Monday, July 24, 2017

The Squeeze

British households' financial situation has deteriorated at the fastest rate in three years this month. Financial data company IHS Markit said its monthly Household Finance Index dropped to 41.8 from June's 43.7, its lowest since July 2014, reflecting an ongoing squeeze on household incomes as inflation rises faster than wages.

"There are signs that squeezed household budgets and worries about earnings have started to spill over to consumer spending patterns," said Tim Moore, a senior economist at IHS Markit.

Pension losses

More than 7 million people will lose just under £10,000 each because of new government plans to increase the state pension age earlier than planned. Last week the government announced it would raise the state pension age to 68 for those now in their late 30s and early 40s. The change will affect Britons born between 1970 and 1978, who will now have to wait another year to receive their state pensions.

The House of Commons library found that each person affected by the change stood to lose around £9,800

Capitalism Kills

Almost 63,000 people in England will die over the next five years from liver problems linked to heavy drinking unless ministers tackle the scourge of cheap alcohol, doctors are warning. Senior members of the medical profession and health charities are urging the government to bring in minimum unit pricing of alcohol and a crackdown on drink advertising to avert what they claim is the “public health crisis” of liver disease deaths.

Sheffield University’s influential Alcohol Research Group predicts that 32,475 of the deaths – the equivalent of 35 a day – will be the result of liver cancer and another 22,519 from alcoholic liver disease. Liver disease is one of Britain’s biggest killers, claiming about 12,000 lives a year in England alone. The number of deaths associated with it has risen by 400% since 1970. 

Katherine Brown, director of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, accused the government of not doing enough to limit alcohol-related harm. "Wwe have seen very little action to prevent liver disease, one of the top causes of avoidable deaths. It is tragic that, at a time when there is strong evidence for policies that will reduce avoidable deaths and hospital admissions, especially those related to alcohol, so many families will continue to suffer due to the ill-health or loss of a loved one,” she said.

The Sheffield academics have also produced new calculations showing that, if a 50p minimum unit price for alcohol were introduced in England, within five years it would mean 1,150 fewer deaths due to drink, 74,500 fewer admissions to hospital because of alcohol, a £326m saving to the NHS and a £711m drop in the value of crime caused by alcohol consumption. The new study comes as the supreme court, the UK’s highest court, on Monday and Tuesday holds the latest round in the long-running legal battle over the Scottish government’s determination to bring in a 50p minimum unit price for alcohol, as it has been trying to do since 2012. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and others are appealing against the Scottish court of session’s earlier ruling that the policy could be implemented.

Prof Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA), welcomed the Sheffield report’s clear and compelling new evidence ... on the effectiveness of minimum unit pricing [MUP]. "Given what we know about the effectiveness of MUP, a failure to act on the part of the government will mean that some of the most vulnerable in society will die unnecessarily,” Gilmore added.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Evicting the poor

The spiralling costs of renting a property and a long-running freeze to housing benefit are being blamed for the rising number of evictions among Britain’s tenants.

