The Centre for Policy Studies has calculated that more than half of households get more from the government than they pay in taxes – a new record.
It’s quite clever, really. The more we pay tax and get benefits, the more the government is in control of our lives. You have to navigate the maze of taxes and welfare, because you get into trouble if you don’t pay your tax, and get ripped off if you don’t claim your benefits.
But it’s not all smooth sailing as a result, you’ll be surprised to hear…
“One thing is true of all governments: Their most reliable records are tax records.” So said the character Eric Finch in a film about a pandemic, that turns out to be a virus released by a government, leading to mass lockdowns, curfews and a bit of a dystopian nightmare.
If he was right, we’re in deep trouble. That is because the HMRC cannot get its act together. A string of crises is causing trouble for the tax collectors – well, for the taxpayers who are trying to pay.
It’s an impressive burden on the government after all. Taking our money and spending it too. And they’ve been really struggling with it lately.
Tech outages, endless call waiting times, phone disconnections, inability to get answers and the rest of the mess are all over the news. The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales reckons it takes up to a year for HMRC to respond to postal queries.
Blame the Royal Mail?
MPs are so concerned about their own paycheques that they’re actually noticing the HMRC issues themselves. What a relief it is to have politicians to help us pay our taxes successfully.
Of course, funding politicians’ private lives is not the only thing our taxes go to. Undeterred by their colleagues at the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviour, which apologised for their “unethical” and “totalitarian” use of fear and “mind control” to cajole people into following government mandates during the pandemic, a report by the former Nudge Unit of Westminster suggests adding green taxes to clothes and gadgets to reach net zero.
Having fouled up your energy, food, heating and freedom of movement, they’re coming for your clothing next. No wonder excess deaths are rampaging. The government is taking over the basic necessities of life.
You might think I’m exaggerating, a bit. But consider this from the Telegraph:
Nearly nine in 10 people said it was often too hard to make greener choices because of the expense, inconvenience, or a lack of knowledge about the options, according to BIT’s representative survey of 1,000 people in the UK.
Having made it clear we are unable to afford the greener choices, the government will make the choices more expensive for you. Great.
So we can’t pay our taxes, but must. We can’t afford to go green, but we must. Before I explain what I’m getting at, here is another example…
The government and opposition parties have championed the retrofitting of homes with insulation as a way of dealing with the energy crisis. Ministers have announced insulation retrofits as a leading part of a programme to reduce the energy consumption of buildings and industry by 15% over the next eight years. Labour has said insulating homes should be a “national mission” that could save people £11bn in three years.
In a surprise finding [to the Guardian, anyway], the study into the long-term effect of loft and cavity wall insulation in England and Wales showed that the fall in gas consumption for each household was small, with all energy savings disappearing by the fourth year after it had been fitted.
So the government decreed we must retrofit homes to meet the government’s energy targets. But the energy savings evaporate by the time those targets come due…
Bereft of energy savings, the Daily Mail reports on what households are left with instead:
Insulation was supposed to save us money… but it ruined our homes: Millions face crippling repair costs after botched green upgrades
- Cheap-to-fit spray foam cavity wall insulation can cause damp and mould
- The insulation material can transfer the water across the cavity to the interior
- One expert has estimated that up to two million homes may have problems
- Fears the rush to insulate Britain will cause massive damage to properties
This is still better than the Australian version of the same experience, known as the Pink Batts scandal. The short version is that an economic stimulus programme during the 2008 financial crisis focusing on home insulation caused a bunch of house fires…
No doubt the Keynesians argued that this only added further stimulus to the economy.
The rental and housing crisis is another prime example of what I’m trying to expose.
Governments control the supply of housing via zoning laws. They control rents by controlling the housing supply and the cost of maintaining a house at rentable standards, including green rules.
If more than half of rental homes in the UK do not comply with government standards and landlords are on the hook for making them so, what do you think the effect will be on rents? Especially after the mould, house fires and damp caused by the energy efficiency upgrades the government expects?
The energy crisis itself is another prime example of what I’m getting at, but haven’t yet explained to you.
The government electrified the economy while undermining reliable and stable electricity supply. That’s quite a combo.
The result is that: it can be more expensive to run an electric vehicle than a petrol one; we use electric-powered heat pumps instead of gas boilers just when power bills spike; we had to turn on coal power plants because the renewable energy that was designed to get us off coal power plants is unreliable; and commentator Ross Clarke points out that even energy savings have an awkward sting:
Customers signed up to the [Demand Flexibility Service] scheme can earn up to £6 per kilowatt-hour saved if they agree to turn off their appliances between 5 and 6pm.
It is not hard to spot a slight issue with this offer: the more electricity you use on a normal Monday, the easier it will be for you to cash in today. As with so many green subsidies, it perversely rewards the well-off at the expense of the poor. If you own an 18 bedroom mansion you can easily claim your fee by switching off the lights in the east wing and delaying recharging your Tesla until 7pm. If you normally use only one electric light, there will be no savings for you. And needless to say, the free electricity for some households will ultimately be subsidised through higher bills for everyone else.
All of this describes a vice-like grip on our lives. The underlying point I’m getting at is that the combination of government policy and incompetence is a dangerous one. It creates impossible trade-offs that people can’t choose between.
We must pay taxes, but can’t and wouldn’t know how to do it properly if we could. Nor can we ask the government how to do it properly.
We can’t afford green, but the government is making the things we buy more expensive for us to make green happen. Or they subsidise us into taking on energy solutions, which consistently backfire spectacularly in “surprising” ways, including literal fires.
We don’t have enough energy in the UK, so you need to reduce your usage, but while we send energy to Ireland. I hope it was checked for EU single market standards at the border, just in case the IRA decided to blow up any non-compliant watts. Best of all, “In September 2021, the operators had to freeze exports to the UK to prevent shortages in Ireland,” reports the Telegraph…
Now I have nothing against sending electricity to Ireland. I grew up there for a few years. And an interconnected grid is a good idea too. But you can’t combine a lack of energy with energy interconnectedness applied on a selective basis during a trade war. It’s a dangerous combination, geopolitically speaking.
Government policies are designed to drive us in a particular direction. But if other government policies, or failings, make that direction impossible, dangerous or financially ruinous, then we all fell like a bunch of pinballs being abused for politicians’ entertainment.
The strangest part is that, given the governments’ vast deficits and debts, and the fact that half of households get more than they pay in tax, you’d think we’d be living in utopia by now… if government policies could work at all, and were functionally imposed.
Instead, we have rolling crises. And next, they could be coming after our money itself. What could possibly go wrong?
Editor, Fortune & Freedom