Sunday, 18 July 2010

Sleepless and frustrated

I was up late last night, and then had a restless and fitful night. I had a piece I needed to finish writing, precious little time during the day when it wouldn't come. Doubt and uncertainty with the finished article.

Always doubt and uncertainty with finished articles. I'm tearfully grateful when certainty arrives.

Someone finally read my film treatment the other day, it was such a relief when they confirmed my doubts and uncertainties, I was grinning for hours.

Its just the awkward fraction of the autistic spectrum I inhabit. I could have just not bothered writing anything, written it off as another thing I'd planned to do, but didn't. It sure would have saved time and effort and made the world a nicer place.

But my head doesn't work that way, when there is an intention or a plan to do something right away then I feel the need to do it. That's normal right? Or no? The willingness to sacrifice the plan, that frustrates me.

Something that still plays on my mind even after many years was when I was helping a friend move from Glasgow to London. We'd hired a van and I figured if we drove at x miles an how, we'd get to London in daylight, and it would be easy to unload and have the job finished. The trip would use this much petrol, and cost this much money. But now I think should we have stopped more on the way, for lunch at a Little Chef, dinner at Watford Gap and who cares if we arrived at 2am and put off unloading til the next day? The journey would have been more pleasant, more relaxed.

Maybe we'd still be friends today, if we'd stopped at the Little Chef, abandoned the plan and loosened my embrace of the plan.

Anyhoo, about the frustration. I'd read a stack of blogposts, all during the week. Freakishly fast sprinter Usain Bolt can't run in the UK for tax reasons, under the UK government's tax regime, he'd be paying more in tax than he'd earn. Its a familiar story for the super-successful. I remember read that for years the Rolling Stones couldn't play in the UK because the tax and the costs would be more than they could make from the concert, regardless of how much they charged for tickets, the costs and tax would mean they'd make a loss. Government policy dictates the Rolling Stones tour schedule.

Elsewhere in the blogs was coverage of Vince Cable and the LibDems proposals for a graduate tax. I might have misread, and right now on a train, hammering this out on my blackberry, graduates would pay an extra 9% tax on their income, to pay for the ever increasing cost of further education.

Firstly, I'm sceptical of why the costs of further education keep increasing, what are they doing differently? Are the universities incapable of keeping costs down? Why does is cost proportionately more to educate a student now than it did ten years ago. Sure there are more computers, but entry level computing costs the same now as it did even twenty years ago, £300 for an Amstrad CPC, £300 for a crap desktop PC, £300 for ahalf decent netbook/laptop.

I'm not expert, but is it cos there are more university students now. That was some damn fool idea to get 50% of folk through university. Society doesn't need that many graduates, the population isn't smart enough for that many graduates. Everyone with an IQ of 101?

Or is it that further education costs more cos primary, and secondary education isn't educating enough, so now universities are have to teach people how to read and write, do addition and subtraction, derivatives and integration before they can start the meaty stuff of rocket science, particle science, manufacturing engineering and media studies?

I digress. Some spectacularly successful people didn't go to university and some did. Alan Sugar didn't. Anyhoo, at the top of the pay scale, high earners are going to be paying their 50% income tax, plus another few % for national insurance, say 10%, I dunno. But then some of them are going to be forking out 9% on top of that. Paying almost 70% in tax if you pay by the rules and neither avoid or evade tax. Its hardly an incentive to work at all.

Lower down the pay scale, a university degree is less of a benefit. You'll have half the people in the office are university graduates and half got where they are today by the hard slog of working on the shop floor, streets typing pool and getting promoted. These folk are all going to be doing exactly the same job, the same amount of effort day to day. Yet under a graduate tax system, half of them will be taking home less money for their labours.

The Daily Mash had it right with "the harder you work, the more you're taxed".

Some newspaper story earlier in the week about a Somalian family with seven kids who've been put into a huge £1,200,000 house in Kensington. Jesus Christ could they not have been deported to Hull and gotten a bigger place at the fraction of the cost to the taxpayer.

Mark Wadsworth can wade through the arguments for and against social housing and how in this case its just transferring money from the hardworking employed through government and a brief stop in the bank accounts of the residents and then into the pockets of the rich private landlord. Redistributing wealth upwards.

I was thinking, shit if I hadn't worked so hard in school and university and a succession of office jobs, I could be unemployed with seven kids in a huge expensive house.

Not only that but I often hear of families, living in accommodation paid for by various benefits who manage to run up arrears by not even paying the rent to the landlords, instead the money is spent on other things, fags, phones, plasma TVs and holidays abroad. I choke on my cappuccino til it comes out of my nose.

As an aside, during writing this I have now arrived at my destination, a pleasant bar in Camden. Last time I was here it was called the Oh Bar, now its called the Blues Bar. The barstaff, whilst friendly and helpful, don't remind me as much of the barstaff at the 13th Note in Glasgow like they did in the Oh Bar. There was one who looked like a b-movie Cameron Diaz, she is absent now.

