Thursday, November 29, 2012
The Left will never learn
The Laffer curve has been well-known since the says of Ronald Reagan and even JFK knew of it, though not by that name: Beyond a certain point, higher taxes will DECREASE government revenue
Around two thirds of Britain's highest earners deserted the UK after the 50p top rate of tax was introduced, according to figures.
While some 16,000 workers declared an income in excess of £1million in the 2009/10 tax year to HM Revenue and Customs, that number dropped to just 6,000 after then Prime Minister Gordon Brown brought in the new tax rules.
Tax paid by the top earners fell from £13.4billion before the top tax rate came in to £6.5billion in 2010/11.
It is thought that many of the highest earners moved abroad or reduced their taxable incomes to avoid paying the new levy. Many are said to have avoided paying the new rate either by bringing forward payments or delaying them, by moving earnings abroad or by choosing to work less.
Many now appear to be returning to the UK, with the number of £1million plus earners rising again to 10,000 since Chancellor George Osborne announced that the top tax rate would be reduced to 45p from next April as part of the Budget earlier this year.
But while Conservatives used the figures to claim that Labour's decision to increase the highest rate of tax actually lost Government revenue, Ed Miliband highlighted separate figures to accuse ministers of handing Britain’s rich a tax break worth more than £100,000 yesterday.
Mr Miliband claimed that new figures showed that 8,000 people earning more than £1 million this year would gain an average £107,000 each as a result of George Osborne’s budget decision to cut the top rate to 45p for those earning more than £150,000.
Addressing workers at a sheet metal factory in Stevenage ahead of next week’s autumn statement on the economy, Mr Miliband said they were paying the price for the Government’s decision to stand up for the 'wrong people'. ‘David Cameron and George Osborne believe the only way to persuade millionaires to make work harder is to give them more money.
But they also seem to believe that the only way to make you work harder is to take money away,’ he said. ‘Cut your tax credits, squeeze your living standards, get rid of some of the services on which you rely, and put up VAT. That’s where the money is coming from for the millionaires’ tax cut.’
Mr Miliband faced embarrassment earlier this year after wrongly claiming that all millionaires would receive a £40,000 tax cut.
In fact the tax cut relates to earnings, not wealth - and critics pointed out that the Labour leader has assets worth well over £1 million.
Tory sources hit back strongly at Mr Miliband’s latest claim, suggesting that the introduction of the 50p rate was an ‘ideological move’, which had cost the country billions of pounds.
Tory MP Harriet Baldwin, who uncovered the figures suggesting that the 50p tax rate had seen the number of those claiming to earn more than £1million drop, said: ‘Labour’s ideological tax hike led to a tax cull of millionaires. Far from raising funds, it actually cost the UK £7 billion in lost tax revenue.
‘We have taken tough action to clamp down on tax avoidance and make sure those with the broadest shoulders bear the biggest burden.
'That’s why in every single year of this Government the rich will pay a greater share of our nation’s tax revenues than in any one of the 13 years that Labour were in office.’
An HMRC report into the tax concluded there was ‘a considerable behavioural response to the rate change, including a substantial amount of forestalling (deferring income to avoid the tax).’
Mr Osborne insisted on slashing the 50p rate, arguing that it made Britain uncompetitive and deterred entrepreneurs from coming to the UK.
He had wanted to scrap the top rate entirely for anyone earning more than £150,000 a year, but that move was blocked by the Liberal Democrats.
Many Tories believe the cut will lead to higher tax receipts in future, arguing that the wealthy will have less incentive to avoid the lower rate.
The Lib Dems also blocked his plan to reduce the top tax rate to its previous level of 40p, claiming that it would send out the wrong signal at a time when the less well off were being asked to contribute more to paying off the deficit.
Labour will hold a Parliamentry debate today to criticise the reduction of the top rate with senior coalition figures thrashing out next week's Autumn Statement which sets out Government tax policy for next year.
Call a truce, before centuries of free speech are brought to an end
With MPs eager to take power over the press, the Prime Minister must lead them back from the cliff edge
For years, Britain's politicians have wanted to pass judgment on whether the press has been abusing its freedom, but they have encountered a basic constitutional obstacle: the newspapers are not theirs to control, and haven't been since the Licensing Act lapsed in 1695. In the intervening centuries, our country has developed a raucous, hugely popular and uniquely disrespectful press. Jeremy Paxman tells how he was drawn into the trade after being told that the relationship between a journalist and politician should be that between a dog and lamp post. For generations, the lamp post has put up with this. Now it wants its revenge.
