Since 2009 the richest 1,000 households in Britain have more than doubled their wealth. The top thousand’s assets total £547 billion, according to the Sunday Times Rich List 2015. In 2009 the total was £258 billion.
The 2015 figure is a 32% rise compared even to the figure at the giddy peak of the boom before the autumn 2008 crash.
Meanwhile the average household’s real income is still below what it was in 2009-10. Low-paid workers, disabled people (whether working or not), young workers, and public service workers have suffered especially. Some categories are over 20% worse off than in 2009.
£547 billion is almost £10,000 for each child, woman, and man in the UK. It’s equivalent to over two million houses at the current average house price.
The cumulative total cuts in public spending, from 2010-11 to 2015-6, have been a bit over £200 billion at 2015-6 prices. So the rich have gained, in extra loot since 2009, over three times as much as the rest of us have lost through cuts. If taxes had just kept the rich to the level of luxury they had in 2009, then we could have had no cuts, a rapidly falling deficit, and better public services.
Usually economic slumps reduce inequality a bit, since the rich have further to fall. The wealth of the top 1000 fell more in 2008-9 than real wages, or average household wealth, did. But since then inequality, by many measures, has spiralled.
That has happened because of the unions not fighting hard enough for wages and public services, and because of government policies geared to refloating high finance and thus boosting share and bond prices.
The Tories and George Osborne want to continue the trend by slashing £20 billion plus more from welfare and reducing taxes for the rich. Labour promises a few small extra taxes on the rich, but tiny amounts (a billion here and a billion here is small compared to over £700 billion total public spending per year), and will continue with cuts, only milder.
At Labour’s Policy Forum in July 2014 all the big unions voted down a constituency move to commit a Labour government to refusing cuts. Labour’s weak-kneed leaders feel under more pressure (from big business) to continue cuts than from the labour movement to stop them.
Solidarity and Workers’ Liberty are working with the mainstream of the labour movement to get the Tories out and a Labour government after 7 May. But we also agitate in the labour movement for the unions to force Labour to tax the rich and to open the way for working-class people to regain what’s been taken from us since 2010.