Tag Archives: wealth

Peston’s children

Between the stories of lunatic Islamists on the rampage all across the world and John Noakes going missing in Majorca – unrelated as far as I can tell – a significant news event has snuck quietly between the gaps with virtually no fanfare. A whole country, and a famous one at that, has been banned.

Greece is done, finished, no longer allowed to exist. If I were hilarious I’d make some reference to the Monty Python parrot sketch at this point, but I’m not hilarious. A country that has done a fair amount for the advancement of humanity has been told by a selection of economists that it must now shutter up its tavernas and quit that stupid bloody dancing, because they’re all now to be scattered to the four corners of Europe and their lands shared between Bulgaria, Turkey and, controversially, Chad.

The day they officially run out of cash, which is either yesterday, next weekend, some time in August or a date chosen at random by distracted suits in offices in Washington, heavies will be dispatched to recover debts using whatever menaces are necessary. Old women queueing in incredible heat for hours for tiny pensions will return home to find men with bats removing their furniture in order to send it directly to warehouses in Brussels, Luxembourg, Berlin and elsewhere, where it will be burned as a health hazard with the resulting CO2 emissions blamed on Greece. No more plates will be broken because there will be no plates left to break.

That seems to be the result of the doom-laden reports plastered all over every press outlet because, yes, I was being sarcastic. The news is taking on the story of Greece’s financial woes with the vigour of a teenage boy offered the chance to mount his fit 20-something geography teacher before blaming her for grooming.

There is one single group of people who give a half-hearted toss about the situation in Greece: economic journalists. Their topic, as they themselves must admit, is as exciting as the tea cup ride at Lithuania’s top theme park, Stalin World. Even the Greeks themselves are done with it all, given they’re about to confirm in a referendum that their creditors can come and get it if they think they’re hard enough.

But economic journalists are wet with excitement that their news is the news, and that they get to tell us the most important details of the day rather than that boring ‘Muslim correspondent’ in France banging on about Herve Cornora’s disembodied head in a selfie. Chief among their number is Robert Peston, a man with a voice that sounds like he alternates breaths between nitrous oxide and opium. It’s virtually impossible to understand a single thing the man says as he drawls slowly along 14 words a minute before evidently being told by a producer to get on with it and speeding off on an unlistenable tangent, as thousands stare confusedly at radios with milk and cornflakes dripping from their open mouths.

The jist of Peston’s bonobo-like babbling seems to be that Greece must be blamed for getting itself involved with one of the world’s most despicable mafia-style organisations, known as the IMF. This is a group that helped to create the system in which countries are left to flounder unless they follow a very specific set of rules designed to propagate that system, the system which causes money to flow from poor people to rich people, because that’s how things are now, just deal with it. Take a look at the IMF’s Wikipedia page – their current list of ‘Executive Directors’ names 24 people, and all but two of them have a red link to their name, demonstrating no-one knows a fucking thing about them. The exceptions are Hazem Al Beblawi, a former Prime Minister of Egypt, and Rakesh Mohan, an Indian economist who probably wrote his own page.

While our economic journalists wheeze and whine that Greece are causing the world’s markets all manner of bother with their prevarication, perhaps they might turn an eye to the system that’s caused this. Bankers get slated for causing the calamity that’s affected every country in the world for the last seven years, but bankers didn’t create the system, they just broke it. We live in a world where the idea that the richest countries might let the poorest countries off a wee bit of debt, that they’ve absolutely no need to be repaid, is seen as a bad thing. Do we hear Peston, Hugh Pym, Richard Edgar or whichever scaly fuck Sky have doing their economics reporting explaining why the IMF, World Bank, OECD and the rest have turned the world into one massive market to be exploited by bastards for their own ends?

One of the main problems in Greece is their over-generosity when it comes to society’s chief unwanted burden: old people. Peston’s children will tell you that no country in the EU spends as high a proportion of their funds on pensions. This makes other countries look bad as they allow their old people to freeze and rot having outlived their use to capitalism. These other countries therefore demand Greece reduce their pensions spending, which currently amounts to less than 700 euros a month. That’s below the poverty line. Bad, bad Greece.

Just because economic journalists periodically demand their time in the spotlight doesn’t mean a whole country should pay the penalty. Greece spent when they could, suffered the same crisis not of their making as everyone else, went to the wrong loan sharks to sort it out and are now about to get their fingers broken for their troubles. None of that is fair, and little of it is their fault given the system they have to work within. It can hardly be a surprise that they’ve had enough, just like the rest of us have had enough hearing about it.

People just want to get on with their lives and the majority couldn’t give a shit about markets, currency fluctuations, debt defaulting, GDP or whether Angela Merkel herself is on her way right now to knee them in the balls. The story of Greece’s financial difficulties is meaningless to almost everyone on this planet who simply want to do a job with some purpose, spend their leisure time how they wish, enjoy friends and family and die with the minimum number of regrets.

At least when the repo men come to take away everything Greece owns, having no radios, TVs or houses to listen to them in will spare Greeks having to hear heartless ‘Executive Directors’ chuckling in amazement that there’s no uprising to put a stop to all this, or indeed the simpering economic journalists who make hay while the world cracks and crumbles. Perhaps Greece will be declared bankrupt, debts will be cancelled and they’ll be kicked out of the Eurozone, only to proceed to live on their means with the things they produce from the land within their borders, like normal countries used to do back when the world wasn’t run by wankers.

