Sunday, September 02, 2007


More on Fat Cats

Readers of this blog will probably have deduced that I'm a cat lover, hence that 'fat cat' story a few days ago. My own moggie, Tessie, used to be an obese 7 kilos but is now down to a flabby skinned, but much healthier, 5. The excuse for headlining cats again is the article by Simon Jenkins in The Sunday Times.

Those familiar with Sir Simon's journalism will know that this former editor of The Times, is no lefty. But even he has cried 'enough' at currently the outrageous salaries of top executives. Compared to the 2.5% offer to prison officers:

'The heads of Britain’s 100 biggest companies have had 37%, won 28% more last year, 16% the year before and 13% and 23% in the two preceding years, yielding an average pay of £2.8m a head or 20 times the rise in price inflation. Under Labour, these company directors have stretched their remuneration to almost 100 times average earnings, a gap unprecedented since the rise of modern taxation.'

After noting and dismissing various specious defences of such stupendous payments, he quotes JK Galbraith who said they:

'[were] nothing to do with the marketplace but were a heart-warming gift from executives and their friends to each other, a gift that had grown so large as to 'verge on larceny'.'

Jenkins blames greed, of course but also the weakening of trade unions' s market place power, courtesy of Thatcher and the collaboration of Blair. He notes the growing indignation that the richest people in society should be subsidised by taxpayers by virtue of tax havens or non domiciled status and concludes:

'any lobbyist can cobble together special pleading for such antics, but they will not wash for millions of hardworking, tax-paying Britons. Low taxes for all are good, but tax breaks for a privileged few are wrong. The rising tide of wealth should float every boat, not just executive yachts.'

Jenkins does not, however, spell out how such overpayment can be curbed. He (rightly) dismisses statutory curbs, but apart from urging that those threatening to leave the UK for imagined higher salaries elsewhere in the world, should have their bluff called, he offers no practical answer. Having mandatory worker representatives on those incestuous remuneration committees would make a good start is my suggestion.

'Aye, there's the rub' - everyone knows the problem but no one has a viable solution. And it's odd that no fuss worth speaking about is made about similarly outrageous 'earnings' picked up in sports and show biz.

Perhaps an answer is to sell titles with the cash going to the general exchequer. For ten million a year you could be entitled to an honorary earldom (but with no vote in the HoL) or some such plus a really gaudy outfit to wear on special occasions which shouts 'look at me' at everyone less fortunate...
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