There is, as all will be aware, rather a lot of moaning about the people who make high wages these days. That income inequality isn’t even important – consumption such might be, income ain’t – escapes near all in the varied shouting matches. However, what’s really going on here isn’t a discussion about high wages at all, it’s about higher wages. Higher wages within the top 1% of society that is. Which is what makes this all amusing:
Ms Hunt is the public face of the UCU and has appeared regularly on TV in recent days pushing for coverage of the strikes and criticising pension bosses for high earnings. She has also led a campaign shaming vice-chancellors over their pay and perks.
OK, that’s just her doing her job. But:
The university union boss Sally Hunt takes home more than £138,000 a year, including a £3,000 car benefit, The Times can reveal.
The UCU’s general secretary, 53, who has never been an academic, has had an increase in her earnings over the past five years from £130,845 to £138,682. Part of this is a yearly car benefit, which has risen from just over £2,000 in 2012 to £3,557 last year and covers her company car, a Ford Focus.
It was actually Danny Dorling who explained all this to us. There’s not been much movement in the income differential between the top 91 to 99% and the bottom 90%. Nor, really, between the top 99 to 99.9% and the rest of us. The change has been between the top 0.1% and the remainder of that top 1%. And it is that which explains near all of the whining. These are the people already doing well out of our society. Yet some of them have pulled away from those other members of that same class.
These are the people who really don’t have to worry about the costs of life itself. What happens to grocery prices doesn’t impact their lives at all in fact. Near all of their actual expenditure goes upon positional goods,. Those things which, by definition, are going to be in short supply in any conception or organisation of society.
To give a specific example, that £140 k or so (well into the top 1% of incomes by the way) would, a generation or two back, have afforded a decent Georgian in a nice part of London. Senior professorial types with a decent popular book under their belts, the heads of trade unions, decent accountants, lawyers, the top dogs that is, could all have afforded such because pay at those rarified levels wasn’t dissimilar. Sure, the City types always did make more money but it wasn’t orders of magnitude greater and everyone sneered at them for being in trade anyway.
That’s not what is happening now at all. All those in trade – to the English still a sneer – are making many multiples of those who went into other lines of work. Even if all did go through the same sorts of schools, achieve the same results, got into the right universities and so on. Blimey, even kids who didn’t go to Oxbridge but can count get multiples of the incomes of these worthies these days. And that’s what’s pissing all these people off.
It really isn’t anything to do with the bankers and corporate types making 100 times median income. It’s that the bankers and corporate types are making 20 times the incomes of the intellectuals and public sector types. They’re then getting all the goodies among those positional goods and that’s an outrage. Just because people are doing something useful, that people will pay for, and doing it well, why should they get all the good things in life when those who have climbed the greasy pole in the culturocracy don’t?
As Danny Dorling’s book on the subject really does say, this is all jealousy among the top dogs, nothing at all to do with the rest of us.