The Socialist 20 May 2020 |
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Rich get handouts - workers get pay cuts
Make the rich pay for the Covid crisis
The rich get bailouts, the poor get peanuts, photo Dan Moyle/CC (Click to enlarge)
Steve Score, Leicester Socialist Party
Some of the richest people in the country are getting huge government handouts because of coronavirus. Meanwhile, millions are poorer as a result of the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic.
Certainly we aren't "all in it together" when it comes to wealth. Top of the 2020 Sunday Times Rich List - the wealthiest 1,000 individuals or families in Britain - is James Dyson, who increased his personal stash by £3.6 billion last year to £16.2 billion.
At the same time, unemployment has rocketed. Official figures went up in the month of April by nearly 900,000 to 2.1 million. Millions more are 'furloughed' on 80% of their wages - while our bills don't go down!
Young people are hit hardest - one in three earning less than a few weeks ago. 35% are earning less than they did before the pandemic outbreak.
The Sunday Times says the combined wealth of the 1,000 richest people has fallen for the first time in a decade, by 3.7%. But it still leaves them about three-quarters of a trillion pounds to play with!
On the other hand, as the Rich List compiler points out: "Ever since the financial crisis of 2008-09, Britain's wealthiest people have become richer and richer." During which time working-class people have suffered drastic real-terms wage cuts and austerity.
The Tories, like governments around the world, have been forced to intervene massively into the economy in an attempt to prevent an unprecedented collapse. Driven by the fear of the reaction of working-class people, they have handed out huge loans to companies, and introduced the furlough scheme to try to stop unemployment levels rising greater than the Great Depression of the 1930s.
But the Sunday Times shows that many Rich List billionaires are claiming government loans, demanding company bailouts, and taking taxpayers' money to furlough staff - while sitting on their personal fortunes, often refusing to top up workers' pay. These include the likes of Richard Branson, Mike Ashley, Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin, and ex-BHS owner Sir Phillip Green. Five of the top ten richest are claiming furlough money to pay their workers.
And who will pay for the huge debt the government is racking up in this crisis? The super-rich certainly don't think they should!
If the Tories get their way it will be us - the very working-class people who have suffered years of austerity to pay for the last capitalist economic crisis in 2008-09.
A Treasury document leaked to the Telegraph details ways the government could start to claw back the cash. It suggests tax rises, reversing Tory election promises. It proposes another pay freeze for public sector workers - who have suffered years of it already - including health workers and others the government lauds as heroes! It also suggests cutting state pensions by £8 billion a year.
This isn't yet government policy - but they haven't denied it's possible either! However, they will have to tread carefully in squeezing the working class. There will be no mood to accept the punishing of 'key workers' after this pandemic. They may try to be sneaky in the way they steal it off us.
The only guarantee that the burden won't be loaded onto our backs yet again is building a mass movement, led by the trade unions, to defend living standards and jobs as well as the immediate issues of safety at work.
Moreover, we must permanently end the obscenity of wealth inequality by fighting for the socialist transformation of society, where big business is publicly owned and democratically planned for all.