The ‘Haves and Have Yachts’ lead totally different lives to the rest of us. Last year an American journalist wrote a book about how the super-rich now live in their own world of gated mansions with butlers and servants, private schools and hospitals. He called this nation ‘Richistan’.
The inhabitants of this world can buy a mega-yacht for Â£13 million or a personalised Boeing 737 for $35 million to whisk them away to their private island in the Pacific. Here they sip ‘martini on a rock’; at $10,000 a drink it comes with a diamond at the bottom of the glass! Sounds like a fantasy world? In fact one billionaire is trying to build an inflatable space hotel!
But in the non-fantasy, real world one billion people still don’t have clean drinking water and two billion don’t have access to sanitation. This is a ‘profit before people’ world where the wealth gap is growing due to globalisation, de-regulated markets and financial speculation. It is a capitalist world in which these so-called ‘Masters of the Universe’ have brought us to the brink of economic disaster.
Not that the super-rich are suffering. The latest World Wealth Report for Merrill Lynch shows that the number of dollar millionaires totals ten million.
Sounds like a lot, but they are only 0.0015% of the world’s population. Yet these ‘high net worth individuals’ have assets of $40 trillion, more than the annual incomes of China, Japan, Brazil, Russia and the EU combined!
Despite the credit crunch, property crash and economic slowdown their wealth grew 9% last year and is projected to keep growing by 8% a year.
And don’t think that these are all American tycoons, Arabian sheiks and Russian oligarchs. There are 172,000 dollar millionaires in Australia. Australia holds the number ten position on the global rich list. Australia now has more millionaires than Spain and Brazil, but fewer than Switzerland which is ranked ninth in the world.
These bosses have been helped along thanks to the resources boom and the demand for commodities from China. They are also helped by a tax system that often forces cleaners to pay more than private equity bosses and non-doms. In fact about one third of big companies pay no tax at all!
Meanwhile living standards for the average household are going down especially now that we have to fork out more for petrol, food and rent. After tax, mortgage and household bills, the average family has much less to spend on ‘discretionary’ purchases than they had only a few years ago.
It’s not surprising that workers are doing it so hard. For example last month Qantas Aircraft engineers were told that the company could not afford more than a 3 percent pay rise. At the same time Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon claimed a pay packet of almost $A6.1 million! His package was up 163.8 per cent on last year.
This situation will not be maintained forever. There are physical limits to how low our pay packets can go. There are also political limits to what we are prepared to accept. This greed from the bosses is not going unnoticed, it is only a matter of time before workers start to fight more aggressively for decent pay.
The Socialist Party supports all workers fighting for a decent wage. We advocate taxing the super-rich to re-distribute wealth and we campaign for fighting unions and a new mass workers’ party to achieve that.
Most of all, we believe another world is possible, where instead of the wealth and resources of the planet creating the obscenity of Richistan, democratic socialism would liberate humankind from exploitation and oppression.
By Alistair Tice