Where did all the money go?
Reports hit the headlines this week of a London flat going for a record £138m. 3 years after the credit crunch, and the mega rich are richer than ever. 3 years after the credit crunch, and those who caused it are seeing their wealth boom.
Over the last couple of decades, we have got used to these records being broken, and then re-broken, and then smashed again, as if a younger Boris Johnson and David Cameron had set about them on a drunken night out.
But one significant thing has changed. Now, they are actively claiming that there ‘isn’t any money’, that we ‘just can’t afford’ the public services on which most people depend. It is true that Britain’s GDP took a bit of a battering during the credit crunch. We must re-build our economy to make up for the hole left by the finance sector. And that means that we must invest.
But if anyone, anyone is seriously saying that we need to sack care workers and end all youth work (As Oxfordshire did yesterday), because there simply isn’t enough money in the country, then perhaps we can refer them to One Hyde Park where flats are for sale for £100m+. And perhaps we can point out that last year, the richest 1000 people in Britain saw their wealth increase by nearly 1/3. If there is anything we can’t afford, it is these ludicrous excesses of wealth. What civilised country is at once too poor to provide basic care for disabled people and yet rich enough for some to have a spare £100m to spend on a single flat?
For too long, a tiny elite has enriched itself on the back of the work of people in this country. They told us that they were earning these wages beacuse they were the risk takers, they were the people who would feel the pain if things went belly up. Well, over the last three years things have gone belly up. Yet who is it that is feeling the pain? It is not these ‘risk takers’. It is the old and the young and the sick, and those who care for them; and the ordinary people in this country whose work creates true wealth.
For too long, we have had to carry this tiny elite. But I’m sorry, we can’t afford them any more. These people haven’t created jobs – unemployment is much higher than it was in the much more equal 50’s and 60’s and 70’s. They haven’t made us happier. They have just trashed the county and then refused to pay the bill.
So, next time someone tells you there’s no money left, I suggest you ask this: Who got it? Where did they take it? And next time someone tells me that we can’t afford a basic public services, I will reply that it is not nurses we can’t afford. It is billionaires.