Your comments on the Winner Takes All Britain programme.
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In tonight's programme it is mentioned that 22% of total income tax in Britain is paid by the top 1% of taxpayers. This misses out the more important point which is often ignored or misunderstood by journalists which is what percentage of their total income do the top one per cent of earners in Britain pay in tax. You will find that the top 1% pay less tax as a percentage of their income than the bottom 10% of earners. Can this be fair? I am sure most fair minded and decent people would think not. Why was this not mentioned in the programme? Also why was it not mentioned that one of the major reasons the super rich are getting richer to obscene levels by most people's standards was due to the biggest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich between 1979 and 1997 under the previous Tory government which New Labour under Tony Blair has done hardly anything to tackle.
So much so that the gap between rich and poor under Labour is still getting wider. Finally so what is to be done to tackle the huge inequalities between rich and poor. In my view we should have a top rate of income of 50p in the pound to start with. Also the government has to explain to people what this means. It does not mean you pay 50p of every pound you earn in tax but 50p in every pound in tax of earnings over around £30,000. This distinction is very important. Also the government should look at giving tax cuts to the poor by substantially incerasing the thresholds at which you start to pay tax and heaven forbid give the poor back a huge amount of the income which they lost to the rich in the Thatcher/Major years. Moreover the argument about income tax being based on the ability to pay is the central argument which any progressive centre left government must win.
Finally the programme in my view could have looked at some of the issues I have mentioned in some depth rather than spending most of the time speaking to the wealthy and to economists who think we the ordinary citizens of Britain should embrace and celebrate the ever incerasing incomes of the top 1% in Britain.
Steven Kane, Glasgow
I thought the presentation of the pros and cons of the "winner... society" had huge gaps and was very poorly balanced. The "cons" for our own society were not explored with nearly as much energy as the "pros" and the global aspect was completely ignored.
Much of the programme came across as a defence of the super-rich. Partly it was the images that were used, all those stylish camera moves around these executive types and their luxury goods. In contrast, the images shown of the other side of the phenomenon (rising inequality) were inconspicuous and never accompanied by any interviews with those concerned.
There was nothing to really bring home the point of just how devastating the new economy has impacted on individual opportunity, worker's wages, types of jobs and job security in the West. The message - a false one, in my view - was that "we" are "all" getting richer, only some of "us" much faster than the rest. Nothing really to worry about. But even in the blurb about rising inequality in US society there was no mention of the fact that American general standard of living today is actually lower than it was in the 70's!
And the enormity of global inequality enhanced by the corporations with the highest executive pay cheques was ignored completely. I know that the focus of the programme was the impact of the "new elite" on British society. But with such frequent mention of globalisation and global economy as the origin of the phenomenon, the wider context should at least have been mentioned or even hinted at.
Only then could it make sense to ask broad questions such as "is this a good or a bad thing". Only then is it possible to judge the answer of an "expert" who seems to forget more than half of the planet's population when he expounds how "we all" benefit from the winners because we get better technology, pharmaceutical products and, er, entertainment (?!! How high can that be on the list of priorities?!!).
For a balanced presentation on the idea of trickling down of wealth and "winners benefit us all", other experts should have been heard. I would suggest, for example, Arundathi Roy. She describes a "winner takes..." society in which labourers from the untouchable caste, dressed in loin cloths, dig the trenches for the optical fibre cables that fuel India's communications revolution. It is easy to shrug off the injustice and praise the benefits of a "winner..." society from within the cushioning remains of the Western welfare state. But the reality of globalised capitalism is a different one for most of the world.
Helen Schroeder, Norwich, UK
Just watched your "Winner Takes All Britain" documentary. I have seldom seen such a partisan piece. Professor Krugman and co's views were accepted with sickening deference while anyone who expressed a view that free market economics and capitalism are not actually inherently evil, was treated with sneering disbelief and even contempt.
I'm just sorry that Steve Bradshaw and the rest of the team didn't have the chance to live in the Soviet bloc. Everything was so much fairer when the state decided what people should earn. Still, I believe North Korea and Cuba are very nice.
If anything needs capped it should be the licence fee. Judging by what I've just watched, I think 50p a year would be about right.
Colin Robertson, UK
Envy does no good at all, but the super-rich need to be taxed a little more to stop our public services from sliding backwards. For decades, NHS dental treatment has been easily available, but now I have to go private and I've spent £7,000 just on basics over the last year. People without the means just go without.
Robert, Southampton, GB
I found tonight's programme to be very interesting. It is in our interest to have a society where individuals are able to provide for themselves to live in decent conditions. People on low incomes often find it hard to make both ends meet. Is it right that very wealthy people who can support themselves recieve massive annual bonuses when poorer people see a 3% rise in their already low annual income?
