Thursday, November 23, 2023

Voice From The Back: The rich get richer (2005)

The Voice From The Back Column from the November 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

The rich get richer

"The US's richest tycoons increased their personal wealth in the past year, with the top 400 worth $1.13 trillion (£640bn), says Forbes magazine.... To make this year's list of the top 400 fortunes in the US a minimum net worth of $900m was required — up from $750m last year." (BBC News, 23 September) The old popular song "Aint We Got Fun" cynically stated "The rich get rich and the poor get children", but it is no laughing matter.

Your two cents worth

An analysis of the gap between the rich and poor in Manhattan by Dr Beveridge of the City University of New York is revealing. "Income Disparity in City Matches Namibia. Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue is only about 60 blocks from the Wagner Houses, a public housing project in East Harlem, but they might as well be light years apart. They epitomise the highest and lowest earning tracts in Manhattan, where the disparity between rich and poor is now greater than any county in the country. . . .  The top fifth of earners in Manhattan make 52 times what the lowest fifth make — $365,826 compared with $7,047 — roughly comparable to the income disparity in Namibia. . . .  Put another way, for every dollar made by households in the top fifth of Manhattan earners, households in the bottom fifth made about 2 cents." (New York Times, 17 September)

Big Spender

"The minute he walked in the joint, they could tell he was a real big spender. . . .  By the time he left the Aviva bar in the five-star Baglioni Hotel in Kensington,West London, on Thursday night, he had spent nearly £36,000. He bought 851 cocktails, emptied the place of Louis Roederer Cristal champagne, and gave a waitress a £3,000 tip. (Times, 1 October) This hedge fund manager from New York spent £16,500 on champagne and £6,000 on a variety of cocktails. It can be safely assumed this high-roller does not live in the Wagner housing project in East Harlem.


According to George Orwell in 1984, doublethink is the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. This spectacular mental gymnastic feat seems to have been accomplished by Karen Hughes, a public relations spokesperson for President Bush in her recent trip to the Middle East. Trying to sugar the pill for her Turkish listeners she came out with this classic of Doublespeak. "To preserve peace, sometimes my country believes war is necessary." (Observer, 2 October)

Progressing backwards

Some years ago the press and TV was full of conjecture about the wonderful leisure-based life we would have inside capitalism. Futurologists and other media pundits speculated that with the advance of technology we would all be working fewer hours and fewer days per week. The big problem of the future would be how to spend all our leisure hours. Such scenarios have proven completely wrong with many of us now working longer hours and now it seems probably working for many more years. "The state pension age should be raised to 70, the Confederation of British Industry says in light of new figures detailing extended life expectancy." (Times, 4 October)

The dignity of labour

In an edited extract from Maxwell's Fall: An Insider's Account by Roy Greenslade we learn something of the contempt the owning class feel for the working class. When Maxwell took over The Daily Mirror he wanted to speak to Kelvin MacKenzie then the editor of The Sun but his secretary reported that MacKenzie would not accept his call. "Maxwell demanded that the secretary relate the conversation in full, but she was hesitant. "No, no, no," screamed Maxwell. "Tell me everything he said." She said she would prefer not to, but Maxwell shouted: "You will not get into trouble, Patricia. But if you refuse, you will be in trouble. "Well, Mr Maxwell, he said, "I don't want to speak to the fat Czech bastard." Two weeks later Patricia left in tears, escorted from the building by a security man (Times, 6 October).

The decline of religion

It used to be an argument of supporters of capitalism that socialism was impossible because of the working class's adherence to religion. A recent article by the columnist Magnus Linklater seems to give the lie to that notion. "Whereas in 1851 between 40 and 60 per cent of the population went regularly to church, today that figure is less than 7 per cent. In recent years the trend has accelerated — by 28 per cent in the last 20 years for the Catholic Church, and 24 per cent for the Anglican Church; in Scotland, the fall has been so dramatic that the once all-powerful Kirk reported recently that it could well be extinct as an organisation within the next 50 years." (Times, 13 October) Any other arguments against socialism?

1 comment:

Imposs1904 said...

That's the November 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard done and dusted.