I saw something about the mansion tax on Twitter this morning that got my wee mind going. A friend tweeted: “The public’s behavior to some tax policies sums up my hatred for modern day society. Why should people be taxed for having a mansion?” - This man is an accountant so he knows a lot more about taxation and tax policy than I do. I’m not going to go into the depths of the financial aspects of the policy here. I’m not sure if he, or my very good friend who agrees with him, realises that being of this opinion makes them, essentially, right wing.
The way I understand it is that there are three ways that you would be in the position to be the owner of a home worth over two million pounds.
1. You have worked incredibly hard all your life, studied hard, got a good job, worked very hard in that job, and earned all your money and your beautiful home. It is very easy to see, from this perspective, that the mansion tax penalises you for tirelessly contributing to the system (with your high rate of income tax on your high salary) that you take little from. (you don’t claim benefits, you likely never have, you may not use NHS services, etc.)
2. You were fortunate enough to be born into a wealthy family. Your predecessors have worked hard during their own life-time to afford you this position of privilege. You likely went to a good school, got a university education, and work in a respected profession. Your wealth and success is a result of a system that is weighted in your favour. You can afford to pay the mansion tax, but don’t see why you should have to support society’s impoverished as a punishment for doing well.
3. You won the lottery. You’re one of the luckiest people in Britain.
The reality is that because of the national debt and because of the deficit, the money HAS to come from somewhere. So should we “punish” the rich, who have worked hard and paid a hefty share into the system already? Or should we “punish” society’s poorest people, those in minimum wage jobs or on benefits, living in council houses with a bedroom deemed to be “spare”?
My friend said that we should not punish the rich, why should hard working people pay for “scroungers”, “junkies” and “tramps” who get “free money” from a system they haven’t paid into? To be honest, it’s easy to agree with her. It is frustrating, as a tax payer and as someone who works hard herself and comes from a hard working family, to see and hear about people who have never worked. People who don’t work, don’t contribute to the system that they are claiming from, people who abuse alcohol and illegal drugs. Paid for with tax-payers money. Of course that’s frustrating, it’s infuriating. I don’t blame my friends for having these opinions, I just don’t agree with them.
The problem of these “scroungers” is MASSIVELY exaggerated by our media which, over the last five years, has been saturated with “poverty porn” documentaries. Benefit claimants, drug addicts, social housing tenants, the underclass, they have been framed incredibly negatively. They make an excellent scapegoat for Britain’s financial crisis because they are easy to blame. Being bombarded with these types of images and the negative rhetoric that comes along with them is a great way to convince the Great British public that the impoverished are the ones to blame for the state of the economy, not the politicians. Not the men in charge who are letting their rich peers get richer, whilst simultaneously forcing thousands of society’s poorest families to reach out to resources like food banks.
The underclass is a creation of our own society, by systematic policy change that has consistently widened Britain’s equality gap. Millions of people are being born into a poverty trap and the social ladder is increasingly difficult to climb. The low minimum wage and high cost of living is leaving millions of people socially and economically excluded and it is them that are currently being penalised by taxation policies like the infamous bedroom tax and higher education (in England) being accessible only to those who can afford to fork out thousands of pounds a year in tuition fees.
It’s a wider understanding of this institutionalised privilege, social class structures, how the poverty cycle works and media manipulation that has lead me to realise that it is NOT the fault of “junkies and tramps” - society’s impoverished lower class - that there is a need for a penalising policy like the mansion tax. We are not going to close the deficit or the equality gap by introducing further austerity measures. We are not going to solve any problems by further attacking the poorest among us.
The logical thing to do is to take the resources we need from the people that have the resources to provide. People who can afford to own and run homes that are worth more than TWO MILLION POUNDS can afford to pay extra taxation on those homes. It’s not their fault that we’re in the position to need it, and it is very easy to view this as punishment on hard-working people, but that’s not what it is. It’s simply the logical solution for a problem that we are all suffering the results of.
If I was, or ever am, fortunate enough to own a home worth more than two million pounds, I would like to think that I’d be socially concious enough to understand that paying a higher rate of income tax and a tax on my mansion is fair because I can afford it. I can afford to pay that extra tax, I can afford more of my hard-earned money to go into funding public services like Britain’s beloved NHS. It is not a “punishment”, it is because these people are privileged that they are able to pay it.
And that’s why I think the mansion tax is a good thing. This is one of the many reasons I will be voting for the SNP on May 7th, with the hope of seeing the Conservatives and their damaging policies out of Westminster. It’s also the reason I voted Yes in September. I want to live in a fairer society, not a society that has one side of the population living in two million pound plus homes while the other side makes a weekly trip to a food bank because their £6.50 an hour retail job doesn’t afford them enough to eat for a month and keep a roof over their heads. We created this. We can fix it.