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UK Budget 2020: How to Deliver on Promises Without Breaking the Bank

by John Brian Shannon

Nobody likes paying taxes, that’s understood.

But sometimes, in order to fulfil the promises made during an election — the promises that were made to appease and please those who voted the present government into office! — taxation levels must accordingly increase to provide the things that voters have hired the government to accomplish.

The trick for governments is how to keep their election promises without losing the confidence of voters, and I therefore offer the following well-meant suggestions using the proven example of Canada’s economic miracle during the 1994-2015 timeframe:

  • As in Canada, the national GST rate in the UK should be set to 7% and should always hover between 5% and 10% in order to arrive at a zero-deficit budget, year-in and year-out. The GST shouldn’t be required to do anything else except to balance the budget, or, in the best-case scenario, to paydown some amount of government debt during any subsequent economic ‘boom years’ for the economy. That keeps it simple. (Although Canada has strayed from this plan recently and is now beginning to pay a price for its lack of committent to it’s formerly strict budgetary goals).
  • The national GST should apply to every single transaction in the UK and only medical items should be exempt, such as female hygiene products, emergency medical kits, plasters/band-aids, prescription medications, and diagnostic imaging equipment like MRI’s and Cat Scan’s etc.
  • Other than those exceptions, not one thing should be exempt from the national GST which would raise the total tax take for the government by a significant amount. (This plan worked wonders for Canada when it was in an economic tailspin) See: Jean Chretien: Lessons from Canada’s ‘basket case’ moment.
  • Things like fuel (any kind of fuel, such as fuel for aircraft, cars, pleasure boats and ships, locomotives, home heating fuels like kerosene or natural gas, coal, firewood, wood pellets, etc.) and every other thing that is sold in the UK should be GST taxable, including financial transactions of any kind, including fees paid for legal or financial advice, and on the fees to purchase mutual funds, bonds, and other financial instruments, and on homes, cars, lumber, kitchen gadgets, and every item or service sold in the UK.
  • Also, part of Canada’s economic miracle which began in the 1990’s was to lower corporate tax rates to 15%, then 14.5% and finally to 14% over a number of years, with a special tax rate of 10% for small-cap companies. This stimulated SME growth in the country that continues to this day, Indeed, Canada barely noticed the global financial crisis of 2007-2009, and it remained the fastest growing G7 economy before, during, and for a time after the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis.
  • The other important part of Canada’s economic miracle of the 1990’s and early 2000’s is that the government got rid of wasteful and overlapping government programmes — basically telling every government department that they had 5% “fat” built-in to their annual budgets and that each department (except for the Department of Defence) would be required to submit budget proposals for the next 3-years showing a 5% spending cut from planned spending levels — or the government would simply lop 5% ‘right off the top’ from said department without any further warning or consultation.
  • Not only did these things work well, but Canada also managed to make significant payments to paydown the government debt which was negatively affecting the economy and was costing a fortune in annual debt servicing costs. This in turn, allowed the Canadian government more room to manoeuvre from a federal budget perspective in subsequent years as less government revenue was required to service the accumulated deficits (debt) of Canada’s federal government.
  • The next government that came into power after Liberal Party of Canada’s Jean Chretien and Paul Martin, was Stephen Harper’s Conservative government which in 2015 implemented a brilliant stimulus package (a home renovation tax credit) that boosted the Canadian economy with only a tiny amount of stimulus. Which, as it happened, put every available tradesperson in the country to work for a full 3-years just to meet the demand. So many Canadians decided to spend more than the allowable $5000. tax credit amount to renovate their homes… that home building centres, home decorating centres, and car dealerships that sell tradesman vans and trucks could barely keep up with demand. It was the perfect solution to boost the economy after years of budget cuts designed to balance the federal government budget.

Canada taxation levels - Where your tax dollar goes

This image is familiar to Canadian taxpayers as it appears frequently on income tax related documents, showing where each taxation dollar is spent by the federal government of Canada. Image courtesy of Canada Revenue Agency


Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak might consider following the tried-and-true Canadian example of ending the many complicated and difficult to administer taxes throughout the UK economy and roll them into a simplified GST with a 7% rate that taxes everything except medical supplies and equipment, followed by a plan to lower government deficits to zero over 5-years (with legally-enforceable punishments for the government if it fails to meet its zero deficit targets) and by lowering the corporate tax rate to match Canada’s corporate taxation rates to stimulate the economy over the medium term, and by stimulating the economy with a modest tax credit for home renovations where better home insulation is a part of that programme which works for homeowners to lower their electricity bills and further stimulate the economy over the short term.

