Things got a little better under Major. But under Labour to 2001-02 inequality again increased. The share of the bottom fifth slipped back to 6%, while the top fifths share moved up to 46%. The rich are getting richer while the poor get poorer.
While the average-paid have had increases of 3-4% in recent years, Britain's highest paid executives had salary increases of 21% in 2000, 19% in 2001, and 16% in 2002. Inland Revenue statistics show that 150,000 highly paid directors and others with earnings over £50,000 a year enjoyed additional fringe benefits worth an average £10,880 each. The company car etc benefits, amounts to £7,800 a director on average which is nearly twice what a pensioner has to live on.
"I spent 33 years in the Marines. Most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. . . . I helped in the rape of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street."
General Smedley D. Butler, U.S. Marine Corps
We are told, usually by the councillors themselves, that running for election to the local council is matter of "community service". They want to "give something back to the community". Yet local councillors across the 26 counties claimed a total of more than ¤25m in "expenses and allowances" last year.
229 of them collected more than ¤40,000 each, while 54 collected more than ¤50,000. The highest earner was Fianna Fail's Jimmy Maloney, a councillor in Mayo, who picked up more than ¤75,000 in 2002.
The Labour Party's Paula Desmond, in Cork, received more than ¤74,600, while Fianna Fail's Francis Conaghan, in Donegal, collected ¤69,255. Kerry councillor Paul O'Donoghue (FF), a brother of Tourism Minister John O'Donoghue, also received more than ¤68,600.
Now that's a lot of traveling to meetings!
This edition is No77 published in September 2003