Every blogger's favourite former ambassador was writing about slavery the other day, how folk work hard and forced by threat of violence to pay taxes to subsidise those who don't work. Those who chose not to work. The employed are the slaves now.

It was weeks ago that I came upon the realisation that I'm slaving away for forty hours a week to pay people who are getting more for free in benefits that I earn in a five years or something. It just seems a bit unfair.

Why more laws? Why more taxes?

That Somalian family in Kensington were offered other, cheaper places but turned them down. They didn't like the cheaper places.

Its a familiar story. This sense of entitlement from those who reside on benefits, that they are somehow entitled to free housing of their chosing.

Not me. I left home at eighteen to go to university hundreds of miles away, staying in halls of residences and flatshares with friends. The flatsharing continued after graduation. And as my friends peeled away for marriage and job elsewhere, I too left. I arrived in London with nowhere to stay, an afternoon on checking out different places within my price range soon found me a complete shithole of a flatshare which I tolerated for a few months until I found friends with a more pleasant flatshare.

Whilst I've always wanted a place of my own, with a garden and woodchip wallpaper that I put up and painted myself and walls lined with shelves, I know I can't afford it and so that's going to have to wait.

Not so for the unemployable who live on benefits, they expect the provision of their own houses, they demand it. Stamping their feet, and threatening to spawn. No thought of paying for it themselves or building their own route to the house of their dreams.

Its a minor bugbear of mine, the 'waiting lists' for social housing. Anyone can get on the waiting list, it would be really nice to get a nice house for free. When Camden New Journal says there's a waiting list of 18,000 people, I think is that all, there's only that many people who'd like a nice house for free?

So my solution to the ills of the nation is an income tax threshold of whatever the living wage should be, and then 40% tax, scrapping VAT and national insurance.

Or even just scrap National Insurance and make it so everyone has to get their own private medical and employment insurance scheme. Like you have for car insurance, the government doesn't run that, so why should they for health and employment. The voluntary charity sector can fill the gap for people who didn't insure themselves. Somewhere there will be a charity that judges even the worse case of self-neglect as worthy.

Its all bullshit this. Like Behind Blue Eyes, I look back at the city on fire and acknowledge my proxies. I'm not a high earner, nowhere near 50% tax, judging by my pay packet I earn so little I pay 17%. And my univeristy costs were paid off a long time ago. I escaped the benefits trap months ago, other than jealousy these issuesdon't concern me.

What frustrates me in reality is the huge credit card debts I ran up in my last tranch of unemployment. That's my own fault, I should have moved out of the expensive flatshare and found a cheaper shithole one instead of claiming Housing Benefit. I should have gone straight to Office Angels instead of the Job Centre Plus.

That's all in the past, now I just need to pay off my credit card. At the current rate I should be debt free by 2016. Sooner if I stop spending money on other things.

It not the folk who live on benefits or the government's tax regime, its just me spending, its entirely within my control. I can whine for days but its all bullshit.

Yesterday I bought a load of presents and for myself a new pair of shoes. Its debateable whether I need new shoes or not, where to draw the line, can I afford it or not, are the old ones a detriment to my employability and social or not.

No point even debating it. On Friday night I could have stayed in and not spent but instead I went out for a meal and then pints and pints, costing about the same as the shoes.

Even today, right now as I sup my second cappucino in the Blues Bar, ist cost me about the same. Could have stayed in my flat and not spent anything.

Sitting here in Camden cost me £3.20 for the train to Euston, £3.20 for the train to Camden, £5 for a couple of coffees and then maybe £3.20 for the train back home , that's 0.14% of my credit card debt.

More than getting over my creditcard debt, I really want an Xbox 360 Elite. Not some shitty red ring of death Xbox 360 Arcade, but a decent Elite with 120gb hard disc, that will play both new games and second hand original Xbox games like Warriors and Project Gotham Racing 2 where you can drive round cities like Edinburgh, Stockholm and Moscow. This Xbox 360 Elite will cost me around £150.

New shoes = Friday night out = 1/6 of a Xbox 360 Elite

My credit card debts = fifty Xbox 360 Elites

I'm a smart cookie. Sometime ago the computer I had that ran Quicken Accounts died a death, but recently on my wee netbook I wrote me some home finance personal household accounts software in Perl. I rule. It does neat graphs showing income and expenditure. How much and what proportions I spend on rent, my car, going out and pointless shit. I can easily see what spending needs to be reined in. And how to rein it in is all under my control, any reason not to is bullshit. I can reduce travel costs by moving closer to where I work, I can lower my communications costs by getting rid of this phone. I could live off rice and baked beans to cut down on food, or just sleep in my car to reduce my rent.

But I don't, for I am that Somalian family, stamping my foot, demanding this lifestyle and turning down the cheaper options.
Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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