18 April 2012     

Faking shock while spoiling the pampered

By John Malloy

We are all familiar with the annual promotional event (over)dressed up as an awards ceremony, the Oscars. In recent years an alternative event that mocks and precedes it, the Golden Raspberry Awards, or Razzies, has emerged that recognises the worst achievements in cinema during the year. None of the winners at either ceremony in any category, however, could match the performance from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, in maintaining a straight face as he stated that he was “shocked” to discover that some of the wealthiest people in the country pay “virtually no” income tax.
     Such a statement, from an individual who avoids paying the highest rate of tax by determinedly separating his rental income (that runs into millions) from his earnings (received for bleeding the UK economy to death) is truly from the Goebbels “big lie” school. What he claims to be shocked by is indeed outrageous. As the Morning Star summarised from the latest Treasury data, “almost one in 10 people earning more than £10 million a year are paying less than the 20 per cent basic rate of income tax. The Treasury figures also showed that 6 per cent of £10 million-plus earners paid less than 10 per cent in tax and another 3 per cent came in below the basic 20 per cent rate. Fewer than three quarters paid more than 40 per cent.”
     These figures have only surfaced at all in the light of the discussion from the UK Government, proposing to limit the phenomenal tax relief that the rich receive on their donations to charity. This has had the effect of testing how philanthropic the Tories’ wealthy friends really are, and the short answer is not at all if “giving” doesn’t involve getting something in return in the form of a tax cut. Little wonder that for the heroine of such people, Margaret Thatcher, the moral of the Good Samaritan parable was that such an intervention was only possible because this individual was rich!
     The charity “row” is a shallow distraction but an opportunity to expose the extent of wealth in the world that benefits directly from the austerity rack that the millionaires have imposed on the millions. For example, research from Capgemini/Merrill Lynch on the world’s wealthiest individuals, or, as they describe them, the High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI) (“those having investable assets of US$1 million or more, excluding primary residence, collectibles and consumer durables”), highlighted how in the UK alone the number of HNWIs grew by 1.4% during 2009/10 from 448,100 to 454,300. On the world stage, the report also noted that the population of Ultra High Net Worth Individual (with investable assets of US$30 million) grew by 10.2% in 2010 and its wealth by 11.5%.
     Osborne, far from being shocked by the existence and the tax regimes such individuals live by, in fact delivered a tax cut to such people, including to the top tenth of those earning over £150,000 a year—those who “scrape by” on £22,670 a week or 60 times the current UK median pay of £380 a week.

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