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Freezing Energy Prices

14 Jul

At the 2013 Labour Party conference, the flagship policy announcement by Ed Miliband was a 20 month freeze on energy prices.

Since then, we have had energy share price crashes, threats of blackouts and early price rises, energy companies saying it will destroy much needed investment in new capacity and so on.  There has been talk of Red Ed – Labour returning to it’s bad old ways.

All of these points need review but they all miss the real point.

We are up to our ears in debt, state handouts are completely out of control, we desperately need to encourage industry, unemployment is far too high especially for the young, we are under threat from terrorists, the NHS is struggling, the EU is a pain in the neck, immigration is at disaster levels, the Human Rights Act is in complete disrepute.

And what is the very best that Ed Miliband can come up with?

Freeze energy bills!

God preserve us from this man as our Prime Minister.

 

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No Representation without Taxation!

13 Jul

A quick visit to our local DSS shows a stream of manifestly unemployable people. Their attitude, haircuts and dirty unkempt clothing would make any employer run a mile. They have just collected their “Benefits”. ( What a dreadful distortion of that word.  It should simply  be called “State Support”).

A huge percentage of people come of the DSS and immediately light up a cigarette. My hard earned taxes are being used to support these leeches and much of it then literally goes up in smoke.

It makes me very cross.

Of course we need some safety net for the unfortunates who lose their job.  But clearly many of these people are manipulating the system. They have no intention of getting work.

Unemployment “Benefit” is given to those who can show that they apply for jobs. That’s all. They are not obliged to present themselves properly so that they are interviewed or indeed succeed in the interview.

It screams out that the feckless can abuse the system.  And all the evidence is that many people do.

But, of course, many people on State Support are not feckless and it is hard to differentiate between the feckless and the unfortunate.  It would be to arbitrary to make judgments to take away their “Benefits”.

Yet, when it comes to an election, the feckless then have the right to vote for the party that promises to perpetuate this scandal!

Now that  is one change I would certainly like.

Those on “Benefits” don’t pay taxes so why should they have the right to decide how the taxes are spent?  It is not a punishment but a statement of fact.  And it could apply to the feckless and the unfortunate alike.

If someone is long term purely dependent on the State they should not have the right to decide who runs the State.

No Representation without Taxation!

(Well, no vote without taxation.)

How to get Economic Growth

17 Feb

The Need for Growth

The UK is beset by economic woes – debt, unemployment, inflation and lack of growth. With economic growth many of these problems would evaporate.  The government says it wants to stimulate growth but it has not thought through how to do it.  So here goes.

Who Pays Tax?

At the heart of my argument is the little understood fact that there are only two groups that pay tax.  The first is you and me, the consumer.  And the second group is overseas buyers of our products.  That’s it.

Let me explain.

As consumers we pay many taxes both directly and indirectly.  Income tax, VAT, Insurance taxes and a myriad of hidden taxes that were only vaguely aware of.  And there is nothing we can do about it. Businesses also pay taxes, but not really because they can recover the taxes directly as with VAT or they can increase their prices so that they can pay the taxes.

The only time taxes really hurt a business is when their prices become prohibitive and nobody buys their products.  If they go out of business then they stop paying taxes!

Of course, businesses work hard to reduce their taxes.  But they do it for cash flow reasons and because, rightly, they don’t like increasing their prices.  It makes them less competitive.

Basically businesses can recover their taxes.  Consumers can’t.

Only consumers pay tax.

In fact, taxing a business is just the government’s way of picking up some revenue along the production chain so that it is hidden in the consumer price and is  not a direct tax on the consumer.

The only other group to pay UX taxes are those who import our goods.  The tax they pay is hidden completely in the higher prices charged by our exporters.  This issue is alleviated in the case of VAT because exports are zero rated.

But for all other business taxes, the taxes are disguised as higher prices. There is nothing wrong with that.  But within this fact is a solution to the problems of economic growth.

From Where does Growth come?

Growth comes from employment.  It comes from you and me doing useful things to increase the wealth of the nation.  It certainly does not come from 8.4% of the population doing nothing and getting so called “Benefits”.  The unemployed.

The scandal is that there are so few vacancies for the unemployed.  The job of government should be to create an environment that nurtures new employment opportunities.  And they are not good at that job.

On a grand scale the Government tries to encourage foreign investment.  This effort does create some employment but it feels very precarious to me.  What happened to all the electronic companies that once invested in Scotland’s Silicon Glen?  Where have the majority of car manufacturers gone?

Entrepreneurs

The best growth must be home grown growth.  The top priority must be to go all out to encourage an entrepreneurial spirit.  That would create self employment and healthy new job opportunities.  Barriers to new business set up should be attacked ruthlessly.

The Government tries to help small businesses by trying to force big banks to lend more to them.  But the banks are commercial organisations and are nervous of the risk.  The Government is therefore giving inducements and threats to big business and not really helping small ones!

