Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The whole system is 'morally wrong'

Following the official announcement by a Tory minister that it is “morally wrong” to pay people like plumbers, carpenters and other socially useful citizens cash as a way of reducing household bills, we present a number of other dilemmas to discuss during the Olympics.

First of all, we should say that the minister in question, David Gauke, himself claimed over £10,000 in expenses back from taxpayers to avoid paying stamp duty and fees on a property transaction. We should also note the fact that his wife works at a firm advising tax lawyers who specialise in tax avoidance schemes.

Leaving the issue of total moral hypocrisy aside for a moment, because it’s far too easy to put the boot in, let’s examine some real quandaries society needs to take a stand on. For example, is it “morally wrong” that:

-         the top 10% of Britain’s wealthiest households are more than 500 times richer than those in the bottom 10%, with the gap widening all the time?
-         the least wealthy half of households in Britain have 10% of the total wealth, while the better off half have 90% of the total?
-         despite their best efforts a quarter of households can't achieve a decent standard of living, according to a recent Rowntree report?
-         the bottom fifth of households pay 31% of their disposable income in indirect taxes, compared with 13% for the richest fifth, an increase from 2009/10 when the proportions were 28% and 12% respectively?
-         UK companies paid a record £22.6 billion in dividends to shareholders in the second quarter of this year?
-         Carphone Warehouse Group chief executive Roger Taylor will collect an estimated £34m in cash and shares this year despite the failure of the Best Buy retail chain whose creation he oversaw?
-         at BP Plc, the top executive earned 63x the amount of the average employee in 2011, versus 16.5x in 1979 while in the case of Barclays, top pay is now 75x that of the average worker, versus 14.5x in 1979?
-         in the last ten years alone, average CEO pay for FTSE 350 companies has increased by 108%?
-         a group of 36,000 individuals – only 0.6% of the population – own 50% of rural land (their assets account for 20 million out of Britain’s 60 million acres of land)?
-         1.6 million children in Britain live in housing that is overcrowded, temporary, or run-down?
-         5.9 million homes in England fail to meet the government's Decent Home Standard?
-         more than 70,000 homeless children in England are living in temporary accommodation?
-         3.6 million children in the United Kingdom live in poverty after their housing costs have been paid?
-         the average rent for a two bedroom home in the capital at £1,360 is almost two and a half times the average in the rest of the country?
-          ordinary working families face unaffordable private rents in 55% of local authorities in England?
-         major corporations like Vodafone and Boots escape/avoid paying tax on all their activities in the UK?
-         that banks who helped wreck the economy are propped up with taxpayers’ money still repossess homes and refuse loans to small enterprises?

This abbreviated list neatly exposes the very real state of Britain, where social class defines power, privilege and wealth and not abstract morality which aims to disguise growing inequality. Contrary to what the ConDems say, we are not “all in it together”.

Older people, for example, struggle to find the money to pay for care while a minority live it up at our expense. The solution lies in our hands.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor

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