Leona Helmsley, the US billionaire tax fraudster died last week. She once said, “Taxes are only for little people.” Her legacy lives on in Britain’s largest companies’ attitudes to tax.
Nearly a third of the country’s 700 biggest companies paid no corporation tax in the 2005-6 financial year. A further 30 percent paid less than £10 million each in tax.
One company which recently avoided paying corporation tax is J Sainsbury, the supermarket group. In a stroke of financial foresight it put £110 million into its pension fund in 2005-6, meaning that instead of paying corporation tax it received a credit of £3 million.
Even if the bosses pay up, low corporation tax means worse public services for the rest of us.
Meanwhile City bonuses have gone up 30 percent to a record £14 billion. Two hedge fund managers at GLG Partners are estimated to have grabbed between £200 million and £250 million each.
The waiting list for a new Rolls-Royce has gone up to five years. There is a worldwide shortage of crew members of superyachts.
That’s worth remembering the next time Gordon Brown demands we all stick to low wages in his neoliberal privatised economy.
A neoliberal treaty
The upcoming TUC conference will discuss resolutions demanding Gordon Brown holds a referendum on the European Union reform treaty. This is the repackaged constitution thrown out by French and Dutch voters who rejected its neoliberal social and economic policies.
The unions rightly oppose the treaty, not out of a “little England” spirit like David Cameron and UKIP, but because it is, in the words of Unison general secretary Dave Prentis, “a borderless blueprint for privatisation”.
Elsewhere in Europe the carrot on offer to trade unions and social movements is the Charter of Fundamental Rights. But Brown has moved to exclude Britain from this because it would threaten Britain’s anti-union laws.
Despite this, Brown predicts that “the TUC, when it meets, will support the government”.
Britain suffers from some of the longest working hours, fewest holidays, poorest health care and highest levels of child poverty in Europe.
We should back calls for a referendum to throw out this neoliberal treaty and, in the short term, argue that the best social provisions on offer to any EU citizen should be extended to all.
US ruling class
Bush gets lonelier
Alberto Gonzales, George Bush’s attorney general, is the latest in the president’s inner circle to announce his premature resignation.
Gonzales joins Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton and Karl Rove, who have all left his sinking ship in the final months of his presidency.
Gonzales was implicated in an obscure scandal when he sacked eight senior lawyers and lied about the reasons for their dismissal.
But in truth it was the Iraq war that fatally weakened him. He justified US human rights abuses, claiming that the “war on terror” rendered the Geneva Convention obsolete.
The overwhelming rejection of the war in the US has encouraged the US’s rulers to turn on each other. It is the same mass anger over the war that must hold Bush to account as well.