Feed the Children

You’ll have seen photos of the meagre rations meant to feed schoolchildren. You might have read that corporate CEO pay has rocketed to 120 times that of their average worker. You’re probably aware that people are volunteering to help with Covid jabs. What links them all?

Some cheese slices, tin of beans, loaf of bread a little bit of veg and not much else is supposed to provide ten meals. Meant to come to £30 worth of food. Even at retail prices, it’s about £5.22. The real scrooge part was seeing that penne pasta had been removed from its original packaging and doled out in little plastic bags. How tight is that? Even at supermarket prices, it only costs £1 for a kilo of brand-name pasta.

The companies get an administration fee and packaging and shipping fee. The parcels are supposed to contain £15 worth of food per child per week.

Let’s not forget free school meals are taken up by kids of all ages. My eldest son is 14 now. That food parcel wouldn’t last him ten minutes, never mind ten meals. Like most teenage boys, he’d trough the lot in one go.

Chartwells is the corporate profiteer in this case. Owned British catering giant the Compass Group, they won’t be paying supermarket prices for food. Last year they posted a profit of £1.2billion. Their chairman was Paul Walsh, a multi-millionaire Tory party donor and member of David Cameron’s Business Advisory Group.

And let’s not fall for the idea that their profit is paying for the free school meals. Corporation tax contributes only 6% of UK tax revenues. Payroll taxes and indirect taxes (VAT, fuel, etc) raise most of our public expenditure. Tax comes out of the pockets of ordinary citizens, and into the pockets of the mega-rich.

On the subject of wealth inequality, “High Pay Day” was January 6th this year. The day when the typical FTSE 100 chief executive has already been paid what the average worker gets for the whole year. After just 34 hours under their belt.

The pay gap between executives and workers is particularly acute in the retail sector. Ocado, the online supermarket, paid chief executive Tim Steiner £57.8 million last year, that’s 2,605 times the £22,500 Ocado’s delivery staff get on average. It’s those staff who are doing the work, generating the profits. Meanwhile, Mr Steiner paid £50,000 to the Conservative Party. How long would it take those delivery drivers to save up £50,000?

It’s easy to be outraged when kids have their food stolen by profiteers. There’s noticeably less outrage that the rich are getting richer while real wages fall and unemployment rises. And hardly anyone is asking why we’re not paying people for giving life-saving vaccines in a pandemic.

It’s great when people volunteer – I encourage it. Less great is the shortage of medical staff caused by government raiding their pensions to pay for the banking crisis the billionaires never paid for. In fact, it’s egregious that many of these volunteers are suffering a pay freeze – a real terms pay cut. Yet £22 billion was thrown at conglomerates with track record of failure to run a failed test & trace system. Funny that it was a Tory MP’s wife who got the gig.

No one is connecting these issues because British public debate is banal. It distracts from the real question: who has power? Perhaps you’re okay with that. Or resigned. It’s hard not to become numb when we see homeless people, hungry kids, small businesses folding, public servants burned out from overwork, our elderly relatives dying from Covid in care homes, and our kids accruing debt before they can even afford a deposit for a home.

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

There’s not some vast international conspiracy, run by a shadowy Keyser Soze. But there is an establishment that maintains a legal, political and economic system based on property rights. It has been shaped for centuries, with mechanisms to ensure wealth flows from ordinary people to rich people. And it is out of control. Britain is run in the interests of a kleptocracy.

Originally published in the Journal and Evening Chronicle

16916944 Comments121 SharesLikeCommentShare