Helen Martin: Hunt is on for a Robin Hood
ACCORDING to expert market analysts Kantar Worldpanel, and the highly-respected Institute of Fiscal Studies, we are now, in economic terms, a divided nation.
Most ordinary people like me would rather put soap in their eyes than get embroiled in the murky subject of economics and grapple with the complexities of base rates, business taxes, GDP, quantitive-easing and retail growth, preferring to leave it to people who claim to understand all these things
Maybe we should do what politicians beg us to and get involved in politics, become interested, be enthusiastic about getting our voice heard, but I’m not sure that would be a good idea or that they’re ready to hear us.
Take away all the fancy terminology and maths and it doesn’t take an economist to realise that we are a divided nation. It’s abundantly clear, especially in what we were told – until recently – was the “affluent” city of Edinburgh, that an awful lot of people earn too much and a great many earn too little or nothing at all.
Bankers, high-ranking council officials and many in the professions, for example, now automatically expect a six-figure salary. On the opposite side of the divide, the majority of people have seen their salaries frozen, their hours cut, their income reduced and any sense of security fly out the window.
The middle classes, once seen as the backbone of Britain, are being gradually whittled away, widening the unbridgeable gulf between those who have no money worries whatsoever and those whose only worry is that they don’t have any money at all. We are becoming a Waitrose or Lidl society.
We’d all like to be in the rich bracket, of course. And it would be just too saintly for me to say I wasn’t envious of people with wealth. Who wouldn’t want to be minted?
But there’s more to this great divide than jealousy.
Governments can play about with interest rates, inflation, deflation, business tax and do whatever they like to try and stimulate growth in production and retail. Until they do something to spread wealth around a bit more, there’s no-one to buy these goods. So even in hitherto “affluent” Edinburgh, shops are closing down at an alarming rate, taking more jobs with them.
The CBI is fond of blaming “weak consumer confidence and uncertainty over the economy” for the fact that the public aren’t spending enough to keep shops going. Weak confidence? Uncertainty? How about accepting that people just don’t have any money? They are not “choosing” to stay away from the tills; they have no option.
The only thing that is going to get us out of this financial hole is putting shed-loads of money into the pockets of the masses, the “poor” if you like, for they are the people who will spend it.
One multi-millionaire will never buy as many TVs as 100 people on modest incomes.
There’s no boost to the general economy and retail when prudent professionals sensibly pay off their mortgage faster, cough up the school fees they would have starved to afford anyway, pay into a Trust Fund for their kids’ university years, or stash it away in their own portfolio for a rainy day.
Satellite TV companies knew what they were doing when they launched first in council schemes in the Capital and other cities. That’s traditionally where you’d find the biggest plasma screens, the most designer labels, the most cosmetic surgery, the smartest mobile phones and the most disposable income.
Not everyone in Moredun, Craigmillar or Broomhouse could afford these luxuries, but those who could were the ones who kept everyone else in employment by throwing it about. Pay the rent, the leccy and the food bills and spend the rest, keeping the country’s economic boiler stoked.
Older savers used to be the other big spenders in society. Having paid off their mortgage they looked forward to splashing out on a comfortable retirement. They are now also mentioned in the two-nation reports as being unfairly penalised while the young and rich enjoy minimal mortgage rates.
The redistribution of wealth – taking from the rich to give to the poor – is usually seen as a socialist ideal. Ironically, it could be the only way to save capitalism. But it may take Robin Hood or a revolutionary, rather than a politician or an economist, to make it happen.
A gold for gassing
MORE than halfway through and the marriage is still holding up. Fortunately we have two televisions so it hasn’t come to war.
Himself is a total sport junkie. I’m partial to a bit of dressage, or “horse ballet” as it is sometimes scathingly referred to. I don’t mind diving, some tennis, I could go on.
But even I couldn’t go on . . . and on . . . and on . . . the way the pundits and analysts do.
Himself thinks I hate sport and moan just to thwart him. He’s wrong. It’s not the sporting action – it’s the waffle and wind-bagging in between that drives me crackers.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North