Your Tax Money At Work

You What?

Amazing:

Dr Rant\’s employer is now insisting on taking the cost of a 1st class Royal Mail stamp out of all the hospital staff\’s paychecks each month to pay for posting the salary slips to them at their home address.

And do read the kicker.

US College Costs

This is a remarkable piece of work. Truly.

Holders of bachelor\’s degree earn 70% more than their high school counterparts, and those with advanced degree earn 130% more. In a 40-year career a bachelor\’s degree means an added $903,320, and a graduate degree $1,670,360.

This is used as an argument in favour of further government subsidy, the use of grants to students, rather than their taking out loans to pay for it.

No, seriously, that you\’ll earn §1.6 million extra is evidence that you shouldn\’t pay for it. We should tax the garbage collector so that you can earn that extra $1.6 million.

This is from a professor of American Studies at Sarah Lawrence College:

Small coeducational liberal arts college located in Bronxville, NY that recognizes the creative and performing arts as integral to a liberal arts education.

Not all that keen on logic there then.

 

Scottish Council Housing

This isn\’t really a surprise now:

Ministers announced the end of the right to buy for new council homes yesterday and signalled that the scheme could go altogether within four years.

Since 1979 more than 480,000 council tenants have bought their homes under the right to buy, which offers a discounted purchase price based on the period of residence.

But Ms Sturgeon claimed that the scheme had a negative effect. "Authorities see little point in building houses for rent if they are lost through the right to buy", she said.

How are you going to keep the Doughboys down on the farm once they\’ve seen Gay Paree? How do you keep the proles in helotry if they actually own their own housing? Far easier to keep them voting socialist if they\’re dependent upon the State for the very roof over their heads.

She also announced plans to force homeowners — rather than buyers — to pay for surveys from next year despite a lukewarm reception the plan received in a pilot study.

Sounds rather like HIPs, doesn\’t it? Such a success they\’ve been in England and Wales as well.

D\’ye think you lot could hurry up and go independent then? Wouldn\’t want the entire nation to get infected with such nonsense now, would we?

Charitable Status

I do wonder sometimes:

They will have the power to strip schools of their charitable status – collectively worth £100 million a year – if they fail to pass the new test of "public benefit".

Lessee. There\’s, ooh, some 200,000- 250,000 (7% of the 3.3 million children in the correct age groups, ie, 11 years times 300,000 kids a year or so) in private schools. State education costs what, £ 5 k a year? So said private schools educate those children at no cost to the State, saving the public coffers £1.25 billion a year. What\’s that these days? Half a penny off income tax? A couple of times the income from the aggregates levy?

This is not, prima facie, a public benefit?

Difficult to reach any other conclusion that that there\’s something else behind this.

Couldn\’t be that as well as educating such children at no cost to the State they also educate them better could it? Showing up the educrats and all that….for that would be the ultimate sin, wouldn\’t it? I mean if everyone started to think that things could be done better without the caring ministrations of the State then where would we all be? Anarchy! Infamy! Cats with Dogs and Rains of Blood, no doubt.

Glorious Bureaucracy!

Isn\’t it wonderful? The forms are being filled out, the paperwork checked. Thoughtful bureaucrats, those creatures of near divine omniscience, are making sure that everything is simply ticketty boo in this green and pleasant land. Of course, there are some very slight teething problems:

Dozens of small circuses are facing financial ruin, bogged down by new rules and paperwork which have forced them to cancel performances, send home the clowns and pension off much loved performing animals.

Very slight:

The main problem is the impact of the Licensing Act that came into force at the end of 2005 and which requires circuses to apply for a licence for every site they visit. These cost up to £1,000 each and take at least 28 days to process and frequently much longer.

This has robbed circuses of their traditional flexibility, which involves picking venues at short notice after taking into account factors such as local economics and the weather. It has also meant that if a site is unusable, because of flooding, for instance, the circus cannot move to an alternative venue, even if it is an adjoining field, because this would require a fresh licence.

Circuses can seek a £21 temporary permit, but this takes at least two weeks to process. It restricts the numbers of performances and size of audiences, and results in circuses performing in front of dozens of empty seats.