In America, free speech is protected under the first amendment to the constitution. In Britain, our liberties have been protected by convention - but they are being heavily undermined. Once, we would have deplored the Bahraini state's actions and asked what kind of regime imprisons people for what they say, as opposed to what they do. Today, we know the answer - as does the teenager recently arrested by Kent police for posting a picture on Armistice Day of a burning poppy; as does Petra Mills, found guilty of racial abuse for calling her neighbour a "stupid, fat Australian". An American is free to say what he pleases. A Briton is not.
Given that the state is busily arresting bloggers and Twitterers - and even disputatious neighbours - freedom of the press all of a sudden starts to look rather anomalous. And when Lord Justice Leveson produces what is likely to be a 200-page J'accuse against our newspapers next week, dozens of Tory MPs have decided what they want the consequence to be. About 70 - including 42 who signed a letter to the Guardian - are pushing the Government to impose a statutory remedy, and No 10 is now briefing that poor David Cameron may have no option. Unless he regulates the press - or, ahem, "protects" press freedom by defining its parameters - then his MPs will rebel.
It is not quite clear at what stage Conservatives stopped thinking that freedom of speech is important, but we have a useful point of comparison. Five years ago, the then Labour-dominated Culture, Media & Sport Committee made a powerful declaration in a report. "Statutory regulation of the press," it concluded, "is a hallmark of authoritarianism and risks undermining democracy." This was a point of principle: you can't have a little bit of state control, any more than you can be a little bit pregnant. Either the press is free, or it must operate within parameters defined by the state.
Inside Downing Street, there is a suspicion that the press are simply hysterical. "Some journalists say their parents fled the Nazis to get away from the kind of press regulation we're looking at," says one No 10 insider. There is genuine bafflement. The Leveson report will not propose that politicians dictate the terms of debate, but may suggest government "underwrites" some new system of regulation designed to protect victims. And everyone, journalists included, must obey libel and other laws anyway. Where is the problem in adding some more?
Lord Justice Leveson famously assured Michael Gove that he does not "need to be told about the importance of free speech". But when the Education Secretary mocked the judge this week for his "truth-telling" skills, he made a deadly serious point. Throughout the inquiry, the judge seemed not to grasp a very important principle: that for a government to prescribe regulation for the press establishes a hierarchy of power - it puts the politicians in charge. It also creates a tool of political control, which can be ratcheted up later. MPs might speak softly, but they would be carrying a very big stick.
Some won't even wait for Leveson. In the past few weeks, as editor of The Spectator, I have been contacted by politicians wanting a quiet word about journalists who have displeased them. One Labour MP complained about something a writer said about him on Twitter. "Does The Spectator want to be associated with someone like that?" he asked. His implication - that the journalist should face sanction for annoying an MP - was repugnant. A week later, a Tory minister called asking me to take down an online article which criticised him. Did it contain any factual errors? No. But I might like to consider whether it was "over the top".
Telephone calls like these simply didn't happen a year ago. Now, our MPs are warming up for an era in which they feel they will - at long last - be the judges of what the press ought to be doing. Fleet Street ought to be outraged at the very idea. But, depressingly, some journalists say they could quite happily live with this set-up, as long as it hurts their rivals more.
Having spoken to some of the Tory MPs who signed the Guardian letter, I am struck by how little thought they have put into the matter. One fact: abuses such as phone hacking are already illegal, which explains why so many journalists will be standing in the dock over coming months. "But it is very Conservative to stand up to power, and the press is too powerful," one Tory told me. A second fact: the press has never been less powerful, which is partly why it's in this mess. When Margaret Thatcher was elected, three quarters of Britons read a national daily newspaper. That's power. Today, just a third of us do. That's a crisis.
If the press really annoys our MPs, they should just be patient. Should David Cameron win a third term - though a second may seem a stretch - there could be no more than a handful of newspapers left to hurl the brickbats or bouquets. On current trends, neither the Financial Times, the Guardian, the Daily Express or the Independent will last until the end of the decade. Their digital-only rivals will be even harder to regulate, especially those headquartered abroad.