Maybe they’ll end up showing us how it was meant to be done all along. It’s the only way I can think of we might be able to handle Peston’s ear-splitting vocal somersaults and the pointless prattle of his kin.

The Humanity Tax

I sincerely hope I never have to take out a payday loan. The theory behind them is sound enough – if you need to pay a bill or two before your next pay cheque comes in, go to a company with a name that makes debt sound fun and exciting and they’ll give you what seems like free cash at the time but turns out to cost you so much it makes your eyes water like a kick to the cock.

But being in a position to have to take out such a loan must be horrible. Not being able to afford such luxuries as food and toilet paper cannot be the route to contentment. Handy, then, that the government have just made it harder for people who can’t afford to repay such a loan from getting one. People who can’t afford to eat are now going to find it harder to scrape enough together for a box of eight No Frills fish fingers with breadcrumbs that make you cough up blood.

There are people in the world who are really, really fucking skint, absolutely potless, wearing clothes made almost entirely of boracic lint. Some, no doubt, are living well beyond their means, unable to resist spaffing money they don’t have on whatever shiny new treat the TV and their peers demand they own RIGHT FUCKING NOW. The vast majority of people with little money, though, are not in that boat. They don’t have enough money because a small section of people have decided they need it a lot more. They need their second billion more than you need your second tenner.

You know who they are – ‘the 1%’ as they are popularly termed. There’s one over there driving a yacht bigger than the village your uncle used to enjoy living in peacefully before he froze to death last winter. There’s a woman on the television explaining why she should keep her enormous bonus despite the company she runs having directly contributed to the physical and mental abuse of patients at the care home they manage in a brutally lucrative outsourcing arrangement. Oh look, here comes a man wearing a tie-clip and a very big grin, who last night used a £50 note to light a ciger. He needs another £50 to replace that one a lot more than you need it for a ‘grab bag’ of Cheese & Onion.

People tend to accept that this is the way of things. Politicians piss about with tiny taxes on bankers’ bonuses and ruling out miniscule levies on financial transactions. Well, no more. It’s time to introduce the Humanity Tax.

Here’s the detail: you’re allowed to keep a certain amount of money in the various accounts you have in parts of the world famous for nothing but banking, like Turks & Caicos, wherever the hell that is. Everything above the upper limit goes into a big fund that will be shared among a vast number of charities, many of which will be devoted to such rascally schemes as housing the homeless. If you dip below the maximum amount you’re allowed you can earn your way back up to it, but anything beyond that maximum limit will be taxed at an entirely fair level of 100%.

The rich need new golf clubs sometimes, I understand that. So we’ll set the level at…let’s say £500 million. Honestly, I struggle to see what anyone could possibly hope to do with half a billion pounds but I accept that there are people who want to go to the Moon, and that it probably won’t be free. It’s claimed that if you stop people from earning staggering amounts of money they’ll simply stop trying, and entrepreneurship and innovation will just end. What’s the point in making life better for people if you can’t make yourself filthy rich out of it? I think you could argue in response that £500m is probably enough for a healthy supply of logs for your suitably opulent Chesney’s fireplace.

The second aspect of my Humanity Tax involves inheritance. In short, there won’t be any. When you die, everything you have earned up to that point is put into the same charity pot, along with all your savings and everything you own. I’m not a monster; if you have offspring living in a property you own at the time of your clog-popping they’ll be allowed to keep that property, but they have to pay back the value of that property over a number of years, when they earn enough, like tuition fees. The holiday home in the Seychelles that you visit once a leap year that stays empty the rest of the time? We’re sorry to hear you’re dead, but that’ll be ours thanks.

The argument is no longer ‘Why shouldn’t I be allowed to pass my wealth onto my children?’ but ‘Why the hell should my children be gifted wealth they’ve done nothing to earn?’ Little Rupert shouldn’t have his nest feathered simply because Adrian Fortescue-Smythe bent Samantha the secretary over his leather-topped desk in a rash moment of unprotected madness 14 years ago and she ignored his entreaties to have it dealt with.

If you have a serious argument against these two strands of the Humanity Tax I would very much like to hear it. You may believe that people work hard for their money and it shouldn’t simply be given gratis to workshy scroungers who’ve failed to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. I would counter with the obvious truth that boots that normal people can afford don’t have fucking straps and you need to stop being such a greedy, heartless cunt and accept that you have been allowed to make so much money – more than half a billion, remember – thanks to the help or acquiescence of a great many people along the way. Perhaps the woman who cleans your toilet shouldn’t have to live on tins of beans and sausages while she wipes away your Foie Gras-flecked fecal matter from the underside of the seat.

While I understand that these new rules may come as a shock to Petra and Tamara Ecclestone I honestly think they’ll come to adore their newfound status as cross-eyed angels of benevolence. All those people who regularly make that heinous Forbes list of disgracefully rich bastards will realise that money is not meant to be stockpiled and hoarded, but shared to make the world a less angry place. And when someone rich dies, it’ll become something to be celebrated with fireworks that would put New Year in Sydney to shame.

So not everything has to change.