Almost all travelling circuses have had to cancel performances this year because they cannot get new licences in time. Many have endured weeks on end of sitting idle.

But no complaints from us, no siree! After all, it\’s better that the paperwork is in order rather than people actually doing what they want, isn\’t it? Better that permission is properly granted than that children go to the circus to see the clowns? Vastly better that the Man from the Council, who really does know best, take two weeks to allow a tent to move from one field to the next?

Just think what anarchy would prevail if all of this were not controlled, not under the watchful eye of our glorious neighbourhood commissars!

What do you think this is? A free country or something?

The Amazing Ezra Klein

Quite astonishing I sometimes find him. He\’s clever and all but manages to get the wrong end of the stick all too often:

 This is, in part, why you\’re seeing cutbacks in many newsrooms. I\’m not supposed to say this, but journalism has gotten easier, and fewer individuals can do more of it.

Excellent, productivity is rising therefore we need fewer people to do it.

But as productivity rapidly increases, either the market has to expand or staffs will be cut. And to make matters worse, much like in manufacturing, the rise of blogs and online magazines has created intense, low-cost competition that simply didn\’t exist before.

Indeed, just like manufacturing. what we actually see is both output going up and fewer people required….those people being able to go off and do something else even more productive, like cure cancer or wipe babies\’ bottoms. Excellent!

Which is why we need more projects like this one, or possibly some public subsidies.

 

So the world is getting better in every way, we\’re getting more journalism and more people doing other more important things and thus, we need public subsidies to stop this happening? How in hell do you get to that conclusion from that set of facts?

 

Public Sector Pensions

Just a thought. There are special taxation rules if your pension pot goes over £1.3 million or so. You don\’t get tax relief is it?Or you pay more tax because of the relief you\’ve had? Something like that?

The last time I asked this question I was told that public sector pensions were subject to the same rules, some method was used to add up future payments and compare them to the sum required to purchase an equivalent annuity. This was then measured against the £1,3 million limit and the appropriate tax then levied (or not, as the case may be).

So:

The civil servant who became infamous for declaring his department was doomed is to pick up the most generous public-sector pension ever awarded — worth a total of almost £2.7 million — when he retires this month.

Will his pension pot be caught by these rules?

Scrapping Road Pricing

Well, I didn\’t think they would have the courage to do it even though it would be the economically rational thing to do:

Ministers are to perform a U-turn by shelving plans for a national road pricing scheme that would have cost motorists up to £1.30 a mile.

If you\’ve got a scarce resource then you want to charge people for using it. The charge should also be proportional to the usage. Fuel tax is a proxy, but not a very good one, as it doesn\’t account for the time and place of use: which is the congestion part that we really want to tackle.

In one of those little bits of serendipity, the new Oxford Entrance exams have been revealed. The first question is as follows:

Every motorist pays the same amount for road tax, regardless of how much they use the
roads: someone who covers as little as 1 000 miles pays the same as someone who
covers 20 000. This is unfair. Road tax should be scrapped and the money raised by an
increase in the tax on car fuel. Making this change would ensure that those who use the
roads more would pay more. This would not only be a fairer system, but could also bring
in more revenue.
Which of the following best illustrates the principle underlying the argument above?
A People should receive free medical treatment only if they cannot afford to pay
for it.
B People who travel to work every day by train should pay a lower fare than
those who travel only occasionally.
C People who earn more than double the average wage should be made to pay
much higher charges for dental treatment.
D Television channels should be paid for by subscription so that only those
people who watch them should be made to pay.
E Telephone charges should be higher for business customers than for
domestic customers because they are using the system only to make money.

Spooky, huh?

BANES

True, true:

A front-runner for the worst-run council in Britain must be Bath and North East Somerset, if only because of the scarcely believable mess it has made of its flagship "Spa project".

All supported, of course, by the odious Don Foster.

Investment? Pah!

Grr, Grr. This really does annoy me, the pabulum we are feed about "investment" in the arts:

Government investment in the arts is to be boosted over the next three years, with the announcement yesterday of an extra £50 millon for Arts Council England by 2011. The funding body’s grant will rise from £417 million this year to £467 million in 2010-11.