And what about publications only put out on iPad? And given that no one even had an iPad three years ago, how do you regulate whatever comes in five years' time?
As so often, it is the Mayor of London who best puts things in perspective. Picking up a gong at The Spectator's Parliamentarian of the Year awards on Wednesday, Boris Johnson appealed for a ceasefire. The battle started, he said, with The Daily Telegraph's investigation into MPs' expenses and now looks like it may escalate into MPs ending Britain's 317-year tradition of press freedom. Michael Gove, looking on, applauded warmly. The MPs who I saw at the Savoy Hotel bar afterwards said that they, too, wanted a truce - but how to calm down the others? Only one man is capable of doing so. This time, there really is no substitute for prime ministerial leadership.
Swedish toy firm drops gender roles for Xmas
Sweden's largest toy chain said Friday that its toys are "gender neutral" after picturing boys holding baby dolls and banishing girls from the dolls pages of its Christmas catalogue.
"We have produced the catalogues for both BR and Toys R Us in a completely different way this year," Jan Nyberg, director of sales at Top Toy, franchise-holder for US toy chain Toys R Us, told the TT news agency Friday.
"With the new gender thinking, there is nothing that is right or wrong. It's not a boy or a girl thing, it's a toy for children."
The country's advertising watchdog (Reklamombudsmannen - RO) reprimanded the company for gender discrimination three years ago following complaints over outdated gender roles in the 2008 Christmas catalogue, which featured boys dressed as superheroes and girls playing princess.
"For several years, we have found that the gender debate has grown so strong in the Swedish market that we ... have had to adjust," Nyberg said.
A comparison between this year's Toys R Us catalogues in Sweden and Denmark, where Top Toy is also the franchisee, showed that a boy wielding a toy machine gun in the Danish edition had been replaced by a girl in Sweden.
Elsewhere, a girl was Photoshopped out of the "Hello Kitty" page, a girl holding a baby doll was replaced by a boy, and, in sister chain BR's catalogue, a young girl's pink T-shirt was turned light blue.
Top Toy, Sweden's largest toy retailer by number of stores, said it had received "training and guidance" from the Swedish advertising watchdog, which is a self-regulatory agency.
A feminist revolution that cruelly backfired - and why Amsterdam's legal brothels are a brutal lesson for Britain about telling the truth on sex gangs and race
Seven girls laugh together at the supper table. One talks of her sister, a fashion model signed with a famous London agency. Another mentions her married brother, an artist in the north of England. A third - 17 with blonde hair tucked under an Alice band - says she plans to become a beautician on a cruise ship.
At the small house, the blinds are closed so no one can peep in. Two terriers and a bull mastiff bark ferociously if there is a footstep outside the bolted front door.
For these middle-class girls, groomed into sex slavery by street gangs, have been rescued and are living in a safe house a few miles from De Wallen, the notorious red-light area of Holland's capital, Amsterdam.
They are the lucky ones. Thousands of other young Dutch girls, some only 11 or 12 years old, are still in the power of the prowling gangs after a controversial social experiment to legalise brothels.
In a chilling parallel to the scandal sweeping Britain's towns and cities, where a multitude of girls have been lured into sex-for-sale rings run by gangs, the Dutch pimps search out girls at school gates and in cafes, posing as `boyfriends' promising romance, fast car rides and restaurant meals.
The men ply their victims with vodka and drugs. They tell them lies: that they love them and their families don't care for them. Then, the trap set, they rape them with other gang members, often taking photos of the attack to blackmail the girl into submission.
Befuddled, frightened, and too ashamed to tell parents or teachers, the girls are cynically isolated from their old lives and swept into prostitution.
So dangerous are the gangs that the girls at the safe house never venture out alone, and when they have a coffee together in the back garden they are not allowed to talk about their past in case neighbours overhear.
`You never know who has big ears,' says Anita de Wit, 48, the mother of three who set up the safe house last month. It is thought to be the first of its kind in the world. `The gangs can kill, and will try to get these girls back because they earn them money. We do not want them coming here to harm them. '
Anything-goes Amsterdam has long been hailed as a sex mecca. The red-light district attracts thousands of customers, many of them tourists, who walk through alleys where half-naked prostitutes prance in the windows of some 300 brothels illuminated with scarlet bulbs.
A century ago, the brothels were banned to stop the exploitation of women by criminal gangs of Dutch men. But gradually the sex establishments crept back, with the authorities turning a blind eye.
