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The Feral Rich Are Destroying Our Civilised Society

Written By: - Date published: 3:27 pm, January 29th, 2013 - 87 comments
Categories: capitalism, class war - Tags: , ,

Reprinted with permission, from Dave Kennedy (bsprout) at Local Bodies.


The Feral Rich Are Destroying Our Civilised Society

The latest New Internationlist has published statistics regarding the world’s wealthy and the increasing divide between rich and poor. They refer to the “Feral Rich” and ask, “what can we do to stop them?”

  • 8% of the world’s population own 82% of its wealth.
  • There are now 180 more billionaires than before the global financial crash.
  • The world’s richest man is Carlos Slim and his total wealth is $69 billion (the New Zealand Government’s annual income is 70 billion).
  • The world’s richest woman is Australian mining heiress Gina Rinehart. She is worth $28 billion and she has $52 million a day to survive on.
  • The average household wealth in the world declined by 5.2% over the last year.
  • The 400 richest Americans have a combined wealth of $1.7 trillion
  • In 1980 the average US CEO earned 42 times as much as the average worker and by 2012 this had skyrocketed to 380 times.
  • The top rate of US income tax in 1980 was 70% and in 2012 it was 35%.
  • Mitt Romney and his wife pay 14.1% of their income in tax, while the average worker pays 30%.
  • $21 trillion is stashed away in tax havens which is the equivalent of the entire US and Chinese economies combined.
  • In the US 47% of the members of Congress are millionaires.
  • 62% of British cabinet ministers are millionaires.

New Zealand reflects what is happening in the rest of the world but our income inequality is growing faster than most.

  • Our 100 richest New Zealanders have a combined wealth of $52 billion.
  • Our richest saw their incomes increase by an average of 20% in 2011
  • Over the past four years the median income for Maori families has dropped by $40 a week and Pasifika families have seen a drop of $65.
  • The median weekly income in New Zealand (from all sources) is $550, many obviously live on much less.
  • The median rent for a 3 bedroom house in Auckland is $370 a week and rents across the country increased by $10 over the past year.
  • Tax evasion cost the Government $6 billion while benefit fraud cost around $39 million.

While the rich have got richer around the world, most are paying far less in tax and most governments are struggling to pay for core government services and infrastructure. Many rich, including writer J K Rowling are happy to pay tax because of the support they received from the state early in their careers. They also believe that tax is the price to pay for a civilised society. Would a truly civilised society stand back and watch 25% of their children live in poverty? Would a civilized society have their elderly live in rest homes that can’t pass minimum standards of care and pay the minimum rate for their workers (one of our wealthiest New Zealanders, Kevin Hickman owns rest homes and his personal wealth increased by $15 million last year)?

The fact that Governments and most people of the world struggle to manage on their incomes is not because there isn’t enough money in the world, it’s because the world’s wealth has been captured by a few and they refuse to share. Many Governments are guilty of perpetuating this wealth capture by lowering taxes and not standing firm to lobbyists.

87 comments on “The Feral Rich Are Destroying Our Civilised Society”

  1. PlanetOrphan 1

    They wont stop until the RIOTS Start M8!
    (Sorry … Peacefull Protests)

  2. King Kong 2

    Thank you for that truly inspirational posting.

    You are right, accumulating massive wealth should be the goal for everyone.

    [RL: On warning as a troll. Your such a pitiful one as a rule it’s hardly worth the effort, but no more.]

    • PlanetOrphan 2.1

      Slave labour and a High Mortality rate being the Modus Operandi ?
      Thinnking of starting a sweat shop in NZ KK ?, you should try Burma first maybe.

    • Tim 2.2

      For what purpose exactly? I’m quite happy to have accumulated enough to live modestly and give my children an adequate start.
      Are you a believer in the protestant work ethic by any chance?

    • Mr Burns 2.3

      accumulating massive wealth should be the goal for everyone

      But if everyone received more the truly deserving rich would have less. Are you a communist or something?

  3. ad 3

    It’s not impossible to reimagine a new version of Dick Seddon breaking up the great landholding runs and redistributing far smaller parcels to the many. I mean, the entire mezzanine finance industry was able to redistribute vast chunks of New Zealand’s savings in to thin air within 1 year after the GFC!

