Nick Cohen tars all “baby boomer” pensioners with the same brush (“Must growing old mean becoming poorer and lonelier?”, Comment). As a baby boomer pensioner, I think this is very unfair.
We are certainly comparatively well off; undoubtedly we benefited from various housing booms and now benefit from our protected pensions. However, some of us feel guilty enough about this without being accused of “selfish idiocy” over the costs of Brexit, which we certainly did not vote for and are very angry and sad about.
We assuage our guilt somewhat by helping our children and grandchildren and with charitable work and donations. We pay tax on our pensions, but some of us would be more than willing to pay further national insurance contributions and can do without the winter fuel allowance (which we give away annually to the Surviving Winter fund) – as long as those who need it will continue to receive it. It is unpleasant and unfair to be blamed for being born at a lucky time.
A move to improve Channel 4
Peter Preston is wrong to suggest a move by Channel 4 out of London should be fought (“Channel 4 knows all about location, location, location”, Media). I believe a move, particularly to the Leeds City Region, could actually make a fundamental difference to the DNA of Channel 4.
A national public service broadcaster needs to have a greater plurality of voices and in an area such as the Leeds City Region, comprising some 3 million people, there’s a rich pool of distinctive ethnic voices and under-represented talent that could give Channel 4 a stronger regional voice.
Claims that there is a shortage of talent outside the capital are at best misguided and at worst plain ignorant. We know that this a significant step for Channel 4 and we hear its concerns. However, any move should be a bold, risky and innovative development in keeping with its ethos.
Chief executive, Screen Yorkshire
Poland’s proud past
Your editorial last week was right to highlight the danger of “Poland’s flight from democracy”, but your readers should not be under the illusion that Poland has no democratic traditions. The multiethnic Polish-Lithuanian republic, which saw itself as a continuation of the Roman republic, was a bastion for parliamentary democracy, religious tolerance and humanism in the 15th and 16th centuries.
These ideas re-emerged in Poland’s national revival at the end of the 18th century when it voted itself Europe’s first liberal constitution. In its struggle to reclaim its independence in the following two centuries, it did so under the banner of “Your Freedom and Ours”. Poland produced one of the most celebrated and successful peaceful civic resistance movements in the Solidarity Union, led by Lech Wałęsa, after which it was able to restore parliamentary democratic rule and a vibrant economy that over the next 25 years successfully rode out the recession and was a model for developing nations.
Of course, the Third Republic was not a perfect institution and many did not share in its wealth. Western Europe and EU institutions are right to sound the alarm and support the democratic opposition, but economic sanctions against Poland would be counter-productive as they would increase the current Polish paranoia and bind the majority of the electorate closer to the ruling party.
It would be more productive to give moral and material support to independent Polish institutions, such as OKO Press, that monitor transgressions of the law and ensure consistent and unbiased coverage of events.
Don’t squeeze only the rich
You report “Cable plans wealth taxes to woo Corbyn backers” (News). Presumably, Dr Cable wants to avoid raising income tax rates for fear of frightening middle-class voters, stifling enterprise and driving businesses overseas. Added to this, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has repeatedly emphasised that raising income tax for the very rich would not have a significant impact on inequality: the transfer of disposable income will have to come from upper- to middle-level earners as well.
There is another way of redistributing disposable income more equitably. Historically, redistribution has occurred accidentally and inequitably in periods of inflation, notoriously in interwar Germany. For the next few years, we are likely to experience annual inflation in the range of 2% to 3%, so we could harness this to reduce inequality by freezing the levels of income at which higher tax rates kick in, presently £45,001 for the 40% rate and £150,001 for the 45% rate.
For a few years, while salaries rise with inflation, the tax bands should not be inflation-proofed. Government revenue for public services and welfare benefits could gradually rise each year as more middle-income earners enter higher tax brackets and those already there would be paying proportionately more of their incomes.
This would achieve two goals of the political parties: a gradual but substantial redistribution of income towards the less well-off and a much-needed increase in government revenue.