In 2000, after pressure from prostitutes (demanding recognition as sex workers with employment rights) and Holland's liberal intelligentsia (championing the choice of women to do what they wished with their bodies), the brothels were legalised. The working girls got permits, medical care, and now there are 5,000 in the red-light district.
But things went badly wrong. Holland's newly legal sex industry was quickly infiltrated by street-grooming gangs with one target: the under-age girl virgin who can be sold for sex.
The men in the gangs are dubbed - incongruously - `lover boys', because of their distinct modus operandi of making girls fall in love with them before forcing them into prostitution at private flats or houses all over Holland, and in the window brothels. The lover boy phenomenon has appalled Dutch society, not least because of the sheer numbers of girls involved.
As Lodewijk Asscher, 38, a leading politician, says: `Hard-line criminal behaviour is happening behind those windows. Girls are physically abused if they don't work hard enough. It is slavery, which was abolished a long time ago in the Netherlands.'
He has championed new rules in Amsterdam's red-light district from January. Prostitutes will sign a register and the minimum age for sex workers will be raised from 18 to 21, to try to stop girls being forced to work by the gangs.
Holland hopes the rot will be halted. Last year, 242 lover boy crimes were investigated by police, half of them involving the forced prostitution of girls under 18. Campaigner Anita de Wit says this is a fraction - `one per cent' - of the true number. `There are thousands of girls being preyed on by male gangs in Holland,' she says.
Anita visits schools to warn girls exactly what a lover boy looks like, and makes no bones of the fact that most of the gangs are operated by Dutch-born Moroccan and Turkish men.
`I am not politically correct. I am not afraid of being called a racist, which would be untrue. I tell the girls that lover boys are young, dark-skinned and very good looking. They will have lots of money and bling as well as a big car. They will give out cigarettes and vodka. They will tell a girl that she is beautiful.
`The gangs know who to pick out: the girl with the confidence problems, with the glasses, or who looks overweight. They flatter her and seem like the "knight in shining armour". She is drawn to her new boyfriend like a magnet.'
Anita's bluntness is a far cry from the approach in Britain, where political correctness has stopped police and social workers telling girls the same home truths: that in many towns, particularly in the north of England, the handsome men chatting them up at the school gate are very likely to be of Pakistani descent. They, too, ply the girls with alcohol and gifts, pretending to be genuine boyfriends.
This week a report into our own sex gangs - by Sue Berelowitz, Deputy Children's Commissioner for England - was criticised (by the NSPCC, among others) for discounting the evident link between Asian gangs and the sexual exploitation of white and mixed race girls. Berelowitz chose to downplay the race factor, despite official figures showing a worrying percentage of men involved in this type of sex crime are of this heritage.
Mohammed Shafiq, director of the Lancashire-based Ramadhan Foundation, a charity working for ethnic harmony, has just visited Holland to see the work of Anita de Wit and her charity `Say No to Lover Boys Now', which believes that girls should be warned where the danger lies - for their own sakes.
He has complained that the British authorities treat the subject as taboo because of fears of being branded racist. `That is wrong. These gangs of men should be treated as criminals whatever their race,' he says.
In Holland, as in Britain, the abusers are drawn from a tiny minority of their communities - which are appalled by their crimes. But the lover boys seem to see white girls as worthless, to be abused without a second thought.
Anita began her campaign when her own daughter, Angelique, then aged 15, was lured into a sex gang after meeting a 21-year-old Moroccan boy at a coffee bar near her school.
Anita was divorced and running a restaurant in a village outside Amsterdam when it all began. It was eight in the evening and Angelique came into the restaurant with three male friends. She said one of them was her new boyfriend, Mohammed. `He had long curly hair, was very handsome and polite to me,' remembers Anita.
`Angelique asked if she could take the three boys back home for a coffee, and I said yes. I was due back at eleven that night and I thought my other two children - Angelique's younger brother, who was 13, and her older sister - would be there.'
But when Anita got home, she found that every bottle in the drinks cabinet was empty. Angelique was lying in bed drunk. Mohammed and his two pals had disappeared. Although Anita did not know it then, Angelique had been raped by two of the men. The other man had taken her son to play football in the park to get him out of the house. Angelique's older sister was, in fact, staying with friends.