What the Government could do

Suppose the Government slashed the tax burden on startup business.  Suppose that there was no Corporation Tax for startups.  Suppose that some income could be drawn from the business tax free or at a very low tax rate.  Suppose that the Employer’s National Insurance contribution was lower.

What would be the result?

The young business would have lower prices for a start.  It would be more competitive and less likely to fail.  It would need less start up finance.  It would be more likely to employ staff.

People do what they get rewarded for.  A huge number of budding entrepreneurs would have a go.

In itself that would create employment.  And some small businesses would grow to be big ones creating products, services and employment in real areas of business where there is a gap in the market.

But wouldn’t this approach give an unfair advantage to the start up against a bigger rival?  Of course.   The important definition would be to say when it is no longer a startup and has to go to the normal tax rates.  I guess that as long as a business is increasing its workforce year by year by some defined rate it should still qualify for the startup benefits.

Germany’s Mittelstand

In Germany, they have a culture of  Mittelstand companies.  They are relatiely small and medium sized organisations, often export-oriented. They are veru innovative.  They make high value manufactured products. They dominate some worldwide niche markets, mostly B2B.  They are typically privately owned.

The Mittelstand companies work closely with universities and researchers and cluster themselves around big manufacturers.  Theyare big users of Germany’s apprentice system which supply a steady flow of qualified workers through 34o odd recognized trades.

Apprentices

None of this UK nonsense that 50% of pupils should go to university, (which I think is just a sneaky way of keeping the young off the unemployment statistics).  In Germany the young are trained to do something useful.

It can’t be that hard.

What is the Wealth of a Country?

16 Feb

Basic Wealth

At a common sense level, if the nation produces enough to feed its population, give them clean water, give them housing, educate them to a good level, protect them both internally and externally and give them adequate medical facilities, then I think we can say that the country is wealthy.

Of course, to deliver the above list, the nation needs a suitable infrastructure.  This infrastructure is largely different networks.  They include road and/or rail, distribution, electricity distribution, gas distribution, water distribution, telecommunications, sewage removal, waste disposal.
Certainly we can say that those nations who lack these capabilities and networks are somewhat impoverished.
Clearly, money is needed to make these things happen. But wealth is not really about money.  It is about what the money produces.  
Intrinsic Wealth
Imagine a totally isolated farming community in a fertile area.  If the population work together, they could produce enough food and housing, extract water from a local (clean) river, protect themselves and give adequate education.  Maybe medicine and some of the more technical networks might be a problem but they could probably be self sufficient in wood energy, distribution, waste and sewage disposal.  And, in principle, they could do it with no money.  Compared to impoverished parts of the third world they would be quite wealthy.
My point is that some basic wealth comes from organisation and natural resources.  And these resources can even be reusable.
Imported Wealth
Our isolated community can increase its wealth by buying in the more technical and complex elements such as telecommunications, gas and electricity.  To pay for these goods our community will have to export something.  It could be raw materials the have extracted, or surplus food they have grown or it could be some product or skill where they have the specialist knowledge to add value.
My main point is that the basic wealth is strong enough to produce a surplus.
Ancient Egypt had huge food surpluses.  So there was enough available workforce to build the pyramids.
So what’s my Point?
In a recent visit to India, it was shocking how much rubbish there was just lying in the streets.  Shopkeepers would just sweep any plastic bags, cups, bottles and bags just a yard or so from their shop front.  Villages were truly filthy.  Yet at the same time there were always loads of men just standing around talking to each other.  Clearly there are surpluses in India or they would not be able to just hang out.
We just felt like giving them all a good shake and telling them to get their ass in gear and clean up.  It could be so easy.  But there is no will or system to organise.  Ridiculous.
To a lesser degree we have the same issue.  In the UK, apparently the unemployment rate is 8.4%.  These unfortunate people are paid so called “Benefits” by the government.  To get these handouts they have to prove to the agency that they are looking for work, even though there may be no vacancies.  They have to show their research and their job application forms.  They are paid to look for work.
They are not creating any wealth.  They are just using up the surplus resources.  Yet there are potholes in the roads, rubbish in the streets, foreigners coming in to pick the fruit in the autumn.  The infrastructure is crumbling.  Gas pipes are rotting away under our streets.  Buildings need repair.
Why can’t we create a list of things that need to be done and pay “Benefits” to people for doing these tasks?
Oh the Trades Unions will complain that it’s a way of reducing wages.  They should be overruled.
Staff
Finding work for the relatively unskilled is a problem.  One relatively straightforward idea might be to give people tax relief when they hire staff.  The relatively unskilled could quickly be trained for domestic work.  People who can afford it would be more likely to employ people.  Unemployment down, surpluses not being wasted.
The criticism is always that domestic work is demeaning.  What a load of tosh.  Being unemployed and unable to find work, that is demeaning.