I have nothing against millionaires; I wish I was one at times. Like most people however, I find there is something about the super rich that does slightly repulse me. Imagine if you will, having a choice of which sports car you will take out of the garage, paying hundred of thousands of pounds for every day items like watches, cars and clothes, or even simply not having to do your own cooking, cleaning and household chores. I find this sort of wealth disgusting and I honestly don’t think this feeling can be explained through jealousy. I find it almost impossible to put my finger on exactly why it offends me that people have lots of money and are living the good life. Surely this should be celebrated?
Increasingly I have come to think that it is not simply that people have money that offends me, it is the stark comparison between them and the world’s, or even this country’s, poor. Why should someone earn millions every year when others are dying of malnutrition and preventable diseases? Why should someone own a string of houses when others struggle to find a place to sleep? It does seem a bit disgusting, doesn’t it?
It goes further than this however. Within one business we can see huge ratios between the lowest and highest earners. Imagine, two people who work alongside each other, one who struggles to put bread on the table through a part-time minimum wage contract whilst another takes home millions supplemented by millions in bonuses. You think that this scenario is impossible? Think again.
Bart Becht, chief executive of Reckitt Benckiser (produces Nurofen and such forth) was the most highly rewarded boss in the FTSE 100 in 2009. He received the same pay as 1,374 average workers at his Slough-based multinational, taking home approximately £37m last year in 2009 alone. Here is a man who will walk amongst and shake hands with people in abject poverty whilst earning more than most of them could dream of.
The next obvious question is whether or not this is inevitable. Some would argue it is. Yet, Christian Aid provides a fascinating alternative working model. They operate a 1:6 staff pay ratio. The top dog cannot be paid more than 6 times an entry level employee. Subject to affordability, salaries are increased annually in line with the average of the Average Earnings Index and the Consumer Price Index. They pitch every new position in line with market competitors and so far the model seems to be broadly working. Would this work with FTSE 100 companies, probably not. But what about the public sector?
For me this seems to be a basic starting point. At the very least, I do not want to fund the super rich (annual salary over £100,000) through my own taxes while others struggle to make ends meat. Why can we not put a salary ratio on all public sector employees? 1:6 or even 1:10? This idea is being championed by some in local government and it will be interesting to see how it develops over the coming years.
One thing for certain, it is certainly more palatable and workable than the concept of a salary cap. Even morally, I have never understood the argument for punishing those who are well paid for sake of it.
This pay ratio model is one that enforces the trickle down theory that The Conservatives are always harping on about but we never quite see the results of. As some get very rich the rest of should atleast be getting slightly better off. Instead we are seeing the opposite as the gap between rich and poor grows and grows. This policy would enforce the trickle down theory and help make it a reality.
One response to “Why do I find millionaires disgusting?”
Very good issue to raise. When I worked at Christian Aid there was a 1:4 pay rule and we in the Union argued hard to stick to that. Sad it has since slipped to 1:6, but still good that they are trying to live-out their principles in the workplace. let’s encourage this in a lot more workplaces.