Mark Steel: Don't let's forget the rich are different

You almost have to admire the front when people can't stop swiping billions

Share

The High Pay Commission has just published a report about the trend in salaries paid to the highest 0.1 per cent of earners, and it seems that someone must have made a terrible mistake. Because, in this time of unprecedented debt and sacrifice, with the Government making daily statements such as "in order to keep old age pensions viable, we are insisting from now on that the elderly contribute towards their upkeep, by going on the game for just two days a week. Under this scheme, they will keep 90 per cent of whatever they make from turning tricks, which is far more generous than the pimping rate on the open market, and this will ensure properly funded pensions for the next generation."

Somehow during this austerity, the richest 0.1 per cent "continues to enjoy huge annual increases in pay awards". For example, the salaries of directors of the top 100 companies have increased by 49 per cent. This must now be so difficult to justify, the directors will explain that "what you must remember is the richest 0.1 per cent are a different species to the rest of you, and if our bonuses don't increase by at least 28 per cent, our gills close up and we suffocate".

Dr Heather McGregor of executive search firm Taylor Bennett tried a different route, explaining yesterday that if you want executive pay restrained, "You can go and live in Cuba." We should give this is a go. Then the Cuban embassy will be puzzled to find 47 million applications for a visa, and on the forms under "Reason for wish to live in Cuba" will be "I was asked if the chief executive of Barclays deserved his salary of £4,365,636, so I said he should at least give back the 6 and I was told I had to move there".

The other argument is that the executive pay rates are set by shareholders, so we can't do anything about it. In other words, you can't stop people swiping billions because they voted themselves the right to swipe billions. You might as well say you can't do anything about arsonists because the arsonists set the temperature they like buildings to be at, and if they decide they prefer materials to be molten and smoky, the Government has no power to restrain them.

You almost have to admire the front. For example, yesterday's London Evening Standard told of a banker who broke the record for the amount spent in one night at a Spearmint Rhino lapdancing club, celebrating a bonus by coughing up £37,000 for his evening's entertainment. These are people who must see one of those Oxfam adverts saying, "Two pounds a week could save this child's eyesight" and think, "That's disgusting. If just 18,500 of the people who donate to that charity gave the money to me instead, I could have a free night out at Spearmint Rhino". Because they are a different species.

'Mark Steel's in Town' has just been published by Fourth Estate

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The power of anonymity lies in the freedom it grants

Boyd Tonkin
Rebel fighters walk in front of damaged buildings in Karam al-Jabal neighbourhood of Aleppo on August 26, 2014.  

The Isis threat must be confronted with clarity and determination

Ed Miliband
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone