Friday, 27 March 2020

Every day feels Saturday; every evening feels like Friday.

I find this whole 'working from home' and 'lock down' experience strange, but not totally unpleasant.

Obviously, I'm not sure that the government will come to its senses before the economy totally collapses, so that's a bit of a worry. But there's bugger all I can do about it*, but on a purely practical, day-to-day level, it's not that bad.

I went to four days a week recently, meaning that I need to get five-and-a-half hours' worth of work onto my time-sheet every day. There's no commute, so I can wake up at my natural time and get those hours in, interrupted with, and followed by sitting in the garden; researching my next post; driving round in circles (on empty roads - bonus!) - all the stuff I normally do on a weekend. It's like a Saturday, interrupted by finishing off a couple of bits and pieces for work.

But the evenings feel like Friday again, you know you can have a lie-in the next day, and there are a few bits and pieces you'll have to do the next day, but nothing too stressful...
* Apart from recommend the obvious...

a) A freeze on all rents, which they have done for hospitality and retail sectors, but why not for everybody? For residential tenants, there's some chat about protection from evictions, but that's pretty half-hearted (or hard-hearted?)*. Same goes for Business Rates and Council Tax. They buggered up the Business Rates free period, because it only applies to small businesses and lasts a whole year. Hey! Large businesses are in the same mess and employ people too!

b) All mortgages to be interest-free with no mortgage repayments for the duration, plus the next month while people get back on their feet. This applies to households, businesses and landlords. And it applies to banks vis-a-vis their depositors. If I lose that 1% interest on my cash ISA for two or three months, so what?

c) And a Universal Basic Income for anybody who claims it. This might be less than people would get under Universal Credit, but they can start paying it out immediately, instead of being swamped with UC claims and fannying about for a month or two processing them all. All DWP and/or HMRC needs to know is your NI number, home address and bank details and they can start paying out £75/week per person (or however much). There'll be no need for housing top-ups because of a) and b) above. HMRC can adjust people's PAYE codes to that claimants lose the personal allowances. So employees who are still being paid (fingers crossed that includes me) have no incentive to claim.

The whole idea of the government paying 80% of salaries or reported self-employment income is like inverse means testing - it is completely insane. And making employers pay salaries to people who are banned from working is equally nuts. Those staff can just be put 'on furlough' (another Americanism, but one I quite like) to be re-hired on same terms and conditions as soon as the bans are lifted. Like maternity or paternity leave, just for a much shorter period.

On a lighter note, young Rishi Sunak came up with something cunning (same link as above):

As part of the latest announcement, the chancellor also suggested tax breaks for the self-employed, such as lower national insurance may end in the future. These were in place because, for example, the self-employed do not get sick pay or holiday pay, and to encourage entrepreneurship. This signals a massive change in UK tax policy, potentially equalising the tax treatment of the self-employed with employees.

I just hope that they reduce Employer's and Employee's NI to match the increase in self-employed NI, to keep the whole thing revenue-neutral. 'Hope' in this context means of course they won't do it.


Lola said...

That bit about s/e NI is what this is all about. TPTB hate s/e. This is an 'opportunity' to screw them over.

Mark Wadsworth said...

L, TPTB don't "hate" the self employed. They actually quite like the hire 'em, fire 'em stuff. And people like you are genuinely self-employed (as are The Stigler and Shiney Mart).

It's HMRC who hates employees being reclassified as self-employed. People do this for the obvious reason that it gets the NI bill from 25.8% down to 9%, so why wouldn't you?

I'm a Georgist, the government should treat everybody the same. Same UBI and same tax rates on all types of income (a separate topic to basic and higher rate taxes).

Clearly, we want taxes on earnings and output to be as low as possible, but for given total revenues, we want tax rates to be as simple and flat as possible to reduce distortions and smart arse tax dodging schemes. Like loan schemes.

Mark Wadsworth said...

L... and while you are self-employed, you are also an employer. What if your personal NI bill goes up, but your Employer's NI bill goes down and you break even? I call that a win.

Shiney said...


