Friday, April 24, 2009

Spare a dime for a poor rich kid

No doubt about it - the budget confirms we're in a big mess. The superlatives that have littered our front pages ram the point home: life's going to be tough and tough for a good while.

But in the midst of all the hand-ringing and talk of going to hell in a handbasket, I have found myself with an uneasy feeling. All the commentary has been about how we, we who have lived beyond our means for the past generation, we who have believed free markets hold the keys to the Kingdom for 30 years, we who have watched our asset values mushroom beyond the dreams of Ozymandias, are going to have to tighten our belts a notch - and it's not fair and someone must be blamed (providing it isn't us).

We are even being asked to feel sorry for those on £150,000 a year or more who will have to pay a touch more tax. Apparently, Kate Moss' tax bill could rise by half a million and Wayne Rooney's by £450,000. I don't begrudge these undoubtedly talented and beautiful people their wedge. But I do wonder what planet some editors and commentators inhabit.

While the super-rich struggle by on £410 a day (if they earn £150,000 a year), a billion people every bit as talented, beautiful and hardworking as Moss and Rooney luxuriate on the princely sum of $1 (about 68p at today's exchange rate).

One had hoped that the credit crunch might function as a wake-up call to us all to take a fresh look at what we value and how we value it. Perhaps it might have prompted us to ask whether there's a better, fairer, more just and equitable, more sustainable way to run the world than we've tried in the past 30 years.

But apparently not. All the talk is about how we get out of this as quickly and as unscathed as possible so we can resume business as normal. and certainly we should do nothing to disturb the fragile rich who apparently will be scared away from our shores if they are asked to contribute just a tiny bit more to the general well-being of everyone.

Yes, the budget was a missed opportunity. But the commentary on it has been as morally vacuous and empty as the statement itself.


Anonymous said...

I see your point.

But to balance the argument about the idle, fragile and feckless rich, you could consider Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Getty, Andrew Carnegie, Sir Tom Hunter etc, etc. Perhaps some of the worlds greatest philanthropists.

I think I'm right that it's the love of money that's the root of evil, not money itself.

We need entrepreneurs. We need wealth creators and we need banking. Wringing our hands asking where it all went wrong won't help.

I'm backing the people who'll get off their arses and generate cash. They're going to be the people who can make a real difference and while we need a safety net for the poor and helpless, we also need those who will go into the world and make enough money so they can give it all away.

simon said...

Yeah point taken - though I note all your examples with the exception of the last whom i don't know have at least committed more than $1bn to charity.

I don't buy the argument that entrepreneurs are motivated only by money and that they stop being entrepreneurial if the taxes go up.

I think entrepreneurs are as inteersted in power, status and clout as they are in cash - hence the alacrity with which they give it away! So i'm not sure they're a reason not to raise taxes a little.

simon said...

thanks to Sue for pointing out that my calculation of the daily income of those on 150k was wrong. The figure now in the post is correct.