This Is What Modern Class Warfare Looks Like
Since I'm over in London, I pick up on local news, which has been full of fallout from various austerity programs designed to roll back pensions, housing subsidies, etc. Firefighters, Tube workers, and BBC journalists are all threatening strikes. There's also been a lot of coverage of the widespread strikes/shutdowns in France.
At the same time, executive pay is up 55%!
Incomes Data Services, who conducted the research, said bonuses paid to directors of FTSE 100 companies increased by 34%, while basic pay rose by 3.6%. The amount of money waiting to be disgorged from long-term incentive schemes soared by 73%, to a total of £259m, and share option gains leapt by 90%.
The FTSE 100 rose by less than a fifth over the same period.
Steve Tatton of IDS said the report suggested that companies returned to "business as usual" once the recession ended.
This is an economics article, so it's important to note that the phrase "once the recession ended" refers to the technical end to contracting GDP. As we've increasingly seen by most other measures, the real impact of the "Great Recession" is likely to persist. Incomes for normal people remain depressed (or are falling) and unemployment is high. It is a "jobless recovery," and cold comfort indeed to anyone feeling the pain right now.
I've written about this before (as have many others much more often) but it bears repeating: we are in the midst of an unprecedented era of relative income inequality, and there's an ongoing effort to transfer still more wealth from the bottom to the top. This is why people are pushing the idea that our retirement programs (whether that's Social Security in the US or Pensions in Europe) and other social safety net systems (e.g. food stamps, housing subsidies, etc) are in need of "reform," while incomes at the top end of the spectrum continue to rise.
Whenever I read this kind of stuff, I'm compelled to ask:
Are we suddenly living in a poorer world than we were forty years ago?
Why should people give up what they (or in some cases their parents) fought to earn?
People say, "but what about Baby Boomers retiring?" And yes, this is happening. But you know what? Actuaries are't fracking stupid: they've been planning for this for decades.
People say, "but medical costs is growing out of control" and that's true, but it's not really related to the retirement question. That's Estados Unidos and it's bass-ackwards system of heath-care wherein we screw a good third of the population, and everyone else overpays for average first-world treatment plus extra paperwork. It's not a reason to cut the programs: it's a reason to finish reforming our health care industry.
Honestly, the truth is most people work too hard for too little return. Back in the US, the economy generates $47,988 of wealth per person (man, woman, child), but the median income for an entire household is only $44,389. So I say strike on. Protect your goddamn neck and keep what you have, people. Don't give an inch.
Another darker long-term truth is that there's not enough meaningful work to go around to keep everyone employed all the time. The model for labor/production/wealth-distribution that worked through most of the industrial revolution is breaking down, and will continue to do so in our lives — artificial scarcity can only do so much.
The big fork in the road is whether or not we keep going towards a Global Elite/Underclass, or we get some kind of more equitable distribution going. Nations or regions that succeed in the latter will probably win out, as Aristocracies are perennial losers and the more participants you can get in an endeavor the better overall chances you have. That won't keep the greedy-stupids from trying to tell you otherwise though.