One Per Cent

There’s been a fair amount in the news in recent days about the one per cent of the population who are in key positions in this country’s government. They are those who are in order to ‘protect their families’ have been storing their money offshore so that their children will not starve as a result of their parents paying taxes.

Alan Duncan had to be heard to be believed. I wonder if he lives in a parallel universe. If so, I don’t want to go there. I happened to be trying to sort out a payment regarding the money we still owe for Mother’s carers while Dave was answering questions in the House about his own financial affairs, so the contrast between his tax evasion and our obligation to cough up every penny for services that fell short of what Mother needed felt pretty stark.

Now you may not have heard Alan Duncan. Well, lucky you. And if you don’t want to know, stop reading now, because I am about to quote him.

“Shouldn’t the Prime Minister’s critics really just snap out of their synthetic indignation and admit that their real point is that they hate anyone who’s even got a hint of wealth in their life?” he asked.

“May I support the Prime Minister in fending off those who are attacking him, particularly in thinking of this place?

“Because if he doesn’t, we risk seeing a House of Commons which is stuffed full of low achievers, who hate enterprise, hate people who look after their own family and who know absolute nothing about the outside world.”

It’s not difficult to see that for Duncan, anyone who hasn’t become a millionaire by fair means or foul is a low achiever. Wealth is his morality. Which make me pretty immoral, but nowhere near as immoral as those struggling with high rents and zero hours contracts. Low achievers By Duncan’s definition. Or maybe just people whose opportunities to achieve have been restricted by circumstance.

The thing about the One Per Cent is that it applies across all the professions. As human beings we are attracted to people we perceive as being like ourselves, and I don’t just mean attracted as in life partners. Increasingly, when you start in acreer you are expected to work without pay. The term internship has slipped into our culture and vocabulary. Who are these people who can work without pay? Ah they’ll be part of the one per cent; people whose parents or trust funds support them; people who will still get to go on holiday as undergraduates rather than spending vacations doing temporary work.

When I qualified as a journalist, the only people in my class who went onto full time paid posts were those whose parents or partners were supporting them financially. Poor as the pay was then, it’s worse now. I can’t afford to work as a freelance journalist from home anymore. It simply doesn’t pay the bills; the fees are derisory. Look at our leading journalists, see where they were educated, and across the newspapers of all persuasions the majority come from moneyed backgrounds. They may write radical pieces now, but few grew up on council estates.

So the One Per Cent dominate our media, our government, any profession where you need to get experience. My neighbour’s boyfriend has qualified as a psychologist, but he needs *experience* before he will be considered for a post. All the *experience* going is unpaid.

We’re back to the argument about pupils from fee paying schools dominating the acting world. Don’t get me wrong, I am not disputing that Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston or Emma Watson are good actors, but they have the cushion of economic security to get them through the lean times while they try to get the break. There are plenty of people from less well off backgrounds with talent that simply never gets discovered because they have to abandon their dreams and get work of any kind to pay the bills.

And as the One Per Cent dominate the across the board, it’s easy to start to believe that they dominate because they are somehow better, somehow superior to the rest of us, and not that most are there because they have had better opportunities.

We are profligate with the real wealth of our country which is the potential of each person here. We don’t hide that wealth off shore, we just stifle opportunity in the country for it to flourish. But when the One Per Cent evade paying taxes they effectively maintain a status quo where that will continue, because the taxes they avoid paying are the taxes needed to benefit the whole country, and allow everyone to have as Alan Duncan puts it “a hint of wealth in their life”.

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11 thoughts on “One Per Cent

  1. this is an excellent post, Isobel, and I agree absolutely. The welfare state created opportunities for people from working class and low income backgrounds and the flowering of talent and creativity in the 1960s and 1970s showed the benefits, but Thatcherism began the decline, and now we have an oligarchy that thinks it is a democracy.

  2. Thanks Isobel, you made me read up on another soulless narcissistic libertarian. It is a philosophy that works very well when you start life with all the necessary advantages but falls short when the hand you are dealt is lacking the aces.

    • It is depressing. Our state school system, and presumably yours too, was set up to teach the skills wanted by employers in the industrial revolution. Maths and English have therefore been assumed to be the most important of subjects for those of us who need labour for our bread. Of course, the ideas behind this system were challnged by the teaching establishment. The result, an imposed national curriculum which is supposed to raise standards and which reflects exactly the unscientific ideas of the government about what skills and knowledge will be most marketable, or useful to employers; teachers engulfed in an ever rising tide of paperwork that leaves little or no time for independent thought. Our NHS is similarly engulfed, so that instead of serving us, staff are too busy writing notes. A system is created that will fail, then that failure will be used as an excuse to allow private enterprise to take over.

  3. Thoroughly depressing – and the sad thing is that it seems to be engendering a view of “why shouldn’t I do it if the people in power do it too?”

    I saw an infographic a while ago that showed the amount of public money lost through chasing benefit fraud being compared to the estimate of tax lost through “clever” tax planning. There was a huge imbalance!

  4. An excellent post, and your comments regarding journalism in particular hit home. It is not much different here in the U.S. While I don’t think Bernie Sanders can topple the Clinton political machine, one thing that has been heartening about his surprisingly strong campaign is that he has encouraged people to challenge the notion that wealth equals intelligence, leadership skills and success.

    • Re journalism, the fact that so many people are prepared to write for nothing to have something to add to their CV makes it that much harder to convince editors they should pay.
      The idea that the best people have been to the best schools and come from the best families is extraordinarily powerful.
      The myth of entitlement is promoted all the time.
      There will always be some who manage to break through the barriers, but they test the status quo, they don’t change it.

      • I went back to work for a media company (print newspapers and community news sites) less than a year ago; I just left, following a high turnover of the company’s best and most experienced writers, editors and management. Everyone who has been replaced (and not all have) has been so by a much younger employee almost literally getting paid peanuts. It felt like working in a meat processing plant.

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