Sunday, July 08, 2007


Middle Classes Complain About the 'Filthy Rich'

The diagram on the right shows that the richest one fifth of the world receives 82.7% of the world's income while the poorest fifth receives only 1.4%. A shocking statistic which, surprisingly perhaps, most people I meet seem to accept with a resignation only slightly tinged with guilt. Divisions between rich and poor in the UK are also huge but the scale is smaller. Yet there are signs that awareness of growing inequality and concomitant indignation are both advancing.

One of the historical problems for socialists has been that the people who are the victims of inequality have been those least able to do much about it. Now, it seems the middle classes are beginning to feel they are being 'ripped off' they the super rich. Madeleine Bunting recently wrote:

'Inequality has been the lonely preserve of hoary class warriors worried about child poverty for much of the past decade. No longer. Inequality has shifted to the centreground of politics; it has been propelled there not, however, by a sudden outbreak of social conscience worried by poverty in the UK, but by the increasingly powerful sense of grievance of middle England'.

Her claim is that the middle classes are feeling the pinch of huge mortgages, rising school and university fees and shrivelling pensions. Meanwhile they are forced to sit back and feel incensed as private equity bosses scoop billions and yet avoid paying tax. As long as the super rich can claim that are 'non domiciled' they avoid the need to pay tax on the income they earn while actually living in the UK. They can also avoid paying stamp duty on property by transferring its ownership to an offshore company.

The wealth of Britain's richest 1000 has quadrupled since 1997 including a 20% jump over the past year. This injection of mega bucks has caused London property prices to soar and send upward ripples throughout the whole country's housing market.
Meanwhile our middle classes have to pay their full whack of taxes to help pay for services enjoyed by the super rich for virtually no tax whatsoever! No wonder the middle classes are beginning to mutter that a tax aimed at those earning over £100,000 might not be such a bad idea after all.

Bunting cites evidence of dissatisfaction being signalled throughout the right-wing press. One such good example appeared in the Sunday Times recently when Rachel Johnson wrote:

There is now a zeitgeisty sense that the tax burden that has settled like an iron yoke across our shoulders floats like a cloak of gossamer over the super-rich – they can’t see it, they can’t feel it, they hardly even know it’s there, because many of them don’t pay much tax. As a result, even they are hearing the distant rumble of tumbrils. While life seems to get more and more expensive, the bourgeoisie are developing murderous feelings for the fat cats at the top of the tree. The new battleground is between the mass of the middle classes, struggling to afford the services and comforts they were brought up to expect, and the micro-class of the super-rich, who are using loopholes and the 10% rates of capital gains tax to turn everything they touch to gold.

'We are intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich' Peter Mandelson shamelessly said back in 1997, firing the starting pistol for Labour's decade in power to allow precisely that to transpire. The interesting question now is whether Brown, who has allowed London to become in effect a tax haven, will act on a growing sense of unfairness that straddles party lines; and if he doesn't will Cameron get there before him?

A shocking statistic indeed. But British middle-classes would belong to that top fifth which claims 80% of the world's income. So how can they complain?
just goes to show that wealth and poverty are relative I suppose but no, none of us on reasonable salaries in the west should complain- but many still do nevertheless.
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