Friday, 13 March 2015

An Alternative to Red Nose Day...?

Now, I'll be honest with you - I'm not a big fan of Red Nose Day. In fact, I'm not really much of a fan of any of these TV charity events (Children in Need included).
Well, whilst I agree entirely with the idea of raising money for worthwhile causes (though wouldn't it be much better if we all agreed to add 1p to our income tax so that the burden of helping out good causes didn't fall just to the generous and conscientious?) I find it mildly repugnant that so many highly paid 'celebrities' from the entertainment world have the nerve to come on telly and implore everyone else to give as much as they can when, between them, they have enough money squirrelled away in HSBC Swiss bank accounts to solve many of the world's woes in a single blow.

So, that got me thinking...and that thinking eventually led to me coming up with this:
Wealth Re-Distribution Day
Yeah, I know, it'll need a catchier title...something like Blue Underpants Day when people can walk around town wearing blue underpants on the outside a la Superman...
Anyway, the name's not really important at the more. It's more about the concept, and that concept is as follows.
To start with, it's voluntary. To take part, you calculate how much money came into your household in the previous year (for those not working, that's how much benefits in total you received - for those working, that's how much you had left after the taxman took his portion).
You divide that number by 365, to give you a day's worth of money.
Your name and your day's worth of money joins everyone else's on a massive list, biggest amount at the top, the smallest at the bottom. Then, as if by magic, the list of amounts is reversed so that the biggest amount (that'll probably be Wayne Rooney, if he decides to play) goes to the person at the bottom of the list, the second-highest to the second lowest, and so on.
Minus 10% - that's the amount that we'll set aside from every person's amount so that good causes overseas can be supported.

Of course, there'll have to be a bit more detail in the rules and, because there'll undoubtedly be some people out there who'll look to abuse the idea and take advantage of it, there'll also need to be some kind of oversight (i.e. you'll have to agree to the possibility of having your calculation (and therefore your income) audited by KPMG or PWC, who'll naturally offer their services for free, because it's all for a good cause!)
But the underlying principle is, I believe, sound.
Just a day's worth of money,

Now, just for illustration purposes.
Wayne Rooney earns £350,000 a week (allegedly). If we assume he's paying his taxes (and doesn't squirrel his money away in a HSBC Swiss bank account), then he'll be bringing home around £200,000 a week or, to put it another way, £28,571 a day.
Imagine if that day's worth of Wayne's wealth (minus 10%) was re-distributed to a family in Swatham who live in a small two-up, two-down and can't afford to pay their heating bills - imagine what they could do with it!
Would Wayne really miss it? Somehow I doubt it.

Okay, so I know what you're thinking. There's a potential downside to this idea. What merit is there in a system which is likely to result in some of the feckless wasters of our society getting a bumper payday which they can then go out and blow on new shell-suits and a 95" flat-screen TV? Well, I'm not sure they'll get such bumper paydays - after all, if all the rumours are true about how much people on benefit are given, then they may end up in the top-half of the table, giving some of their 'hard-earned' benefits to a family where the two bread-winners are holding down five minimum-wage jobs between them.
But that might be a risk we have to take in order to get the thing working - it'll never be absolutely perfect.

So, what do you think?
Are you willing to sign up to the idea of putting forward one day of your income to see whether you'll be a giver or a receiver in Andy's Great Wealth Re-Distribution campaign?

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Artist Rising

Check out this image (and others) at Artist Rising
...or not - the choice is yours!

Thursday, 5 March 2015

So how much should an MP be paid?

I'm going to court controversy again...I know, it's starting to become a bit of a habit, but what can you do when you have so many thoughts and opinions billowing around inside your head?

Today, the subject is MPs.
(cue collective groan)
MPs have been getting a lot of grief recently...most of which is thoroughly deserved (the expenses scandal, for example). But what I'd like to focus on is the issue, brought to the fore recently by Sir Malcolm Rifkind's ill-advised comments and those which came after, of how much an MP should be paid and whether it is appropriate for them to earn money outside of being an MP.

