“I just find it utterly nauseating all these chairmen and chief executives of FTSE companies being paid 100 times the pay of their average employees lecturing us on how we should run the country. I find it barefaced cheek”.
It should have been a Labour politician, or at least a union leader, saying that on the ballyhoo about the 130 bosses who have denounced Labour for planning an increase in National Insurance rates. In fact it was Lib-Dem spokesperson Vince Cable.
It’s not that Cable, or the Lib-Dems, are anti-capitalist. Far from it. Under Nick Clegg, further from it than ever. Cable himself joins the Tories in denouncing Labour as being “in hock to militant unions”. (If only it were true!)
Rather, that Cable, having being among the top bosses himself — he used to be chief economist for Shell — feels comfortable and confident about rough-and-tumble banter with other top bosses who back the Lib-Dems’ Tory rivals.
The Labour leaders were so terrified of seeming not “pro-business” enough that all they could do was hunker down, mutter to journalists “well, the Tories have scored a hit there”, and wait for the row to pass.
The top bosses are the people who brought us the economic meltdown of 2008 by their insane rat-race for profit. They are the people who award themselves huge bonuses even when the company isn’t doing specially well, and who take huge pay-offs when they are sacked for incompetence.
It’s not that the National Insurance rise is a specially good idea. It would be better to get the money by a targeted tax on the ultra-wealthy instead.
It’s not just that the outcry about National Insurance rise “costing jobs” is a fake, because many of those company bosses pay the majority of their workforce wages below £20,000 a year, at which level the National Insurance rise doesn’t apply.
It’s not even that some of the bosses could offset the entire cost of the National Insurance rise to their companies just by reducing their own personal salaries to something more like an ordinary income.
The greatest absurdity is the way the media have reported the bosses’ outcry, as if it was similar to 130 top mathematicians condemning Gordon Brown’s arithmetic, or 130 top doctors condemning his views on some disease — as if company bosses are the certified experts on how to run economic life.
Or, rather, since the media themselves are run by the same breed of bosses, the absurdity is that the media assumption was not challenged by Labour politicians or union leaders.
The bosses are experts, after a fashion, in how to run the economic life of a company in profit-grabbing competition with other companies. That is, in the way of running economic life which brought us the meltdown of 2008, and has brought us crises, inequalities, and exploitation throughout the history of capitalism.
Any policy to get rid of exploitation, inequality, and crises must start by rejecting the claim by the bosses to be authorities on how to run overall economic life.
Control should belong to the workers who produce the wealth, organised democratically, debating among ourselves democratically.
The unions should raise that demand, and press it on the Labour politicians.