The Socialist 19 March 2014 |
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Oxfam report: A tale of capitalist inequality
Earlier this year the Oxfam charity pointed out that a mere 85 billionaires worldwide own the equivalent wealth of 3.5 billion people - half the world's population.
Now Oxfam has reported similar levels of inequality in Britain with five super-rich families owning more wealth than the poorest 20% of the population.
In its Tale of Two Britains report, Oxfam says the poorest 20% have a combined wealth of £28.1 billion - an average of £2,230 each. In contrast, the top five richest families between them have property, savings and other assets worth a staggering £28.2 billion.
The super-rich list includes central London property magnate the Duke of Westminster, mining and metals tycoons David and Simon Reuben, industrial and finance capitalists the Hinduja brothers, aristocrats and property owners the Cadogan family, and Sports Direct retail boss and Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley.
Prime Minister David Cameron's infamous remark that "we're all in it together" under the Con-Dems' austerity regime and Chancellor George Osborne's equally ludicrous claim that 'everyone can expect to share in the prosperity', of the UK's weak and ephemeral economic upswing, are punctured by Oxfam's report.
Its authors point out that the wealth gap in the UK is becoming wider due to the super-rich grabbing the profits from growth. But that hasn't stopped Osborne slashing a further £12 billion from welfare spending in the budget.
Also, since the mid-1990s, ie starting under Labour, the incomes of the top 0.1% have grown by £461 a week or £24,000 a year. By contrast, the bottom 90% have seen a real terms increase of only £2.82 a week or £147 a year.
So, what is Labour's alternative? According to shadow chancellor Ed Balls, an incoming Labour government would continue and extend the Tories' austerity plans.
As an election carrot he says Labour will reinstate the top rate of income tax for those earning over £150,000 a year from 45% to 50%.
But he says this 50p rate is only temporary and a maximum, in order to reassure the wealthy that Labour is not 'anti-business'.
Labour's timid tax measures will not provide the resources to lift millions out of poverty, reverse inequality, nor provide long-term increased funding for public services.
To achieve that a socialist plan of economic production would be needed through the nationalisation of the major corporations and banks, under democratic workers' control and management.
- Since 2003, 95% of the population have seen a 12% real terms drop in their disposable income after housing costs, while the richest 5% of the population have seen their disposable income increase
- The number of children living below the poverty line could increase by 800,000 by 2020
- The most affluent family in the UK (Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor and family), has more wealth than the poorest 10% of the population, 6.3 million people (£7.9 billion and £7 billion respectively)