One-off wealth tax 'would solve crisis'

Giant MonopolyThe need for a one-off wealth tax on the richest 10% has never been greater. That's the view of Greg Philo of the Glasgow University Media Group, who has long pushed the idea. But where once the idea was regarded as wildly radical, now support is gathering behind it – with Italy's largest bank also pushing the idea. Support for the idea is growing as it becomes clear that bailouts are aimed not at real economies but the banks.
The call for a one-off wealth tax goes to the heart of what Philo calls "the astonishing acculmualtion of private wealth to the richest 10%". That wealth is used in deregulated markets for speculation. Philo says "the $43bn funding gap of Greece's government is matched by about the same amount going offshore, much of it reported as being put into the London property market by wealthy Greeks."

He also draws attention to the $25.9 trillion of assets held by the New York Mellon Bank, which specialises in managing the assets of "high-worth people". This total, he says, is "enough to pay off the US national debt, solve the euro debt crisis and have change."

Italy's biggest bank

Corrado Passera, the head of Italy's largest bank, has pushed a similar idea. He says Italy's $2,750bn debt could be resolved by imposing a tax on Italy's private wealth – a wealth that totals five times the country's debt. In the UK, the sixth richest nation on earth, total personal wealth totals £9,000bn.

As Philo said in a letter to The Guardian last week: "The world is awash with cash, while the productive capacity of its peoples and industry is the greatest in human history. But instead of taking some of these assets and using them to promote investment in a sustainable economy, the preferred government solutions are to print money and impose cuts which affect the poorest and create unemployment."

These measures, he says, generate inflation, damage pensions and savings and add to financial stress. Philo says the public is misled by "media and political commentary on "countries going bankrupt", when what is actually being described is a cash flow problem."

Challenging the terms in which the debate about the current crisis is vital, because much of the discussion about 'solving' the crisis in framed in such as way as to suggest what's good for the banks is good for everyone. And that's clearly not the case, as events in Greece last week showed.

Greek crisis

The solutions being proposed for Greece are aimed at protecting the banks that lent to the country and insulating the country's elite from tax demands. The Greek people know these solutions mean more austerity for them. That's why they've been on the streets, and that's why the idea of giving them a vote on these 'solutions' was greeted with such alarm last week.

As events in Ireland and Denmark prove, European Union democracy means only allowing a vote if people vote the right way. That right way is to back the elite against the people, and if the vote goes the wrong way, it can always be staged again until the people have the 'sense' to vote against their own interests.

Greece is being stripped of its sovereignty, and nationalist sentiment is being whipped up elsewhere as the people of other nations are being encouraged to view the spendthrift Greeks as the problem. They are not, but putting them in the firing line shields the elite financial interests who stand to benefit from these 'bail-outs'.

The kind of one-off wealth tax proposed by Philo, and growing numbers elsewhere, would do much to rebalance the economy, changing the focus from speculative value to making real things, creating real wealth and providing real services.

A You Gov poll of 2,200 commissioned by the Glasgow University Media Group earlier this year people found 75% in favour of a one-off wealth tax. And 75% of ABC1s questioned backed the idea, compared to 73% of C2Des.

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