I’ve always been one for looking at the bigger picture, the long game. My family have teased me about always having a plan but the way I see it, if I don’t have my dreams sketched out in my mind I can’t start making the first steps towards realising them. It’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle; you look at the big picture you’re trying to achieve, you start solidifying the edges then you fill it in. When we bought our house I had a picture in my mind as to what it could be. We’ve done quite a lot of the outline and filled a lot in. Where would I have started if I hadn’t had my desired outcome imagined?

This isn’t to say I’m not flexible. I’m more than happy to adapt my plans. When I realised my first marriage was over it didn’t stop me moving to Malaysia. Literally everything changed but it just meant a lot of tweaking. I never expect to get it perfect the first time.

It would be overly generous to suggest that such an approach should be allowed in the Government, not least because should Labour get back in power they’d thoroughly abuse it. Nevertheless, the coalition strikes me as being focused on the big picture and people are complaining about details. They’ve every right to be concerned about what concerns them but it rather feels as though everyone is at cross purposes.

I argued in my blog on Health Reform that we can’t have everything but rather than offer a counter point, most people seem to be in denial about the need for NHS reform. What I wanted to know was what was the alternative?

I commend whoever came up with the phrase Mr Osborne used this week (who knows it may have been him) when he spoke to MPs: ‘This country borrowed its way into trouble. Now it will earn its way out.’ Sure, the lowering of the income band from £43,925 to £41,450 for those paying 40% tax will hurt the families affected but lets be honest, if you’re earning £41,450 then you shouldn’t be scraping by. You are pretty wealthy in the eyes of a great many people. And remember it doesn’t come in until next April, there is time to make adjustments.

Just so we’re clear I’d love if we could go to the 80s model where 5% of people paid the highest tax bracket rather than the 15% it will reach next year. The husband is an experienced accountant; of course I’d like that bracket to be nice and high!

But the husband and I are realists and look at the bigger picture. We’re also honest with ourselves and we can afford to pay our tax bills. Sure we’re careful and are keen on the kinds of investments that aren’t subject to capital gains tax but ultimately we can pay and are “happy” to do so. That’s not to say we wouldn’t like to see a hell of a lot of reforms but we both see how the current economic climate is related to Labour’s easy come, easy go attitude to finance and that cuts, taxes and lots of other nasty stuff is needed to fix it.

This week I had the challenge of being trapped in a room with a very small picture thinker that I absolutely could not argue with. I was a guest in the home of the husbands ex wife and I don’t think you need to be a stepmother to know that that is a situation for absolutely best behaviour and perhaps a touch of simpering gratitude. I used to bow to nobody but frankly I’m continually amazed at how classy my stepsons’ mother is and how she has included me in her extended family. I cannot start a fight on her property.

The individual in question dropped into conversation that he spent over £10 a day on cigarettes. My eyes widened at the same time as my hostesses boyfriends’. Our eyes met and I couldn’t help squeaking that that was half a mortgage. ‘I know’ he mouthed back. Perhaps it was a good way for him to start; I was as much subdued by shock as anything else and far less likely to speak against him.

What followed was largely a monologue on his views on tax and pensions; a view that was wholly subjective and rooted in his own experience. Now this individual has dependents and even his non-dependent children would (you’d have thought) been in his mind but strangely he could only relate to the money passing through his own hands.

He is an extreme version but I see evidence of this kind of thinking regularly. Someone I know calls it ‘the politics of envy.’ Someone identified as having it better or easier than them and rather than be inspired to improve themselves, they hate the other person. The counter argument is that those with the broadest shoulders should carry the biggest load but isn’t that what the 40% tax bracket is about? Seriously, if you’re earning over £40k you’re doing ok! I appreciate the desire to tax the super rich but you know what, they already are heavily taxed.

The crucial thing is that we keep incentivising people to make money rather than punishing success because someone earning £20,000 is too clouded by their (in)experience to appreciate the bigger picture. Even among higher earners there’s a distinct lack of big picture thinking right across the public sector.

I’m not saying the poor and the stupid are less able to make decisions than those who are rich and smart but frankly there is a bit of a correlation. I think it’s needs based and when your needs are met (by which I mean being able to pay your rent/mortgage, buy food, pay the bills but not having a cleaner, an annual foreign holiday and a new car) you are better able to see the big picture. When your finances are tight you are going to be more focused on your personal situation because it’s very important to you. When you’re stupid, you simply lack the intelligence to look beyond yourself.

I realise I’m as bad as the obnoxious guest pontificating at the Birthday party but you’re reading this through choice. If I could give you a slab of cake I’d totally have the high ground.

Birthday cookie?

 


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