A Larger Slice Of The Pie.
A proposal for a more equal society.
"It can only get better". Well, did it?
Does anyone still remember the song they played at the party on the night of
the great Labour victory of 1997? "It Can Only Get Better" by D.Ream.
In 1979 there were 7.6 million people living on less than 60% of the median
income. By 1997 it had gone up to 14 million, (that's 22% of the population) and
has stayed around that ever since. It went down slightly to 13 million after 10
years of Labour government. But the number of people on very low incomes,
that is 40% of the median, was 1.3 million in 1979, (2.9% of the population),
went up to 5 million in 1997, and stayed at that through the Labour government,
and is now at 5.9 million (9.8% of the population).
(Source: Joseph Rowantree Foundation, Poverty and Wealth Across Britain
We have a higher relative poverty level than the average in Europe, only a
handful of other EU members are behind us, Greece, Italy, Spain, Latvia,
Romania and Bulgaria.
At the other end of the scale: In 1975 the top 1% of Britons owned 6.1% of all
the wealth. By 2005 they owned 21% (Source:Her Majesty's Revenue and
In 1975 the top 10% of Britons owned 27% of all the wealth, by 2005 they
owned 53% and still do (Source:Office of National Statistics), and they get 40%
of all the income (Source: Institute of Fiscal Studies).
Here is a list showing how much the top 10% own in other countries for
South Africa 51%
(Source: United Nations)
In Britain, the incomes of the top 10% are more than the incomes of the all the
bottom 50% put together.
"The top 0.1% get 4.3% of all income - the highest figure in the UK since the
1930s, and three times as much as they received as a share of income in 1979"
(Source: Institute of Fiscal Studies).
We are used to reading these sorts of figures, we accept them, like we accept
Why is Britain still like this?
How did it happen that despite two successive Labour landslides giving them a
massive majority in the House of Commons, they failed to reverse or even halt
the move towards greater inequality? Why, despite the efforts of a Labour
Chancellor who strove to alleviate child poverty by expanding the Family
Income Supplement into Working Family Tax Credits, a pretty generous help
for the low paid in work, did not only child poverty stay with us, but the rich
continue to get richer in relation to the rest of us, while the poorest of the
working classes remain permanently poor? And how did it happen that the
middle classes benefited so much more than the working classes from a Labour
government? "The gap between middle incomes and low incomes has increased
substantially over the past ten years" (Source: Poverty.org. - Department of
Works and Pensions).
Why didn’t Labour use their great majority to rid Britain of poverty, or to
advance the working class struggle for a larger slice of the wages pie?
Part of the answer is perhaps that the working class struggle for greater pay
which is what it was in the early days of the union movement, became subsumed
by a notion of the state as the major player in the redistribution of wealth.
Gordon Brown came from that tradition, and strove within it to alleviate
poverty in the way he knew how. But the role given to the state has always
tended to benefit the bureaucratic and political classes, as their importance and
their material advantages and employment grows, (28% of the workforce work
in government, more than work in manufacture and construction) - and has left
a large part of the working classes still, as ever, on low pay, and in poverty. The
working class struggle needs to find representation in a move for higher pay.
The state shouldn’t need to be presiding over handouts to make up for low pay.
It's time the working classes got a fair share of the pie.
The Need To Reverse The Trickle-Up Economy - To
Move Money From the Top to the Bottom
At Present We have a Trickle-Up Economy; The money trickles up to the top -
then leaves the country.
LOOK AT ANY BRITISH HIGH STREET, AT THE chain stores that dominate.
It doesn't just tell the story of the difficulty for smaller retailers to afford the
inflated rents for shops, or of the deliberate and systematic way the chains seek
to put smaller shops out of business. No, it tells a wider story of an economy
where increasingly all the money ends up where money already is, at the top,
while it is harder and harder for anyone else to make any profit at all. But this
effect goes further than simply increasing the gulf between rich and poor in
Britain. It creates a national poverty into which we are blindly falling, led by the
smiling family-friendly face of the retail outlets of the corporations. For the
chains themselves are not self owned, but belong to other corporations and
banks. These take the profits and invest them where growth is quickest, abroad,
in developing nations and in Europe. In 2011 British companies invested £68bn
abroad, one third of all profits (Source: HM Treasury). The most telling
symptom is that almost everything on the shelves in the shops is made abroad. A
country like Britain finds itself increasingly "redundant", surplus to the needs of
the corporations that live upon its body, like ticks, and then drop off and move
away, taking its life blood with them, the profit earned by the people there.
Because of banks' investment abroad, and because such a large proportion of
the profit made in our economy is made by giant corporations, (in retailing for
example, the 4 big stores have 80% of the market share), and because they
often pay low wages, money made here does not go round and round in our
economy spreading prosperity; fully one third of it leaves the country and takes
prosperity with it.
The result here is that we all become not a nation of shopkeepers any more, but
a nation of low paid employees, getting poorer and poorer. Eventually we will be
wrapping German and Chinese goods, a source of cheap labour.
Keeping wages low while producing less and less and importing what we use, is a
sure way to long term poverty and decline. £30bn, by far the largest single
portion of the £68bn British companies invest abroad, goes to Europe; and we
import most, not from China, but from Germany.