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A tax on jobs

And ‘business leaders’

(democracy_grenade reminds me that I had something to say during the election campaign about the tax on jobs, although I said it in a talk rather than on this blog. It went something like this.)

Cameron and Osborne have also had rhetorical help recently in the election campaign from a gang of people whom you might choose to call, depending on your point of view, business leaders, captains of industry, or self-interested plutocrats. Many of them have lined up behind the Conservatives to denounce the proposed one per cent rise in National Insurance contributions as a “tax on jobs”. Well, yes, in a sense, this is a tax on jobs; in the same sense that all taxes can be described as taxes on things we like. VAT is a tax on shopping. Income tax is a tax on work. Fuel duty is a tax on getting to work. And alcohol duty is a tax on relaxing in the pub, trying to forget about your work.

Nonetheless it is obviously useful to the captains of industry, or the self-interested plutocrats, to call a proposed hike in their contributions a “tax on jobs” — even though, as economists have pointed out, the effect of increases in employer “national insurance” contributions is usually that the cost is simply passed on to their employees, so that wages rise less than they otherwise would have done.

  1. 1  Other Alex  May 21, 2010, 3:37 pm 

    I think what I liked best about this one was the sheer number of times it fell out of Cameron’s gob. As if it wasn’t just a case of trying to un-speak something, but a concerted effort to get ‘jobs tax’ into common parlance.

  2. 2  Ricardo  May 21, 2010, 4:06 pm 

    I couldn’t work out why the calling, by leaders from the private sector, for financial burdens to fall on the public sector rather than their own counted as news. If it had been the opposite, that would have been real news.

  3. 3  democracy_grenade  May 21, 2010, 6:51 pm 

    Glad to see this taken care of!

    I think that context was important here, too. The election campaign was one in which talk about economic “regeneration” took centre stage, and the idea that part of this would involve “creating jobs” (a phrase which received a summary treatment on this site, I believe) was either explicit or implicit in much campaigning. The sometimes spoken, but sometimes unspoken, suggestion was that “even though the retention and creation of jobs has never been more important Labour is proposing to introduce a jobs tax.” In short, not only is a NIC hike economically unsound, it suggests a great deal about the irrationality of our opponents.

    And this, I think, ties into vaguer, but still powerful, notions about the way that “the Left” handles economic matters, subordinating reason and sense to crude and punitive political action against the Rich.

  4. 4  democracy_grenade  May 21, 2010, 7:40 pm 

    Oh, P.S., I’m sure that Steven must be having some fun with Cameron and Clegg’s “radical” policy programme. I particularly enjoyed:

    “For example, when you take Conservative plans to strengthen families and encourage social responsibility and add them to the Liberal Democrat passion for protecting our civil liberties and stopping the relentless incursion of the state into the lives of individuals, you create a big society matched by big citizens.”

    There are just no words for this. Even leaving aside the stuff about “strengthen[ing] families” and “social responsibility”, why on Earth would one decide to “add” these policies together? In what sense are, like, tax breaks for married couples and the elimination of I.D. cards complementary proposals? We then get a self-defeating reference to “stopping the relentless incursion of the state into the lives of individuals”, immediately after a gesticulation towards the Conservative Party’s belief in treating people differently based on their preferred living arrangements. And then we get a reference to the Tory flagship of the “Big Society”, combined with an hilariously jaunty description of “big citizens”. But the enlarged society is not composed of these appropriately elephantine citizens, it is just “matched by” them; whatever that means.

    Oh, I dunno, I’m just semantically shrugging at this point. But I do like the phrase “Big Society”. Forty-five years ago, LBJ aimed for a “Great Society”; it’s nice to know that Cameron is reigning in his ambitions and just aiming to make the thing more capacious. But no matter how Big our Society gets, there still won’t be room for any immigrants, obviously.

  5. 5  fmackay  May 21, 2010, 9:41 pm 

    This post reminds me that I had intended to complain to the BBC about one of their correspondents describing (post-election) the proposed NI increase as “the jobs tax”; not “what the Tories call Labour’s job tax”, just “the jobs tax”. So I think Other Alex @1 not only has it right, but the effort was so successful that even people who should have known far, far better were casually(?) using the phrase.

  6. 6  Steven  May 22, 2010, 12:40 am 

    a big society matched by big citizens

    Jesus Christ.

  7. 7  democracy_grenade  May 22, 2010, 1:46 am 

    There’s no such thing as Big Society, only massive individuals and their fucking enormous families.

  8. 8  Roger Migently  May 23, 2010, 5:01 am 

    Love the subtle pun @4 on Campbell’s “reining/reigning”!

  9. 9  democracy_grenade  May 23, 2010, 5:03 am 

    Love the subtle suggestion @8 that Cameron’s gog-eyed vacuity is reminiscent of Alistair Campbell!

  10. 10  Roger Migently  May 23, 2010, 9:52 am 

    Have you seen it? I know I dug myself a hole round here somewhere … If you don’t mind I’ll just quietly crawl into it and pull a ConDem poster over the top and get out of the way …

  11. 11  Freshly Squeezed Cynic  May 24, 2010, 4:31 pm 

    There’s no such thing as Big Society, only massive individuals and their fucking enormous families.

    Maybe he’s just being realistic about the power of government to tackle obesity.

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