More than 100 tenants a day losing the roof over their head, according to an analysis of the nation’s housing crisis by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).  More than 40,000 tenants in England were evicted in 2015, according to a study.
 A mixture of rising costs and falling state support would lead to a rise in people being forced out of their homes. It will raise concerns that even those in work are struggling to pay their rent.  Changes in welfare benefits have combined to make rents unaffordable to claimants in many areas. Housing benefit was no longer covering the cost of renting in some cases, with average shortfalls ranging from £22 to £70 a month outside of London, and between £124 and £1,036 in inner London. Housing benefit has not risen in line with private rents since 2010, and a current freeze means the rates paid will not increase until 2020.
High numbers of “no-fault” evictions by private landlords is driving the increase. More than 80% of the extra evictions had occurred under a Section 21 notice, which gives a tenant two months to leave. The landlord does not have to give a reason and there does not need to be any wrongdoing on the part of the tenant. The problem is particularly acute in London and the south-east. Four out of every five repossessions using Section 21 orders are in London, the east of England and the south-east. Nearly two-thirds are in London. Within the city, Section 21 repossessions are concentrated in the boroughs of Newham, Enfield, Haringey, Brent and Croydon. Of the 40,000 evictions, there were 19,019 repossessions in the social housing sector, and 22,150 in the private rented sector.
Letting agency fees, the need for a guarantor and finding the cash for a deposit were all major barriers to securing a new home. Most tenants said they would prefer social housing, but were either ineligible or not a sufficient priority to be allocated a home.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of JRF, said: “The stark figures and harrowing stories show the struggle people on low incomes face in the private rented sector.” He called for the freeze on housing benefit to be lifted. “With higher rents, a benefits freeze and impossible choices about what bills to pay, evictions have reached record levels and put families under enormous strain,” he said. “Tenants told us about the misery and insecurity they face."
 Shelter warned last month that more than a million households living in private rented accommodation were at risk of becoming homeless by 2020 because of rising rents, benefit freezes and a lack of social housing. The charity has calculated that if the housing benefit freeze remains in place as planned – until 2020 – more than a million households, including 375,000 with at least one person in work, could be forced out of their homes.
Anne Baxendale, director of campaigns and policy at Shelter, said: “We are deeply concerned that the current freeze on housing benefit is piling a huge amount of pressure on to thousands of private renters who are already teetering on the brink of homelessness.”

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Fact of the Day

Refugees make up a mere 0.4% of the total population of the EU. 

85% of all refugees live in developing countries. 

Homeless kids

 Councils across England are providing temporary housing for around 120,540 children with their families - a net increase of 32,650 or 37% since the second quarter of 2014. It said the increase equates to an average of 906 extra children every month.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said placements in temporary accommodation can present serious challenges for families, from parents’ employment and health to children’s ability to focus on school studies and form friendships.

Martin Tett, the LGA’s housing spokesman, said: “When councils are having to house the equivalent of an extra secondary school’s worth of pupils every month, and the net cost for councils of funding for temporary accommodation has tripled in the last three years, it’s clear the current situation is unsustainable for councils, and disruptive for families...”

The report said councils need to be able to build more “genuinely affordable” homes and provide the support that reduces the risk of homelessness. This means councils being able to borrow to build and to keep 100% of the receipts of any home they sell to reinvest in new and existing housing, the LGA said. Council leaders are also calling for access to funding to provide settled accommodation for families that become homeless.

Anne Baxendale, director of campaigns and policy at Shelter, said: “Every day we speak to families desperate to escape the dingy, cramped hostel room they’re forced to live in, for weeks if not months, as overstretched councils can’t find them anywhere else. The situation is getting worse as the lack of affordable homes and welfare cuts bite deeper. The Government has the tools to break this cycle of heartache and homelessness. Firstly, they must abandon the freeze on housing benefit that’s denying thousands of families the essential top-up needed to pay for rising rents. And, in the longer term, they must build decent homes that families on lower incomes can actually afford to live in.”

Kate Webb, head of policy and research at housing charity Shelter, told The Independent there has been little Government effort to reverse the trend. "It is completely unacceptable when someone has already gone through the trauma of losing their home to leave them in limbo for months or years in temporary accommodation," she said. "If we had a functional housing system we would not be putting people in such unstable, precarious living situations."

Friday, July 21, 2017

Fact of the Day

The latest official estimates indicate that the richest US 10 percent held 76 percent of the nation’s wealth as of 2013.

That means for every $10, these few own $7.60, leaving $2.40 for the remaining 90 percent. And the concentration of wealth is only getting worse. (The richest 10 percent held only 67 percent of the nation’s wealth in 1989.)

The Lobbyists

There are four great lobbies in Washington: big oil, Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, and big health care. These industries spend billions of dollars a year to control the levers of power in their narrow self-interest. Most of what they favor runs against the broad public interest. In total, the four sectors spent around $1.5 billion in lobbying and another $1.5 billion in campaign financing in 2016.

Big oil wants to continue oil and gas fracking and deep sea drilling even though it pollutes the environment and causes global warming. Wall Street wants to make huge fees from financial speculation even though this frenzied activity has no social value. The military-industrial complex wants to build and sell weapons systems even though it makes war much more likely. Big health care wants to block every form of cost control despite the wildly overpriced health care system. Corporate lobbies want to cut taxes despite a large and growing budget deficit. The lobbyists resort to secrecy and subterfuge.