In this way, the UK government can begin its Brexit year on a sound financial footing, losing some confusing and overlapping smallish taxes while dramatically increasing its total taxation revenue, while at the same time it attracts new businesses to the UK and supports existing UK businesses with lower corporate tax levels, and by employing every single tradesperson in the country for at least the next 3-years.

Congratulations and best wishes to the new and highly-esteemed Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Rishi Sunak!

A BBC for the 21st-Century!

by John Brian Shannon

The UK government needs to drop the present funding model for the BBC by 2021 and help the corporation get ready to serve Britons even better than in the 20th-century. Which it did quite remarkably, considering the times and the level of technology available back in the day.

However, it’s a new century now, and even the hallowed institution of the BBC must gear-up for the new media environment that’s only begun to impact the world, and the first thing that needs to change is that the BBC license fee must end by 2021. That’s it. Gone! Just like that.

Of course the BBC will need to fund its programmes and it should sell advertising on all of its websites, TV programmes, radio broadcasts, and on all other media, in the same manner as other media outlets.

There won’t be any problem getting companies to advertise with the BBC as it remains one of the premiere media providers in the world. And, the day the BBC license fee model ends, the BBC should begin funding its programming via advertising.

The UK government should consider taking a page out of the Canadian government’s book when it moved the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (the CBC is Canada’s national broadcaster) from 100% government control to a more arm’s length relationship with the Canadian government. Until the 1990’s, the CBC didn’t run ads unless the adverts were government advertising of some sort (during elections, or to provide public information, etc.) thereby making the CBC 100% dependent upon the government for their funding. Not the best way to build a free-from-government-control media empire…

The really smart thing the Canadian government did was insist that the CBC provide 50% Canadian content (CANCON) in its programming. That is, half of the programmes that aired on CBC TV or CBC Radio were required to have significant numbers of Canadian actors, hosts, Canadian news, or even if an American host was conducting the interview the interviewee had to be a Canadian in order to qualify for supplementary funding from the government.

This so-called CANCON requirement allowed Canadian programming to flourish — even though the gigantic American media machine lived right next door to Canada which could’ve easily subsumed Canada’s entire media establishment had they wanted to.

In exchange for providing CANadian CONtent, the CBC received supplementary CANCON funding from the government for Canadian programming on a per show or (sometimes) on a per series basis.

In some cases, the Canadian government paid up to half the cost of Canadian programmes, depending upon how many Canadian actors appeared on a show or series, and depending upon where the story took place. More CANCON funding was paid when the shoot was in Toronto than if shot in New York city, for example. A little complicated, but apparently not that onerous.

The Canadian film industry loved the new arrangement — and it saved the Canadian government millions of dollars per year — as the cost of running the entire CBC was no longer borne by the government, rather, they paid only for the portion of the programming that was considered Canadian content.

It was a win for the Canadian government which saved millions per year and got the taxpayers off their backs, it was a win for Canadian actors, directors, producers and theatre houses because they got rapid access to the massive (massive for Canada, that is) CBC which was suddenly hungry for Canadian content, and it was a win for Canadian viewers who got to see more programmes that interested them and fewer American shows that were less relevant to the Canadian experience.

Yes, the one downside was that Canadians had to suffer through commercials. (Oh, the agony!)

But there likely isn’t one Canadian who’d willingly go back to the old days of wall-to-wall American TV shows (mostly about crime) and American news (also, mostly about crime) and American soap operas (also, mostly about crime) with only bits of Canadian content scattered here and there.

CBC News, CBC Sports, and CBC Documentaries are of exceptional quality nowadays, and are broadcast and rebroadcast on many channels around the world. And even with that said, all of it seems to have improved every year since the Canadian government gave the CBC an independent mandate.

Yet, at the time the model was unilaterally changed by the Canadian government, some old-school CBC hosts tut-tutted the change, complaining that ‘Canadian television would never be the same’. And in a way, they were right, it’s even better now!

Today, as a result of the Canadian government’s foresightedness, the Canadian movie industry is booming and Hollywood movies are often shot in Canadian cities because the economics work so well. Even Hollywood film makers can qualify for CANCON funding when they shoot in Canada, and that’s in addition to the savings due to the Canadian dollar presently pegged at 75 cents to the American dollar.

