Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Bankers' bonuses and the 'bedroom tax'

I have heard all sorts of interesting justifications for the size of bankers bonuses, some reasonable, others downright tendentious. But the justification I heard today just about trumps them all; we shouldn't regulate bankers' bonuses because 'they pay for welfare'!

This appears to be the new line, and the Prime Minister used it in today's PMQs; no doubt it will become a mantra and we will hear it repeated. It is the kind of justification we hear often from this government. We mustn't regulate the rich because 1) they will go elsewhere and 2) their taxes pay for welfare. Thus the richer we allow them to become, no matter how obscene and unjustifiable in terms of productivity or effort, the more we have for welfare.

So, the wealthy are allowed to hold us all to ransom with their potential tantrums and threats take their expertise abroad. It is time we called their bluff. The newspapers should have the same attitude to such ransom as they often do to train-drivers when they threaten to strike for more pay; outrage.

How quickly Mr Cameron has changed his tune over bankers bonuses. In 2011 he was calling them 'obscene', now he is prepared to justify them because 'they pay for welfare'. It is as absurd a position as he has adopted about taxing the wealthy. Tax for the wealthy has almost become voluntary; a charitable gesture for which we must be grateful.

Mr Cameron objected vociferously to the use of the term 'bedroom tax'. He got very cross about it. It isn't a tax he shouted in the House of Commons. Well of course he is right; it isn't a tax. But its impact is the same as if it was. I wouldn't call it a tax; it is much more a penalty. It is a 'bedroom penalty'. Whatever it is called it all has the effect of driving more families deeper into poverty, and because it deprives them of household 'income' I would say it is in its effect, well....a tax.

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