In mid December 2017, The U.S. Senate voted through a tax-bill which will deliver a dramatic reduction in America’s corporate tax rate – from 35% to 20% – along with a reduction in inheritance tax which will allow the America’s wealthiest individuals to pass more tax-free money to their children (or other heirs). This Guardian article provides further details.
For A-level sociology students studying global development, this represents yet another example of a neoliberal policy – cutting taxes is a key aspect of the economic doctrine of neoliberalism.
The supposed rational behind the bill is to stimulate economic growth, but it is also likely to widen inequality and the bill is also predicted to add $1 trillion to the national debt
It’s also interesting to note that Donald Trump ran for president as an outsider who would stand up for the working people, but now it seems that it’s the wealthy, share-holding corporate class that’s going to benefit most from this policy.
A 2016 poll by Nationwide found that the average Brit spends £645 on Christmas. On average, people in the UK spend…
£117 on Christmas presents for their partner,
£145 on presents for their children,
£20 on their pet (lucky pets!).
This broadly corresponds with the Bank of England’s findings on Christmas spending which found that our spending in December increasing by around £500 per month. OK they’re not exactly the same, but in the same sort of ‘region’, and not crazily different (to use the technical term).
Looked at by household – A Survey by Go Compare (1) found that the average British household expects to spend £753 on Christmas festivities this year. Collectively that’s a staggering £21 billion splashed out on presents, food and drink, parties and decorations.
Regional Variations in Spending
Unsurprisingly, households on lower incomes spend a higher proportion of their monthly income on Christmas than – According to this BBC article, people in the North East spend around 26%, while in London the figure falls to around 16% of monthly household income.
The article also cites anecdotal evidence that people in poorer areas spend more on presents than people in richer areas.
Debt and Christmas
Again, according to the above BBC article, The Money Advice Trust, a charity which runs the National Debtline, polled 2,000 people and found 37% are putting Christmas presents on credit. NB As far as I can tell these are 2015 figures (it’s not that clear from the article!)
34 percent borrowed money to cover the cost of Christmas presents – figure equating to an estimated 16.9 million people.
More than one in five (21 percent) borrowed to put food on the Christmas table – equating to an estimated 10.4 million people.
All in all, it seems like there’s a lot of evidence that for the poorest third of households, it’s not so much Christmas, but more like Debtmass, which offers broad support for the validity of a Marxist theory of Christmas.
According to a report released today, social mobility is generally highest around London and lowest in rural areas…
How Social Mobility Varies by Local Authority in England in 2017
NB – There’s a nice ‘interactive’ infographic at the link above!
London and its environs (mostly Surrey) have the highest levels of social mobility, while rural areas generally have lower levels of mobility.
Interestingly it isn’t just deprivation and wealth which predict social mobility… some wealthy areas like West Berkshire and Crawley perform badly for social mobility – in these areas, it is very difficult for children born into poor backgrounds to climb the income ladder.
Conversely, some of the most deprived areas are “hotspots”, providing good education, employment opportunities and housing for their most disadvantaged residents.
These include London boroughs with big deprived populations such as Tower Hamlets and Hackney.
The main reason for variations in social mobility highlighted by the report is the lack of available jobs, especially well-paying jobs, which is a real problem in some of the more rural areas.
It might be interesting to… (and I might play around with this later)
Compare this data to deprivation indices and see how far wealth holds back social mobility.
Compare this data to population density… Just a hunch, but surely all other things being equal, the denser the population the more (realistic) job opportunities?
Compare this data to educational achievement and school type… to see if schools really do make a difference at the regional level.
Take a sample of the lowest social mobility areas and the highest (they’d need to be similar) and just find out as much as possible about both areas to try and explain these differences….
So, you’re a multi-billionaire, you have $450 million kicking about, but your’re bored of all the usual gaudy bling bullshit…
This poll was inspired by today’s news that Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi’, painting sold for $400m at auction today, with a grand total of $450 million once Christie’s auction house had added on its $50 million commission.
Now we may never actually know who bought this painting, but assuming it’s an individual (although it may have been bought by a company or conglomerate), this raises the question of how much wealth you must have to be able to spend this much money on a painting!
Surly we must be looking at someone worth over $10 billion, so probably someone from the top 100 or so wealthiest people, possibly one of these from Forbe’s rich list, given that it’s unlikely that anyone’s going to risk more than 5% of their TNW on one investment, unless they really LOVE renaissance art or of course.
Anyway, whoever the anonymous buyer is, all mega-purchases like this do for me is remind of the existence of the global super-rich – that handful of billionaires that make up the top 0.00001% of the world’s population – domains like Christie’s auction house are their’s, and purchases of items in the several millions of dollars a regular occurrence.
This event is just a painful reminder of how much of a toss the global elite don’t give about global poverty. Between them, those present at that auction house yesterday could have transformed the lives of so many. NB I know it’s not THAT simple – money for development often gets misspent, it has unintended consequences etc etc… so I am being a bit idealistic, all I’m trying to do here is get some perspective on the enormous sum spent on that painting.
I don’t know about you, but I’m really not comfortable with the co-existence of global problems such as lack of access to clean water and a global Eloi jet setting around the world buying high status items at luxury auction houses.