    Possibly the coldest, hardest impact on people’s lives about wealth distribution is: how impossible it is to own a house here.

    • just saying 3.1

      Well no.
      The coldest, hardest impact on people’s lives is the inability to be able to afford healthy food, health and dental care, clothing, warmth (when it is cold) shelter…..

      Many people are doing without a hell of a lot more than home-ownership.

    • outofworkkiwi 3.2

      Hi ad
      I agree. When I arrived in NZ in 1979 and 1980 it was really easy to buy a house. I was on $10,000 a year the house on a large double section overlooking central Johnsonville with 3 bedrooms and built only 19 years before on a back section was a mere $32,000 ! 🙂 Paradise for young couples starting out and a great country to live in. Now all ruined by speculator greed by the baby boomers with 3 or 4 “investment properties” each and banks that cash in on the interest and capital gain and governments who won’t stop this with a hefty capital gains tax. Makes me sick, a once great place to live buggered by selfishness and greed, pity our young people who are paying for their elder’s smug selfish greed. 🙁

      • anthony bull 3.2.1

        dude, you’ll find that people with investment properties aren’t speculators – its the complete opposite of the definition of investing.

        I’m 35 and have three times as many properties as my boomer parents do (they only have one). Including one in your beloved Johnsonville – what you probably don’t realise is that its still easy to own property. Nothing has changed since 1979 – it still just takes work ethic, drive and managing your spending levels.

        • blue leopard 3.2.1.1

          anthony bull,
          House prices only 3x the yearly wage is a pretty big change,

        • CV - Real Labour 3.2.1.2

          Nothing has changed since 1979 – it still just takes work ethic, drive and managing your spending levels.

          “Nothing has changed since 1979” seriously mate? You were in kindergarten then, WTF would you know.

        • Draco T Bastard 3.2.1.3

          You failed to notice the difference in house prices from 3 times the average wage to 6 times?

      • RedLogix 3.2.2

        Sighs.

        You’ve been told to blame greedy ‘investors’ as a distraction from the real greedies .. the banks.

        There always was and is a perfectly sane rental market, it exists for good reasons because there are always many people who are not in a position to buy. Historically it was about 30-35% of households. That number has crept up towards about 40% in Auckland, but that is for other related reasons.

        The State used to be a very large provider, and there used to be some very big slumlords who in our grandparents generation owned large swaths of very, very substandard buildings. What’s happened in the last 30 years is that the ownership of this business has been diversified into the middle-class.

        The middle class look at Superannuation and realise that if they are going to need to be educated until they are 25 and then dumped on the employment scrap-heap at 50 … but might well live until they are 80 or 90 (as my father is) … then something more than $300 per week is going to be necessary. The share and financial market in this country is a path to ruination unless you are a well-connected insider. The ONLY and safest option was property.

        Of course the real beneficiaries of this has been the banks. They are the ones who pocket most of your rent money each week … not your landlord. He or she is usually just hanging on hoping that they’ll eventually reach retirement with the mortgage mostly paid, the house not wrecked and their health still allows them to manage the work involved.

        Investors make money from cash flow and never intend to sell. We hate price inflation because it only makes it harder to buy again with rental incomes that don’t keep up; speculators are completely different operators and if the IRD deals with them properly they are taxed anyhow.

        It is the banks pumping credit into the market who inflate it and are the prime beneficiaries … everyone else loses.

        Oh and if you want a nice house I’ve just purchased a forty year old villa, solid native timbers, fully insulated, 160 m2, 4 beds, 2 bath, wood burner, decks, 1500m2 section, double garage, well planted, 1 km from town and schools, train…. for $187,000. Just wasn’t in Auckland or Christchurch.

        • Slartibartfast 3.2.2.1

          Well said RL, a spot of reason at last.

        • blue leopard 3.2.2.2

          Having lived next to an empty property that was bought and sold numerous times over the years, each time for more even though the owners did minimal work on it, I’m sorry, Redlogix, but there are people who are buying property and profit on price rises, infact appear to be part of the reason prices go up. There is a seemingly limitless market of people from overseas who are ready to buy property off people conducting this activity and I view this activity as very much contributing to prices going up.