The super-rich get richer

“There’s been class warfare going on for the last twenty years, and my class has won." - Warren Buffett

Wages for most American workers have remained basically stagnant for decades, but a new report published on Thursday by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that the CEOs of America's largest firms have seen their pay soar. 

The Mega Rich captured most of the national income gains during the last four decades as their share of income increased from 3.4 percent in 1980 to 10.3 percent in 2014. The share of the Merely Rich rose from 6.6 percent to 11.0 percent over the same period. Thus the Mega Rich snared over ­three-fifths of the income growth of the 1 percent and nearly 40 percent of all income growth. In the tepid recovery from 2010 to 2012, the 1 percent took virtually all of the income gains. The Mega Rich again got the lion’s share: their average income increased 49 percent in this three-year period.

The Mega Rich are getting mega richer. Their average household made 113 times as much as the typical American household in 2014. In 1980, this number was 47. In 2014, the 115,000 Mega Rich households had as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. They now hold 22 percent of the nation’s wealth, nearly double their 1995 share. Between 1978 and 2016, CEO pay rose by 937 percent, EPI's Lawrence Mishel and Jessica Schieder found. By contrast, the typical worker saw "painfully slow" compensation growth—11.2 percent over the same period. Mishel and Schieder also note that CEOs of "America's largest firms made an average of $15.6 million in compensation, or 271 times the annual average pay of the typical worker."

Since Fortune 500 CEOs can account for only 500 of the 115,000 Mega Rich, you might be surprised to learn that the majority of the Mega Rich are business executives. CEOs and other business executives constitute the largest ­high-income group in America. Not the old families with their inherited wealth. Not the sports heroes with their ­jaw-dropping contracts. Not the movie stars at $20 million per blockbuster movie. Executives, managers, supervisors, and financial professionals constitute three­-fifths of the top 0.1 percent. Moreover, they accounted for about 70 percent of the increase in income going to the top 0.1 percent from 1979 to 2005.  "While the 2016 CEO-to-worker compensation ratio of 271-to-1 is down from 299-to-1 in 2014 and 286-to-1 in 2015, it is still light years beyond the 20-to-1 ratio in 1965 and the 59-to-1 ratio in 1989," the report observes. "The average CEO in a large firm now earns 5.33 times the annual earnings of the average very-high-wage earner (earner in the top 0.1 percent)."

 Nobel Prize­–winning economist Paul Krugman puts it, “Basically, the top 0.1 percent is the corporate suits, with a few token sports and film stars thrown in.”

"For the 117 million US adults in the bottom half of the income distribution, growth has been non-existent for a generation, while at the top of the ladder it has been extraordinarily strong," Piketty, Saez, and Zucman wrote. In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty, after analyzing enormous amounts of data, wrote:'The vast majority (60 to 70%, depending on what definitions one chooses) of the top 0.1% of the income hierarchy in 2000­–2010 consists of top managers. By comparison, athletes, actors, and artists of all kinds make up less than 5% of this group. In this sense, the new US inequality has much more to do with the advent of “supermanagers” than with “superstars.”' 

Furthermore, “CEOs use their own power not only to increase their own salaries, but also those of their subordinates,” one study determined. As a result, the majority of “supermanagers” are either CEOs or executives whose compensation is heavily influenced by their pay—private company CEOs, other senior corporate executives, and the professionals who advise them. There are more than 5,000 publicly traded companies and 5.7 million private companies with employees.

From 1949 to 1979, while the ratio of CEO‑to‑average­-worker pay was relatively constant, the US economy grew 2.56 percent annually. When this ratio surged from 1981 to 2014, economic growth dropped to 1.71 percent a year. This correlation doesn’t prove that income inequality slowed economic growth, but it suggests that overpaying CEOs has not done much to help. 

"Simply put, money that goes to the executive class is money that does not go to other people. Rising executive pay is not connected to overall growth in the economic pie," Mishel argues

Japanese Pay

A gap in pay and working conditions between temporary and permanent employees is preventing a tightening job market from pushing up overall wages and inflation, the Bank of Japan said.

