Socialist Party
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9 July 2008

Rich get richer: Why should we pay the price!

The 'Haves and Have Yachts' lead totally different lives to the rest of us. Last year an American journalist wrote a book about how the super-rich now live in their own world of gated mansions with butlers and servants, private schools and hospitals. He called this nation 'Richistan'.

Alistair Tice

The inhabitants of this world can buy a mega-yacht for 13 million or a personalised Boeing 737 for $35 million to whisk them away to their private island in the Pacific. Here they sip 'martini on a rock'; at $10,000 a drink it comes with a diamond at the bottom of the glass! Sounds like a fantasy world? In fact one billionaire is trying to build an inflatable space hotel!

But in the non-fantasy, real world one billion people still don't have clean drinking water and two billion don't have access to sanitation. This is a 'profit before people' world where the wealth gap is growing due to globalisation, de-regulated markets and financial speculation. It is a capitalist world in which these so-called 'Masters of the Universe' have brought us to the brink of economic disaster.

Not that the super-rich are suffering. The latest World Wealth Report for Merrill Lynch shows that the number of dollar millionaires totals ten million.

Sounds like a lot, but they are only 0.0015% of the world's population. Yet these 'high net worth individuals' have assets of $40 trillion, more than the annual incomes of China, Japan, Brazil, Russia and the EU combined!

Despite the credit crunch, property crash and economic slowdown their wealth grew 9% last year and is projected to keep growing by 8% a year.

And don't think that these are all American tycoons, Arabian sheiks and Russian oligarchs. There are 494,500 dollar millionaires in Britain. London is actually the capital of Richistan due to Thatcher's de-regulation of the financial system and New Labour's light-touch tax regime. That's the tax system that forces cleaners to pay more than private equity bosses and non-doms.

In fact one third of big companies pay no tax at all!

Meanwhile living standards for the average UK household have gone down over the last five years according to a new report by Ernst & Young. After tax, mortgage and household bills, the average family has 6% less to spend on 'discretionary' purchases than in 2003.

So it's no good Gordon Brown saying he "feels our pain" of rising food and fuel costs, when his MPs vote to keep their noses in the John Lewis trough. Or chancellor Alistair Darling urging wage restraint "from the boardroom to the shop-floor" when there's a fat-cat chance of the bosses only giving themselves 2%. Mind - we could accept a 2% increase - of their salaries!

This situation is not going unnoticed. On 16 and 17 July workers in local government are taking strike action against a derisory pay offer. The Socialist Party supports all workers fighting for a decent wage. We advocate taxing the super-rich to re-distribute wealth and campaign for a new mass workers' party to achieve that.

Most of all, we believe another world is possible, where instead of the wealth and resources of the planet creating the obscenity of Richistan, democratic socialism would liberate humankind from exploitation and oppression.