Tuesday, November 19, 2013
We should be humbly thanking the super-rich, not bashing them
As well as creating jobs and giving to charity, the wealthy should be hailed as Tax Heroes
By Boris Johnson
The great thing about being Mayor of London is you get to meet all sorts. It is my duty to stick up for every put-upon minority in the city – from the homeless to Irish travellers to ex-gang members to disgraced former MPs. After five years of slog, I have a fair idea where everyone is coming from.
But there is one minority that I still behold with a benign bewilderment, and that is the very, very rich. I mean people who have so much money they can fly by private jet, and who have gin palaces moored in Puerto Banus, and who give their kids McLaren supercars for their 18th birthdays and scour the pages of the FT’s “How to Spend It” magazine for jewel-encrusted Cartier collars for their dogs.
I am thinking of the type of people who never wear the same shirt twice, even though they shop in Jermyn Street, and who have other people almost everywhere to do their bidding: people to drive their cars and people to pick up their socks and people to rub their temples with eau de cologne and people to bid for the Munch etching at Christie’s.
Please don’t get me wrong. I neither resent nor disapprove of such zillionaires; quite the reverse. I just wonder, a bit, what it is like to be so stonkingly rich, and I wonder – as the rest of us have wondered down the ages – whether you can really expect to be any happier for having so much dosh.
I suspect that the answer, as Solon pointed out to Croesus, is not really, frankly; or no happier than the man with just enough to live on. If that is the case, and it really is true that having stupendous sums of money is very far from the same as being happy, then surely we should stop bashing the rich.
On the contrary, the latest data suggest that we should be offering them humble and hearty thanks. It is through their restless concupiscent energy and sheer wealth-creating dynamism that we pay for an ever-growing proportion of public services. The top one per cent of earners now pay 29.8 per cent of all the income tax and National Insurance received by the Treasury. In 1979 – when Labour had a top marginal rate of 83 per cent tax after Denis Healey had earlier vowed to squeeze the rich until the pips squeaked – the top one per cent paid only 11 per cent of income tax. Now, the top 0.1 per cent – about 29,000 people – pay an amazing 14.1 per cent of all taxes.
Nor, of course, is that the end of their contribution to the wider good. These types of people are always the first target of the charity fund-raisers, whether they are looking for a new church roof or a children’s cancer ward. These are the people who put bread on the tables of families who – if the rich didn’t invest in supercars and employ eau de cologne-dabbers – might otherwise find themselves without a breadwinner. And yet they are brow-beaten and bullied and threatened with new taxes, by everyone from the Archbishop of Canterbury to Nick Clegg.
The rich are resented, not so much for being rich, but for getting ever richer than the middle classes – and the trouble is that the gap is growing the whole time, and especially has done over the past 20 years. It is hard to say exactly why this is, but I will hazard a guess. Of all the self-made super-rich tycoons I have met, most belong to the following three fairly exclusive categories of human being:
(1) They tend to be well above average, if not outstanding, in their powers of mathematical, scientific or at least logical reasoning. (2) They have a great deal of energy, confidence, risk-taking instinct and a desire to make money. (3) They have had the good fortune – by luck or birth – to be able to exploit these talents.
So we are talking about the intersecting set in what are already three small-ish sets of people. It is easy to see how, in an ever more efficient and globalised economy, they are able to amass ever greater fortunes.
The answer is surely not to try to stop them or curb them or punish them – but to widen those intersecting circles that they inhabit. There are kids everywhere who have a natural, if undiscovered, flair for mathematics and the mental arithmetic that business needs. They just don’t have the education to bring out that talent – which is why Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is so right to be conducting his revolution in schools.
There are loads of kids with the chutzpah to be kings of the deal, and there are plenty of businesses that could be the billion-pound companies of the future but are currently being held back – either by the weediness of the venture capital industry in this country, or else by something as simple as excessive business rates – the single biggest issue that is raised with me by London businesses.
There is no point in wasting any more moral or mental energy in being jealous of the very rich. They are no happier than anyone else; they just have more money. We shouldn’t bother ourselves about why they want all this money, or why it is nicer to have a bath with gold taps. How does it hurt me, with my 20-year-old Toyota, if somebody else has a swish Mercedes? We both get stuck in the same traffic.
We should be helping all those who can to join the ranks of the super-rich, and we should stop any bashing or moaning or preaching or bitching and simply give thanks for the prodigious sums of money that they are contributing to the tax revenues of this country, and that enable us to look after our sick and our elderly and to build roads, railways and schools.