It\’s not bloody investment, it\’s current spending. Furthermore, it\’s not sensible current spending. It\’s the bribe that the Statists pay to the luvvies and artsy types to keep such opinion formers onside, keep them supporting the State that feeds them.

This though is even more wankeriffic:

Simon Thurley, its chief executive, said: “What they seem to have said is that the Government’s priority is museums and the Arts Council.

“Yet we know that heritage is virtually the nation’s favourite hobby. Many more people visit heritage sites than museums and galleries or football matches, yet it’s starved of funds.”

If you get more people than visit football matches, why not try charging these people for what they obviously want to see? Like, err, football matches do?

The argument that you get lots of punters isn\’t an argument in favour of more subsidy: it\’s an argument in favour of less, moron!

Darian Leader

Gosh, what a surprise!

It looks like good news. In an era where psychological problems are increasingly explained in terms of biological deficits, the government has announced that it will spend £170m by 2010 on talking therapies for depression and anxiety. The scheme should pay for itself as better mental health will mean fewer sick days and benefits – £170m isn\’t much compared with an annual £12bn cost to the economy. But will it really help?

The answer, sadly, is negative. Talking therapy means not psychotherapy, but cognitive behavioural therapies (CBTs). These aim at the removal of symptoms and the return to work of sufferers, who will have learned to identify and manage patterns of undesirable behaviour. However, clinicians know that patients are likely to be back on a waiting list within a year to 18 months. Their underlying problems will not have been resolved, resulting in new symptoms or the return of old ones.

More money is to be spent on mental health problems. Does this toiler in the fields of mental health welcome this? No, of course not. It\’s being spent on the wrong kind of mental health treatments. That is, the sort that he does not do, that he will not profit from.

Yes, really, someone at the Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research thinks that the mental health budget should be spent on Freudian Analysis. Shocker, eh?

Tony Benn on the Post Office

We are told the Post Office loses money – but so do the police, and if we are going to follow this neoliberal doctrine, what about establishing low-cost private police forces, to challenge the "police monopoly"? This is a big, big issue, and it is a test of our society as to whether we are to organise everything to make a profit, or see that needs are met.

If the Post Office is to be run on a competitive basis, it could charge pounds and not pennies to deliver in the Orkneys and Shetlands, and make those who depend on braille pay the huge charges that the heavy material would attract on a commercial basis.

Well, yes, quite.

Might be the first time I\’ve agreed with the Second Viscount Stansgate. Excellent ideas all: let\’s put them into practice, shall we?

Well Done The Planners!

We do need government, there really are things that cannot be done collectively and voluntarily. Things that require the compulsion that government can bring to bear.

Changes to medical training introduced since 2002 have been rushed, poorly led and implemented and are unlikely even to produce very good doctors, according to a new report.

Sir John Tooke, who chaired an independent inquiry set up by the Department of Health, said it had been a sorry episode from which nobody emerged with credit.

The new policy, called Modernising Medical Careers (MMC), was introduced without clear definition of what it was meant to achieve. Weak development, implementation and governance had made it worse. “Put simply, ‘good enough’ is not good enough,” Sir John writes. “Rather, in the interest of the health and wealth of the nation, we should aspire to excellence.”

Problems with MMC first became apparent when the computer-based application system used for selecting doctors for higher training failed this year. The Medical Training Application Service (MTAS) had to be abandoned, and the furore about it drew attention to wider defects. The report by Sir John, who is Dean of the Peninsula College of Medicine, will make uncomfortable reading for the department, and for Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, who was the main driving force behind MMC.

Aren\’t we lucky that the people who do this governing for us are both able to see when they are needed and then are so efficient in execution?

750,000 Get No State Pension

Indeed:

The National Pensioners Convention (NPC) said 754,000 women aged between 60 and 69 did not receive any state pension because they had not made enough National Insurance contributions.

And the problem with this is what? As the State pension is contributory if you don\’t pay in it\’ll not pay out.

