“Poverty is now so visible that even the richest can see it”

Owl wonders how many will cough up for a guilt tax – most of these people didn’t get rich by helping the poor!

“Officially, it’s not a guilt tax. Westminster council prefers the term “community contribution” to describe the idea that its millionaire residents might like to make a voluntary donation on top of council tax. It is, they say, merely a chance for the wealthiest to “invest in their neighbourhood”. Perish the thought that they may have anything to feel guilty about.

But whatever you call it, attempting to appeal to the social consciences of the super-rich is surely a sign of changing times. That a flagship Tory council should be dabbling in new forms of redistribution is interesting in itself. That it began considering the idea a few months after the Grenfell Tower fire, which had some of Kensington’s more liberal-minded millionaires asking why their council hadn’t charged them more and housed their neighbours decently, is more interesting still, given that Westminster’s guilt money is earmarked partly for tackling homelessness….

The significance of the guilt tax is that, according to the council leader, Nickie Aiken, the idea came from wealthy residents themselves, who began asking last year if they could pay more. Most tellingly of all, she says it is most popular among those living in “the most expensive homes”, reversing the normal finding that tax rises are wildly popular only with people who won’t actually be paying them. This is starting to feel less like a conventional tax, and more like the biblical concept of guilt offerings: pay up, cleanse yourself of the perceived sin of unwittingly perpetuating gross wealth inequality, and perhaps you might avoid a plague of locusts.

… Relying on charitable donations, which could dry up overnight, to fund essential public services feels precarious and wrong. But the pragmatic attraction of a guilt tax is that, like the decision by the Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, to donate part of his salary to a homelessness fund, it is quick and achievable, and it beats wringing hands.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/17/poverty-visible-richest-grenfell-homelessness