I have come to a conclussion that the rich are a bunch of shits. You might think two things about this: 1) how did it take so long for me to reach such a conclusion, and 2) surely I don't mean all those who are rich. In truth it didn't take me so long. It has just taken me so long to say it and 'austerity' brings it out.
The poor have been political fair game, particularly over the last five years of the coalition government here in the UK. But somehow the wealthy have been 'ring-fenced'. We have had the systematic attack on 'welfare scroungers' but little to root out wealthy tax scroungers, those who are arrogant enough to assume they owe society nothing. They are those who take but do not give back. They will make profit from other people's suffering. They will send their children to the best schools money and privilege can buy but avoid paying for schools in general. They will speed on our roads in their expensive, probably chauffeur driven automobiles but avoid paying for their maintenance or construction. They will use our street lights but avoid paying for them. They are the real scroungers, and that is why I say they are a bunch of shits.
I still find more people who will complain about welfare cheats than about wealthy tax cheats. What then is it that ring-fences them. For the rich it is get away with what you can get away with - we all would if we could wouldn't we? And there lies the problem. None of us want to be poor, so we blame the poor for their poverty. Most of us want to be rich so we admire the rich, until they fall off their pedestal which happens occasionally. The newspapers publish the rich list of the top 100 people in a given year. I haven't seen them publish a list of the 'top' poorest people. That of course would be difficult as there as so many more of them. The rich are fewer, yet their moral turpitude has the greater impact. The consequences of a rich man's cheating the system is far greater than that of a poor man. The rich have become the 'untouchables'.
It has been estimated that £69.9 billion is lost on a yearly basis in what the Tax Justice Network call the "shadow economy." Think of the deficit and the effects of austerity on the poorest. Think of the cash-strapped NHS at breaking point. Think of the way this government has pushed to cut welfare while the rich have been laughing all the way to the...bank. I recall the declaration that 'we are all in this together' from Downing Street. Now we must wonder who 'we' are.
Boots Chief Executive, Stefano Pessina, had the audacity to criticise Labour's tax policies. This is the billionaire boss of Boots who was criticised by the Business Secretary for not paying UK taxes. Mr Passina is not resident in the UK and Boots moved its formal tax residence from Britain to Switzerland following Messina’s private equity-backed buyout in 2007.
We measure success by wealth not deeds. The rich man in his castle the poor man at his gate is still the standard. The Thatcherite concept of the rich providing jobs for the poor leads to the false notion that there would be no jobs without the rich. Let's not hurt the rich because they provide work for the otherwise idle poor. It is the trickle down concept. The problem with it is that it is a false prospectus. There is little if any trickle down, and a lot of trickle up. The poor make the rich richer.
If modern politics really reflected this the debate would be more meaningful. Sadly it doesn't. We are no longer allowed to challenge the core concept about wealth. Any politician to do so is immediately castigated in the media as a raging, dangerous loony. What that means is that it is lunacy to challenge the rich. Let's not redistribute wealth! it would hurt the rich and that would...lose jobs? Make people poorer?
The other problem is aspiration, or at least a prevailing concept of it. According to this we all aspire to be rich. We don't of course, but some of us do, and if there were no rich then there would be nothing to aspire to. Really? Would there be no good to be done? Could we not aspire to doing good in our communities? The problem is that we define success by wealth. Even our universities do it. Good research has become defined as 'research' that brings in oodles of funding or can be converted into wealth creation - a translational effect! We increasingly justify what we do by the wealth it creates. Universities have been encouraged to do this. They have appointed enterprise Tzars to encourage exploitation of research. Let's make oodles of money. Even the philosophy departments have to justify themselves in this way. What is the point of history if it doesn't create wealth?
But lets get back to the cheats. Let us hope that he HSBC revelation opens up to public and political scrutiny of the real cheats. The poorest didn't create the financial crisis form which they suffer. The rich did. It is time they payed the price.