Nick Cohen has a good piece on the grinding of the poor in the UK.
…for me, the best way of summing up the division between rich and poor, and high and low, is a contract stating that “hours of work will be advised by the visitor manager and will be dependent upon the requirements for retail assistants“. The staff had no security, the contract made clear. Their employers guaranteed them no minimum income. The bosses might leave them at home from one week to the next, while still insisting that the casual workers remained available to work for them and them alone.
Who’s that – some hotel chain? Asda? The local prison?
No, it’s Brenda, aka Betty Windsor, aka her majesty.
The contract says so much because the employer in question was not some crook but the Queen – whom everyone in authority assures us is a benign sovereign who cares for every one of her subjects. Her Majesty’s exploited servants were to show tourists round Buckingham Palace’s staterooms, when and only when the monarchy thought it had no choice but to pay them.
As the recession grew, the wealthy were finding new ways of encouraging poverty by keeping the poor on zero-hours contracts whose average hourly rates were 40% below the “normal” earnings for the work. Not just oligarchs it is easy to despise as cruel foreigners, but the British monarch and head of state.
Well, be fair – she did give up the yacht.
The account of royal miserliness comes from the forthcoming Hard Times by Tom Clark, a leader writer on the Guardian. I hope it sellsbecause Clark is the first author I know of who has examined the data on the great recession and shown that booms and busts are like Tolstoy’s families. All happy financial bubbles are alike but each recession is unhappy in its own way.
Many commentators, including me, expected the great crash of 2008 to produce mass unemployment as the great crash of 1929 led to the mass unemployment of the 30s. Because labour is so cheap, we have instead an English-speaking world without neat boundaries. For the majority of people, the division of time into the years of boom and the years of bust makes little sense. In America, the average worker has not had a pay rise since 1973. In Britain, median full-time pay stopped rising in 2000, then collapsed after the crash. The great recession came after 30 years of the rich leaving the rest behind. (In the past two decades, for instance, the top 1% has grabbed three-fifths of all the gains in American growth.) The majority of the population did not enjoy a boom in the past decade: just a bust in 2008. As Osborne tries to sneak an election victory in 2015 by letting the housing market soar and fall yet again, another boomless bust is coming.
There’s a solution for this problem though. Everyone should just go into the financial planning business. The pay there is HUGE so everyone will be hugely rich. Utopia here we come.