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Editorial O’Grady stakes out the ground for important struggle ahead

THE Trades Union Congress has opened the conference season with a pre-Congress campaign to shift public thinking about taxation and with a demand that social care be funded through a capital gains tax.

There is a certain symmetry about this as much social care is hived off into the private sector and is the source of profits for increasingly large corporate entities.

The Tory government’s preferred approach is to heap the burden of paying the health and social care costs of the nation on the people paying tax through the PAYE system and National Insurance contributions.

It won’t have escaped the notice of the rich, who rarely regard the tax on their working income as a very significant part of their expenses, that this leaves them with corporate earnings accruing in their bank accounts without the depredations that an unequal and oppressive tax regime places on working people.

It is not just tax on wages — which if fairly administered on a graduated basis is the fairest system of taxation — but the heavy burden of consumption taxes, VAT and the like, which fall equally on the very rich or the very poor. Consumption tax, VAT, on the weekly supermarket shop is levied at the same rate on a pensioner as it is on a billionaire.

Capital gains tax is a perfect solution in that is both the potential source of an immense amount of money but has an added flavour of social justice in the sense that taxing profits that arise from the the exploited labour of the working people — and which are accumulated by the rich as profits — seems to complete a perfect circle of morality and justice.

The second part of the TUC’s pitch is the proposal to guarantee care workers and minimum £10-an-hour income.

This is a policy that, if implemented, would go some way to valuing this essential work as well as give something of a boost to consumption.

The taxation system in Britain is a scandal not only because its burdens fall unequally on those less able to afford it but because a good part of the wages bill is subsidised directly in the form of tax credits and allowances which, in effect, are themselves a levy on working people’s incomes.

We are paying, from our taxes, a subsidy to bad employers.

The important thing is that the TUC’s Frances O’Grady has staked out the ground for what promises to be a important struggle.

Shifting the burden of taxes strikes directly at the heart of the government’s economic strategy. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is a constant Cabinet voice in favour of an early transition to a taxation regime that swiftly offsets the extra government spending that dealing with the pandemic has entailed with taxes on working people.

Delegates to the TUC Congress will endorse any proposals for a wide-ranging campaign with enthusiasm.

The next step will be how effective the TUC can be in making this campaign really bite into the government’s standing so that mass pressure, popular power, can begin to offset the influence that big business, the banks, the regulatory institutions of global capital like the World Bank and the IMF exert.

It can be done but it won’t be done unless the campaign moves swiftly from the rhetorical and the from the realm of public relations into the arena of mass struggle.

The unions affiliated to the TUC bring organisational muscle, money and authority to such a campaign but to really reach into working-class communities and win allies in the middle class, the campaign must be broader and deeper and include experienced campaigners in the NHS campaigns, the People’s Assembly and organisations of renters and claimants. 

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