Rowan Savage, Letchworth Garden City, England
This programme was a warning. When inequalities get this wide, social tensions rise and social problems increase. The health of poorer people, for example, suffers. A lot of air time was wasted, however, on interviews with the "super-rich," in which they were naively asked if they were "worth it".
Surprise, surprise, they all said without exception that they were. More time could perhaps have been spend on noting that general living standards rose rapidly in the 1960s, when inequalities were far lower. In countries like Sweden, with a flatter distribution of income and wealth, similarly all incomes have risen.
This destroys the myth - which many of the programme's interviewees repeated - that only through greater inequality could living standards for the "poor" be raised. The role of the workers in wealth creation could also have been raised, if only briefly. Overall, the programme raised some questions. But as for an in-depth analysis, it missed the boat!
Dave Critchley, Leigh, Lancashire
Many thanks for this evening's illuminating and - ultimately - extremely depressing programme. Never have I felt so proud of belonging to the 99% of the nation's losers. I would suggest that the attitude of most of us to the people you featured in the programme should be neither envy nor aspirational emulation (as that comical little man from the LSE suggested) but supreme indifference.
Most of what you showed on the programme was vapid, self-indulgent and essentially irrelevant to any truly contented lifestyle. Who are these people who aspire to a £500 haircut? - per-lease! Perhaps the saddest example was the wee man from Glasgow made good, with his weemini and his plastic palace above silicon valley. True - he had a splendid collection of cars, but tell me this: how many of them can he drive at the same time?
Plato once said, if I remember correctly, that for a society to be at ease with itself, those paid the most for their labours should be earning no more than three times the wage paid to the lowliest worker. That's a bit prescriptive, but you can see where the guy's coming from. Personally, I would have been far more encouraged if these rich people you featured in your programme were using their amazing wealth in a far more worthwhile way - such as acting as patrons for the arts and valuable architecture - rather than building ultra-naff "luxury spa hotels with infinitely adjustable colour-mood relaxation rooms". How very trite. Do I envy these people? Absolutely not. Do I pity them, and their appalling lack of taste? Oh, most definitely yes.
Alasdair Hamilton, Dunstable, UK
Great documentary, but didn't focus on one of the main problems of the super rich. Money reflects power and the super rich already in the USA have incredible amounts of power to shape and influence society. They are able to override ethical and environmental concerns in the pursuit of their own concerns namely money. Of course some will claim that they should be allowed, but a look at history shows, the greater the discrepancy of power the greater the abuse of it.
Andy Pauli, London
It's good to have an incentive to do well but if there is a problem then it is just with the scale of global opportunities and not so much with individual countries. One thing that it would be good to introduce, in order to curb one Americanism, is to replace the money oriented suing culture with prison sentences as 'payment', to establish one basic code of what is wrong. Secondly a new draconian code to put away those with bad practice at the very top, another set of rules where the moral stakes are as high as the earnings. This way there is at least one set of concrete standards for all and the rest shall be history just as sure as equally disproportionately large recessions shall be born.
Ella, Steyning, Sussex
For all the talk of globalisation, no mention was made of the effects that super rich lifestyles have on developing countries and the majority of the world's population. We are clearly not all benefiting from advances in technology. What about the millions of people without drinking water, never mind gold taps and Jacuzzis. I don't know how these so-called winners sleep at night.
Cathy, Bradford, UK
The programme missed out a major implication of these high salaries for the one per cent, this being the fact that they can totally distort the housing market. I know of situations where some of these one per cent-ers use their annual bonuses to buy several properties in the one town as investments, (effectively, on a whim, doing what most people work their entire lives for, several times over with this years spare cash) totally distorting the housing market by raising the market out of reach of ordinary people.
The salaries and bonuses of the super rich have become obscene and inequality in Britain has returned to that of the 1920's. A super tax is needed to redress the balance about 50-60 per cent. If the gulf continues to widen we will see dissent and unrest as ordinary people fall by the wayside. We are becoming too much like the nasty and ugly society in America.
Martin Bailey, Basingstoke, England
In the 50s, 60s and 70s the country underperformed largely because of the restrictions imposed on us in the name of social justice, viz equality. Since Margaret Thatcher gave us the freedom to succeed and to enjoy its fruits the country has grown competitive and prosperous. Please let us worry less about the success of those who have made it and more about the lack of success of those who can not. This failure has nothing to do with the success of the few, only with their own and/or society's shortcomings. Thank you for highlighting this phenomenon. Please let us not get back to the envy decades.
Paul Hampton, London
There should be a relationship between the salaries at the top of a business and the average wage in that business.
An x20 ratio would mean a chairman earning £750K would give a company average wage of £35,500.
Kevin Howard, Coventry, West Midlands