The government's announced that we're all going to get a detailed breakdown of what our taxes are being spent on. Brilliant. Radical openness. Just what government needs to end the days of paternalism and secrecy.
Or is it? I can't help noticing that the government wouldn't release its own 'risk report' into what will happen to the NHS when their reforms go through - despite the House of Commons and House of Lords voting on the bill. Would you jump out of a plane without checking the parachute? It seems fundamentally undemocratic to pass laws while refusing to allow legislators to consider the most important piece of evidence available.
So clearly openness is a weapon to be wielded rather than a general principle. The tax statement stinks, quite frankly, of the kind of thing the Taxpayers' Alliance (a Tory front group, many of whom are actually tax evaders) propose. Firstly, let's not forget that many people in this country aren't taxpayers, at least of the direct taxes covered by this statement. The young, the unemployed, the poor, the old and the sick. By focussing on taxpayers, the government is implying that they are first-class citizens, whereas the non-taxpayers are freeloaders. Secondly, how the statements are constructed will be of prime importance. I have a very strong hunch that social security will be in massive type so that Daily Mail readers will be encouraged to see said poor/young/old/sick/unemployed as disgusting scroungers beggaring us all, whereas the £80bn to be spent on new nuclear missiles (while benefits for disabled children are cut) won't make it onto the sums at all.
It's a strategy using selective openness to move the political debate onto American terms. Over there, 'small government' activists lobby for less education, less environmental and work protection, no minimum wage or healthcare funding, fewer public services, except for more war and more legislation involving women's vaginas and homosexual gentlemen's bottoms. We're being softened up for a campaign against government as a public good - something to which we NHS fans are fairly resistant. It's not that the Tories want less government per se: like their American friends, they like governments which give them tax breaks and buy big guns - they just don't want us to see government as a service to the masses.
I pay a fair amount of tax. After next week's budget, I'll be paying a lot more, to fund Osborne's reduction in the top rate for those on £150,000. I don't resent paying taxes at all. But I do resent paying for nuclear weapons, pollution, more roads etc. when child benefit's being cut, universities privatised and libraries closed. However, that's how democracy works: you bastards voted Lib Dem and Tory, so I have to accept for now that your leaders prefer war to books. When the tax statements come, millions of people will be looking at the bits they don't like and getting angry - sundering society even further.
I know these tax statements sound like a nice idea, but I'm saying right now: they'll be designed to stir up resentment and mean spirits. Don't be fooled.