Anyone want to back Polly up here?

The late 70s saw the most equal time in British history, but since then the rich have got richer and the poor poorer.

Does anyone at all want to try and back up that assertion? That the poor in Britain are now, by any absolute standard that you want to use, poorer than the poor were in late 1970s Britain?


in the past decade the average bonus for FTSE 350 directors rose by 187% while share prices declined by 71%.

Did share prices decline by that much? Can\’t recall that they were three times higher than they are now. Not that I pay much attention to share prices mind.

16 thoughts on “Anyone want to back Polly up here?”

  1. Polly’s assertion that the poor have got poorer is manifestly rubbish. The so called poor have more than I ever did as a kid and both my parents worked in jobs that paid ok.

  2. I believe she is talking about relative poverty – so as far as Polly is concerned, if the poorest have the living standards of a millionaire while the richest are trillionaires, then the poor have got “poorer”.

  3. Just like Thatcher said, Polly’d rather have the poor poorer as long as the rich were less rich.

  4. She also claims that, because the median pay rate has slightly declined, “the [bottom] half of the population that has fallen back, with no pay increase since 2003 according to the Resolution Foundation.”
    This is complete nonsense. She is confusing two sets of statistical categories, the top 50% and bottom 50% in 2003 and 2011, with the fates of actual people. People will move between these broad income groups, and so it is possible for everyone in the bottom 50% to have received a pay increase (and possibly no longer be in the bottom 50%), and for the median pay rate to have declined.

  5. I would have thought in income terms at least that there was more “equality” during WW2 than in the 1970s.

  6. “The late 70s saw the most equal time in British history, ”

    Polly’s right. Everybody had to wait to get buried, we all suffered from blackouts and everybody had to walk past the piles of uncollected rubbish in the streets A truly equal time.

  7. FTSE 350 is up 42% in the ten years to July 2012. It’s down 7.1% since 4th January 2000 when the index started. It’s down 15.5% since the peak in June 2007. All just the index not including dividends. All nominal values of course – inflation has knocked another 25%ish off (but dividends will offset this).

  8. I would imagine that the working poor who are under 25 probably have worse housing than in the 1970s.
    Particularly if they do not have children.
    Of course that is because the housing has been given to single mums

  9. If you parse the sentence carefully, our Polly is claiming that since the end of the seventies, this is the worst period for ‘relative poverty’ and in that she’s broadly correct.

    I don’t like the term ‘relative poverty’ because it’s stupid – people plainly aren’t poor if they’re rich – but I still think it’s equally daft to pretend that there are no negatives to what we might instead term ‘income inequality’. Some level of income inequality is obviously vital, so that compensation for labour can be ‘fair’, but the social costs of too high a level of income inequality, even if ‘fair’ in relation to the value of work done, can be very high.

    (One can demonstrate this at the extreme by pointing out that locks and security are an economic cost of property rights – but that doesn’t mean property rights are a bad thing.)

  10. @ Dave #10
    I don’t know how parsing can insert the word “relative” into a sentence that does not contain it.

  11. Sat next to a man in the waiting room for an NHS specialist yesterday. He was on the phone to DSS complaining about his benefits.

    On his iPhone 4S.

    One of the modern poor.

  12. Anecdata alert:

    A guy I know who lives on benefits (mental health issues, house provided FOC, plus all other living costs paid by the State) manages to run his own car on what he receives.

    Back in the 70s many working people couldn’t afford cars, I remember as a kid going past a local big engineering works and seeing hundreds of men streaming out on push bikes. The same plant exists (amazingly) today, no bikes now, just a stream of cars leaving the gates at knocking off time.

    If a man on benefits today can have a similar standard of living as a working man 30 years ago, I really don’t think the ‘poor’ can be considered to have gotten poorer.

  13. Maybe not but the ‘spiteful jelousy index’ has gone up.
    And that is what brings in the votes.
    Well so long as there are not many rich people. If we all get equal- well 1984 I guess.

  14. To Ken’s point, the All share is up 43% in capital terms over the last 10 years, but if you reinvest dividends it is up 110% – such is the power of compounding – apoint rarely acknowledged when trashing equities in favour of bonds

  15. By that corollary, we may as well go the whole hog and turn the UK into North Korea – it’d be hard to find a more ‘equal’ society – everyone has an equal chance of being arbitrarily murdered by the regime…

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