I’ve had an interesting couple of discussions recently, one via Twitter with a miner’s son from Yorkshire and one with an actual, bona fide hedge fund manager at my kitchen table in Gloucestershire.
Two people, you would imagine, from very opposite ends of a socio-economic spectrum, and yet on one topic they were in total agreement.
I posted a rather immature tweet in response to one of the latest Tory party tax-break-please-vote-for-us-for-God’s-sake proposals.
So happy Cameron has saved my massive family legacy from tax… oh wait, I haven’t got one. Oh right, it’s for really rich people. Get it.
Silly and reactionary, but some people found it amusing.
Not the miner’s son and hedge fund manager, they argued that their main aim was to make sure their children were as wealthy as possible after their passing.
As lovely Dave Cameron said, “That wish to pass something on is about the most basic, human and natural instinct there is.”
Indeed, it seems almost churlish to disagree, what finer and higher motive could there be, it’s human and natural.
Well yes, if you just look at the world from the point of view of your immediate family and you own a house that’s worth a million quid or more and you utterly ignore the rest of the society you live in.
If you live in the South East and have a well-paid job it’s quite likely you do own a house worth a million or more quid. Okay, not the majority of the country, but certainly a lot of voters who live in the South East.
But away from party politics, the result of this change in tax law would also mean there is less income for the government and to be fair, they are not going to stop tax breaks to their mates in the extraction industry or big pharmaceutical companies or the banks, or Trident. There, I’ve said it. £100 billion over the next 30 years. Great investment, go team Trident.
No, they are going to get it by cutting benefits and services to poor and disabled people, people who live up north, out west or deep south who’s houses are worth nowhere near a million quid.
So, they are adjusting things to make the minority of rich people even richer. That’s their job.
Okay, you can swear at me for being a ridiculous old lefty, head in the clouds, not dealing with the real world, but strangely I do have a bit of support from a mad bunch of lefties called the Institute for Fiscal Studies, (the IFS was founded by a conservative MP, Will Hopper back in the 1960’s.)
On hearing this proposal they said; “It is rather odd to give this special treatment to housing given that owner-occupied housing is already extremely tax privileged. This will only increase the bias we have towards putting your money in a house, to inflating potentially the value of housing, without dealing with the lack of housing, which is driving up the value of private residences.”
Even more unfortunately for the government, a leaked Treasury memo stated the changes would “most likely benefit high income and wealthier households”.
It is a profound moral and ethical problem, as members of a society that is much larger than our immediate family, do we just build our own castle and let everything outside those stout walls go to rack and ruin, or do we work together, collectively, to hopefully build a better and fairer society.
That’s where the fault line is. It’s all about me and mine, or it’s all about all of us.
My attitude could be seen as equally selfish. I don’t give a tuppeny fart what happens to my money after I’m dead, I can’t do anything with it.
I have two children who I love very dearly but having grown up with people who were set to inherit substantial amounts from their parents I’m in a quandary.
If I die and they get very little I don’t think that’s going to worry me. I would be very anxious to leave them with debts to clear up but hopefully that won’t happen.
But I know from long-term observation that it’s not always a great help for people to inherit large sums. If anything it often hindered and hobbled their ambition, their drive and focus. It didn’t really matter what they did because ‘when dad dies, I’ll get a shit ton of money.’
I am hoping my children will find a way to support themselves and anything they inherit is just an added benefit. I don’t want them to rely on it and wait around for me to cark it so they can go on a spending binge.
Anyway, as I have often told them, I intend to spend every last penny before I shuffle off.
‘You are so mean dad, I hate you, I’m adopted.’ Was the response from both of them.
Oh, the joy they bring.