Why £65,000 isn’t a lot of money
Much is being made of MPs view on their rate of pay. According to Andrew Bridgen MP, “a vast majority of people do not think £65,000 a year is a lot of money”. The statement is partly true, but also alarming in its implications.
Lets start by putting a £65,000 wage packet in some kind of context. Whilst its around 3 times the average income, its tiny in comparison to the sorts of money many of those MPs want to see themselves as equivalent to are receiving. Our society has a warped pay scale – corporations exist where the leading earners receive an inexcusable 500 times that of the lowest paid. An MP looking towards a senior business leader sees someone who is earning ‘a lot of money’ – perhaps a few hundred thousand a year, and by contrast £65,000 doesn’t look like much.
Whilst low wages have become normal, high wages have become normalised. It is quite normal for someone to be earning vastly more than our MPs’ current salary, but it doesn’t mean many people are doing it. £65,000 is now very definitely part of the vast gulf between low earner and high earner in which the middle-classes, now containing everyone from barely floating homeowners up to surgeons and higher-level management who send their children to fee paying schools other than Eton and use private medical services other than Harley Street.
A lot of consternation from those on the left seems to hinge on the idea that anyone thinks they’re earning a lot of money. None of us do. We’re continuously made miserable by adverts telling us we should want to spend more, and by extension, earn more. Yes, a few of us manage to avoid the adverts sufficiently well that we are less likely to think this. But Radio 4 listeners are not in the majority, and most voters are, by their own actions, continuously exposed to this stuff.
Depending on how you ask the question, Bridgen is right: if you ask people in Britain today what “earning a lot of money” looks like, they will almost certainly say more than £100,000. £65,000 a year is a lot of money on its own, but compared to other amounts of money we know people are earning, its now not that much. That said, the smart ass answer to the poll question is probably “more than me”, and remains the same no matter how much is earned, just the same as the answer to “how much is enough?” is always “just a bit more”.
The question should be this: why do MPs feel they have a right to earn ‘a lot of money’? Why are they, like much of the rest of society, incapable of critiquing their own environment and their privileged position within it? We pay them to think through the problems facing our country, economy and society, not merely accept the status quo, surely? Why does anyone need to earn an amount of money that can be described as ‘a lot of money’?
Bridgen may not have been wrong in his observation, but he is definitely representing one of the silent evils of our era: that people deserve to be paid largely arbitrary sums with little resemblance of the actual value of their work, whilst others can be dismissed as next to worthless and paid a pittance.