Well, as the great Jack Benny used to say, poor Jimmy Carr. Eddy Anderson, the sidekick of Benny, might protest as he did every show, ‘Oh, boss, come now.’
The funniest line Carr ever made was probably his defence of his tax avoidance. ‘I pay what I have to pay and not a penny more.’ So, the 1% that he pays on his £3.3m fortune is begrudged. But we should not expect morality from stand-up comedians. This is the man who cracked the joke, ‘The male gypsy moth can smell the female moth up to seven miles away – and that fact also works if you remove the word moth.’ The offensive remark led to a BBC apology. Carr, the sensitive chap that he is, still persists with it on stage. It is no more elegantly phrased today than when he first told it. During the Second World War, Jack Benny was keen to stress how all races and nationalities within America were contributing to war effort. Eddie Anderson was black. Jack Benny toned down the racial humour after the War and after he became aware of the Holocaust. Today Jimmy Carr thinks it funny to laugh at gypsies. Jack Benny was affected by the inhumanity of man that existed in his era. Jimmy Carr merely wants to be with the inhuman counting his unpaid tax.
In his radio show which was broadcast on March 28 1948, there is a scene where Benny is stopped by a thief. ‘Don’t make a move,’ says the thief. ‘This is a stick up. Now come on. Your money or your life.’ The radio is silent for an agonising eight seconds but the huge American audience knows how mean Benny is with money. They stay listening and even laugh during the ridiculously long pause. ‘Look bud,’ says the exasperated thief eventually. ‘Your money or your life.’ This time Benny replies quickly. ‘I’m thinking it over,’ says Benny. American families explode into laughter and there is a coast to coast crack across the American skies.
Now we have Jimmy Carr and this. ‘Why are they called Sunshine Variety Coaches when all the kids on them look the same?’ Well, as Jack used to say, if you are going to sneer at gypsies it is only fair that you include the disabled. Presumably, this is what David Cameron meant by the Big Society. We will endeavour to be hostile to everyone that is different. The same ethos applies to his welfare reforms. There are 17 proposals and the intention is clear. We punish everyone. Oddly, Cameron has singled out Jimmy Carr for not paying his taxes, the only person Cameron has criticised. Carr has a downbeat look and Cameron, a man who specialises in flab of all kinds, is perhaps wary of people with muscle, either physical or intellectual.
The years of Jack Benny were not perfect but there was will and vision after the end of the Second World War, an understanding that we had to help the victims. America invested huge amounts of money in war damaged Europe and established markets and demand that enabled them to create their high standard of living. Now we have Jimmy Carr paying 1% tax and Cameron saying that as his Government has absolutely no idea how to create economic growth and jobs it is only sensible to attack the already perilous living standards of the poor. Thatcher was an unpleasant Tory but she understood that if employers were to benefit (unfortunate choice of word probably) from high unemployment and enjoy a buyers’ market for labour then somebody would have to pay the unemployed to keep quiet. The rich soon accustomed themselves to the idea of high unemployment but now they do not even want the unemployed to be paid. It’s trite to say so, but this neo-conservative greed has to stop.
Neo-conservatism digs in best in isolated societies, islands like Great Britain and Australia and the self-contained land mass of America. It forms roots where the people know as little as possible about the social and economic success of their neighbours, the countries where prejudice, anecdote and sneering operate as substitutes for analysis and thought. Welcome to Britain in the 21st Century, oh, and Jimmy Carr. £3.3m is a lot of cash. Somewhere in that fortune Carr must have concluded he had economic security. Most people would have considered themselves safe after the first million but it is possible that Carr is an insecure man and two million is required to help him sleep at night. But we are talking about £3.3m and 1%. As Eddie Anderson used to say, ‘Oh, boss, come now.’
The Taxpayers Alliance has been quiet about Mister Carr. The Taxpayers Alliance is the bourgeois equivalent of marijuana smokers who only ever talk about legalising pot. Two groups united by an absence of imagination. If the Alliance has said nothing, strange people with the usual Jeremy Hunt type accents have been appearing on the radio and the television. The argument of these Taxpayers Alliance members travelling incognito is simple. 1% of £3.3m is £33,000 which is £25,000 more than the tax paid by the average British citizen. You know the type, they work in pubs and shops and empty bins and so forth. What Jimmy pays is more than justifiable and our Jimmy is making a fair contribution. This is how people think in the neo-conservative jungle, well, as Jack used to say, those that own it. The most sinister aspect of this defence is how it reveals the ultimate neo-conservative ambition. The tax system will only be fair when multimillionaires like Jimmy Carr are paying £8,000 like everybody else. Actually, I am not even sure that would keep them happy. None of the plans that they have implemented in the last thirty years has done anything to weaken their grievances. Each time they stand for election they complain about Britain as if it was created by someone other than them. Maybe we should excuse the rich from people paying taxes completely. Otherwise they will moan into eternity. That provokes a thought. Perhaps there is a parallel universe where the rich love paying taxes. ‘Oh, boss, come now,’ as Eddie used to say. ‘I know,’ Jack may have said, ‘but there is a lot of infinity.’
Benny belonged to an American generation that signed up to the Marshall Aid Plan and tax rates that involved rich people paying 90% tax. The money that was collected created infrastructure and jobs and demand and a nation became rich. It is called basic economics. Now we have masters who believe affluence should be confined to just a few who can use their influence to encourage us to sneer at the disabled and gypsies. Let’s face it, they say to a big laugh, none of us like losers. Jimmy Carr may get indignant about holocausts but he has no qualms about economic corrals for the millions of people who are not in his income group. This blog has made this point before but Elvis paid 90% tax and avoided tax shelters. The view of his critics is that it happened because he was a bit thick. But there is a website that quotes the Will of Elvis as a textbook example. This suggests that Elvis had decent values. He was not obsessed with money but he was concerned about the future of his family. This makes him human, a man who emerged from more civilised times. Others can think about a suitable term for Jimmy Carr.
‘Well?’ says Jack.
‘Oh, boss, come now,’ says Eddie.
‘I’m thinking it over,’ says Jack.
If you want to read about Elvis and much more click here.