludicrous 'duty' owed is apparently fine because they must be rich, because they own a nice-ish house or live anywhere in the south. Just don't take any benefits away from the clinically work-shy; that's victimisation. Remember, it's not targetting if you don't like them or don't think they would traditionally vote for you. Then it is making people pay their fair share. It also only catches the people in the middle who usually can't afford to pay without selling the main asset (usually the family home). Once you get into the super rich, they can generally afford to shuffle things around to pay less tax than Wee Jock Poo Pong McPlop. And I don't care - no-one should pay this tax.

If you and I earn the same but you buy a house and save money (good for our economy), and I spend it all on foreign holidays with time split evenly Flashman-style between bordellos, bookies and bottle shops (useless to our economy, good for someone else's economy), why are we treated differently at death? I would have nothing but a raging case of syphylis and a bloated liver, and you would have assets. We both chose to 'spend' our money on acquiring them, yet for some reason, the taxman thinks he's entitled to your savings but doesn't want any of my hepatic failure / curious itch.

If you want to counter with 'redistribution of wealth' arguments, you are a Marxist fool. We have a progressive tax system that does just that, but re-taxing savings and assets is not paying one's 'fair share', it's robbery. If you counter with 'they can afford it' look at the relative levels of inheritance tax threshold and house prices over the last 20 years. You will see many if not most of these people being taxed are not the super rich; simply owning a modest family home now forces many estates above a boundary that has not kept any kind of pace with inflation, dragging more and more people into its insidious net.

It may be an old law, but being around for a long time does not make it right. Let us hope that the Tories do a good job of the economy for the next 4 years. If they do, maybe then they can move to remove this envious and illogical tax in a second term once shorn of their Government partners who are so opposed to wealth, as if the concept itself were evil. That will perhaps be the real test of where David Cameron's allegiances really lie - once he has the Governmental majority and mandate to make Conservative policy, will he? If not, perhaps the meek shall one day inherit the earth, but they'll have to sell it to pay the tax.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Insuring European Equality

They say never start with an apology, and you probably think an apology unlikely in general from someone who appears so confident in his own views' veracity. However, I must start by apologising for not blogging for a little bit. Clearly still in the grips of some slight post traumatic stress over my screaming baby flight, I have been a little unattentive of my blog. My newspaper cuttings, stored hyperlinks and notebook are overflowing with things that vex me, but I have been somewhat lax in putting pen to paper. I shall blame work, which is easy (blaming it, not doing it), and indeed is going to take me away for another couple of days now, so you may have to wait until Friday or Saturday for an update on what Law Abiding Citizen thinks of the world. Oh dear, talking about oneself in the third person; I must have let the recent 50% increase in followership go to my head. Oh, and I'm not apologising for the title; it's not a typo, it's a crap pun, but it's late and nothing rhymes with union ... you'll see.

So, pseudo-apology over, onto the important news of the day. More important than Libyan unrest, or gay cricketers, today a medium length one on the wonderful bilge currently being spewed forth from the courts. I am not refering to the ruling that a couple who hold faith-based opinions that homosexuality is wrong cannot foster children. I like to steer clear of religion in general, not just because I don't profess to know a huge amount about most faiths but also because it appears more trouble to get into it all than it is worth. A devil's advocate might be inclined to ask, though, whether this ruling refers to Christian views on homosexuality only (they're getting a bit of a public shallacking for their views in this particular area it seems - gay weddings in churches etc). It's just that the High Court judges decreed that homosexual rights "should take precedence over the rights of Christians in fostering cases", which seems a bit narrow considering there are a couple of other mainstream faiths who don't have the most liberal views on the gay community; public stonings and the like come to mind as slightly more severe than not being willing "to tell a young child that the practice of homosexuality was a good thing" as the couple in the case stated. Are the same standards to be applied within other faith fostering too? Now everyone has their right to be as gay as Mardi Gras or as straight as an arrow, but perhaps the ruling would be more comforting to Christians who feel the country largely built around Christianity is rather turning on it, and not even on just religion in general. So I didn't really steer clear of that one, but you get the point - whichever way the ruling went, shouldn't the judges have referenced the rights of all religions taking or giving precedence to homosexual rights, not just those of Christians?

Anyway, as I said, I'm not talking about that, I am talking about the decree from that fine bastion of nonsense that is the European Court of Justice. I speak, of course, of the ruling that insurers cannot consider gender when deciding premiums. The news item that caught my eye yesterday was about male pensioners losing out as their yearly pension will have to decline to meet women's. The previous difference can be explained by clever people called actuaries who work out the risk of pretty much everything, and therefore the price of insuring it. In short, men die first, so they get fewer bigger payments than their wives who spead their equal pension pot over their longer retirement. Of course, predictions (no doubt accurately) suggest men's pots will go down to meet the women's rather than vice versa.

I cunningly though I would blog today on other ramifications like those for car insurance but it would appear it wasn't that hard a link to make so I shall regurgitate today's news rather than pre-empt it. In short, by re-reading Europe's gender directive which had previously allowed such sensible actuarial work, we have now outlawed gender as any type of base for discrimination. Unfortunately, this is as mad as a box of frogs. This was surely never the idea behind the Charter for Fundamental Human Rights? That is the problem with absolving our own Parliament of any real control over UK law, shifting everything to Europe where a bunch of apparently well-meaning bureaucrats make up poorly-drafted, poorly-worded and poorly-thought out laws which then members of the European judiciary decide to take in the daftest way possible presumably to make a name for themselves.

So, even though young boys crash eleventy million times more than young girls, we shall be seeing the last of Sheilas' Wheels and Diamond for a start. Naturally, as with pensions, I assume all rebalancing will be upwards, so everyone will now pay more. Why stop there? I assume the same Charter is breached by allowing Saga to offer cheap insurance to old people, or probably Odeon for letting them see films on the cheap. While we're at it, let's start training 60 year olds to fly the few remaining aircraft the military have. They may be old and frail and we'll never get the return for investment in training out of them before they retire (non-compulsorily), but it would be unfair to say they couldn't give it a bash. Let's also get children working from age 5 - it gives them great discipline in life and can cut down on families' trainers bill as the children can sew their own. Or perhaps we should enter Lewis Moody and his England rugby pals into the Under-15 Girls' World Cup - they'll almost definitely win.

Now I might have taken that a bit far, but the point is obvious - there are reasons we make decisions related entirely or partly on age or gender. These decisions allow some people to do things, disallow others, create benefits, and deny them. The point, as ever, is that discrimination is just choosing. Unfair discrimination is not choosing on the basis of some characteristic that cannot be helped (age, height, sex, sexuality etc) or even can be helped. Perfectly fair and sensible decisions can easily come this way. It is choosing maliciously because of it, not sensibly - I blogged at length about it here. So here we are again beating the discrimination drum, when really we need to take a step back and use common sense. The problem is, as with so many of these things, it is completely out of our hands. We are at the mercy of the European Union - the next thing you know they'll be giving prisoners the vote... Then again, one presumes they are trying to get onside with a couple of dodgy auditors who might finally sign off the EU's accounts once they get released...