Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Sainsbury Sting (Written 10/02/11)

January 26th 2011, literally a day that SHOULD live in infamy. A day that truly marks, in the apparently most blatant of fashions, that politics is for sale, legislation can be purchased, and the rich will prevail in our Scotland simply because they can afford to.

We’re speaking, naturally enough of the”Tesco Tax”, that self same tax as reported in the Scotsman so recently (~January 24th 2011) that “may be saved by Labour” [reconsidering its opposition]. The parliamentary committee shortly afterwards apparently working diligently to see that same tax marginalized as potential Labour support for that budgetary line item withered and died.

One must ask why Labour, as a party, would back such a potential vote loser from the common man and woman in Scotland, excepting perhaps an attitude of supreme confidence in the result of the upcoming May vote. The decades old sure and certain knowledge that Scotland will “Go Labour” could be attributed to this change in reported standing on the issue. The real reason may perhaps become more significant if we alter the Medias’ given name, from perhaps the “Tesco Tax” to the “Sainsbury Sting”.

Lord Sainsbury is a fine example for the Labour Party to uphold, and pander to. A great benefactor to the British Museum (in London) and the Labour Party, a combination of donations that’s well in excess of to £30 Million over the last decade. Rather an expensive peerage perhaps could be one perspective, if it was a peerage alone, however in politics it is worthwhile noting that even by backing an electoral looser, it’s often still possible to influence policy, if in another nation.

What the proposed rates re-distribution would do is to slide the purchasing power bias of the giants in retail very incrementally back towards the small individual retailer. It will by no means create an even playing field, but it will open a legislative door towards doing so. That legislative door is the issue for the mega retailers, as once the disparity is budgetarily enshrined it can be adjusted with little fuss by future administrations. This is the probable foundation of opposition by these retailers, not so much today’s £30 million (after all, Lord Sainsbury alone has demonstrated most clearly he can well afford to simply give that amount away for any issue he considers worthy, of which Scotland isn’t demonstrably one given the destination of his largesse).

Then we have the Labour cries about the state of the Nation’s health, wealth, unemployment and (to a lesser extent) environment. Cries that the current Scottish Government do too little to help, or do it in the wrong area and at the wrong time, or simply miss-prioritize. If we examine this levy in detail it becomes a startling defining concept between two so similar left of center political stances, separated on the surface primarily by a leaning towards autonomy and a support for, or potential regression from the status quo.

The other beneficiaries of this increase are the Scottish People, through funding for services and a slightly more competitive retail environment, as the mega retailers are indicating that rather than pass on the cost, it will be absorbed to permit a “competitive edge” to be retained [they’ve publically stated they may “have” to relocate rather than increase prices, though historical precedent indicates this an empty threat].

The more competitive retail environment does many things, if and as it is re-developed or protected which communities in the USA are demonstrating from Turlock, CA in the West, through Eureka Springs, AR in the Center, to St Augustine FL in the East. These local governments have enacted specific square foot prohibitions (100,000’) in the case of Turlock, either boundary wide or excluding the mega retailers from significant swathes of community land. Add to this a decided groundswell of movement against the Superstore which many individuals and communities are choosing to view as unsustainable. Those decrying the superstore cite very tangible benefits such as retention of the old “downtown” or town center, more thriving small businesses and small business communities, less traffic and pollution as people tend to park and walk.

They demonstrate a sense of community is enhanced as people interact, get to know their neighbours, their vendors, their towns. Walking, and exercise increases from a few hundred very well thought out yards of isles, requiring minimal effort, to perhaps a couple of miles of casual wandering. No more just one stop at the checkout or for the cafeteria, but often a couple of coffees and a meal, all in different establishments. Employment (and tax receipts) can actually increase.

The food and goods delivered by these small vendors is often much closer to source, and the local supply chain sees benefits. Farmers are and producers are paid more to the value of their goods rather than some dictated contract enforced through multinational power that requires our taxes to then subsidize the producer. Personal relationships expand, while fitness is slowly improved leading over time to a reduced strain on health services. Of course it does tend to reduce dependency on the state.

The downside – it has the initial potential to be a little more expensive at each store, and the choices can sometimes be a little more limited, however there’s a very good chance you’ve just more than offset those costs in the fuel you saved by driving to the supermarket, and saved, or at least helped to postpone for yourself the grief and complications of a later life dependent upon state provided medication. The plus there, if the states’ spending less on healthcare perhaps it can provide more for pensions?

In the end, you pay your money and you make your choice, or should that be you pay your money and you get your laws? Every penny spent in one of the major chains which would have been paying this tax sees reserves added to the fund to help them promulgate the laws that suit them. Those laws are invariably anti-competition, as are their acts, and often used to stifle the local economy to fill the pockets of their stockholders.

Now that we’ve seen the direction the final budget as forwarded has taken, it’s up to us to decide – are our laws and lawmakers that blatantly for sale. In so many ways, it’s the consumer’s decision.

YOU are the consumer.

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