Well, in my humble opinion, whether there is actually a need to answer the second question depends on what the answer is to the first.
So let's start at the beginning.
An MPs basic salary is, so we're told, £67,500 per annum - now this doesn't include all that money they can claim (legally or illegally) as expenses, and I'm not going to get into that here.
On the face of it, £67,500 per annum looks like a pretty tidy sum - it's a lot more than the average salary in the UK (about £25,000), though it's a lot less than a lot of people make - bankers, for example. Nonetheless, it's a pretty good gig if you can get it and, contrary to what Malcolm 'Please-Take-My-Foot-Out-Of-My-Mouth' Rifkind might contest, it is plenty enough for any sensible person to live on.
However, we need to be clear precisely what that £67,500 is buying. Are we purchasing the MP for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Or are we requiring that individual, like the rest of us, to work something between 45-50 hours a week, with maybe a little bit of overtime thrown in now and again? You see, this is important because if we are expecting the former (24/7) then that £67,500 suddenly equates to something a lot less when you think of it as an hourly rate - say £20-25,000...and I really do think that the 24/7 commitment is what we expect from our MPs, that they turn up at fundraisers in the morning, visit schools in the afternoon, then hold surgeries in the evening before answering a few letters and e-mails before they go to bed - oh, and we expect them to be doing the rounds at weekends too! Now if that's what we think they should be doing (and provided that that is what they actually are doing), then you'd have to argue that being paid £67,500 for a job which fills every waking minute of every day is actually not the best gig in the world.
But what if we look at it from the other side. If an MP works 45-50 hours a week for their constituents (which as I said before is not unreasonable and is largely in line with what the rest of us work) the salary of £67,500 does begin to look generous. In my opinion, if we the electorate are of the view that an MP should put in the same hours as the rest of, but no more, then I'd be inclined to suggest that that salary be trimmed somewhat...which then brings us on to the second question, that of whether MPs should be allowed to earn money outside their activities as an MP. My view on this is quite simple - the answer is yes, provided the activities from which they earn money are not linked to their role as an MP. So, for instance, if an MP uses their free-time to write a book on the history of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and gains income from sales of such a book, then that's fine; however, if they gain income as a non-executive director of a local company on the basis of their political connections, then that is a no-no.

So, to summarise:
We need to decide exactly what we expect our MPs to be doing before we decide on whether they are appropriately paid - if we want 24/7 commitment, then we need to be willing to pay for that; if we just expect 40-50 hours a week (as is the norm) then we need to trim the current salary a little but allow MPs to generate additional income from activities that are not linked to their role as an MP.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Enough is enough!

Now I know I'm heading into controversial territory here and that it's very likely that there'll be some backlash from all the lily-livered liberals out there, but a recent event has prompted me to go on a bit of a rant.

So what are the details of this 'recent event' I hear you whisper as you lean forward conspiratorially, your interest piqued a little.
Well - picture this:
A normal suburban street with a normal suburban semi-detached house. It's just about 7.00 pm in the evening. Inside that house is an elderly couple, doing kitcheny things in the kitchen. Suddenly, there's a loud crash and the sound of shattering glass. They hurry into the living room at the front of the house in time to see a hoodie and his mate making off with her tablet and his laptop through the large bay window they have smashed to get in! The Police are called, duly arrive, take down details, remark that it's probably junkies looking for something to sell so they can buy more drugs, then issue a crime number (and no doubt promptly forget about the whole thing). The elderly couple then ring their insurers and are told that yes they're covered but they'll need to pay the excess...and that's an excess on the window (because it's 'buildings') and an excess on the items stolen (because that 'contents'). Double-whammy!
The End.

So I ask you this, my friends:
How in God's name have we, as a society, come to the point where these sort of crimes can take place almost as a matter of routine, where those who are supposed to enforce the law simply shrug their shoulders apathetically and admit to everyone that there's no chance that the perpetrators will ever be caught, and ordinary, law-abiding people are left out of pocket to the tune of a couple of hundred pounds, not to mention being left with the insidious feeling of having had their home violated?
It's just perverse.

The cause of these societal ills?
Well, no doubt the intelligentsia would debate this long into the night, citing countless failures of government, the role of inequality, how we all should share some of the blame, blah, blah, blah.
Yet the truth is, I think, quite simple.
We are too soft on wrong-doers, and I mean ALL wrong-doers...and the time has come to begin to turn the tide. And that means simply being less accommodating, less understanding and less lenient.
'But wait!' the liberals cry. 'We're a civilised society and we can't be going around being all medieval about justice and punishment. We need to be caring, focus on the causes of crime and on the need to rehabilitate...'
This is the point where such people need a firm slap across the face!
Since when did the definition of 'civilised' equate to being unduly tolerant of criminals?
Surely, a 'civilised' society is one which fully understands the difference between what is right and what is wrong, ensures that it's citizens are fully aware of the distinction between the two and then promotes and rewards the former whilst harshly discouraging and punishing the latter.
Such punishment must be swift and unequivocal. It should not concern itself with the whys and the wherefores or with cause or motivation, nor should it be hamstrung by the blaming of others for the failures of the individual. That punishment must by brutal and visible in order for it to act as the necessary deterrent to those who may consider a criminal act.

Returning to the individual who broke into the elderly couple's house - I care not a jot why he did it. I only care that he is caught and he is punished in such a way that he never does it again.
But then the liberal cries out - 'But he has a drugs problem and he was only feeding his habit.'
My response - 'I don't care.'
The liberal continues - 'He comes from a broken home.'
My response - 'I don't care.'
The liberal presses further - 'Society has failed him. It hasn't provided him with a job and an income.'
My response - 'I still don't care.'  And I end the conversation by giving the liberal another hearty slap!

My solution is simple.
I believe that that individual, and all the others like him who blight our society, should be shipped off to a remote island (like the one below)...and there he should be left.

That's it.
Nothing else.
No prison cell. No TV. No showers. No toilets. No pool room. No state-funded degree. No rehabilitation. No vote. No parole. No eventual 're-integration' into society.
Absolutely nothing...except perhaps just enough time to reflect on choices made and misery caused to others.

There...rant over.
Feel free to comment...if you dare :)