They’ve let the teenage trot out of his cage again. Would that they had someone who could grow whiskers opining on how to run the country:
1) A statutory living wage, with immediate effect, for large businesses and the public sector, and phased in for small and medium businesses over a five-year Parliament. This would save billions spent on social security each year by reducing subsidies to low-paying bosses, as well as stimulating the economy, creating jobs because of higher demand, stopping pay being undercut by cheap labour, and tackling the scandal of most of Britain’s poor being in work. An honest days’ pay for an honest days’ work would finally be enshrined in law.
Let us assume that what he means is the Living Wage calculated by the campaign for a living wage. The problem with this is that the current minimum wage would indeed be that living wage if only the government didn’t steal so damn much of it in tax and national insurance.
No, really, I’ve been doing these calculations ever since the living wage campaign first started. And the only difference between the two suggested numbers is the depredations into the incomes of the working poor made by the demands of the State.
So much so that I have suggested that the income tax and national insurance allowances (and yes, including employers’ national insurance) should be linked, by law, to the full time full year minimum wage. Change one and you’ve got to change the other. And the post tax net income of people on today’s minimum wage would be, in such a system, the post tax net income of people being paid the living wage under the current tax system.
For the fact is that we do not have wage poverty in the UK today. The State is taxing the poor so highly that what we actually have is tax poverty.
2) Resolve the housing crisis by regulating private rents and lifting the cap on councils to let them build hundreds of thousands of houses and in doing so, create jobs, bring in rent revenues, stimulate the economy and reduce taxpayers’ subsidies to landlords.
The general view of rent controls among economists is that they are the best method of destroying the housing stock of an urban area short of aerial bombing. The biggest part of the cost of building housing in the south of England these days (which is where the housing shortage actually is) is the scarcity value of the chitty allowing you to build the housing. So, this is easy to solve. Issue more chitties, problem over.
Without that side effect of damn near bombing the hell out of urban areas.
3) A 50 per cent tax on all earnings above £100,000 – or the top 2 per cent of earners – to fund an emergency jobs and training programme for young unemployed people, including the creation of a national scheme to insulate homes and businesses across Britain, dragging millions of out of fuel poverty, reducing fuel bills, and helping to save the environment. All such jobs will be paid the living wage, supported with paid apprenticeships rather than unpaid “workfare” schemes.
We already have 50% tax on higher earners. Employers’ national insurance is, as Ritchie would tell us, entirely bourne by the employee. Add the current 45 p rate to employers’ NI and we’re already over 50%.
Also, we’ve already got an insulation scheme4 running. And the reason it’s not working all that well is that large parts of the UK housing stock cannot in fact be insulated. Simply don’t have cavity walls into which you can put the stuff.
4) An all-out campaign to recoup the £25bn worth of tax avoided by the wealthiest each year, clamping down on all possible loopholes with a General Anti-Tax Avoidance Bill, as well as booting out the accountancy firms from the Treasury who help draw up tax laws, then advise their clients on how to get around them.
That’s a Ritchie estimate of course and therefore clearly wrong. Much of what Ritchie does count as “avoidance” is stuff that HMRC and EU law describes as entirely legal structures being used as they are supposed to be being used. There just isn’t the money to be collected here.
5) Publicly run, accountable local banks. Transform the bailed-out banks into regional public investment banks, with elected taxpayers’ representatives sitting on boards to ensure they are accountable. Give the banks a specific mandate to help small businesses and encourage the green industries of the future in each region.
Well done, you’ve just recreated the Spanish caja system. You know, the one that went entirely and totally bust and dragged the entire country down with it? Precisely and exactly because “elected representatives” doled out the cash to their muckers.
6) An industrial strategy to create the “green jobs” and renewable energy industries of the future. It would be focused on regions that have been damaged by deindustrialisation, creating secure, skilled, dignified jobs, and reducing unemployment and social security spending, based on an active state that intervenes in the economy, learning from the experiences of countries such as Germany.
Germany….the most expensive and fatuous green energy scheme ever, anywhere? The one that has coal use (and brown coal at that) rising?
And don’t you know that jobs are a cost, not a benefit, of a scheme?
7) Publicly owned rail and energy, democratically run by consumers and workers. As each rail franchise expires, bring them back into the public sector, with elected representatives of passengers and workers to sit on the new management boards, ending our fragmented, inefficient, expensive railway system. Build a publicly owned energy network by swapping shares in privately run companies for bonds, and again put elected consumers’ representatives on the boards. Democratic public ownership instead of privatisation could be a model for public services like the NHS, too.
What an excellent model for insider capture. The only people who will run for such boards and positions are the insiders who will benefit most from being able to manipulate the system.
8) A new charter of workers’ rights fit for the 21st century. End all zero-hour contracts, with new provisions for flexible working to help workers. Allow all unions access to workplaces so they can organise, levelling the playing field and giving them a chance to improve wages and living standards. Increase turnout and improve democratic legitimacy in union ballots by allowing workplace-based balloting and online voting.
More unionisation. Well, I suppose he has to say that given that he’s subsidised by one or more unions.
9) A universal childcare system that would pay for itself as parents who are unable to work are able to do so, and which would take on the inequalities between richer and poorer children that begin from day one.
We already have one of those, don’t we? Usually known as “parents”.
To be honest I’ve no beef at all with anyone proposing whatever they like as alternatives to the current system. I’ve been known to make a few suggestions myself.
But it would be nice if the people doing such proposing were to take note of the accumulated wisdom of the past few centuries. You know, have a look at what has been tried and failed before?