Wages for temporary workers are "clearly on the rise" as companies struggle to lure employees, with the job market having tightened to levels not seen since Japan's asset-inflated bubble era in the early 1990s, the BOJ said.

But permanent workers' pay remains stagnant because labor unions representing these employees, who enjoy better benefits than those on the temporary roll, tend to prioritize job security over higher pay, it said. Japan's pay scale, where salaries rise according to seniority, also discourages job hopping and prevents a tight job market from pushing up overall wages, the central bank said. The slow growth in permanent workers' income, which makes up nearly 70 percent of total wage-earners' income, partly explains why wage growth is subdued despite a strong economy, it said.

"Companies are taking various steps to address a shortage of labor," such as introducing robots to automate operations and cutting back on extra services, the BOJ said. Restaurant chain operators like Royal Holdings, which used to open their outlets 24 hours, are shortening opening hours due to a paucity of staff. Such efforts will raise labor productivity.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Tobacco Capitalists Kill

World Health Organization (WHO) said tobacco was the world's leading cause of preventable death, killing 7 million people each year.
"That's equivalent to wiping out the entire population of Bulgaria or Paraguay every year. That's not acceptable," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the report's launch in New York. Victims include 890,000 people who die annually from second-hand smoke exposure.
WHO pointed out that tobacco companies seeking to influence health policy continued to pose a serious problem. The report accuses tobacco giants of using deceitful tactics such as "exaggerating the economic importance of the tobacco industry, discrediting proven science and using litigation to intimidate governments."
Such interference had stalled health policy developments, such as the creation of smoke-free public places or plain packaging, in many countries. It also warned that countries with partly state-owned tobacco companies should take steps to protect important health policy decisions from their commercial interests. One example is Japan, where the government has a stake in Japan Tobacco Inc.
"I think in this special situation there might be a conflict of interest in economic revenues from a partly state-owned industry and health of the population," Kerstin Schotte, a WHO medical officer said.
50 percent of the global population in 78 countries are exposed to strong graphic warnings on cigarette packs, only 15 percent live in countries that have implemented bans on advertising and promotion, the report said. It added that the most effective form of tobacco control - price increases - is one of the least used worldwide.

Fact of the Day (UK pay)

The UK is one of the most unequal countries in the developed world when it comes to pay. 

On average, the CEOs of the UK’s largest 100 companies take home around 190 times what the average employee takes home. 

The average UK wage is around £27,500 a year which means that even at the very bottom of Chris Evans’ BBC pay range (raking in between £2.2m and £2.25m a year), the average Brit is earning just 1.25 per cent of his income.

Destroying a city to save it

More than 40,000 civilians were killed in the devastating battle to retake Mosul from Isis, according to intelligence reports revealed exclusively to The Independent – a death toll far higher than previous estimates. Residents of the besieged city were killed by Iraqi ground forces attempting to force out militants, as well as by air strikes and Isis fighters, according to Kurdish intelligence services.
Hoshyar Zebari, until recently a senior minister in Baghdad, told The Independent that many bodies “are still buried under the rubble” and that “The level of human suffering is immense,” he said. The figure given by  Zebari for the number of civilians killed in the nine-month siege is far higher than those previously reported, but the intelligence service of the Kurdistan Regional Government has a reputation for being extremely accurate and well-informed. Zebari accuses the government in Baghdad, of which he was until recently a member, of not doing enough to relieve the suffering. “Sometimes you might think the government is indifferent to what has happened,” he said.
Isis prevented any monitoring of casualties while outside groups have largely focused on air strikes rather than artillery and rocket fire as a cause of civilian deaths. Airwars, one such monitoring group, estimated that attacks may have killed 5,805 non-military personnel in the city between 19 February and 19 June.
An Amnesty International report issued last week titled At Any Cost: The Civilian Catastrophe in West Mosul, Iraq, which points to a greater and more indiscriminate use of its firepower by pro-government forces in the final stages of the attack on east Mosul, starting in January 2017 and continuing over the following six months during the assault on west Mosul. It says that Iraqi government and US-led coalition forces “relied heavily upon explosive weapons with wide area effects such as IRAMs (Improvised Rocket Assisted Munitions). With their crude targeting abilities, these weapons wreaked havoc in densely populated west Mosul, where large groups of civilians were trapped in homes or makeshift shelters”. 
Zebari, who grew up in Mosul and still has a house in the east of the city (though long confiscated, first by Saddam Hussein and later by Isis), laments that “the soul of Mosul has gone and its iconic buildings are destroyed”. 