          • CV - Real Labour 3.2.2.2.1

            I think the element that you have left out BL, and which RL has mentioned is that each of those buy/resell cycles you mentioned would have been totally underwritten by increasing bank debt. OK, perhaps rich overseas buyers can pay increasing amounts of cash (printed by their home reserve banks), but for most people, an increasing house price just means an increasing mortgage debt on essentially the same underlying property asset. The banks never lose. but they do fuel that price escalation with their willingness to lend more and more.

            Do people who “flip” these properties get rich on the way? Yes they do. Unless you are the person at the end of the buy/sell cycle who has finally paid way over the odds for the property, taken out a mortgage which is way too big (expecting that it would be OK as you would just flip the property on for more in 12 months time), when finally, the asset price bubble music stops and you find that there aren’t enough chairs to go around.

            • burt 3.2.2.2.1.1

              CV – Real Labour

              Unless you are the person at the end of the buy/sell cycle who has finally paid way over the odds for the property, taken out a mortgage which is way too big (expecting that it would be OK as you would just flip the property on for more in 12 months time), when finally, the asset price bubble music stops and you find that there aren’t enough chairs to go around.

              This behaviour is not predicated by political party affiliation, it’s human nature to join the wave, it’s human nature that some are better players in a particular market than others; there will be winners and losers.

              But you can’t legislate against this behaviour without completely regulating prices. People will speculate, some do it with houses, some with postage stamps, coins, jewelery, cars, [anything tradable].

              Arguably a capital gains tax on property could help here, but you could also argue it just punishes the guy at the end even more as the price he/she paid was sufficient to cover that cost for the last seller.

              Still the capital loses tax rebate would be helpful if the value fell – that fair point is in Labour’s proposed capital gains tax policy isn’t it?

              • Colonial Viper

                it’s human nature to join the wave

                This is the assumption you make where your whole argument falls apart. Ponzi speculation is no part of human nature, only a perversion of a tiny element of it.

                • burt

                  So you’ve never looked at something being sold cheaply and though – I could sell it for more than that? – or are you also one of this tiny element of society that might have thought that or even acted on that thought.

              • I think you have a point here, Burt. Regardless of whether one debates as to whether its human nature, (I might be inclined to say that is what we have been told to think)

                The situation on house-selling is such that one is almost impelled to act in this way. I have thought seriously on this subject; would have liked to think that if I had property and was selling it, I wouldn’t slavishly agree to the very wealthy offers that we have around where I live, (so that I don’t take part in inflating the prices for everyone else) however, having been painfully honest with myself, I have realized there is a number of factors that make accepting a lower offer a bit pointless and heads toward the self mutilating end of the scale.

                For example: I could accept a lower offer and find out in a few months time that the person has on-sold for the higher price it could command (in fact this happened to my father when he sold the family house), and having sold it for the lower price, I might also find I couldn’t buy something of a similar quality (would have to down-grade).

                This type of predicament points to the area that I think governments are very much there to address. Most people speculating on houses wouldn’t be intentionally pushing prices up, probably wouldn’t think that far out of their agenda; I want a Government to be thinking of the negative unintended consequences of people’s unthinking actions and organize things so that these are mitigated. I thought that was what a Government was there for.

            • blue leopard 3.2.2.2.1.2

              Thanks for explaining the point RL was making, CV. I guess at least some of what I witnessed was “supported” by the banking industry, although one of the worst examples was someone who had inherited millions from America and was buying up much property and businesses locally and sold it all later on for a tidy profit. That person drove a hard bargain, I know someone who bought property off them.

              I note the other difference in what I was talking about is people who are speculating on property.

              RL talks about people investing for a pension.

              The thing is, if policies and people are going to argue the point to cater to those buying houses for a pension and ignoring the speculators, then those speculating are going to keep on pushing up the prices of houses.

              I haven’t thought this through thoroughly, however, if there was a capital gains tax, I am suspecting this wouldn’t stop people investing in land for their retirement, yet it would curb those out to make a quick buck in speculating.

