Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/471/1999
Behind the bonus bonanza
MARC GLASSCOE of Lincolnshire Socialist Party reviews Excess In The City: Bonus Bonanza, shown on ITV1 on 16 January.
THIS PROGRAMME was aired two weeks after the socialist ran a front-page story on the obscene bonuses paid to city financiers. Billed as an examination into the lifestyles of these same city workers, I was intrigued to see what it uncovered.
The programme detailed the ridiculous amounts of money paid out to people working for big City of London financial institutions. Many of these people already receive seven-figure salaries, yet at bonus time at the end of the year multi-million pound payouts are not uncommon.
One interviewee described the offer of a £100,000 bonus as "like working for charity". It would take your average factory worker on the minimum wage nearly ten years to earn a similar amount of money.
Many apologists for this system claim that they earn their money through long hours and hard work. One financial trader even referred to himself as "just like your average 25-year-old".
Yet 12-hour days are a regular occurrence for many workers and lost weekends are the norm for many in the service industries. And a multi-millionaire city banker will never know the meaning of stress and sleepless nights compared to a single parent living in a council home trying to make ends meet against rising rent and utility bills just to survive.
The programme's narrator pointed out how the conspicuous wealth and spending of the rich is feeding Britain's economic boom, particularly in the housing market. An estate agent specialising in what he called the 'bonus belt' told how the wealth in London is creating problems at the lower end of the market with prices rising by 20%-25% and first-time buyers at an all-time low.
Stocks and shares
WHILE HIGHLIGHTING how the super-rich were living their lives, the programme did not mention how they made their money, for example what stocks and shares they had been trading in. I found myself wondering.
How much of their wealth was generated by participating in the international arms trade; by supporting companies such as AMEC, the construction company making money out of the war in Iraq; or Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp, the viciously right-wing supporter of George W Bush and enemy of the working class?
While companies like Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs pay their senior staff obscene sums of money in bonuses over and above their massively inflated salaries a single person's state pension is a pathetic £84.25 per week.
At the same time millions of public-sector workers are facing attacks on their pensions. In the NHS, wards and even whole hospitals are being closed and more and more of our public services are handed over to big business.
A system, capitalism, that allows this obscene situation to exist can never be justified. The only way to end this horrific inequality is to end that system and replace it with a socialist one, designed and planned for the millions and not for the millionaires. But to paraphrase Marx, it's all very well writing about this, the point is to change it!
Tax the rich!
MAKE THE rich pay! That's what most people say when they see the fat cats' carnival of excess and inequality. Socialists support the idea of a tax on that enormous wealth.
Of course, a wealth tax would not by itself end the inequalities. Whole industries exist - very profitably - to make sure rich individuals and companies avoid paying taxes!
But why should the wealthy and big business get away without paying for vital services? As socialists, we think the only way to permanently halt this blatant injustice is through a socialist transformation of Britain and the world.
Trade unionists and socialists fight for a wealth tax as a statement of intent to fight for a more just and equal society.
In The Socialist 25 January 2007:
War and terrorism
Socialist Party news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
International socialist news and analysis