`I was horrified,' says Anita. `Angelique lied, saying she had just had too much to drink. I was annoyed she had been drinking at all. I said I did not want Mohammed at my house ever again. We had a row. But that is the classic technique used by the lover boys - they deliberately engineer a rift between the girl and her parents.'
From then on, Angelique's behaviour changed. She went missing from school. If she did go to class, Mohammed and the lover boys would be waiting to pick her up in a big car with dark windows and false number plates. Her teachers complained to Anita, but Angelique was in love with Mohammed and at war with the teachers and her mother.
She would disappear from home for hours, often coming back only late at night. Sometimes, she would go missing for days, saying she had been with friends.
In fact, Angelique had been sleeping with a host of Moroccan men and earning money for her `boyfriend', Mohammed. `Her mobile phone would ring continuously, all day and through the night, too. She would even take it into the loo with her.
`When I looked at it later, there were violent texts saying: "If you don't come out now, you are for it and your family, too,"' recalls Anita today.
After several months, Anita rang the police for help. Her daughter was taken to the family court where a judge placed her under a curfew at home. She had to report to her mother every two hours. `Angelique would come in say hello, and then run out of the house again,' says Anita. `The judge said she had to leave her mobile phone downstairs at night. But the gang just gave her another one, and the men kept ringing her. They gave her cannabis and she became dependent on them for it.'
The judge, in desperation, sent Angelique to a youth prison where, for 11 months, she used her phone card to keep in touch with Mohammed, but gradually the relationship fizzled out.
When, at last, she was moved to an open centre for troubled youngsters, Anita hoped for the best. But her daughter met another lover boy there. He was called Rashid and was a stooge planted to recruit girls by the gangs. He persuaded her to escape from the centre and together they hitch-hiked to Rotterdam.
There, Angelique found that Rashid was also part of a sex gang. She was put in a seedy house and again made to work as a prostitute.
`She was forced to swallow 14 ecstasy tablets a day and take the date-rape drug, GHB. The gang beat her with a baseball bat if she refused to sleep with the men who were brought to her. They dyed her brown hair with kitchen bleach because they said men would pay more for blondes. She's never told me how many men she had to go with,' says Anita. After six weeks, Angelique escaped. She ran to a shop and called her mother, who brought her home.
Yet - incredibly enough - even then the lover boys came after her. She visited the city centre with a girlfriend and a stranger, a young Moroccan, asked her out for a date. He promised Angelique that he was a proper boyfriend, that he loved her: but he was grooming her, too.
The Moroccan plied her with drugs, and asked her to live with him in a flat near the red-light district. When Angelique, by now 18, agreed, he said he was in debt and put her to work in the De Wallen window brothels.
`I went to see her in the windows,' says Anita. `I had to keep in touch with my daughter. It was only in January of last year that she realised she had been exploited by the gang and returned home at last.'
Angelique's story is terrifying. But, at the safe house, there are equally disturbing tales. There is Eline, who was an 18-year-old virgin when she met a Turkish lover boy at a New Year party at her local youth club.
Eline thought she was in love with him, but within a few weeks the rest of his group had gang-raped her on a patch of waste land, photographed their crime, and were threatening to tell her parents if she did not sleep with other men to earn them money.
I hear about Beatrice, who met her lover boy as she rode her bike to a new school. She was 12 years old. He was leaning against his car outside; with a big gold chain round his neck, he looked like an actor in a rap video.
He was back a few days later, and told her she was pretty. The fourth time they met, she agreed to go for a drive. He took her to a house where he raped her. He told her she was now his prostitute, his property, and that their relationship was perfectly normal.
By 14, Beatrice had slept with dozens of men and, unbeknown to her civil servant parents, was even coerced into acting as an agent for her lover boy's gang by introducing them to other girls.
The girls in the safe house, who are aged between 15 and 25, have now escaped from the horrors of their past. They are learning to live again. And with the new minimum age and register of prostitutes, the winds of change are blowing in Amsterdam's red-light industry.
But Eline shakes her head a little sadly as she says: `The lover boys are always one step ahead. They are making a fortune from these young girls. It is everyone's duty to tell the truth about what is happening - particularly to potential victims.'
It is a sobering lesson not only that political correctness must not prevent people voicing their fears about grooming gangs, but also that Holland's liberal approach to sex has backfired disastrously on many of these damaged victims.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.