Save the Children says save the children.

Charities have urged the UN to name and shame the Saudi-led coalition over child rights violations in Yemen after research showed more than 120 children were killed or maimed in airstrikes by the alliance last year. Save the Children and Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict said the coalition committed “grave violations against children” in a series of 23 attacks in 2016. In each case, the alliance bombed hospitals or schools, or killed or injured children.

Campaigners want the UN to highlight the actions of the Saudi-led coalition in its annual report on child rights violations in conflict, expected to be released next month. The report will include a blacklist of states and groups that have committed violations such as killing or maiming children, recruiting children, abduction, sexual violence, or attacking schools or hospitals. Last year, Saudi Arabia appeared on the list only to be removed a few days later, following furious protests from Riyadh. The UN report had stated the coalition was responsible for 60% of the child deaths and injuries in Yemen in 2015, an estimate Saudi Arabia claimed was “wildly exaggerated”. The U-turn was criticised by human rights groups, which accused the UN of pandering to political pressure. 

Save the Children has warned that the UN will set a dangerous precedent for conflicts around the world if it fails to include the Saudi-led coalition on this year’s list.
“If there is no accountability, if groups that are fighting think they can use their political influence – and if they’re powerful enough and rich enough, then they can get away with killing and injuring children, or bombing schools and hospitals – it sets a really dangerous precedent not just for Yemen but for conflicts around the world,” said Caroline Anning, senior conflict and humanitarian advocacy adviser at Save the Children. “Children]are facing threats from all sides, they’ve got the threat of airstrikes from above, which are continuous – just in the past few weeks we’ve seen bombs landing on marketplaces where civilians have been killed,” said Anning.
“Huge numbers of children are on the brink of starvation. The airstrikes have contributed to the collapse of the health system, there are huge numbers of kids who can’t get any healthcare, there’s a massive cholera epidemic spreading across the country, millions of children are out of schools.”
More than 4,000 children have been killed or injured, while a further 2.2 million under five are acutely malnourished. A growing cholera epidemic has also affected more than 118,000 children.
Last week, campaigners lost a high court case calling for UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia to be stopped over humanitarian concerns. Charities said the inclusion of Saudi Arabia on the UN’s blacklist would make it harder for the US and the UK to continue providing arms or diplomatic support.
“The government may have won a legal victory but the moral case is clear: the Saudi-led coalition is killing children, and Britain is supplying Saudi Arabia with arms,” said George Graham, Save the Children’s director of humanitarian and conflict policy.

Wage slavery sentence gets longer

Six million men and women will have to wait a year longer than they expected to get their state pension, the government has announced.
The rise in the pension age to 68 will now be phased in between 2037 and 2039, rather than from 2044 as was originally proposed.
Those affected are currently between the ages of 39 and 47. The change will affect those born between 6 April 1970 and 5 April 1978.
Anyone younger than 39 will have to wait for future announcements to learn what their precise pension age will be. A report by the government's actuary department suggested that workers now under the age of 30 may have to wait until 70 before they qualify for a state pension.
Age UK was critical of the change.
"In bringing forward a rise in the state pension age by seven years, the government is picking the pockets of everyone in their late forties and younger, despite there being no objective case in Age UK's view to support it at this point in time," said Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK. "Indeed, it is astonishing that this is being announced the day after new authoritative research suggested that the long term improvement in life expectancy is stalling."
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said the government risked creating "second-class citizens".
"In large parts of the country, the state pension age will be higher than healthy life expectancy," she said. "And low-paid workers at risk of insecurity in their working lives will now face greater insecurity in old age too. Rather than hiking the pension age, the government must do more for older workers who want to keep working and paying taxes."

