Dennis Sewell

Punish the rich, hurt everybody

The Bible tells us that the poor will always be with us, but there is no good reason, and certainly no scriptural authority, to support the widespread belief that the rich will be too.

The Bible tells us that the poor will always be with us, but there is no good reason, and certainly no scriptural authority, to support the widespread belief that the rich will be too.

As capital has become more mobile, slipping across fiscal boundaries at the snap of an enter-key, so too have its owners, who are today only a Gulfstream ride away from somewhere where the climate is more agreeable, the taxman less importuning and the populace less hostile.

In the past, we have indulged ourselves during downturns in the politics of envy, responded with tax and regulation — then watched as the globalised rich took flight. From bankers to the Rolling Stones, those who could work anywhere decided not to stay as ministers made their pips squeak.

The terrible truth we need to acknowledge — a truth that has been shielded from us by high deficits — is that most of us, not just benefit claimants, are part of the dependency culture now. We are staggeringly dependent upon the rich for the maintenance of our expensive public services.

A decent welfare state requires an appropriate balance between carriers and carried. HM Revenue & Customs believes that almost 27 million of our 30 million taxpayers will contribute less than £6,000 per head in income tax this year. Those who have a child in a state school or who make more than passing use of the NHS are likely to be net takers, rather than contributors.

So who’s doing the carrying? The ‘squeezed middle’, as ever, will do their share. But those whom we call ‘the rich’ — the top 1 per cent of earners — will contribute an astonishing 28 per cent of total income tax this year.

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