              • RedLogix

                I am suspecting this wouldn’t stop people investing in land for their retirement, yet it would curb those out to make a quick buck in speculating.

                Exactly. In the ideal world of course if the banks were regulated to prevent them pumping excess credit into the housing market (limiting LVR’s is one of the simplest ways to do this)… then in real terms (ie adjusted for the background CPI) there would be no housing price inflation, no speculators and no capital gains …. and thus no real need for a CGT either.

                I guess that was always my reservation about CGT’s. If they worked they way that many people think they do … they would be inherently self-limiting. ie a CGT may act as an incentive to dampen the extremes of asset inflation, but can never by itself reduce it to zero.

                But otherwise yes, you’re right about the distinction between investors and speculators.

                • Genuine question here (i.e. not simply rhetorical): Would regulating the banks in the way you are suggesting stop the very wealthy from speculating, or only the less than very wealthy?

                  I have a nasty feeling it wouldn’t curb the very wealthy? If so, this would give them the opportunity to gain even more of a monopoly.

                  I’m all for regulating banks(!), seems like you are suggesting something that curbs the problem at the source, which seems sensible, as long as it didn’t create the above-mentioned effect.

                  My thoughts are that perhaps inflation doesn’t have to be reduced to zero, and that this might be a bit of an argument originating from speculator-types to stop the CGT from being introduced? (Not hugely informed on this subject, so apologies if I am saying something terribly misguided!)

                  • CV - Real Labour

                    I think you need a straight asset tax to prevent extraordinarily large holdings of land and property from falling into individual hands.

                    Imagine a 0.25% pa land tax added to rates, for properties above $1M. Every additional $1M in property would attract a $2500 annual tax.

                    It would certainly discourage individuals from “land banking”.

                    • It seems like something like that would be appropriate. Just a wonder that this issue hasn’t been addressed and the speculation on something as profoundly important for people’s lives as land is, has been allowed to continue unabated. Yet another failure of successive governments.

      • Fortran 3.2.3

        Can anybody please enlighten me on the proposed Labour/Green’s CGT
        – some ideas as to where it is to be targeted, over what years, and to which adminstration direction and % costs.
        Plus of course the budgetted tax take and where it is to go.
        The idea has great merit but I cnnot find any outline details, or is it still just media buzz words.

    • geoff 3.3

      Nicely said, ad.

    • John 3.4

      How can it be impossible to own a house, when so many do actually own houses…

  4. Mr Burns 4

    What is wrong with the obsessive collecting of excessive wealth? I was called a psychopathic kleptomaniac the other day. It is a description that I will wear with pride.

    • PlanetOrphan 4.1

      And when the worm turns who ya gonna call Monty ?

      Free stuff at Monties place, just walk right in and load it up M8s!

      • Mr Burns 4.1.1

        What do you think I have hounds for PlanetOrphan? Companionship?

        Go ahead, make my day …

        • PlanetOrphan 4.1.1.1

          Lol, I eat hounds for breakfast Monty you’ll have to pay someone that’s qualified.
          I’m available for the right price M8! 😀

    • the Al1en 4.2

      I was called an arachnoclaustropyrophobic once, but who wouldn’t be freaked at being locked in a cupboard with a burning spider.

    • What is wrong with the obsessive collecting of excessive wealth?

      The nuisance of finding places to hide it, so that you don’t have to pay those bothersome taxes, perhaps?

    • outofworkkiwi 4.4

      F.O. Mr Burns Asshole.

      [RL: Settle… Mr Burns is purest irony. He’s been doing this sort of inverse perverseness for ages now.]

  5. I like topics like these.
    Get the right apologist posting later on and it’ll be better than freeview.

    I don’t care if the rich man can afford two sausages with his breakfast and I only one. Good on him.
    Tell me I can’t have a sausage because he wants three and has more right to it than I and I’ll take lot of them.
    Sausages for everyone.

  6. zanemvula 6

    They won’t give it up willingly, for the most part. And, notwithstanding the fickleness of fortune (or stupidity) that allows some with loads of money to lose lots of it, in general the rich get richer because they have more opportunity to control things.

