Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Inequality? Here is the truth...

When a corporation wants to expand, it routinely commits previously accumulated money or borrows new money to pursue growth, take advantage of opportunities, and become more profitable.  That’s just the way it’s done. Business leaders are applauded for their vision and innovation. Corporate investment we are told stimulates job creation and ‘everyone’ benefits. Greed is good. Many assume that this surrounding way of life is natural, correct, and good.

However, when a government wants to expand services to invest in life-affirming programmes, these same business leaders put ‘spendthrift governments’ in the crosshairs, demand lower taxes, and invoke ‘balanced budgets’. In a neoliberal economy, governments are admonished to get out of the way and, “let the market rule.” We are told businesses ‘invest’; governments ‘tax’.

Does it have to be this way? Should it be this way?

  • Sweden invests 28.1% of its GDP on Social spending measures (2014 figure, but this has been the average over the past 30 years) : the UK spends 21.7% (2014), but has been reducing since 2010. Spending in Denmark, Finland, France and Belgium was significantly higher than Sweden, though, in 2014. See https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=SOCX_AGG
  • The GDP per capita figure in Sweden is higher than UK.
  • Swedish life capital benefits are the best in the world.  For example Swedish workers get at least five weeks of paid vacation.
  • Swedish parental leave gives parents a total of 480 parental days for each child and 80% of a salary of up to roughly £25,000 per year.
  • University is free.
  • Because of a monthly child care benefit, child care is basically free.
  • Sweden’s environmental performance eclipses that of many countries.
  • It has one of the world’s most comprehensive transportation systems.
  • Swedish media does its job with exceptional investigative journalism on public TV.
  • Want government transparency and low levels of corruption? Then go to Sweden.
  • Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries provide examples of more collective, egalitarian and inclusive societies than many countries.
  • The Gini Coefficient (a measure of inequality in the overall distribution of income) places Sweden far ahead of many countries.
  • Poverty is a product of inequality. Tackling excessive wealth and redirecting resources results in child relative poverty rates that are lower (In a 2012 UNICEF report, 7.3% in Sweden; 12.1% in Britain - below Estonia! The USA, however, was at 23.1% in 2012. Rumania was only worse than the USA in so-called 'rich' countries.). See http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/rc10_eng.pdf
Quality of life issues must surely be the central focus in political manifestos for the coming UK May election!