AS THE rich receive another handout through the privatisation of
the Post Office, and their off-shore earnings remain inaccessable,
the fiction being put forward is that the undeserving poor and
unemployed are the nation's problem.
One of the themes in the Old Testament prophecies is the
centrality of truth-telling in politics. "They [the kings and
officials of Judah] make ready their tongue like a bow, to shoot
lies; it is not by truth that they triumph in the land." (Jeremiah
9.3). Jesus tells Pilate that, yes, he has a Kingdom, and it is one
Christians are called to truth-telling in politics - not just
the transmission of facts, but truth subject to norms of justice,
peace, and the common good. The time has come for Christians to
relate politics in Britain to this truth-telling agenda. There is
one issue which cries out to be addressed: the inequality between
rich and poor. The truth is not being told.
Inequality occurs in income and wealth. Wealth is the assets
owned; income is the money people receive. The top ten per cent of
UK households own as much wealth (44 per cent of the total) as the
bottom 85 per cent. The bottom ten per cent own nothing, or less;
their debts exceed their assets. This means that a few can do
whatever they like, while tens of millions do not have any real
resources to live good lives. There are no effective taxes on this
wealth; so it will only grow more unequal.
Income in the UK is also grossly unequal - about the most
unequal in Europe. The top ten per cent earn on average 12 times
what the bottom ten per cent earn. Many are earning 100th of the
earnings of the top-income people: £5 an hour, compared with £500
an hour. There is no solid economic reason for paying anyone £500
an hour, or even £100 an hour; it is merely a question of how close
you and your tribe are to the money troughs.
If high-income people in the UK were paid no more than £100,000,
we could employ four million more people at £25,000 a year. Many,
especially the young, are struggling, while the top people
accumulate income. Astonishingly, the top fifth pay less in tax on
income than the bottom fifth - and that does not take into account
This inequality distorts the whole economy, explaining its poor
performance and government debt. The Chancellor, George Osborne's,
problems are largely that the rich have avoided tax at the rate of
about £30-60 billion a year for three decades - this would have
been enough to wipe out the national debt.
The young are often poor, in debt, slow to form families, and
unemployed - the average age of new mothers is 30. Vast areas are
deprived of wealth and income; and property, markets, work skills,
and family life decay. These people will die ten years early.
The wealthy, meanwhile, control education, government contracts,
the media, property markets, windfalls to the financial sector, and
the tax system. So, for example, council tax bands are based on
calculations from 1991, giving derisory council taxes to vast
The rich and their media barons seek to scare off anyone who
addresses these questions of inequality. The Conservatives are
there to keep the status quo. Both Labour and the Lib Dems are too
frightened by the media power of the rich to fight these injustices
that harm us all.
Unless the Church demands a political response - a wealth tax,
perhaps, or the taxation of all UK-earned corporate and personal
income, and a gradation to a 60-per-cent tax on the top-income band
- the next election will be emptiness wrapped up, and the poor will
remain servants of the rich.
Dr Alan Storkey is the author of Jesus and Politics
(Baker Book House, 2005).