Voice From the Back

The Regal Con Game

Times are hard in British capitalism today so our rulers have had to cut costs. Slash welfare benefits, cap government workers’ wages and introduce a bedroom tax. There are some things of course that are sacrosanct. ‘The Queen has received a £5m boost in the funds she receives from the taxpayer to carry out her official duties. The sovereign grant, which covers the running costs of the Queen’s household, has been set at £36.1m for the 2013-14 financial year’ (Guardian, 2 April). Keep the workers thinking they are one nation and give them spectacular royal events. Essential to disguise their exploitation. Money well spent.

We’re All In This Together

The recent budget with its welfare cuts and austere forecasts for the economic future must have depressed the Deputy Prime Minister and probably prompted him to take a break. ‘Three days earlier, he sat stern-faced through the Coalition’s latest ‘we’re all in it together’ Budget. But with a flatlining economy and the row raging over benefits cuts, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg knew exactly where he needed to be – at his family’s £7 million Swiss ski chalet. Leaving the stress of austerity Britain behind, he jetted out with his family for an Easter getaway at the luxury villa nestling between fashionable Klosters and the resort of Davos’ (Daily Mail, 5 April). Clegg’s family ski chalet has 20 rooms and he has been skiing there since infancy. We don’t suppose there is a problem about bedroom tax there.

Startling Statistics

In a review of Leo Hollis’s book Cities Are Good For You, the writer Tom Chesshyre reveals some startling statistics. ‘He travels to fast-growing Mumbai, where he takes in the world’s most expensive house, the 27-storey, $1 billion home of a leading business man; with living spaces for 60 servants, parking for 160 cars and three helipads. He is damning of the growth of the global super-rich, pointing out that 90 per cent of the world’s wealth belongs to the richest 1 per cent’ (Times, 8 April). He also mentions that in London the richest 10 percent have 273 times more wealth than the bottom 10 percent.

Five Million In The Big Freeze

More than five million families in Britain are facing the threat of having their heating cut off after falling behind with their energy bills, an alarming report warns today. The research said the number of households struggling to pay their bills has jumped by around one million people over the last year. ‘On average, they typically owe £123 to their energy supplier, raising fears they face being cut off if they do not eventually find the money to clear their debts. The report, from the comparison website Uswtich.com said the number of cash-strapped families has jumped sharply over the last year from a total of four to five million’ (Daily Mail, 9 April). This is life in Mr Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ – more like a big freeze society.

Rich Pickings For Some

The New York Times annually reports on the astonishing incomes enjoyed by the capitalist class, but they are not necessarily the richest packages out there. As they report, they rely on filings required by the Securities and Exchange Commission for public companies. That means they are missing entire categories of businesses: privately held corporations, most hedge funds and many private equity firms, but nevertheless some of their figures are staggering. ‘Consider Leon Black, C.E.O. of Apollo Global Management, among the largest private equity firms with $2.86 billion in 2012 revenue. He took in more than $125 million last year. …….. Steve Schwarzman, founder and chief executive of the Blackstone Group, took in $8.4 million in compensation last year, and his distributions earned him an additional $204 million’ (New York Times, 10 April).

A Sense Of Values?

It speaks volumes for the media’s sense of values when it can report the following fraud but remain silent about a much greater con trick. ‘A Florida billionaire, William Koch, 72, has won $380,000 (£247,000) compensation after 24 fakes were discovered among 2,600 bottles of vintage Bordeaux wine that he bought for $3.7 million’ (Times, 13 April). The greater con is, of course, capitalist society itself, which can have people starving whilst a useless parasite can spend millions of dollars.

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