Charities seek bank bonus tax to ease cutsJesus Christ, where to start?
Bank bonuses should be taxed and the money given directly to local charities to help prevent a 'tsunami' of cuts in services for the vulnerable and sick, charity chiefs say today.
Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, who represents 2,000 charity leaders in Britain, warns that cuts to local government grants this year could force thousands of charities to close or cut services. He is now calling for a meeting with the Chancellor to urge him to levy an extra tax on bankers' bonuses, which are likely to total more than £7 billion this month.
For one, the naked shroud-waving is so obvious that it must be starting to become ineffective by now. The "vulnerable and sick" are second only to the "cheeldren" in the lexicon of guilt, by which people with a direct and financial interest try to coerce the rest of us into funding their pensions.
And of course by appealing to take money from the greedy bankers, he is attempting to tap into the general distaste we all feel for people who have (with Gordon Brown's connivance and approval) screwed up the economy and appear to be profiting from their misdeeds. It's a separate issue, but for me the mistake was in bailing them out in the first place. If they get their commercial gambles (because that is what they were) wrong, then they should pay the price in bankruptcies and unemployment as any other business would, not get a reward from the Government of other people's money because they are 'too big to fail'. But once these arrangements have been made, then it is no business of any government to interfere with the remuneration of employees. It's the same principle as the windfall taxes so beloved of socialist governments - if someone has something extra, the government should automatically get a share, by retrospective legislation if need be. Diving in and appropriating part of the bankers' bonuses would be morally wrong, even if it were popular.
But the main objection comes from the notion of a 'charity', which has been so perverted from its original meaning as to be meaningless. I've had a go at this in a previous post, and I will say it again. Charity has to be voluntary. If I see someone in need, and I choose to give them something that is mine, that's charity. If someone coerces me into giving something to someone, that's not charity. The parable of the Good Samaritan has echoed through the ages because he volunteered to help the injured traveller of his own free will. If a gang had grabbed him, rifled through his pockets, and then given the cash to the traveller, we wouldn't hold the Samaritan up as an example of goodwill, but as a victim of robbers.
Any organisation, however good and pure its motives, which accepts money from the government cannot call itself a charity. Governments do not have money - only what they extract from their citizens under the threat of imprisonment. As a taxpayer, I get no choice in which charities I support, because the government takes my money and makes the decision for me. That isn't charity. It might be sensible government, it might fulfil laudable aims, but it isn't charity. It's redistribution.
For such a 'charity' to then approach the government of the day to suggest whom they might mug, and by how much, in order to fill their coffers and protect them from the effects of the recession is gold-plated, award-winning, exhibition chutzpah*.
As a schoolteacher, I observed over many years a very unpleasant side of human nature. Parents, with very few exceptions, wanted school uniform and rigid school rules, and wanted them enforced strictly. Apart from when it applied to their own offspring, when suddenly the school was being authoritarian and unreasonable. It seems that everyone accepts the need for cuts if we are to deal with the deficit, and that the cuts can be as tough as Osborne likes - as long as it doesn't apply to me.
The only charities I will voluntarily give money to are ones that accept no government funding. The RNLI is a shining example. The rest I can ignore, as I fund them anyway, whether I like it or not. And 'Sir' Stephen Bubb can take a hike.
*Chutzpah: Yiddish for extreme cheek. Example (from Leo Rosten's The jOYs of Yiddish): a man who murders both his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he in a poor orphan.