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Deciding on the evidence

Jonathan Portes, professor of economics and public policy at King's College London, writes:
"There is essentially no evidence that migration to the UK has increased unemployment for British workers... immigrants (directly or indirectly) add to labour demand as well as labour supply; they earn money and spend it. Ignoring this effect, as many do, is what economists call the “lump of labour fallacy” – the idea that there are only a certain number of jobs to go around, so that if an immigrant (or an old person, or a woman) takes one, then a Briton (or a young person, or a man) must lose out. So while an immigrant may “take” one job from a British worker directly, she may also “create” one job – or indeed more than one job – for a British worker... the empirical evidence in the UK is pretty clear – these two effects more or less balance..."

Professor Portes goes on to explain:
"Broadly, the same thing applies for wages. Again, anyone who claims that reduced immigration will increase wages simply because of “supply and demand” is ignoring basic economics. Reduced immigration may push up wages for pizza restaurants; but if it also reduces demand across the economy as a whole, then it will reduce labour demand too, and hence wages... And again, we have evidence. A recent study by Steve Nickell and Jumana Saleheen – much cited during the referendum campaign – looked at the impact of immigration on wages. Iain Duncan Smith, for example, claimed that it showed that immigration had led to a 10 per cent fall in wages.  This was, of course, complete fiction – the actual impact is perhaps only one twenty-fifth as large. Professor Nickell himself later described the actual impact on the wages of low-paid workers as “infinitesimally small”...perhaps pizza workers will see some wage gains, while pizza eaters will lose, as higher wages feed through into prices. But the net impact, even for low-paid workers, is likely to be very small..."

His conclusion is clear.
"Our analysis suggest that the negative overall economic impact of reduced migration will far outweigh any modest wage gains for low-paid workers. If low wages are the problem, ending free movement is not the solution.

Not an equal UK

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that average incomes in the West Midlands, East Midlands, northern England and Wales were no higher than incomes in the South-east in the late 1990s.

The IFS also identified weak earnings growth – with employment income in 2015-16 lower than its pre-recession levels – as “the primary reason for the malaise in living standards” in the UK.

The IFS analysis showed that the median weekly income net of taxes and benefits for a childless couple in the West Midlands (over the three years from 2013-14 to 2015-16) was £427.50 before housing costs, or £370.07 after housing costs. For the South-east the figures were £531.89 before housing costs or £454.62 after housing costs.
Inequality remains lower than before the Great Recession, with the main reduction between 2007-8 and 2011-12 due to rising benefit income and falling real earnings.
But income inequality is likely to increase over the coming years if earnings grow and planned benefits cuts “significantly reduce the incomes of low-income working age households”.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation chief executive Campbell Robb stated, “These alarming figures highlight how far behind some parts of the UK have fallen, with millions of people seeing their incomes stagnate or even worse decline..Average incomes in the Midlands, Wales and the north of England have fallen further behind the rest of the country. Low earnings are an increasingly important driver of poverty, with the proportion of children in poverty in working households rising sharply in recent years.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

CEOs overpaid

According to a study for the Associated Press by the executive data firm Equilar, in 2016 the typical CEO at the S&P 500 companies received $11.5 million in salary, stock, and other compensation.

Of course, this was the median CEO income. Some were paid a great deal more. Thomas Rutledge (Charter Communications Inc.) received $98 million during 2016; Leslie Moonves (CBS Corp.) $68.6 million; Robert Iger (Walt Disney Co.) $41 million; and David Zaslav (Discovery Communications Inc.) $37.2 million. A few CEOs didn’t make the list because, as fantastically wealthy business owners (like Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg, collectively worth $146 billion), they didn’t bother taking a salary from their companies.

CEO income during 2016 reflected substantial increases over the preceding year, with the typical CEO getting an 8.5 percent raise. Some, especially the best-paid, received far more. Rutledge received a raise of 499 percent, while Moonves’s pay rose by 22 percent.

