It’s Paris, it’s spring, so pass the cobblestones. Richard Harvey can almost smell the tear gas
To the Barricades….
The current eruption in the politics of envy might lead you to believe you were living in some kind of post-revolutionary Soviet state, in which all those with plump waists and wallets ought to be hauled from their beds and stoned in the streets.
Ken Livingstone, a man apparently unable to separate the word “rich” from “bastard”, leads the way (even though he is strangely reluctant to disassociate “income” from “tax efficient savings vehicle” when discussing his own financial affairs).
Even David Cameron has seen fit to parade his equality credentials by promising to clobber fat remuneration packages for top business leaders.
And who would want to be an IFA nowadays in France? Virtually all the candidates in the recent presidential election are clearly living in a blissful state of fiscal unreality, with manifestos demanding an ever-greater transfer of personal income to the State. Most were promising to re-impose a retirement age of 60; one candidate said he would confiscate all annual earnings above £300,000; and even the favourite, François Hollande, was proposing a punitive 72% tax rate on incomes above £820,000.
That’ll Do Nicely
You’ll know which of these undesirables has got the top job by the time you read this. But in Britain, too, the politicians wilfully ignore the reality that the rich (or at least, the honest ones) pay such disproportionately large sums to the Exchequer that it’s sometimes tempting to join the street protesters with their banners and bullhorns.
For instance, the Institute for Public Policy Research has revealed that chief executives of FTSE 100 companies have trousered a 40-fold increase in take-home pay since 1982, and that they now typically earn packages worth £5 million a year.
These include a dazzling array of goodies, such as paying for the kids’ school fees, tax advisors’ bills, removal costs, chauffeur-driven cars, air fares for wives and partners – and, in one case, business class travel for the nanny.
According to The Sunday Times, the new boss of struggling Premier Foods was even bunged £400,000 as part of a signing-on fee for presenting a plan to revitalise the company. Isn’t that what he is paid a salary to do?
Pass the red flag and pikestaff. I’m off to the barricades.
While our leaders exercise themselves so vigorously in deciding how much we can tuck away in pensions and savings, they might more usefully turn their attention to how much verbiage comes attached to investment plans and insurances.
We all know that the vast reams of terms and conditions which accompany almost any contract nowadays are written a) in direct proportion to the fees charged by the lawyers drawing them up in the first place, and b) to deter us from getting past the first para, so that we simply tick the box saying we’ve read, and agreed, the lot.
I was recently offered a combined liability insurance policy with T&Cs which ran to some 11,700 words. About the same as a short novel, but not remotely as engaging.
But at least that’s less onerous than iTunes, which has (according to a sad character I know who actually calculates these things) 19,972 words of contractual rhubarb attached. Or the 36,275 words you’re supposed to read before signing up to PayPal. Apparently, it would be quicker to read Hamlet.
Tags: barricades | blissful state | bullhorns | business leaders | chief executives | cobblestones | david cameron | financial affairs | ftse 100 companies | ken livingstone | manifestos | personal income | remuneration packages | retirement age | richard harvey | soviet state | tax efficient savings | tear gas | top job | unreality