Taxation: People Like Us

In his pursuit of an more ethical form of economics, the advice I’ll always associate with a deceased colleague is this.

“Lift the rock and shine a flashlight, the insects always scatter”

Channel 4 did that pretty well last night with their investigation into  HMRC,  the UK ‘taxman’.

Staggeringly, the chair of the HMRC ethics committee sits on the board of an offshore company.  WTF? was the spontaneous reaction.  To illustrate how much harm this does, I offer the example of a country already in ruins.

It is Ukraine, where our work spanning the last 8 years has focussed on poverty eradication and childcare reform.

Here in a period of just two years, more than 53 billion dollars has been offshored in the two years since the current government took power.   This is a country where 9 billion dollars was spent on Euro 2012, while proposals to create homes for all children, at a fraction of this cost, was dismissed.

It’s a country where those with most wealth, their moguls, are described as Ukraine’s Scrooges.  One of them hosts the philanthropic roundtable at Davos, yet spends more on his birthday party than on the needy.

Here in the UK, I’ve heard those who come to the defence of Jimmy  Carr and his like, suggesting that his work brings in a lot of money and creates employment for others.  This however is true of any business. Others argue that they too contribute more than they take out.

People like us, however, those fortunate enough to be salaried have no such option to reduce their contribution.

Becoming ill, with a blood cell cancer, a couple of years ago , brought home to me how much of our social fabric depends on people like us, who one day might find themselves in a similar position, requiring treatment which costs by far, more than any past contribution.

After my colleague Terry ended his fast for economic rights in the US, he followed up with his senator John Edwards to with him well in the forthcoming presidential election and draw his attention to the disparity between debt and taxation.

Terry one of 50 million Americans without health insurance would no doubt have seen ObamaCare as progress. He’d died unable to afford treatment for his own chronic illness.

What people like us seem to understand, is that investing more that we withdraw is an act of enlightened self interest.  For example, it can be in nobody’s interest that an HIV epidemic rages among Ukraine’s street children. Geographic boundaries and conspicuous wealth offer no defence. He once wrote:

‘Growing numbers of people are coming to understand that “them” might equal “me.” Call it compassion, or call it enlightened and increasingly impassioned self-interest. Either way, we are all in this together, and we will each have to decide for ourselves what it means to ignore someone to death, or not.’




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