Based on the successful CBC example, the BBC could break free from government funding and control, from the bad press surrounding the BBC license-fee, add more revenue to their operations via typical advertising, and gain additional funding from the government whenever it creates a made-in-the-UK film, series, documentary, news programme, or other UK-based programming.

To be fair to smaller centres, the BBC should receive slightly more funding per capita from the government for creating programming set in or geared towards Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, or in any economically depressed town or region of the country. For one example: What could a television series that is shot in the Orkney Islands do for the economy there? And for another example, what could a new BBC production centre mean for Blackburn?

There are plenty of spectacular landscapes in the UK and millions of fascinating stories to tell — one only needs to watch Escape to the Country to get a sense of the history of the UK and of the interesting people hiding in plain sight all over the country.

In short, the UK government needs to simplify the BBC’s funding model, it needs to lower its total spend on the BBC while rewarding it for producing UK-created content, it needs to drop the abhorrent BBC license fee, it needs to allow the BBC to advertise, and it needs to provide supplementary funding to the BBC and film makers hailing from Hollywood, Bollywood, or from anywhere in the world that film movies, documentaries, or series anywhere in the UK, especially in economically depressed regions.

That’s a BBC model that will allow the corporation and its great people to succeed even better in the 21st-century than it did when it was founded in 1922 and every year since.

Any UK Citizen Trying to Break-up the UK Must be Tried for Treason

by John Brian Shannon

Here in the post-truth era it’s sometimes difficult to see things clearly.

Carefully crafted scripts (lies) delivered to the media are spoken over and over by their proponents until they become part of the accepted narrative — like a scene right out of George Orwell’s book 1984 — where lies are “truth” and truths are “lies” making it difficult for the average person to decide who’s ‘right’ and who’s ‘lying’.

It was an astonishing lack of competent and brave UK politicians in the late 20th-century that allowed, (nay, facilitated!) The Troubles in Northern Ireland to occur, and indeed, terrorists from Ireland perpetrated acts of terror in England and in other places, sometimes working with their terrorist brothers in arms around the world. Some trained with Islamist terror groups in Libya and other MENA nations to learn how to kill more efficiently large numbers of innocent civilians to thereby further their dystopian dreams of (illegitimate) statehood.

And each time they got away with it, they did so because the UK government was too moribund to deal with it, too cowed by what might happen next, too afraid to confront the terrorist element directly — and the terrorists won inch by inch, little by little, week by week — as a small band of evil people sought to overturn the successes of WWI and WWII, namely, peace and prosperity for all Europeans.

The Irish Troubles arose because of the need of some to feed their own egos by attempting to steal Northern Ireland from the British crown — a piece of land that was generously purchased by the British crown from the then-starving Irish in a supreme and almost godly act of kindness — a fact that’s been vastly underplayed by UK politicians because they didn’t accomplish it… the British crown accomplished it, and so the British politicians didn’t want to give the credit to the monarchy as a powerful subgroup in the UK Parliament (if you didn’t already know) has been attempting to ‘steal the crown jewels’ and ‘get rid of the monarchy’ on the sly since 1215, or thereabouts.

For now, such UK politicians are happy to just play along with Elizabeth II until the day she dies and then, in an unprecedented and mad rush, suddenly publish all sorts of negative things about the UK monarchy in order to sway the public mood and abolish the House of Lords at the same time — thereby allowing the UK Parliament to seize all crown assets in the country for the government and in almost every way, assume the power of the monarchy and the House of Lords while still keeping the power of the House of Commons for themselves. Thereby making the UK just like an American-style republic, but with no senate body to keep an eye on them. There go all the ‘checks and balances’ on government, forever.

Yes folks, right under your noses this has been happening in slow motion since 1215 and it continues to this very day.


Back to the Irish

Due to the numerous potato blights, the horrible weather, an extremely tough life in an era bereft of technology, where most people lived their entire lives in houses of stone with dirt floors and electricity hadn’t yet been invented, the Irish who sold their land and buildings to the British crown couldn’t wait to get off the island they hated to move to America with their newfound loot.

And it was their choice to make! Some became wealthy, some, factory workers, while others drank their newfound wealth away while pining for the Olde Country.

Whatever their choices, they were theirs to make. Some even returned to Ireland to rent the land they once farmed and hated.

And if you can’t see where this is going… here it is; For if you once lived in a tough environment as a subsistence farmer or rancher and you sold out and moved to America (which then didn’t turn out the way you imagined it would turn out) and you subsequently returned penniless, imagine how much you would’ve hated paying rent to live on your former land to earn a living as a subsistence farmer or rancher!

