Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Whatever happened to whatsisname?

I tend to agree with Alun Davies that “People would be happy to vote for a penny on income tax to help fund the Welsh NHS”; opinion polls have consistently suggested that there is a general willingness to pay more tax in order to have a properly-funded NHS (although there is also some evidence that that doesn't always translate into a willingness to vote for a party which proposes exactly that).  But the ‘conclusion’ which he, like several other politicians before him, has drawn (some sort of hypothecated tax increase specifically for the NHS) is one of the daftest and most unworkable policies ever suggested.
Firstly, a hypothecated tax which only pays for part of the NHS does not protect the NHS from cuts.  Future governments can always point to the extra revenue from the ‘new’ tax and say that the whole of ‘that revenue’ is still going into the NHS, but it can only be ‘extra’ if the whole of the previous budget is protected in real terms for the indefinite future.  And that represents a tying of government hands to which no government could or should ever agree, as well as potentially fossilising the way in which funds are spent from that original budget.
But secondly, and more importantly, far from being the radical approach claimed, it is in fact an acceptance of the basic premise of ‘austerity’, which is that government spending depends on first raising funds through taxation.  The blind acceptance of that mantra is what leads the Labour Party in general to a position in which its argument is, in effect, that Labour austerity will be kinder and fairer than Tory austerity; it does not expose the premise of the policy for the lie that it is.
In fairness, of course, the situation in Wales is different.  As a non-sovereign devolved parliament, the Assembly is obliged to produce a balanced budget, in the same way as the local authorities to which it is equivalent in this sense.  Without the powers of a sovereign government, the Assembly cannot break free of austerity – the best it can do is to “ameliorate Tory policy” – exactly what Alun is arguing that Labour should not be doing.  The really radical argument would be to demand that Wales break free of those constraints which ‘devolution’ places on it.  I remember another Alun Davies who used to argue along similar lines – I wonder what became of him?


Spirit of BME said...

I remember “whatsisname”, where in Plaid conferences he was -a ranter, -a raver and prepared to speak on any issue (only after 11:00 as he was, shall we say not good in the mornings) and as he never had a political conviction between his ears, he excelled at pleasing the crowds. He spoke total tosh of course, but I always enjoyed his company and found him to be a great entertainer.
I do not believe giving HMG more money is a good idea, as they do such stupid and dangerous things with it. The NHS funding was flawed from day one when Nye Bevan -the Bollinger Bolshevik as he was called, did not quite get a grip on the detail and those structural mistakes still makes it unsustainable. Although, by the end of its first twenty years I have to accept that it fulfilled 90% of its mission that Billy Beveridge set out in 1942, despite Bollinger Bev`s troubled launch.
The problem is that Billy did something unforgivable, as he died and getting back to the author and ask what now? is not possible, so for the next fifty years the NHS has been exploited by all parties for political ends and ravaged by internal interest’s groups that restrict the flow of money getting to the front line.

David Walters said...

Ah, I wish more people understood this about hypothecated tax. And I wish I had the ability to put it this well.