Thursday, January 21, 2010

Robbin' John the Hood and his Band of Merry Businessmen

How Robbin' John shifted the tax burden to the poor.

In Merry Aotearoa in the time of now, when good King Rob McLeod chaired the round table, there lived near the green blades of grass of the Beehive Lawn a famous outlaw whose name was Robbin' John the Hood.

No person ever lived that could keep such a happy smile on his face while stabbing you in the back. Nor were there ever such yeomen as those in the caucus that roamed the corridors of power.

Right merrily they dwelled within the dark labyrinth of the Beehive, suffering neither care nor want, but passing the time in merry games of lawmaking or bouts of tax reform, living upon the fat of the land, washed down with expensive wines and spirits (unless a photographer was around, in which case they drank beer from the bottle like a good kiwi bloke).

Not only Robbin' John himself but all the band were outlaws and dwelled apart from other men, yet they were beloved by the electorate for they focused on populist issues such as tougher sentencing for criminals, reducing benefits to the undeserving, and the dangers that boat people represented.

Now Robbin' John and his band of merry businessmen lived by a strict code, whereby they would only take from the poor and give to the rich. This they did through means most devious and cunning. So cunning, in fact, were the ways that Robbin' John and his men used to take money from the underclass of Aotearoa that the poor often applauded him and hailed him as their champion. After all, he had such a nice smile, and he told them that everything he was doing was good for them.

So it chanced on one fine summer's day, while Robbin' John the Hood was walking merrily through the Beehive thinking of his beloved Maid Sharples, and his beloved Maid Rodney (sometimes it's best if you promise to marry two maids, as that way you can play them off against one another. And who knows, thoust may even convince them to stop squabbling and co-operate in a three-way) when he chanced upon his good friend Little Bill.

"And where art thou going now, my good lad?" asked Robbin' John of Little Bill.

"Um ... I've was just headed back to the office to do some work, John. Are you alright?"

"Why dost thou ask?" replied Robbin' John.

"Well, you normally wear a suit, not a green outfit and tights. And you're speaking funny, even for you."

"Ha ha ha," laughed Robbin' John, in that particular forced laugh of his. "I'm fine, my loyal minion. I'm dandy. But we strive to take more money from the poor and give it to the rich."

"And how do we do that, John?"

"That's easy, Little Bill. A group of noblemen, from the county of Taxworkinggroup-ingham have sent a herald with a long scroll detailing ways we can reform the tax laws of the land. First, we must lower taxes on that which one earns. The more one earns, the more one will gain from tax cuts."

"But won't that mean we take in less money? How will we finance all those populist projects we need to have in order to remain in power?

"Never fear, Little Bill. The honourable men of Taxworkinggroup-ingham have a solution."

"Just where is that place? Was this something you picked up on your junket to the U.S.? Is it near Houston?

Robbin' John ignored the question of his companion and continued to spell out his cunning plan.

"The solution is to raise that most noble of taxes, the Gee of Ess Tea."

"Raise G.S.T. Why, that's brilliant, John."

"Aye, it tis. It tis."

"Tis?" said Little Bill with a quizzical look.

The Gee of Ess Tea was a traditional boon dating from the days of yore when King Douglas sat on the throne after locking up the rightful (or is that leftful?) rulers in a dungeon of their own making. Whenever a subject of Aotearoa purchased a good or a service they were required to give twelve and a half cents on the dollar to the King (or Queen). As the nobles of Taxworkinggroup-ingham knew, by it's very nature the Gee of Ess Tea was a tax that benefited those who had more at the expense of those who had less. Why, their own calculation, computation and mystical divining had determined that buying food alone accounted for 20% of the total of the Gee of Ess tea.

"The larger the percentage of your total income that is taken up by essential food purchases, the worse off you are," said Little Bill in his own made-up language. "So the less you earn the greater your tax burden will be as a percentage if G.S.T. is raised. When you factor in alcohol, cigarettes, petrol, Sky Sports subscriptions, and other so-called essentials for the Hoi Polloi ... well, to but it bluntly, we'll be screwing the plebs like never before."

"Your words are strange and crude to me, Little Bill, but I think I understand the jist of your meaning. Indeed the people will bleed slowly dry by this new arrangement."

"But how will we maintain our popularity?" asked Little Bill. "What if our opponents challenge us? What if our allies oppose us? What if the people work out that we are screwing them royally?

"Fear not, Little Bill. I have answers to your barrage of ill-thought out questions."

At this, Robbin' John the Hood took up a heroic pose in the dimly lit corridors of power, his legs wide, his hands on his hips, his chest thrust out, the bulge in his tights barely visible in the florescent flickering. His stare was fierce but non-directional, his smile fixed and insincere, his voice weak and weedy.

"First, we shall maintain our popularity the same way we always have, through cheap poorly conceived populist policies whose long-term consequences are undetermined but likely to be negative."

"Secondly, our opponents are weak and divided. Why I happen to know that the one who shadows your own position, David of Cunliffe has said he will merely consider the report of the nobles of Taxworkinggroup-ingham and only urged caution in the softest of tones. The ones who call themselves Green in colour and philosophy are concerned that we are not adding in another tax on the environment. Our other opponents are inconsequential."

"Thirdly, our allies, the Maids Rodney and Sharples, are too busy competing for my attention to pose a threat. Why dearest Rodney has already told me how much he likes my plan, his eyelashes a flutter. And as for the hairy peach that is Maid Sharples, why the only concern on those luscious lips was that the proposed land tax might be unfair to Maori.

"But the majority of Maori don't own much if any land??" said Little Bill.

"Tis true, Little Bill. The trappings of court have changed the Maid Sharples and the lady in waiting. Once you experience the good life there's no going back."

"As they say," interjected Little Bill, "power corrupts."

"Absolutely," agreed Robbin' John. "As for your fourth question, Little Bill, the masses are just that. The masses. They are the suckers that P.T. Barnum told us are born every minute. They will applaud the tax cuts, even though for them it will mean a few dollars a week, while for you and me and the band of merry businessmen the same cut will give us hundreds every seven days."

"They see the Gee of Ess Tea as a fair tax, a system that is the same for all. They cannot be bothered to, or just cannot, do the calculations that would show them that the more you earn the less as a percentage your burden is under that noble system. They are sheep, willingly queuing for the slaughter, offering us the wool on their backs as they march up the ramp in unison to the blade."

"Wow!" exclaimed Little Bill. "You've really gotten melodramatic since that appearance on Letterman. Cynical too. TV really changes people."

And with that Robbin' John the Hood pressed his thumb to the UP button, waited for the magical doors to open, stepped inside the levitating chamber and ascended to his throne, content with his works.

Apologies to Howard Pyle 1853-1911, whose out of copyright version of Robin Hood was maimed and defiled in the making of this blog entry.

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