Tutition fees, the rich and Labour - red Steve rants.

Thursday, December 9, 2010
My wife was in London yesterday and saw the demonstration. She mentioned that one of the main cries was "tax the rich". Weirdly, the Labour party are failing to cash in on the growing, widespread resentment against big business and the very wealthy.

Tory policies, while being dressed up as "progressive", are often only progressive re. the less well off, not the very rich. Take child benefit. That's cut for families earning over a certain amount. This is "progressive" we're told, but of course it's a way of directing cuts onto the middle classes, not the rich, who will lose the exact same amount whether they are on £42k or £2 or £20 million a year. It's a poll tax on everyone over a certain threshold.

Ditto the fees policy. The poor, for the time being, receive some help, and no one pays the loan back till they earn £21k, so it's "progressive" we are told. But only re. the less well off. The rich will just pay up front, will not accrue huge amounts of interest over decades, and most importantly, will pay the same fee as everyone else (which will be no more than they are currently paying for Lucinda and Henry's private schooling). Again, the middle classes get hit hardest, the rich the least.

The common factor with the poll tax is this: in every case, Tories act to push the costs of running the state downwards on to the majority and protect a small but very rich minority. The difference this time is that this is being dressed up as "progressive".

We are told "there is no alternative" to the current proposals. Well, here's one. Introduce a 1, 2 or 3 percent (whatever is needed) income tax increase for education levied on every graduate earning over a certain amount, with (most importantly) no upper limit or upper amount taken. This would apply to current graduates, so would not be disproportionately loaded onto the next generation leaving the current generation to get away Scot free but new grads saddled with £50k debt each. The pain would be spread fairly across society. Most importantly, it would be genuinely progressive, because the rich would pay the same proportion of their income, i.e. take the same amount of pain.

My guess is the vast majority of people in this country would say that this was genuinely fair, and certainly much fairer than loading lower middle class youngsters with 50k of debt each. I'd quite happily pay the extra tax. But it will never happen. It will certainly never happen under the Tories, because the Tories are bankrolled by the very rich (much like the Republican party is, which has just got its $700 billion tax cuts for the rich forced through in the middle of a financial crisis).

Currently, there are divisions between the middle and lower classes that are being exploited by the tabloids, with the Mail, etc. moaning about the middle classes being hit hardest while 'dole scroungers' and immigrants cash in. This is a "divide and rule" tactic - in fact the middle classes are not being hit harder than the poor, but they are both being hit very, very much harder than are the rich. Yet while middle class anger is focused on dole scroungers and immigrants, the rich will get away with it.

Actually, even the middle classes are beginning to notice the unfairness. It was middle class sixth formers, among others, who were carrying placards saying "tax the rich".

So I think Labour spin doctors should be encouraging and exploiting a different, rather more warranted, "us and them" attitude. With multi-millionaire old Etonians and Bullingdon club members destroying public services but making sure their rich friends and backers, e.g. bankers, etc. don't have to pay any more, Labour really should be making hay. It is indeed a "class war", a war that they, the Tory party, are clandestinely waging on the vast majority of us on behalf of the rich.

P.S. this is an observation about "divide and rule" strategy. I realize that the very rich constitute such a small percentage of the population that increasing the amount they pay won't have that much of an impact on the deficit. But that's irrelevant. The Tories are terrified of the public waking up to the fact that they are bankrolled by and always act in the interests of big business and the rich, and try to drown out the suggestion by loudly shouting "politics of envy", "class war", etc. the moment it crops up. They encourage us to think we should "move beyond" that old "us and them" thinking - they want us to think we are all in it together now in a "Big Society". If I were a Labour spinner, I'd be thinking now's the time to bring back class war in bucket-fulls. Just pick the right class.

There's a great deal of both working and middle class grass roots feeling about big business and the very wealthy getting away with not paying their fair share - as demonstrated by the growing demos outside Top Shop and other shops which happily trade here, yet won't pay tax here.

By getting more radical, Labour could really tap into that grass roots movement. They could present clear education funding alternatives such as the one outlined above, for example.

There are alternatives to loading tomorrow's teachers and nurses with £50k of debt each at the start of their career on which the interest grows each day.

Remember, this entire mess was caused by the greed and stupidity of certain very rich people - bankers (now back on massive bonuses, of course). Who pays for the financial carnage they caused? Not them. Your kids and mine - each of whom has just been told, "Here's a bill for £50,000. Now pay up, or forget about going to university."