"Around one in five older people still live below the official poverty line and whilst ministers talk of respect and dignity, there can be no dignity until all pensioners, men and women, get a decent state pension as of right that takes them out of means testing and financial insecurity."

That "taking out of means testing" is the important bit. If you didn\’t make the contributions, you don\’t get the pension. But if you\’re poor (ie, didn\’t contribute to another pension perhaps) then you do get the minimum income guarantee. Which is, I think, actually higher than the basic state pension isn\’t it?

Tom Stoppard on Darfuri Asylum Seekers

It really is quite remarkable. The Home Office. Insane, of course, but remarkable.

People flee Darfur because the government in Khartoum is oppressing them (code for trying to kill them). They get to hte UK and then the Home Office sends them back to Khartoum: straight into the hands of those trying to kill them.

The real issue is not about conditions in the camps, it’s about the beatings and torture. It’s about what happens on the ground in Khartoum when the British handcuffs are taken off the deportee, and when the British escorts hand their prisoner over to the Sudanese security officials.

At the Court of Appeal in April there was no ruling on that: the evidence available at the time was deemed insufficient.

Since then, the evidence that has become available is ample and compelling, most particularly from two named individuals who made the long journey from the horrors of Darfur to Britain, and from Britain, in handcuffs, to Khartoum; and from Khartoum, by escape, to a place of safety where they told their stories . . . “The beatings and questions went on for days . . . I was bleeding everywhere, I was completely soaked in blood. They never let me use a toilet. The room was covered with my faeces and urine.” The beatings began before the British escorts were clear of the airport.

But none of that will be allowed to be introduced into today’s proceedings, because it had not been put before the Court of Appeal (it arrived too late).

Two questions: (1) The Home Office knows that the line it takes (“A person will not be at real risk on return to Khartoum . . . Neither at the airport or subsequently will such a person face a real risk of being targeted for persecutory harm or ill treatment”) is codswallop – so, will it continue to press its case simply on the conditions in the camps?

(2) Gordon Brown earned a lot of points by taking up the Darfuris’ plight at the UN – so, will somebody tell him what his left hand is doing?

How did we get to this place, where we are ruled by the certifiably insane?

Politicians are Extremely Cheap

You can buy them for a fraction of what they get to spend.

Hillary is competing for a job in which she will have significant influence over around $12 trillion in government spending over four years. It\’s amazing that interest groups are willing to donate so little money to help determine who will be the dominant player in allocating this $12 trillion.

Interesting Number

This:

The European Central Bank found that if public spending were as efficient as that of the US, or Japan, the Government could spend 16 per cent less, while still producing the same level of public services.

The ECB isn\’t known as one of those anti-statist organisations now so this isn\’t a railing against the level of spending at all, just its efficiency. 16% is something like £ 80 billion. That\’s the entire VAT take, or the entire National Insurance take. All that money collected, all that deadweight cost to the economy, simply because the people who rule us are inefficient at what they do.

We could, for example, abolish both fuel duty and corporation tax if only they were in fact competent. Not perfectly competent even, just as much so as the Americans (not, to be honest, a very high standard being demanded either).

Markets, Markets…

They can lay low the best laid plans of mice and men:

THE GOVERNMENT has paid out a record £450,000 for an end-of-terrace house in one of the Victorian streets being bulldozed across northern England to make way for modern housing developments.

Why?

Under the government’s so-called Pathfinder scheme – championed by former deputy prime minister John Prescott – it was proposed up to 200,000 Victorian homes in the Midlands and northern England would be bulldozed and replaced with modern housing developments.

When the Pathfinder projects were first conceived, terraced homes could be bought in the north of England for as little as £12,000, but Yvette Cooper, the housing minister, has been caught out by rising property prices.

So in the years that the planners have been bumbling along the market has solved the problem all by itself. What were formerly places not worth renovating are indeed now worth renovating: at a vastly lower price than the costs of demolition and new build.

In the face of such changed facts, do the planners do a Keynes and change their minds? No, certainly not, they\’ve not that intellecual honesty. They carry on, pissing the taxpayers\’ money away with ever greater abandon.

Aren\’t we lucky to be ruled by such towering intellectual giants?