Dave’s new moral crusade makes one ponder what might have been. He should have become a priest, not a politician.
By now he could be the Archbishop of Canterbury, a capable lad like him. After all, Dave possesses all the necessary qualifications: lukewarm faith, if any; lowly intellect; cavalier attitude to church tradition; support for female bishops; even stronger support for same-sex marriage; lifelong commitment to secular ‘relevance’.
All he’d have to do to make a perfect Archbish would be to don a silly white gown and shuffle around Stonehenge at summer solstice, and surely Dave could do that. Then he’d be in a perfect position to enlarge upon morality, every statement striking home with the power of a wrecking ball. In his present position, however, such jeremiads sound frankly pathetic.
In fact all politicians sound stupid whenever they invoke morals to support their purely pragmatic and usually self-serving goals. In this instance, Dave yearns to squeeze a few extra tax pennies out of us.
It’s not that this would serve any practical purpose, such as reducing the national debt. By now Dave’s advisors must have done the sums and told him this wasn’t going to happen: raising taxes doesn’t automatically mean higher revenues, and in fact it usually means the opposite.
No, Dave wants everyone to pay higher taxes to make it easier for him to court those millions of voters who’ve never worked a day in their lives, nor paid a penny in tax. The relationship is symbiotic: the welfare state over which Dave now presides creates more freeloaders; they in turn vote in spivs who promise more welfare. Job done.
Unfortunately for Dave, some mechanisms still exist that enable both individuals and corporations to pay a little less tax. As far as Dave is concerned, all such loopholes should be closed, even if that would mean cessation of most commercial activity. Ideally, he’d like corporations to pay tax as a proportion of their gross receipts, not net profit.
What could be simpler? Widget Ltd. has sales of £1 billion, pays £210 million in tax, then uses the rest to pay its staff, maintain its premises, renovate, invest, expand and so forth. What, they had to spend £1.2 billion to make £1 billion, and so operated at a loss? Well, that’s their problem, isn’t it?
Alas, Britain still being, technically speaking, a parliamentary democracy, such simplicity would require a show of hands at Westminster. Some of those hands would be irredeemably bloody-minded, either out of principle or, more likely, for purely political reasons.
So never mind the law, feel the morals. By taking advantage of legal loopholes, companies like Starbucks and Amazon have, according to Dave, demonstrated their lack of ‘moral scruples’.
But I don’t wish to steal Dave’s thunder. I think the Demosthenes of Downing Street, his depth of thought only matched by his elegance of style, should be allowed to speak for himself:
“Because some people say to me, ‘Well, it’s all within the law; you’re obeying the law, it’s okay”. Well, actually there are lots of things that are within the law [that] we don’t do because actually we have some moral scruples about them and I think we need this debate about tax too.
“I’m not asking people to pay massive rates of tax. We’ve got a low top rate of income tax now; we’ve got a low rate of corporation tax now; we are a fair tax country. But I think it’s fair then to say to business, you know, we’re playing fair by you; you’ve got to play fair by us.”
Peeling away Dave’s barely literate lingo, we arrive, I think, at a kernel of meaning. It’s true that the moral standards revealed in Exodus and St Matthew are higher than those imposed by secular laws. When the two are at odds, God’s laws should take precedence.
But not being a Biblical scholar of Dave’s obvious attainment I can’t recall where in Scripture it says that companies should pay corporate tax even if they show an operating loss – as Starbucks has done in 14 out of the 15 years it has been active in Britain. Moreover, I suspect that God left such vital details out when speaking either to Moses or to the multitudes.
So what moral law is Dave invoking when threatening to make ‘damn sure’ that foreign companies bringing employment to the UK will be squeezed dry? It has to be ‘I am the State thy Lord, and thou shalt have no Gods before me.’ Somehow this law seems to lack the universal appeal of the older, now obsolete, commandments.
Also, Britain could be regarded as ‘a fair tax country’ only by those who think that Robin Hood was fair when robbing the rich to give to the poor. Bleeding people white is guaranteed to reduce the number of the rich while increasing, at a faster rate, the number of the poor. It’s one of those economic paradoxes, Dave, that upon closer inspection turn out not to be paradoxical at all.
The corporate tax in the UK is 21 percent. Add to this Britain’s prohibitively high rents, transport, fuel and building costs, its minimum wage (about three times higher than in the USA), payroll taxes, insurance, finance cost, the cost of compliance with countless asinine regulations (most of them imposed, at a frightening rate, by the EU), and you’ll see why about 24,000 businesses fail in Britain every year.
On the positive side, the Dave and George economy show is a guarantee that their worst fear, that outside the EU Britain would become like Norway and Switzerland, won’t be realised.
Dave doesn’t think “it’s right to aim for a status like Norway or Switzerland”. I’d choose something like Zimbabwe or Timor to scare children at night. That would be really terrifying. Conversely, becoming like Dave’s two bogeymen would mean we’d have the highest quality of life in the world. No danger of that, not with the likes of Dave in charge.
But not to worry. After the next election Dave will have plenty of time on his hands to produce a treatise on his favourite subject, morality. May I suggest the title? What’s Good for Me Is Good Morally.