    So there are two, nay three, possible paths:
    1. Over a long time, the complaining masses get louder and closer to the middle class, so the wealthy grudgingly leave a little more on the table. The middle class are appeased again and fall back to their old ways. The poor, as always, get shafted.
    2. We keep down this road and arrive in nouveau feudalism. Oops, maybe a bit late for that forecast.
    3. There is a revolution that (temporarily) restores balance to the force.

    • RedLogix 6.1

      You may want to contemplate that it is the ‘middle class’ who comprise perhaps 60% or more of New Zealand’s population. And it’s a pretty fuzzy boundary between them and the ‘working class’. The main economic distinction is that the middle class pay tax, while the ‘working poor’ class pay little to no tax. I’ve no problem with that, because there will always be some gradation between people, but ultimately if we’re all going to be part of a civilised society … some form of sharing and redistribution of prosperity is essential.

      This article however is about a tiny, tiny minority of obscenely wealthy who’ve no intention of sharing, merely grabbing as much from everyone else as possible. Feral is the most polite word we should have for these despicable parasites.

      • Draco T Bastard 6.1.1

        You may want to contemplate that it is the ‘middle class’ who comprise perhaps 60% or more of New Zealand’s population.

        No, the middle class makes up about 25%. I know that there’s a lot more who believe themselves to be in the middles class but, as with most beliefs, they’re wrong.

      • Fortran 6.1.2

        Please define for me once again? who are the so called 60% Middle Class.
        What makes them so ?

  7. The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 7

    I was interested in how someone could reduce their tax to 13%. So I googled it.

    “There are two reasons that the Romneys’ tax bill is below 15%. According to their 2010 tax return (the latest available), Mr. and Mrs. Romney reduced their taxable income by the $3 million they gave to charities.

    The second and most important reason is the majority of the Romneys’ income is taxed twice – first at the corporate level, and a second time when they report it on their personal income tax return.”

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/charleskadlec/2012/08/20/mitt-romney-paid-30-not-13-in-federal-income-taxes/

    He comes out rather well, if you ask me.

  8. CV - Real Labour 8

    Both money and debt represents a claim on future material goods and labour.

    But there isn’t enough actual value of either future material goods or labour to deliver the level of wealth these “billionaires” think they have stored as worthless electronic ones and zeros in their investment accounts.

  9. Draco T Bastard 9

    The fact that Governments and most people of the world struggle to manage on their incomes is not because there isn’t enough money in the world, it’s because the world’s wealth has been captured by a few and they refuse to share. Many Governments are guilty of perpetuating this wealth capture by lowering taxes and not standing firm to lobbyists.

    The one thing that we cannot afford is the rich.

  10. Afewknowthetruth 10

    Governments throughout the western world have encouraged sociopathy and facilitated looting of the commons for the past 30 years, so none of what we are seeing now is at all surprising.

    Once other methods fail, the elites impose ‘austerity’ on the masses to maintain the flow or money and resources upwards,

    Once the masses are REALLY SUFFERING there is revolt, which the elites put down ruthlessly: this always happens. After a few hundred or a few thousand ordinary people have been killed by ‘security forces’ the ‘security forces’ then turn on the elites.

    We are a long way from that stage right now. But the elites are working on it.

  11. RJLC 11

    We have been given LOTTO, TVNZ news, Reality TV and Casinos.
    Ergo : There will never be a revolution.

  12. outofworkkiwi 12

    The Feral Rich Are Destroying Our Civilised Society

    Key fits the bill completely: If you mentioned the Common Good as a reason not to sell off our assets he’d look at you as if you were from another Planet: He’s that selfinterestedly ignorant for his own greedy class.

    • rosy 12.1

      George Monbiot gives his take on why the rich have a total disconnect from the people who the are nominally to be governing for…

      former Republican staffer Mike Lofgren wrote something very similar about the dominant classes of the US: “the rich elites of this country have far more in common with their counterparts in London, Paris, and Tokyo than with their fellow American citizens … the rich disconnect themselves from the civic life of the nation and from any concern about its well being except as a place to extract loot. Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it.”