Actually I do think govts of all stripes hate small business and the SE because, unlike big business, we don't kowtow and we don't take kindly to having to administer all their employment regs (plus PAYE, auto enrollment, SSP, AMP, SAP etc) and woke/SJW/diversity crap. Plus all the other shite that comes down at us.

Big business just sucks it up and employs a few more middle managers in HR or whatever. My view is that most organisations over 100 employees turn into a form of the civil service anyway and are run for the benefit of the middle management rather than the customers. The shop floor 'workers' have to like it or lump it and the top brass don't give a crap as long as they get left alone to play politics and cream off their bonuses.

Rant off

Lola said...

MW. By 'government' I mean mostly government employees. They seem to consider that we're always on the fiddle - all Arthur Daley's. But to qualify that, it's probably a particular type of state employee.

Bayard said...

"The whole idea of the government paying 80% of salaries or reported self-employment income is like inverse means testing - it is completely insane."

Still, it will stiff all those self- employed who have under-reported their income to evade tax and/or maintenance.

Robin Smith said...

I'm keeping a record of daily stats with simple graphs forecasting peak etc. Want to receive updates? To join group: send an email to

For example: New cases growth factor:

Robin Smith said...

Would you say govt taxes people through inflation(QE, paying tax rebates out of new money not tax receipts etc) more these days?

It's a great indirect stealth tax. Whenever I suggest investors check the return *after* inflation I always get a blank look. Or soon to be mortgagors when I say go for it, the loan will depreciate over time its free money created by government to help you spend.

Clearly few people realise how much we're being stiffed by feckless governments.

ThomasBHall said...

@Robin- as a now heavily indebted "homeowner"- I'm on the same side of the inflation bet as the government- and considering they can print money- I feel that is the right side to be!
Prior to jumping on the ladder, my mortgage calculators always included inflation...
Hope you're keeping well.

Robin Smith said...

Good for you Tom. Gotta keep the family fed at any cost - The Golden handcuffs.

I'm trying to figure out if this is the way of the future though. i.e. are we consciously or not, using the mortgage system as the new way of government revenue? Much like a fake charity, government loves to spend increasing amounts of other peoples money to get public credit for 'saving us'. But the people can no longer accept so much 'visible' taxation (~50% of incomes) so the approach is now to do it invisibly through inflation.

How do you authentically measure inflation when official numbers are fudged to account for governments staggering record of under achievement? How about take total spending from total taxation, the difference being inflation.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Sh and L, I think a lot of bureaucrats just dislike businesses, large or small.

This bit is key "Big business just sucks it up and employs a few more middle managers in HR or whatever"

That is why we have all these regulations. It's to protect large businesses from smaller businesses. It's corporatism. Sure, there is a compliance cost to large businesses as well, but it is worth it to prevent too much competition.

Like I said, I'm a Georgist and key to this is that the government treats everybody the same (as far as possible), and doesn't do stuff that benefits some groups at the expense of others.

B, maybe, but small consolation.

Robin Smith said...

M, isn't the main point that 'government failure' precedes 'market failure'. The market and corporation are just following as best they can.

True. there's a strong tacit alliance between corporates and government. But only because the subsidies and bailouts are more lucrative than the thing being produced and traded. So this tends to breed that alliance.

In the end it all starts from good people trying to save the world, ending up as good people destroying it, due to the temptations and stresses of the job. Corporates are just a business trying the best they can under current conditions.

Mark Wadsworth said...

RS: "the subsidies and bailouts are more lucrative than the thing being produced and traded"

Indeed. And there lies the problem. Subsidised industries have loads of spare cash to spend on lobbying government and getting more subsidies. A proper business is too busy providing goods and services and has no spare time or cash for lobbying.

Robin Smith said...

Exactly. Friedman and Rand speak well about this 40 years ago. But the problem has just grown. Few seem to be aware of it.

So... deep breath... I dont think it can be the conscious activity of any evil bureaucrat or capitalist. Because it happens so much, is so widespread and no business will stay above water unless it gets into it too. But theres no university course in it or professor who will go into it.

Something funny is going on. It cannot be attributed to lack of knowledge, fecklessness, evil doings, greed or wayward political ideology.

You know where I'm going...