It didn’t help that most people couldn’t read nor write in those days, often paying someone to read their legal documents for them, in an era where only ranking members of the Church were allowed to read The Bible and explain it to the near-starving and mostly illiterate people of the time.

I think it’s safe to assume that some Irish were taken advantage-of by educated people from Ireland, Britain, and the continent.

Over many decades, this angst built-up and was cultivated by those who wanted to steal Northern Ireland from the British crown and subjugate Northern Irelanders to their will.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see a thread of collusion between a microcosm of UK parliamentarians who always wanted rid of the crown with those who wanted to subjugate Northern Irelanders, to the detriment of the unhappy people stuck in a dreary existence in Northern Ireland.

It’s said that, ‘No good deed goes unpunished,’ and the kind and generous acts of successive UK monarchs towards the Irish (and Scottish) people eventually resulted in The Troubles in Northern Ireland and will result in even worse Troubles should Scotland’s people be deceived by those wishing to break-up the United Kingdom.


There’s No Guaranteed Future in Independence

Those who wish for such a thing will be directly responsible for as many deaths occur, and foreign agents will no doubt make the best of such trouble for their own purposes. When a country turns against itself everyone loses. The United Kingdom will lose its place as the 5th-largest economy in the world and once again become a land full of fearful children waiting for their school bus to be firebombed. And the technological tools available to terrorists are much more sophisticated these days, unlike back in the day when the Pan Am terror incident occurred in Lockerbie, Scotland.

Only sheer idiocy would want to tear apart the United Kingdom just at the moment it has finally gotten out of the European Union and its entire future lays ahead!

Just as modern-day architects who build bridges or buildings that collapse and kill hundreds of people are charged with manslaughter for their poor engineering work, so should the framers of ‘The Troubles’ past (in Northern Ireland) and ‘The Troubles’ to come (in Scotland) be charged with High Treason as a result of their reckless plans to break-up one of the best countries in the world.

I wouldn’t be surprised if another world war came out of it.

Yes, you laugh, but did anyone see WWI coming? Not one person. Did anyone see the rise of Hitler and WWII? Did anyone foresee the invasion of South Korea by the North in 1950? Did anyone see the need for a Berlin Airlift prior to the Soviets blocking the West from road access to that zone? No. Did anyone foresee the Vietnam War? Again, no. Did even one person think that Saddam Hussein would invade Kuwait and loot the place? No, not one person saw any of this in advance. Saddam himself remarked he couldn’t believe the then-world leaders didn’t see his all too obvious plan far in advance of it occurring. He actually thought they were diligently looking in the other direction to allow him to get away with it!

It’s almost like the world leaders of previous eras wanted these things to occur ‘by leaving the doors wide open for the thief of Baghdad’ or in other ways to, ‘invite murdering thugs into their bedchambers’ while they slept. Meanwhile, the Saddam Husseins’ of this world are shocked that the politicians of the day didn’t see their plans coming a million miles away.

Such is the disconnect between politicians and those who would destroy a civilization that’s taken thousands of years to build!

And all of these horrific things trickled into existence because successive generations of politicians were ‘asleep at the switch’ at the moment selfish people decided to steal a country or a region from woefully unprepared politicians and an innocent and all too naive public.

Anyone who goes along with the mad plot to divide the United Kingdom should be charged with High Treason and locked-up for 20-years. And if the UK government doesn’t act decisively to prevent this madness the former Troubles in Northern Ireland may, in retrospect, seem like a fight between tots in the schoolyard. And the United Kingdom will be in for yet another 20-years of terrorism, self-doubt, and recrimination.

Surely, the UK people deserve better than that!

Surely, the Westminster politicians are up for this and won’t allow a small band of elitists to steal Scotland, or Northern Ireland, or Wales, from the UK?

Please tell me Westminster, that you aren’t afraid to act, that you have a robust plan to deal with these insane gadabouts, that you care about the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, and that you want a peaceful and prosperous UK to continue for many decades to come!

Because, so far, I’m completely underwhelmed by Parliament’s response to the insidious poison being spread to the media by some incredibly reckless, feckless, and crass Scottish elitists and their EU partners in crime.

Scots still don't want a 2nd referendum on independence. UK Daily Mail

Some reckless UK citizens want to break-up the UK, even though they’ve lost every Scottish independence referendum yet. ‘Scots still don’t want a 2nd referendum on independence’ image courtesy of the Daily Mail.