Indeed, it is possible, as the American economist Art Laffer pointed out, that they might contribute even more if we cut their rates of tax; but it is time we recognised the heroic contribution they already make. In fact, we should stop publishing rich lists in favour of an annual list of the top 100 Tax Heroes, with automatic knighthoods for the top 10.
Why dads matter
IT may seem a little creepy but the old adage holds true: a father should be his son's first hero and his daughter's first love. In fact, the relationship with her father is the most important of her life, according to the experts. The connection with a mother's womb is clear and enduring while the father's influence is more abstract and fragile, yet crucial.
For men, playing the hero comes naturally because a father was once a boy, but the relationship with a daughter is less straightforward. Men live their whole lives never grasping the infinite mysteries of women yet here we are responsible for creating the attitudes of our daughters.
This is a cause of alarm in men, expressed mainly through intimations of hostility and violence towards young men who show interest in their daughters. But put away that shotgun, because the terrified boy standing on the doorstep will be nothing more than an avatar of yourself.
A man's best and worst traits will be represented in his daughter's taste in men. It seems unfair the unwitting male can have such a lasting, even generational, effect on his daughter. I admit, as the father of a 17-year-old girl, to no little angst on the topic myself.
Counselling psychologist Annie Gurton says women receive a powerful boost to their lifelong self-esteem from their fathers.
"Women whose fathers have told them that they love them, that they are beautiful and wonderful, will have stronger, more robust self-esteem than those whose fathers did not, or criticised them," says Gurton.
"For most fathers, their daughters are the apple of their eye and it's easy to do this.
"I quickly know which clients had fathers who were mean-spirited, critical or abusive for they are the ones who value themselves lowly."
There's a tendency in men to over-complicate the issue, but it all comes back to love, says Gurton.
"My main message is that women whose fathers treated them badly will seek men who behave in the same way, for that behaviour is what they recognise as love," says Gurton, who acknowledges that this fate won't befall all those who had poor paternal influence. Many overcome this setback by seeking other positive male role models such as uncles or stepfathers, or by learning how to recalibrate their taste in men once they are adults.
A research project at New Jersey's Rider University examined the role of the father-daughter bond in the development of positive romantic relationships.
Researchers studied 78 teens and young adults (average age 19), who reported on the quality of their relationship with their fathers and boyfriends.
Girls with good communication with their fathers also had significantly better communication with their boyfriends compared with girls who said their communication with their fathers was poor. A sense of trust with fathers led daughters to better levels of trust with boyfriends.
It was posited by the researchers that these girls learn to create secure attachments with their dads, which enable them to create relationships based on trust and clear communication.
Some researchers argue this also reflects the individual characteristics of the girls themselves and is not solely linked to the father-daughter bond. But if your daughter turns up with an outlaw biker with a face tattoo, you can rest assured that you had something to do with it. A hell-brew of individual characteristics and child-parent relationships has driven her to this.
My teenage daughter is going through a phase of claiming that I am simply the man who pays her gym membership, a life support system for a wallet. If only our relationship were so simple. I took her out to the movies the other night and I can strongly recommend Tom Hanks's star turn in Captain Phillips. This, my daughter would say, is evidence that I am a bad parent who has scarred her for life. Halfway through the film, the low-fat, high-protein, chia-seed and quinoa-infused meal she had scoffed began a violent disagreement with her. She demanded to go home but with Hanks in the grip of Somali pirates on the high seas there was no turning back for me.
I suggested it was perhaps sea sickness from watching Hanks and the pirates bobbing around in a lifeboat for most of the movie. Unamused, she stalked off to the bathroom and did not return. She was waiting at the back of the cinema for me at the end with a face like thunder. She could have died, she told me stonily. My suggestion that we could pop into the hospital on the way home for tests did not lighten her mood.
If that was a test, I failed. I realise now that these innocent outings are, in fact, proto-dates that will set the pattern of her life. When her future husband proves to be an unreliable, uncaring cad I'm going to blame Tom Hanks. Other dads also complain of being played like a Stradivarius by their daughters. My mate Jez Privitelli says nothing works on his daughters, ages 12 and seven.
"I confiscate iPhones only to give them back the next day," he says. "I put chores in place for them to do, only to end up doing them myself, and I say no regularly - which lasts for all of 20 minutes until the next time they ask. No matter how much I try to dig in I can't resist them. My wife thinks I'm too soft."
