In the Sunday Times,
Hunter Davies uses his wisdom
experience and cunning to solve the national debt.
As he wrote recently “Six months of isolation could be a good portion of what is left of my life” which applies to many of us!
“So what are we all going to do to help our dear nation, now that we are one million billion pounds in debt? I just made that figure up. It’s probably right though. For the next 177 years, future generations will be paying it off. I made that figure up as well. Gawd, this is so easy. I remember during the war when George VI asked us all to have a bath in only six inches of hot water. I was not sure how that would help. We did not have hot water. Or a bath. Well, we did, but we kept the coal in it. In the comics there were adverts telling all us children to save wastepaper to help to win the war. Again I was confused. Were our brave Spitfire pilots going to drop bales of paper on Berlin? That would teach them.
“Today, there are loads of suggestions being trotted out by economists, politicians, pundits and, I never knew there was such a profession, professors of modelling. I still don’t know what they do. For experts on modelling, they appear to be very badly dressed and unattractive. Right, let me count the ways we can get out of this mess”.
1. Hammer the oldies. They’ve taken away our free TV licence, so next must be the free bus pass, state pension and the winter fuel allowance. And I should think so, we oldies have had it easy far too long. I have had a state pension since 65, I think. So I have had it for about two decades, as I am now 84. Yes, I made that figure up as well. I am in fact only 39 and will be for ever.
2. Increase income tax. Every expert and his dog says this is going to happen, def. I am still paying taxes, even on my state pension (so much for it being free). Last year my tax bill was £26,000. I have been paying tax since I started work in 1958 and must have given about £3 million to the chancellor of the exchequer. Yes, another made-up figure, don’t go on about it. I am so glad the government has always spent it wisely.
3. Property tax. One of the many, many ways in which my generation has been so lucky is that we had free education and free healthcare when the NHS came in, unlike our parents. Luckiest of all, perhaps, is that we have lived through an enormous rise in house prices — if we were fortunate enough to get on the ladder early doors. My wife and I bought the house in which I still live in 1963 for £5,000. Yes, I know we got done they saw us coming. I am not selling. In fact, I hope to drop dead in the back garden and be buried in my awfully smart and expensive summer house.
Prices in urban areas are likely to go down, so folks say, although not in pretty seaside areas, but judging by other houses in the street that sold last year, this house must now be worth about £3 million. Yes, it’s obscene. The idea being put forward is that people who have made a capital killing over the decades, without actually doing any work, will pay tax on the amount of increase on their property. I agree with that. We didn’t earn it, it was luck of living at the right time. The problem is working out how much. Will money spent on the house be taken into account? We inherited a sitting tenant on the top floor, who ended up with more space pro rata than we did when we had a family. I had to buy her out. How and when will your property be valued and who will do it? Oh well, it should keep several million civil servants off the streets.
4. Wealth tax. This is the notion that the well-off should pay 1 per cent tax every year on their total wealth, including savings, paintings, summer houses and a store cupboard stashed with tinned tuna. The wealthy would run screaming all the way to the Cayman Islands. Accountants will love it.
5. Sell honours. You have always been able to buy one by contributing to the Tory party, who then spend the money on themselves, as well as dinners, women, supporters, elections, more women. The government itself should sell them all above board.
6. Make the government a charity. If you contribute to a charity as a higher-rate taxpayer, as I do all the time, with gift aid they’d get an extra 20 per cent on top and you get a tax rebate of 20 per cent.
7. Increase National Savings. Between April and July, £19.9 billion went into NS&I, double the norm. And I did not make that figure up — I read it in the Money pages. I have been buying savings certificates since I got married in 1960, despite the clever clogs who sneered and said interest rates were rubbish and to put your money into shares. A lot of people do have savings that earn nothing, hence the rush for country cottages. It’s up to the government to take it off us then — sorry — to offer us safe, modest, long-term, tax-free investments.
8. Swear boxes. This would be sooo cheap to administer. And fair. All classes and ages would take part. Every house by law would have a locked swear box, handed in once a year. Each household would decide on their own swear words, such as “Boris”, “Trump”, “Brexit”, “Arsenal”, “sourdough”, “liver”, “broccoli”, “Love Island”, “Facebook”, “TikTok”, “Jeremy Corbyn”, “more please” or any “Kardashian”. Anyone found uttering such rude words would have to put 50p in the box. Over the next 177 years, if 67 million of us say just one naughty word a day, babies included, we should easily pay off the national debt. Sorted.