Saturday, 10 September 2011

Greed, delusions and economists

Economists are a group of people for whom there is a reasonable desire to create a derogatory collective noun.  There is a massive disconnect between what economics purports to study and the theory and practice of contemporary economists, many of whom are employed as apologists for the financial services sector.  Nothing is more depressing than the spectacle of self-styled experts lining up to argue their particular interest group from the perspective of wider public good.  The cretinous scribblers whose names appeared beneath the recent diatribe in the "Financial Times"calling for the abolition of the 50p tax rate are the latest of this particular sub-species to creep out from beneath their flat stones.

Given that the main priority of any government is to restore public finances, arguing for a tax cut only cuts the mustard when it can be demonstrated that the net effect will be to improve the country's fiscal position.  These windy morons were unable to do this, preferring instead to put forward the tired formulation that high marginal tax rates deter innovation and send the alleged high-flyers who command £150k salaries looking elsewhere.

The case is usually undermined by the appearance of said creatures on television, bleating how their City career will be blighted by such a measure and they will sink the economy by going elsewhere.  This usually results in my wishing that I retained a foam brick to throw at the television, since these toads are no brighter than the average indvidual and in many cases have been responsible for immiring the British economy in the brown stuff over the last decade, while raking in cash and generally being protected from the social anarchy that their selfishness has created.  Quite frankly, the only contribution to their welfare that we should be considering is a whip-round to pay for one-way tickets to somewhere where they can do less damage (South Georgia for instance).  These are not the people who should be rewarded.

Most "entrepreneurs", or less glamorously, people involved in the creation of wealth through real goods and services, would be distinctly happy to earn £150,000 of taxable income in the course of the year.  Their firms may turn this over, but this will be spent on all the paraphernalia of genuine business (stock, premises and customers, as well as other staff).  However, the familiar mantra of incentives is given a further promotion as it is the only way in which the parasites and their lickspittle economist mates can get away with perpetuating the bullshit that passes for debate.

What is more depressing is that the Tories are listening to these people.  The singularly-unimpressive shallowness at the heart of the party is convinced by the argument that those less well-off than you deserve it, and your wealth carries no obligations to contribute to society.  This mentality, as has been obsered ad infinium over the last month, is exactly the same as the looters' and rioters' who are now causing tax increases through the incarcerations ordered by a Government much more concerned about property rights than people, and whose prism seems to be defined by the "Daily Express" obsessions with house prices, people who aren't white, middle-class aspirations and the phobia of anything that isn't English (I include the Scots and Welsh in the demonology with good reason).

There is actually a strong case to increase taxation, both on the top 1% of incomes (as are currently caught in the 50% income tax band) and on unearned wealth and capital gains including land, to provide a more equitable burden and to make people realise that there are improvements to life that can be funded.  Tax reform could take lower-income groups out of tax and benefits altogether, and would address much of the inequality that has been introduced by neo-con economics and prejudiced pseudo-libealism.

As for the economists, I was amused to note that the next day eighteen times as many signed up to lobby the EU for a Tobin tax on financial transactions - a far more worthy cause and a means of redressing the balance towards the taxpayer who has bailed out gamblers, spivs and theives who continue to enjoy public subsidy on a level that would fund much better, and morally-worthy, activity, while denying either responsiblity or the right of the rest of society to hold them to account.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A farewell to the McTories?

Murdo Fraser MSP is one of the Scottish Tory Party's showmen.  His announcement that, if elected leader, he will seek to disband the toxic reactionary quislings and replace it with a centre-right party, competing with Labour for this accolade in Scotland, is eye-catching and very interesting.

Since 1997, First Past The Post has ensured that the Tories have not been able to elect more than one MP in Scotland (and indeed in the Blair hysteria they were wiped out completely), while the AMS system used for Scottish Parliamentary elections and STV for local councils has kept the party on life-support with a steadily declining share of the vote.  The Scots have long memories, and there is unlikely to be any forgiveness of a party that treated the country as an appendage for experimentation with such lovely flowers as the poll tax and the impact of deindustrialisation. 

The SNP's outstanding result in May was not just a function of the competence of their previous minority administration, but a reflection of Scottish distrust of the Westminster machinery.  Salmond peddled a delusional spin that the wider economy would not impact upon Scotland's public services, a variant of his previous elevation of economic successes in Ireland and Iceland as paradigms for Scottish economic growth.  Whereas the UK Coalition has a muddle-headed and wrongly-implemented agenda for reducing government spending, not significantly different from the one that Labour would have implemented had they won in 2010, Scotland has been behaving like a startled toddler hoping that the problems go away.  They won't, and the SNP faces cutting budgets and services with more immediate and draconian impact than the Westminster government.

At this stage, Murdo Fraser's intervention seems to be even more quixotic.  Labour have not managed to regroup in Scotland, and the Liberals have been reduced to impotent maundering from the Northern Isles.  The Tories were therefore well placed in terms of offering a critique of the SNP's machinations, but appear to be much more interested in their own internal blood-letting. 

The idea that a Scottish Conservative and Unionist Movement could outperform a Westminster-based party is possibly true, although there is unlikely to be a large pool of talent in the party - bright Scottish Tories will repeat Labour's chicken run to London as they are unlikely to find themselves wielding power in Holyrood.  However, Labour are the de facto reactionary force in Scotland, and they won't give up the territory without a fight.

One weekend's headlines do not make a strategy.