My advice to Jez is simply to give in. If the experts are right, his daughters' future boyfriends will be generous, forgiving and merciful, like him. These are not battles a father can or should win. Don't forget a daughter's tears will always trump reason and principle.
Another mate, Lyle Turner, confesses he has no idea. "I can't do or say anything that doesn't offend my daughters, aged nearly 14 and 18," he says.
But the late English poet Philip Larkin should have the last word: They f . . k you up, your Mum and Dad. / They may not mean to but they do. / They fill you with the faults they had / And add some extra, just for you.
Black antisemitism in NYC
The NYPD is looking into a series of attacks on Jews in Brooklyn. At least one attack was caught on surveillance tape.
Some of the assaults may be part of a disturbing game, CBS 2’s John Slattery reported on Tuesday.
Police have yet to connect all the incidents, but released surveillance video that shows one group attacking a Jewish man.
The video shows from a few different angles the victim, a man in a hooded jacket, getting punched.
One man who didn’t want to be identified told Slattery his 12-year-old son was attacked in the same way.
“It’s clearly anti-Semitism,” the man said.
The 64-year-old said his son, who was dressed in traditional Jewish clothing, was attacked last Wednesday afternoon on President Street.
“One, full strength with his fist, whacked him, punched him, on the side of the face, full force,” the man said.
The child went to the ground as he heard the group of five to six teens yell out.
“A hysterical, happy shout, ‘We got him,’” the man said.
Video also shows a 19-year-old Jewish man being sucker-punched.
“He was actually holding an expensive camera. And they punched him and nothing was stolen,” Rabbi Yaacov Behrman said.
Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind said the attacks are not muggings. It’s not about money. He said the victims are being attacked because they are Jews.
Behrman said he believes the assaults are part of a disturbing game by some African-American teens.
“And they’re playing a game: ‘knockout.’ ‘Knock out the Jew,’ maybe. And they’re going around the neighborhood punching Jews,” Behrman said.
He said that in the last two months there have been assaults and three incidents of graffiti, incidents the police have confirmed, Slattery reported.
“I think there have been a total of eight since September, middle of September,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said, referring to the total number of incidents.
The attacks and vandalism are being investigated by the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force. The hope is that the suspects in the pictures will be identified.
London’s Islamic Vigilantes Plead Guilty
A band of Islamic vigilantes has admitted to roaming the streets of East London, confronting and threatening to kill non-believers in an effort to enforce Sharia law. Three men have pleaded guilty to related charges after self-proclaimed "Muslim Patrols" attacked, intimidated and threatened to stab members of the public in an area of London that hosted the 2012 Olympic Games.
Muslim convert Jamal Uddin (aka Jordan Horner) stands next to Anjem Choudary Muslims Against Crusaders march through Waltham Forest, East London, Britain. (London News Pictures/Rex)
Ricardo McFarlane, 26, a Muslim convert, pleaded guilty to affray-fighting in a public place-on Monday, while a 23-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, entered a guilty plea for two public order offenses. They refused instructions to stand in court as the indictments were read out. Last month, Jordan Horner, a red-headed, white 19-year-old, pleaded guilty to two charges of assault and the use of threatening words and behavior.
McFarlane and Horner admitted taking part in an attack on January 6 this year when a group of five men were approached at around 4 am while enjoying a night out in the East End of London. They had cans of beer snatched from their hands and poured out. A previous hearing was told that Horner said: "Why are you poisoning your body? It is against Islam. This is Muslim Patrol. Kill the non-believers."
He then allegedly told someone to "go get the shank [knife]," according to prosecutors. Horner has admitted to throwing punches at the men as they attempted to flee the scene.
The 23-year-old man admitted to taking part in two further vigilante confrontations along with Horner. One incident took place on December 19 last year while Claire Coyle and Robert Gray were threatened on January 13 this year.
East London's "Muslim Patrols" first came to attention when a a series of videos were posted on YouTube including one called The Truth About Saturday Night, in which a group of men threatened and berated members of the public for being gay, dressing inappropriately and drinking alcohol. Hooded men derided women as "naked animals with no self-respect;" claimed alcohol was evil; and said to one man "you're walking through a Muslim area dressed like a fag, mate."
An American student who was drinking alcohol in public was confronted and beaten by a gang of Asian men in a nearby area this summer, although there is no suggestion that the attack was carried out by the men who pleaded guilty in this case.
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 and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.