      Secession from the concerns and norms of the rest of society characterises any well established elite. Our own ruling caste, schooled separately, brought up to believe in justifying fairytales, lives in a world of its own, from which it can project power without understanding or even noticing the consequences. A removal from the life of the rest of the nation is no barrier to the desire to dominate it. In fact, it appears to be associated with a powerful sense of entitlement.

      Hence they govern for those who are culturally similar, not just in their own countries, but across the world and don’t even see what is happening in the countries where they are citizens.

      Citizens… seems to be such an outdated concept.

      • Murray Olsen 12.1.1

        I can’t wait for the day when the workers realise that they have more in common with the workers of London, Paris, Tokyo, and India than with the rich of their own country. Nationalism is bullshit used by those who don’t believe in it to suppress those who do.

      • Draco T Bastard 12.1.2

        That’s a good column. I especially liked this bit:

        My second boarding school was a kinder, more liberal place. But we remained as detached from the rest of society as Carthusian monks. The world, when we were released into it, was unrecognisable. It bore no relationship to our learning or experience. The result was cognitive dissonance: a highly uncomfortable state from which human beings will do almost anything to escape. There were two principal means. One – the more painful – was to question everything you held to be true. This process took me years: in fact, it has not ended. It was, at first, highly disruptive to my peace of mind and sense of self.

        The other, as US Republicans did during the Bush presidency, is to create your own reality. If the world does not fit your worldview, you either shore up your worldview with selectivity and denial, or (if you have power) you try to bend the world to fit the shape it takes in your mind. Much of the effort of conservative columnists and editors, and of certain politicians and historians, appears to be devoted to these tasks.

        This is exactly what we’re seeing from right wing politicians and economists – people trying to force the world into their own, delusional, world view and it just isn’t working.

  13. bad12 13

    SMASH the Neo-liberal political/economic consensus, ‘the market’ is there to serve the people, forcing the people to serve the market is the path to slavery…

  14. Lloyd 14

    How many of our MPs are millionaires?

    How does the split in millionaires between parties fall?

    • John Key is worth $50 million and he is the only MP who is listed in the top 200.

      • muzza 14.1.1

        What year was the 50m figure from?

        That number has been used around Key since around the day he *arrived* in NZ politics, and his background, and positions he has held (roles played) would have accrued significantly higher numbers than the 50m he had when we first were told, *the story of Key*

  15. Descendant Of Sssmith 15

    Sort of liked the cartoon in this story though the story itself just shows another way to keep other peoples money.

    http://jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.co.nz/2011/12/attempt-to-seize-and-liquidate-customer.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+JessesCafeAmericain+(Jesse's+Caf%C3%A9+Am%C3%A9ricain)

    And people worry about paying tax when they are forking out billions of dollars to thieves and charlatans who call themselves businessmen.

  16. tsmithfield 16

    It could be argued that extreme wealth is green. If the money is tucked away in a bank account its not circulating causing greenhouse gasses.

    • rosy 16.1

      Pfft no it couldn’t. They don’t tuck it away until after the jets, and yachts and the cars and the entourage ….

    • RedLogix 16.2

      But most of that money was accumulated by greenhouse gas creating activity in the first place, so I’m not sure all that much is gained?

      How about spending it on research, development and rolling out new sustainable carbon-neutral ways of living?

      If I had $52m a day to spend that’s were a big portion of it would go.

      Someone last year made an estimate of some $30 trillion is cash hoarded in tax havens around the world. That was just cash, not assets and probably didn’t capture it all. Think of the problems and challenges we face which that much money could go a long way towards resolving. The right has long and loudly told us that a going carbon neutral would be hugely, cripplingly expensive … yet remain mute on how a vastly larger mountain of cash is already lying around doing nothing.

      Hoarding is always despised.

      • tsmithfield 16.2.1

        Maybe.

        However, it has always seemed to me to be a point of conflict between ideals for the left and the Greens especially. If income was distributed more equally, then surely it would be worse for the environment. Even though I accept that some of that wealth would be spent on more efficient energy technologies, surely the net effect would be more greenhouse gasses and more plundering of the environment.

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