Some things that are bugging me today

Here are some things that are bugging me today. I could write a book’s worth, truth be told but you know that, already.

Regulations: why do certain politicians always brag about having fewer, as though the number of regulations were akin to pimples? And what is this ‘one-in-one-out’ now to be ‘one-in-two-out’ crap? This is such a load of nonsense: to think that less regulation is some automatic panacea for economic growth. We need as much regulation as we need. It should be about creating a framework of rules that are both suitable and adequate for the industry or institution in question and sometimes that means less but it often also means more. It reminds me of the big state/small state argument – it’s a red herring. There are 60+ million people in this country and we are, or should be ‘The State’. The ‘size’ of the state, then, is the size of us. The real question is: what do we want the State’s function to be? Just as we should ask why does something need regulating?

Sanctions and castigation: In a healthy economy, if you must. If there is an insufficient number of well-paid jobs then the Government of the day is obviously not doing theirs very well. This is the worst economic climate in which to initiate such sweeping reforms in Social Security. They are misplaced and spitefully punitive in the present climate and are probably costing the taxpayer more money than if the Coalition had just sucked it up until the umbrella issues had been dealt with. And, as for the wider cost to society: well that goes way beyond monetary value, doesn’t it? It’s not the fault of the poor that they are poor, whether they be retired, disabled, lone parents, young, fully employed, underemployed, or unemployed. But politicians of all party colours know this fine well. If Government did its job properly, any actual hardcore idler would soon reveal themselves as their excuses melted away. Until a government can facilitate an economic climate conducive to good employment, training and income opportunities, politicians should calm the moral heck down with this shameful tough guy competition.

Minimum wage and living wage: These two phrases are treated as separate when they should be seen as one and the same thing. That is: the minimum hourly rate by which the average individual can be expected to live a decently comfortable life, as independent of the State as is possible on a day-to-day level; sufficient to also save a little and make a contribution to the tax pot.

Mansion tax: I just don’t get it and I dislike it, albeit instinctively. Many people will be unfairly penalised and in some cases crippled by such a tax. A person’s home may be their only financial asset and it may bear no relation whatsoever to his or her income. Neither are these the people responsible for the extortionate price rises in the housing market nor the gross profit of landlords. Is the proposal that it be a one-off payment? If so, then for goodness’ sake, just raise the stamp duty. Or is it to be an annual tax and therefore an outright challenge to the concept of personal ownership? Is this not crossing a huge cultural rubicon? I can understand an annual tax on a second home and even more so on a landlord’s chain of properties but this latter group is already subject to other scales and types of charges, isn’t it? If these are insufficient that is another matter.

Regional variation in wage and benefits – I despair of this concept every time it’s raised. It acknowledges that there are disparities in income, health, cost of living, etc, then shrugs its shoulders and does nothing, as though these were the totally natural consequences of geography rather than the result of a continuum of bad governance. I don’t mean a pint of milk being a penny or two more to cover transport; I mean a nurse’s pay, the level of a benefit, the market value of an average house… It is surely ignorance and the lack of political will that think it’s acceptable to regard some regions, year after year, as less valuable and unworthy of investment. But, of course, ‘One Nation’, ‘Big Society’ and ‘all in it together’ were only ever the romantic babbling of shallow politicos.

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