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Unconvincing Prospects of Recovery



It’s hard to see how the economy can recover when, slow as it is, the breaks are applied even before it regains any momentum.

The Australian Government is scrambling to keep itself from falling into a spiral of debt by raising taxes, in particular the tax on petrol which is already prohibitive (38.1 cents/litre), although less, as a proportion, than it was when the rate was frozen in 2001. In an article published in the Brisbane Times, economists, conservationists and politicians are presented as having one voice that fuel tax needs to be indexed, not charged as a fixed amount per litre. Yet when the game plays in favour of the Government, such as with income tax, indexation never seems to catch on, decade after decade.

Tax crusades of all kinds are to be expected in the next budget and over the next few political terms. Superannuation, already disemboweled during the most recent stock market crash, will likely be hit again by raised taxes. The reasoning for making tax changes is interesting, since it is implied that the reduced tax on superannuation is undeserved:

The existing contribution limits are tipped to halve, with any money above these levels to be taxed at penalty rates instead of the 15 per cent discounted, or concessional, rate that applies now.

Such a move would affect only about 2 per cent of people and help remove a major imbalance that benefits high income earners, according to independent research house SuperRatings.

At the beginning of the superannuation push (by governments), the threat was that the aged pension would be eliminated. In order to avoid destitution and a life worse than death, the public was urged contribute maximally into superannuation, instead of paying off a debt or putting it in the bank. In retrospect, shoving the money under the mattress would have been wiser, irrespective of any tax incentives. And now, governments seem to have forgotten their spiel that superannuation will reduce the government’s pension burden by letting people fund their own retirements. They will put a stop to that by taxing the already shrunken superannuation savings. The government has no problem with double-dipping into the public pocket, and although initial tax increases on superannuation will target the “rich”, the coming inflationary spiral will quickly push the middle classes into the higher tax bracket. That wasn’t what the public was thinking when the government proposed that superannuation would help make pensions payable.

Anything that moves, or doesn’t move, is likely to get a tax increase. Beer and cigarettes are popular favourites, but even charities will not escape the tax man. The government, of course, is claiming that it is acting in the national interest, just as it did when it gave us all our cash handouts, first home buyers grants, baby bonuses, and other bribes and inducements to do what is not in our interest.

If the government was genuine about economic stimulus, rather than merely generating good quarterly retail figures, it would have made its spending conditional, invested in Australian run initiatives, directed towards activities which, in the end, make society more efficient. There are innumerable possibilities. A heavy subsidy (eg: 100%) on public transport, for example, would have encouraged people to go out, shop, socialize and move about the cities whilst simultaneously easing city traffic, smog and carbon dioxide production. The abolition of university fees would have made the financial futures of the young more certain, bringing about a return to fairness in academia and going some way towards reducing elitism. The extension of Medicare to dental services would have saved money in the long run through reduced hospitalizations from disease arising from poor dentition.

With superannuation, it tricked the public into putting all its money into a single investment vehicle; one which failed. It will now tax the remaining blood out of it. With the First Home Buyers’ Grant, the government has tricked people on low incomes or unsteady incomes to enter into unreasonably large mortgages on overpriced houses. Most of that money will return as taxes, but the people will be left in an ever growing rut of debt. The stimulus payments, on the other hand, weren’t a trick;  they were just plain stupid.

The government, more than ever before, is not to be trusted. Playing on fear and greed, it herds its constituents into positions of vulnerability and then taxes them until they bleed.

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