Friday, May 25, 2007

Despicable Greed

In the blue corner...Mr John Charman. In the other blue corner...his ex-wife, Beverley.

Mr Charman has a personal fortune of something like ninety six million pounds. You've probably read in the papers this morning that he's been ordered at the court of appeal to give half of this to his former wife of 28 years. That's a settlement of £48,000,000.

I'm not going to argue one way or the other whether a settlement should always be half (although I would normally think it should as who brings what into a marriage is almost completely unquantifiable). What utterly disgusts me is the sheer magnitude of Mr and Mrs Charman's greed.

How's this for a quote from a man with £96million in the bank:

"The presumption of sharing and equality may well be right for those of more ordinary means...[but]...different rules are needed where all the extraodrinary assets are earned by one of the couple..."

So, by dint of having struck it lucky and living off the sweat from the backs of us "more ordinary" folk, he becomes a special case his own eyes (thankfully, not in the eyes of the law, however).

The fact is, this whole sorry episode and others like it could be easily avoided by not only having a national minimum wage, but by having a national maximum as well. I'm not suggesting anything trifling; running a large company is stressful and demanding work and should be properly rewarded - but there is something very very wrong in salaries and bonuses which bring in nearly a hundred million quid over a 28 year period, whilst I have no doubt that most of the people who actually created that wealth by the sale of their labour (nothing wrong with a touch of Marxism) to the fat-cat Charman live on little more than £15 or £20k per year; quite probably less in some cases. I suspect he and his cohorts at the top pleaded for pay restraint each year during the pay-round as well; doubtless the company "couldn't afford it".

So, a national maximum wage of, say, £300,000 a year. If you can't live off that then you're just not trying. Anything above that, kick in with a taxation rate of 99% and use the revenue for the good of everyone in the country rather than for the precious few.

"But the talent will leave the country", I hear the cry from the right wing apologists for massive greed and scandalous larceny. What talent? I simply do not believe that the "global market" in chief executives and company directors is anything more than a lie made up by....yep, chief executives and company directors. In that way they can supposedly justify their rampant gluttony for the folding stuff.

A strong government could and should call their bluff. Let them leave the country, then bar the way back with a massive tax bill to be paid before re-entry for any purpose. There are plenty of talented, dedicated people willing and able to step into the shoes of the great and greedy for a sensible pay packet. In this way we can avoid the unedifying spectacle of the uber-rich peering down their noses at us "more ordinary people" whilst wallowing in their ill-gotten filthy lucre.

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