Why £65,000 isn’t a lot of money

Saturday, 12th January 2013 at 18:33 UTC 8 comments

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.

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Entry filed under: Materialism, Politics.

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jon  |  Saturday, 12th January 2013 at 20:57 UTC

    Hey Graham! I sent an email to your two old Hotmail accounts. I know this is an odd place to give you a heads-up, but I presume you haven’t received it. It isn’t political, but you’ll want to read it. My email is the same as it’s been for ages, so if you send me a token email there I can resend to whatever your new address is.

    Incidentally, great article above, as usual, although it might be a good idea to recognize that politicians may be more than just out of touch. They might complain no matter how high their salaries are, and pretend, as Mitt Romney did, that a quarter million is average. 🙂

    Reply
  • 2. Greg  |  Saturday, 12th January 2013 at 21:33 UTC

    What have rights got to do with anything? A salary isn’t a right, it’s remuneration for work done. An average salary would only attract average people, but I don’t want the country to be run by average people, I want it to be run by people who are actually good at managing large operations, who are always going to be expensive.

    Offering a pittance is never going to attract the sort of talented individuals we want to run the country, because they will be off earning shedloads elsewhere, and quite right too. If somebody asked me to put my life and career on hold to take on a stressful and responsible job that involved travelling up and down to London all the time, with the high probability that I’ll get voted out in five or ten years, I’d want a lot of money before I even considered it.

    So what if we gave the MPs a pay rise? There are 650 of them, so call it a few million quid extra a year to get the right people to run the country. That seems like a very good deal indeed.

    Reply
    • 3. Graham Martin  |  Saturday, 12th January 2013 at 21:49 UTC

      I’d suggest that, if you’d want a lot of money before considering the job, you’re not the person for the job! Also, they are not, by and large, running the country; that’s the job of the executive, i.e. the cabinet. They are paid to represent, and need to be representative to do it. Giving them a huge income is going to make them representative of a very small number of people.

      Reply
  • 4. Greg  |  Saturday, 12th January 2013 at 23:24 UTC

    “if you’d want a lot of money before considering the job, you’re not the person for the job!”

    Why? Would you like to justify that? If I was earning £100k, entering parliament would cost me at least (100k-65k)*5 = £175k, and probably leave me back on the job market at the end of it all, 5 years out of date. I’m a generous guy, but that’s a lot of money to lose. Try waiting until you’ve got a mortgage and 3 kids, then see if that sort of sacrifice still appeals.

    £65k might be a lot of money to a street sweeper but to be honest, I don’t want 650 street sweepers running the country. Who else would be attracted by a poorly-paid MP’s job? We’re left with career politicians and the independently wealthy, who are not representative at all.

    Reply
    • 5. Graham Martin  |  Wednesday, 13th February 2013 at 10:51 UTC

      Power should be costly like that. This might also ensure we don’t get a parliament rammed full of the self-serving. Where is your sense of self-sacrifice, Greg?

      Reply
      • 6. Greg  |  Sunday, 17th February 2013 at 22:05 UTC

        Running a country on the basis that people should be willing to make large self sacrifices seems like a very bad idea, because it’s very unrealistic – it’s cloud cuckoo land stuff. Drop the desire to screw them for every penny they’ve got, it’s pure envy politics.

  • 7. Donna Also Smeed  |  Tuesday, 15th January 2013 at 13:19 UTC

    The Government (whichever colour it happened to be) has always said that nurses don’t work for the money but because it is a vocation.

    I think being an MP should also be vocational and, therefore, not worthy of a huge salary.

    Though often lambasted by individuals who appear in its pages, Wikipedia is a free to use website. I, for one, find it really useful. There are many such internet sites, freeware for example, and all they ask is that, if if has been useful to you, you make a donation if you can.

    This is how our MPs should be paid. If their constituents think they have done a good job then they will make a donation to their salary fund. The good ones will be paid really well and the underperformers will not. Simple!

    Reply
  • 8. Mark  |  Tuesday, 25th June 2013 at 15:40 UTC

    If this cretin says £65.000 a year isn’t a lot of money to live on how can he justify his parties policies to cut welfare so that people who are already struggling to survive on £53 a week will have that cut even more

    Reply

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