No natural force created this intense unfairness, the growing global inequality in wealth and incomes, the recent Oxfam report graphically highlights it.
The gulf between the super-rich and the rest of us did not gape wide open overnight. Rather, it has been decades in the widening and it was done deliberately.
The UK was the frontline of the war to create greater inequality: in her first two terms as prime minister, Margaret Thatcher “more than halved the top rate of income tax” paid by high earners. She broke the back of the trade unions. Over their 16 years in office, Thatcher and John Major flogged off more public assets than France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Australia and Canada put together.
Oh, shrug the Davos set, that’s ancient history. It is no such thing. Thatcher may be gone but her ideology keeps on taking cash out of your pay packets.
If workers today got the same share of national income as in the 70s, we would be far better off. According to calculations from the Foundational Economy collective of researchers, a full-time employee now on the median salary of £29,574 would get a pay rise of £5,471.
Meanwhile, FTSE bosses enjoy skyrocketing pay, precisely because bonus schemes give them part-ownership of the big companies they run. So Jeff Fairburn of the housebuilder Persimmon took £47m in 2018 before getting the boot, which works out at £882 for each £1 earned by an average worker at the firm.
Where Thatcher’s shock troops led, the rest of the west more or less followed. Political leaders across the spectrum gave the rich what they wanted. It didn’t matter whether you voted for Tony Blair or David Cameron, Bill Clinton or George W Bush, either way you got Davos man. They cut taxes for top earners and for businesses, they uprooted the public sector to create opportunities for private firms, and they struck trade deals negotiated in secret that gave big corporations as much as they could ever dream of.