It's not the sort of subject that gets a lot of coverage. The right-wing press, owned by greedy bastards who have a vested interest in the rich getting richer, don't see anything wrong with the growing gap between rich and poor. But the BBC, in a rare display of the 'liberal-left' reputation it actually doesn't deserve, has been brave enough to stick its head above the parapet today.
The rapidly rising incomes of the richest 10% of the population are the major factor contributing to growing inequality in Britain.
I think that wins the 'No shit Sherlock' award for stating the bleeding obvious. Yet when does this kind of thing actually get talked about? When does it ever get spoken about as a problem? New Labour, the Tories and now the Lib Dems all believe in low taxes, especially for the wealthy. Our political consensus says there's nothing wrong in the rich getting richer, even if it's at the expense of the poorest people in society.
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), an independent think tank, the incomes of the top 10% have risen faster than those of the population as a whole since Labour came to power in 1997. And that increase has been particularly concentrated at the very top of the income distribution - among the half million individuals in the top 1% of the income scale.
There's the 'New Labour project' in sharp focus. The rich have got richer, and the richest have got even richer than the quite rich. I'll admit these figures come from a 'think tank', and I tend to believe the figures that come from 'think tanks' as much as I believe people who come to my door selling dusters - but the original data come from HMRC and people's incomes so perhaps they do have some basis in fact. Indeed, if anything the figures could potentially be underestimating the incomes of the rich rather than the poor, due non-domicile status, tax avoidance and so on.
Between the 1996-97 tax year and 2004-05, the income of the richest 1% grew at an annual rate of 3.1%, compared to 2.3% for the population as a whole, and the income of the top 0.1% grew by 4.4%.
In contrast, those at the bottom of the income distribution - and especially the poorest 15% of households - saw their income go up at below-average rates, and in some cases even fell.
The rich also pay more tax than the rest of the population, although even those at the very top pay income tax at a rate of 35%, compared to 21% for the top 10% and 17.8% for all taxpayers.
This is because much of the income of the rich is paid at a lower rate, for example in capital gains tax, or it is subject to a tax deduction, for example contributions to pension schemes.
The top tax rate has stayed at 40% for the last 20 years, and currently no political party is proposing any chance. (sic)
They mean 'change'. Although it's true that no political party is proposing any chance of a change. Labour, remember them? 'Tax and spend'. Ha ha ha! And the way that Mail readers (and the witless goons who post on the Beeb's Have Your Say) would have you believe, Labour is some kind of Communist operation that taxes people to the hilt.
So here we are, under a Labour government, holding the begging bowl out and hoping for rich people to be nice and give money to charities rather than making a fairer society through taxation. That is what people voted for and what they're getting. That is what Labour now stands for. If people want a change, they are going to have to look beyond the three main political parties: the consensus says that it's wrong to tax the rich more than they are at the moment, even though they are raking in billions.
I don't know whether it's because they think that taxing the rich is right, but that the rich would just move overseas; or that they just don't think it's right to tax the rich. I don't know for sure, but I am guessing that the latter applies - especially when rich men with money to burn are required to run political parties and lend you a few bob when you need it - and, also, almost the entire British press is run by very rich men who don't want to see that situation change.
I do slag the BBC off a lot but this is a clear article, interesting and well researched... and struggling to break it into the top 5 of most-read stories, less interesting to the Great British public than Lily Allen's miscarriage or Vera Duckworth's death.