Parasite of the Year 2010

April 25, 2010

Well, perhaps that’s a bit strong, but with the release of the Sunday Times‘ Rich List, we can see that Britain carries a pretty heavy parasitic burden on its shoulders:

The collective wealth of the country’s 1,000 richest people rose 30% last year in the wake of the economic crisis…Their combined wealth rose by more than £77bn to £333.5bn, the biggest annual increase in the 22-year history of the Sunday Times rich list. The number of billionaires rose by 10 to 53.

…The London-based steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal headed the list for the sixth consecutive year, seeing his fortune double from £10.8bn in 2009 to £22.45bn following the recovery in the steel industry…The Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, remained second, adding £400m to his wealth in a year to reach £7.4bn. The richest British-born billionaire, the Duke of Westminster, saw his fortune – mainly based on property – rise by £250m to £6.75bn.

That’s not to suggest that the burden originates elsewhere – with Indian mineral magnates and dodgy Russian oligarchs. We also have the Hargreaves (Matalan) and the Greens (M&S) to contend with. Remember too that new figures have revealed that London is “[the] most unequal city in the developed world” in the words of social scientist Danny Dorling, according to whom “the government’s latest figures show that in the capital the top 10% of society had on average a wealth of £933,563 compared to the meagre £3,420 of the poorest 10% – a wealth multiple of 273.”

Much of this increase in elite wealth has come from an influx of shady outsiders and massively exploitative clothers retailers, to be sure, but there is also the world of finance to add to the mix. As the LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance recently found, the top 10 percent of City workers found their pay rising between 27 and 30 percent between 1998 and 2008. That’s £12 billion more in bonuses for City bankers – a sizable chunk of would-be wages not going to ordinary people.

This is in a context of flatlining real wages for most people. As those Marxists at the FT wrote in January, “If Britain is to continue to offer a generous welfare net while wages at the bottom are stagnant, low-income workers may soon find that living on benefits is only slightly less profitable than working” while calling on the government “to increase its subsidy on their wages via the tax credits system.”

The FT also noted that “It will also require decisions about who is, or who is not, deserving of support. This is particularly important during a fiscal squeeze. Sadly, this discussion has not yet even begun.”

Unfortunately, that’s not quite true. The vast majority of the British population have been deemed “not deserving of support” and will now experience huge cutbacks in public services and job losses. The tiny – and that needs stressing – tiny pool of the super rich have been selected as in dire social need and will no doubt be standing by the lap up privatised government services as the Exchequer deems it prudent.

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