Deutsche Bank — to which Donald Trump still owes at least $300 million in loans repayments, and which was fined for laundering Russian money in 2017 — has released a new report titled "What We Must Do to Rebuild," which examines ways to rebuild the global economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. One section of the report, written by Jim Reid, Deutsche Bank's Global Head of Fundamental Credit Strategy and Thematic Research, offers this helpful suggestion:
Working from home will be part of the 'new normal' well after the pandemic has passed. We argue that remote workers should pay a tax for the privilege. Our calculations suggest the amounts raised could fund material income subsidies for low-income earners who are unable to work remotely and thus assume more 'old economy' and health risks.
A later section by Luke Templeman adds:
A five per cent tax for each WFH day would leave the average person no worse off than if they worked in the office. It could raise $49bn per year in the US, €20bn in Germany, and £7bn in the UK. That can fund subsidies for the lowest-paid workers who usually cannot work from home.
Remote workers are contributing less to the infrastructure of the economy whilst still receiving its benefits.
That is a big problem for the economy as it has taken decades and centuries to build up the wider business and economic infrastructure that supports face-to-face working. If a great swathe of assets lie redundant, the economic malaise will be extended.
One could charitably interpret this as a sort of economic version of universal health insurance — everyone pools their money together, offsetting costs for those in need, with the idea that you yourself will one day be that person in need. There's certainly some echoes of a Universal Basic Income line of thought here as well.
More likely, the rationale is — as Templeman points out — that our societies have already been built to accommodate in-office work. That's good for real estate (and other supporting services), which is good for banks like Deutsche Bank. From their point of view, it hurts their business to have you work from home. So you may as well pay a tax on it … which would disincentivize you from remote work, and put you back in the office, where you can personally save money, and Deutsche Bank can continue to profit from the general operating overhead. Because certainly, your employer doesn't mind the reduced costs of you working from home — so it's up to Deutsche Bank themselves to get you back in the office.
What We Must Do to Rebuild [Deutsche Bank]
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