It isn’t about the money, it’s about sending a message

Some people think that there is some useful grain of truth in Mitt Romney’s claim that 47% of Americans are taker and pay no income tax.

There are those like Matt Yglesias who use it as an opportunity to point that yes, America taxes its poor people less than it used to. This is a good thing.

There are those like Mark Thoma point out that because children can’t have jobs and old people have retired many people cannot pay tax. This is an inevitable thing.

There are those like Ian Cowie who are just lying arseholes that have used this claim to suggest poor people are thieving, layabout scum, who don’t deserve basic human rights. I’m not even exaggerating! Read on.

Is that libel? I’m not sure of the finer points of the law, but this…

There can be no doubt that substantial numbers – on his estimate, nearly half – of electors who decide how a democracy spends its money no longer make any financial contribution to the taxes it must raise to do so.

…from his latest column is a demonstrable fucking lie. 47% of Americans pay no income taxes for a number of reasons. Most importantly some of them are too old or too young. Less importantly, rather than tax people and pay them benefits, America just taxes poor people less. Beyond all this, there are taxes other than income taxes. Loads of them – federal, state and local – and it is a lie, not mere misdirection, to say they don’t exist. Does that qualify him as a liar?

He continues, in vile, petulant fashion. After blithely proposing that voting be restricted to those that pay at least £100 in taxes a year, in an effort to place himself somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun, he offers two exemptions:

All pensioners would have automatic eligibility to vote because of the fiscal contributions to society they are likely to have paid earlier.

The same exemption could be extended to all mothers because of their contribution to defusing the ‘demographic time-bomb’ of an ageing population.

His implying that there are ways to contribute to society in ways other than paying income tax have left me shocked, shocked! Shocking or not, I think his treatment of women as walking uterine bomb squads qualify him as an arsehole.

So anyone who knows libel law: have I covered my arse?

That was all preamble and throat clearing. Something to show the world that I am still not adverse to playing the man not the ball when its fun.

The main take away from Ian’s piece isn’ t the tax folklore at the end, or the knowingly incorrect statistics, or even the misogyny. The important point is this.

Ian Cowie knows that income tax isn’t the only tax, he’s not a fucking idiot, and yet he pretends that it is for a full 1000 words. I don’t have evidence he’s not a fucking idiot, but he has written for the Telegraph for close to two decades and (when I’m not trying to be funny) that indicates he isn’t a total fucking idiot. He knows.

He also knows that one of the reasons a somewhat surprisingly small proportion of people don’t pay income tax is because they are old. He admits as much, as quoted above. By a small stretch of the imagination, of which even Ian’s puny intellect must be capable, he might have guessed that a lot of people don’t pay income tax because they are young. Despite all this he proclaims:

Bearing in mind that one of the rallying cries of America’s founding fathers was “no taxation without representation” is it really so unspeakable to ask whether some link between representation and taxation should be restored?

Ignore what he says, that he is indignant that some people don’t pay a particular tax. That hasn’t inspired him, he hasn’t come to a new realisation courtesy of Mitt Romney’s glaring insight. He’s publishing almost the same article he published in 2011, which made Paulvery angry. He hates poor people.

There might be reasons to have everyone paying part of a tax, just so they are involved in the bureaucracy of it so they gain some local knowledge of it. I don’t think it is a particularly strong argument, but it has some merit.

There is no reason for asking lots of people to pay some portion of some specific taxes so they look like they have “skin in the game” so it looks like they are being both represented and taxed. People like Ian Cowie don’t care. They hate poor people.  The fact that some poor people don’t pay income tax isn’t a reason for their hatred, it is merely a nail on which to hang their opinions.


PS The article cited should seem familiar. Because about 90% of it was published under Ian Cowie‘s name in 2011 and made Paulvery angry. The original post, which Ian rehashed for 2012, was originally inspired by a post from 2010 from Dominic Hobson.

PPS Post dedicated to Thomas Byrne, who inspired it.


I’ve been Threatened with Legal Action (CC: @Unity_MOT and @bloggerheads)

As of Friday 3rd February, my main worry for this site was that I had not been blogging frequently enough. You know how it is, work gets on top of you, you move house, you decorate, you get to know the local area (Hackney, since you ask, lovely) and on top of all that I have a Masters to study for: blogging just slipped down my priorities list.

That all changed, briefly, on Friday. A past commenter – who, out of undeserved politeness, I will allow to remain anonymous for the purposes of this discussion – e-mailed to ask me to remove a comment from an old post. To maintain my erstwhile commenter’s anonymity I cannot link to the post or the comment, but I will say it was a post mocking one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen and the comment in question was written in support of this “dumber than a bag of hammers” event.

I informed my commenter that I more of less only remove comments which are libelous (which I don’t believe I’ve had to thus far) or abusive etc (which has occurred here) and that I considered the matter over with. Anyway, I told him helpfully, his comments were in the cache anyway, so there is no way he can completely erase his internet trail. If you think you might regret saying something really stupid, the last thing you should do is write it down on the internet where it will stay forever.

Next came the boring part, a blogger was issued with a vague legal threat. My commenter was applying for a government job and doesn’t want anyone to be able to find out he holds ludicrously silly beliefs so get his own way he has taken to bullying people on the internet. Pfft, I thought, but held fire just in case. I e-mailed Tim Ireland and Unity for advice and in short was recommended to respond with a brief “fuck off.” All’s well that ends well as they say, crisis over.

My goodbye e-mail was along similar lines to those suggested but a little more verbose:

Hello [Redacted],
Please forgive my late response.
First of all, may I say that I do not respond well to bullying. Threatening to pursue “legal remedy” is just that, bullying, and there is now zero chance of my helping you.
Sadly (for you) and happily (for me), after seeking advice with regard to your legal threat, I am now confident that it was completely specious, empty and vexation and, as such, your comment will be staying put.
Please consider this email a request that you cease and desist any further attempt to contact me about this matter; I will regard any further attempt to intimidate me as harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
In short, I refer you to the reply given in the case Arkell vs Pressdram.
Yours Sincerely,