- Politics and Social Issues
We The Grunts
What is a grunt?
Well, it's a bit of a technical term, but in essence, a grunt is someone who:
earns less interest then s/he pays, and
pays more tax than s/he avoids.
In terms of hierarchy, grunts appear below “snouts” (as “in the trough”) and “sniffs” (as in “the butts of snouts”).
Another measure of gruntness resides in the matter of “picking up the tab”. Guess who, persistently and unavoidably and with the precision and inevitability of clockwork, always does? Many of us may never have had the pleasure of going out for a drink with a rich person, but those of us who have invariably notice that such a person is the always the last and most reluctant to offer to buy a round.
But that's just petty and incidental. The real question is, who picks up the tab for major disasters? Hurricanes, wars, ministerial screw ups? We the grunts always end up footing the bill.
Nobody wants to be grunt. And certainly no one wants to admit to being a grunt. Many of us think we're above the common manipulations of the ruling elites. It's embarrassing and demeaning to think that we might be mere pawns in their jolly games, that we're canon fodder now in much the same way as the peasantry was in the good old days.
Many of us delude ourselves into thinking we're not really grunts because we shut ourselves off from the information - information now more readily available than ever before. For a start, we don't take full account of all the borrowing that's done in our names.
At the beginning of 2015 UK national debt stood at £1.56 trillion, or 81.58% of total GDP. This means that the annual cost of servicing (paying the interest) the debt amounted to almost £1 billion a week (roughly 3% of GDP). Almost 10% of our tax contribution goes in interest payments to snouts, vesting in we the grunts the privilege of keeping snouts in the manner to which they are accustomed. And even at the local level, our Councils are borrowing in excess of £15 billion in our names, including a handsome rate of interest payable directly to snouts (google LOBO Loans).
It is estimated that covering the costs to HMRC of trying to keep up with corporate tax avoidance lawyers and accountants amounts to about £12.4 billion annually. And, of course, the costs to corporations of tax avoidance lawyers and accountants are – you guessed it, tax deductible. So we the grunts are not simply making up the losses that corporate lawyers and accountants get away with, we are also subsidising their thousand pound hourly rates plus expenses.
Incidentally, the National Audit Office reported that £4.6 billion had been overpaid to claimants in the 2013/2014 tax year – due either to mistakes or to fraud (they're never really sure). They also reported that departments had underpaid claimants by more than £1.6 billion. (Unnervingly, they also reported that a survey in that year showed that Britons believed (thank the drainstream) almost 25% of all benefits were claimed fraudulently – compared to the official estimate of 0.7% per cent.) By contrast, the shortfall in tax that should have been collected that year stood at £34 billion – due mostly from snouts.
And much of what convinces snouts and sniffs (and, it must be said, many grunts) that this is the natural order of things and needn't be questioned is the archaic celebration of “royalty” and all the associated pageantry – for which we the grunts also pay. As we smile benignly at effortless streams of cute “royal” babies and charming “royal” marriages, we gently add yet more nails to our already tightly lidded coffins. As we watch parades of ridiculous snouts and sniffs in colourful animal furs and funny hats savouring their rightful places in “society”, we overlook the fact that we are footing the entire bill. Estimates for maintaining her madge range from £40m (paid directly) to £334m (including trappings, lost duchies income, security, etc) per annum. That's £915,069 per day. How many grunts can actually afford that.
We also pay for our democracy of course. This is as it should be. However there are elements of even this which amount to nothing less than flagrant abuse. Highest among these is the preposterous “house of lords”, which of course is nothing but a private club for snouts and a few of the more obsequious sniffs. Not only is this absurd collection of individuals and their equally absurd trappings costing us in the region of £283,562 per day, but we are also paying for skews to the democratic systems which delay and outright block the rightful reforms which occasionally float to the top of the agenda. We've dragged this multi-fat-bottomed item of baggage along through our history at tremendous cost as we struggle to deal with the basics of health and education and global crises like environmental disasters and dying eco-systems.
When it comes to the legal expenses in, very occasionally, holding lords, ministers, corporate executives, banksters, and other snouts to account, where do we look? We the grunts cover the costs not just of enquiries and resultant prosecutions, but also more often than not, the defences. On the rare occasion when snouts are held to account – such as via the odd paedophile ring – we the grunts fund the entire amassing of evidence (including the wholesale stalling and blocking) until such time as the relevant snouts are too old, infirm, or dead to face charges. At that point, all the costs are “written off” and lost in the mists of time – except that we the grunts are still paying the interest.
In spite of the caterwauling of the corporate mass media (the “drainstream”) and the influence of the sadly duped “silent majority”, it is incontestable that swings to “the left” benefit grunts more than swings to “the right”. But such swings are costly, as are the costs of dismantling them when the inevitable of swing in the opposite direction follows on. The vacillation between “left” and “right” (it's really populist versus elitist - see Left/Right vs Populist/Elitist) means no overall progress is made. We always end up back at the starting blocks or, more often than not, behind them! The bulk of our beneficial domestic reforms followed the world wars of the last century. Since then, we the grunts have been steadily losing ground. This is bad enough, but the really deplorable aspect of all this is the way in which we the grunts pick up the tab for these swings. Each cycle of assembling and dismantling aspects of the NHS or the state education system places an enormous charge on our collective wealth. The snouts aren't affected. Their wealth is protected by (tax deductible) teams of accountants and lawyers, complex “trust” arrangements, and strings of off-shore accounts. It is we the grunts who carry this entire burden.
And, of course, the greatest injustice of all is that wars are waged to “protect our interests”, when even the most perfunctory look at the matter will reveal that the interests we are really trying to protect are the snouts'. But we the grunts dutifully pick up the tab, including infinite compound interest payments. We fund the entire defence industry so that our snouts can bomb grunts elsewhere in the world. And when those grunts show up on our shores, perhaps reasoning that the best place not to get bombed might be the place that's sending the bombs, who bears the cost of their incarceration and mistreatment? Certainly not the snouts.
And as all these costs pile up and our governments have to borrow money to keep pace, who do they turn to for more funds? Yes, the snouts. And who ends up servicing (paying the interest on) the debts? Yes, you guessed it. We the grunts.
Don't get me wrong. I don't mind paying taxes. I don't want to see streets filled with homeless or ill or disabled or otherwise unlucky people. There but for fortune go I! Nor do I wish to be surrounded by ignorance, especially to the extent that my democratic voice is lost amid its ghastly cries. But I don't see my taxes going there. I see my taxes (and my interest payments) being used for:
- ridiculous pageantry,
- ludicrous privilege,
- manic boom & bust cycles, and
- vicious and cynical military interventions.
© 2016 Deacon Martin