Friday, December 08, 2006

Wealth OK, income not; accumulate but don't earn

In today's column (can't seem to find it online yet.  UPDATE it is now here) Polly Toynbee writes:

Meanwhile the annual Rich List this week will show runaway wealth at the very top jumping up another 18.4%. (Maybe that's modest for self-made stars and private entrepreneurs, when the real scandal is CEOs of top public companies paying themselves 30% more this year.)

The 18.4% increase in "runaway" wealth comes from the Sunday Times Rich List, and represents £63bn (source).  The 30% increase for CEOs is actually FTSE-100 CEOs, and represents an average increase of about £0.9m each (source), that is £90m total.

Sorry, but which one is the real scandal?

69 comments:

chris said...

Your numbers might be right, but so too might be Polly's point.
The scandal of FTSE CEOs' pay rising is that it reflects mostly rent-seeking and abuse of illegitimate power; the average CEO is just a bureaucrat. By contrast, some of the very rich are genuine entrepreneurs whose wealth reflects a real contribution to society.
The problem is that our tax system - and the one Polly endorses - does not distinguish between the two.

FactcheckingPollyanna said...

Chris --

If it is all about an abuse of illegitimate power, they're not very good at it, as the same source found FTSE-100 CEOs' pay fell last year.

Did you have specific FTSE-100 CEOs in mind? It is only a handful, admittedly, but all of the ones I have met struck me as more than just "bureaucrats".

If it came down to "genuine entrepreneurs whose wealth reflects a real contribution to society", I'm afraid I'd go with the list that included Lord Browne, Sir Terry Leahy and Stuart Rose rather than the list that included the Queen, Wayne Rooney and Daniel Radcliffe.

I also suspect there is a fair amount of overlap between the two lists -- the cut off for the Sunday Times list is £5.5m whereas average FTSE-100 CEO pay was around £3m -- and you have to assume that some of that is getting saved or invested.

To say that £4bn are needed to reduce child poverty, but don't worry about the £63bn in increased wealth that this group has accumulated; the real problem is the extra £90m that a partly overlapping group of people has earned seems strange.

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