Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cutting the future to pay for the past

So the first round of spending cuts were announced yesterday and it looks like they'll do exactly what many feared they would. With Russell Crowe filling our screens as the latest incarnation of Robin Hood, maybe it's time to see his tax ideas enacted across the globe.

Owen Tudor, a spokesperson from the Robin Hood Tax campaign, put his finger on the issue when he said: “The spending cuts spelled out by George Osborne represent a profound sign of injustice. Those who bear no responsibility for the global recession will have to pay the price, while the financial sector, whose reckless behaviour has largely contributed to the mess which we are in, can continue business as usual.

The banks in the UK have been bailed out to the tune of £850bn and yet it is probably young people in my neighbourhood who will pay the price for their casino activities. Bonuses show no sign of abating but local authority spending had been slashed by more than £1bn. This means that a lot of projects offering front line support to some of our society's most vulnerable young and old people will be axed.

Something feels wrong about that. It's hard to see how a slash and burn approach to public finances fits with all the talk of a big society. The thing about a big society is that communities and churches can rise to the challenge of meeting real social need more efficiently than government can. But they can't do it for nothing. They rely on statutory funding as well as charitable giving to pay for their activities. Perhaps Goldman Sachs executives could make a start by donating their entire bonus pot (a smidgen over $16bn) to projects working with the poor and vulnerable in our communities.

“Cuts will not only affect a significant portion of public sector workers who will lose their jobs or see their pay frozen,' says Tudor, 'but also the general public who will no longer be able to rely on essential public services. One way of avoiding these large-scale cuts would be to introduce a Robin Hood Tax on the financial sector, which would raise at least £20 billion a year in the UK alone. Such a tax would be fair as it would target a sector that played a pivotal role in the economic crisis and that has the financial resources to cope with a levy.”

Robin Hood Tax campaigners say that the revenue raised would help reduce the public deficit, protect public service jobs, tackle poverty at home and abroad, as well as fight climate change. You can find out more about Robin Hood here

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