Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Sunak vs Truss: Debt, Inflation and Levelling Up

The Conservative leadership contenders ask:  When does the Covid-induced public debt start to get paid off? What about inflation if we reduce taxes to ease household finances? How do you achieve levelling up?

A FT letter writer Mark Hofman in August 2020  said that in the example of Japan which has had huge public debt levels for a long time:

     'government bonds held on the balance sheet of the Bank of Japan are effectively the Japanese government owing the bond debt to why not put a line through those entries on each side of the balance sheet? The level of debt would be reduced without the        taxpayer having to pay anybody anything, and with nobody being poorer.' 

If there is a possibility of inflation due to this he says it can be resolved by raising the reserve requirements of commercial banks at the central bank (in the UK's case - the Bank of England). He asks: Why consider the conventional way of paying off this debt with taxes for generations, when there is a better way?

Beware of suggestions that governments are like households and must not spend beyond their income.  Householders are not like that as they cannot create their own money whereas sovereign govenments, with careful monetary control can do so safely, as Hofman describes. 

On levelling up:  Change how tax is raised by levying a small annual charge on the value of all land, including the value of the land footprint of all homes. At the same time any tax raised in this way would be allowed against a personal income tax liability. For many homeowers the total charge would not change. 

Benefits would accrue:

  • House price rises - now with a land value levy - would slow or fall and homes become gradually more affordable since speculation would be damped down and a steadier market would encourage first time buyers. 
  • Homes would become less attractive for pure investment rather than for living in personally. Recent governments just subsidise new buyers which raises the price of homes and brings developers more profit. The crazy price boom continues.
  • More homes would be built as development would be encouraged - for example a house with a large plot would be built on to share the land value levy over new, extra homes. Or an extension to create a separate rentable flat. New homes would be built to low carbon standards. Countryside would be preserved.
  • Renters would be helped as the land charge would be on the landlord. Landlords would be anxious to have their property occupied at lower rents rather than keep homes empty waiting for increased rent.

Levelling up at a stroke, for many. Those who are land rich and income poor, thus short of cash, would be allowed to defer payment until they sell the home. 

The young would be able to consider buying and homeownership would increase. Older people in large homes would be nudged into downsizing. The increasing wealth divide between homeowners and renters would ease.

For the common good we need such monetary and taxation policies. Which candiate, or party, will grasp these choice fruits?  



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