American workers haven’t been doing nearly as well. According to the AFL-CIO (which estimated average corporate CEO pay in 2016 at $13.1 million), the average production or other nonsupervisory worker earned only $37,632 that year. Thus, in 2016, there was a CEO-to-worker pay ratio of 347-to-1.

This gap between CEO and worker pay has been widening substantially over the years. In the 1950s, the S&P 500 CEO-to-worker pay ratio was 20-to-1. Even as late as 1980, it was 42-to-1. But the rise of the political Right, the adoption of pro-corporate public policies, and the decline of union strength have led to a situation in which the average CEO of America’s largest corporations has an annual income 347 times that of the average worker. In the last five years alone, corporate CEOs received percentage pay increases nearly doublethat of the U.S. workforce.

Why should roughly 20 million Americans, working at full-time jobs (and, sometimes, two or three jobs), receive such pitiful incomes that they are forced to rely on food stamps and other forms of public assistance while their CEOs grow ever wealthier and enjoy an opulent lifestyle once limited to kings and princes? Are these extravagantly-paid corporate CEOs producing commensurate value for their companies? According to a detailed 2016 study by MSCI, an investment and corporate research firm, businesses that provided their CEOs with higher incomes delivered smaller financial returns to investors than did companies with lower compensation for their top executives. Favorably impressed by the study, a Forbes columnist concluded that “maybe it is time to rethink and restructure CEO compensation.” 




The Principal of the Isca Academy, Exeter, sarcastically told boys
to wear skirts as she'd banned them from wearing shorts in the
heatwave although girls were excused from wearing stockings.

Preventing schoolboys wearing shorts,
Is all about conformity;
And therefore demonstrates the faults,
Of school dress uniformity.

It's all about 'bow to our rules',
And the perceived 'dead liberty',
Of pupils challenging the school's,
Immoderate authority.

Some school boards act like Daleks, who,
When taking prisoners, often say;
“We are the masters now, so you,
Don't question orders—just obey”.

A uniform has this effect,
On every Army new recruit;
It says to them 'don't dare reject,
The order when it comes to shoot'.

It's not for the convenience,
Of those that have to wear the clothes;
It's all about the dominance,
That we allow them to impose.

So boys, congratulations on,
Your 'V-sign' to the Principal; (1)
Who's 'principle' was woebegone,
And made you nigh invincible!

(1) Aimee Mitchell. (Miss!)

© Richard Layton

Wage theft in India

In Tamil Nadu state - the largest hub in India's $40 billion-a-year textile and garment industry - tens of thousands of workers are seeking millions of dollars in compensation following a landmark court ruling last year that declared they had long been grossly underpaid. The Chennai/Madras High Court ordered that the garment workers should receive a pay rise of up to 30 percent - the first minimum wage hike for 12 years - and that they could claim arrears going back to 2014. But 12 months on, many factory bosses have failed to pay up. 

Under the 1948 Minimum Wages Act, state governments are required to increase the basic minimum wage every five years to protect workers against exploitation, but textile manufacturers have repeatedly challenged pay rises in Tamil Nadu. Under the 2016 court ruling, Tamil Nadu's garment and textile workers should see their pay rise from a monthly average of 4,500 to 6,500 rupees - which campaigners say is comparable to wages for textile jobs in most other states. But workers say managers have defaulted or delayed on payments since the ruling, with some even introducing pay cuts.Despite the state's minimum wage laws, salaries continue to be "grossly low" for thousands of workers who are still not given pay slips or are often hired only as apprentices, campaigners say. 
"Instead of paying workers their correct salaries, companies are finding ways to surreptitiously squash their rights," said Selvi Palani, a lawyer helping workers' unions fight their cases. "There is a court order but the money is not on the table. Workers continue to be underpaid."  

Sujata Mody of Penn Thozhilalargal Sangam, a women workers' union, said some companies that had raised wages were now docking pay for sick days, and for factory meals and shuttle buses which were previously free, meaning many workers had seen little or no change in pay. Some factories were also firing more expensive workers on trivial grounds, she added. "The workers are struggling to be heard and the managements are coming up with new forms to deduct their income," Mody said.

End employer exploitation, contact:

The World Socialist Party (India): 257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086,
Tel: 2425-0208,