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Unequal Britain – one million millionaires, another million depend on foodbanks

roulette wheelThe latest report on UK wealth has just discovered that there are 840,000 persons in the UK who are dollar millionaires (i.e. have assets of at least £660,000 excluding their main home) and that this number is expected to reach a million $millionaires within 3 years. That’s the same year when average wages are predicted, if we’re lucky, to get back to where they were in 2008. Although actually with UK productivity flat, economic growth now fading and the budget deficit still stuck around £100bn and even beginning to rise, not fall, it may take another decade for wages to recover.

We are now in a heads-I-win, tails-you-lose bind where in a boom the super-rich shoot ahead, and in a deep recession the super-rich still shoot ahead. The total wealth of the UK’s existing $millionaires is already £2.3 trillions, a sum half as large again as Britain’s entire GDP or national income.

It’s true that there was a temporary blip in this ever upward surge of vast wealth when these $millionaires suffered a tiny loss of 0.9% in the value of their assets between 2007-2013 – though they probably never noticed it. But over the same period UK GDP per head suffered a crippling drop of no less than 16% – nearly 18 times greater than the fall for the hyper-rich.

It’s not as though this top 3% have earned their burgeoning wealth in a manner that benefits the country as a whole. The UK’s Big Four banks handed out £30m to their top managers in order to beat the bonus cap being imposed by Brussels in an effort to reduce inequality especially in the finance sector. This was despite the City having had a record year for fines in 2014 with the total hitting £1.4bn for rigging the foreign exchange market and other gross misconduct on a huge scale.

The house-builders are another example of exploiting the capitalist market for their own gain whilst drastically failing the public interest. The top 10 house-builders raked in £2.1bn last year, a 34% jump on their profits the previous year, even though they only built 42,710 affordable homes in that year, a 26% fall since 2010. The country’s biggest builders between them control enough land to create 480,000 homes, yet 1.4 million households remain on Council waiting lists, a 34% rise since 1997, and 85,000 children are still living in temporary accommodation.

Inequality, and surging wealth which has no justification and defies the public interest, should be at the heart of this election. But it isn’t. When are the parties going to declare their policy on obscene wealth, other than a modest tax on bankers’ bonuses and an even more modest mansion tax? The bedroom tax is still depriving tens of thousands of very poor families of 5-15% of their income, whilst the proposed mansion tax may affect only some 0.5% of the asset value? When are the parties going to get serious about the balance of justice between poverty and wealth in Britain today?

Image copyright: shiffti / 123RF Stock Photo

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