Monday, September 10, 2012

TUC 2012: Why Inequality Matters fringe

During lunchtime I went to this launch of an authorised summary of Professors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett's "The Spirit Level".  The fringe was sponsored by the new "left think tank" Class (Centre for Labour and Social Studies).

Chaired by GMB Tim Roache. Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey kicked off by introducing "Class" and the reasons why it was set up. For too long right wing think tanks have dominated political policy and research. Katherine Round spoke next. She is producing a video documentary on "The Spirit Level". 100k copies of the book have been sold in the UK while the gap now between the rich and poor is the widest for 30 years.

While Richard started by posing the question - is inequality an ethical or empirical issue? Many perfer to believe it to be ethical rather than empirical since then it can be dismissed as being subjective. He explained that in the 600 odd lectures and seminars that he and Kate have given there has been no good counter arguments. People are surprised about how how inequality has such a profound impact in so many ways. He is clear that you cannot have a classless society without addressing income equality.

Mehdi Hasan from the Huffington Post told a witty tale about how he was thrown off a right wing USA TV programme (are there any others?) for arguing in favour of a wealth tax even though a "wealth tax exists in communist Switzerland and is supported by that well known Marxist, Donald Trump".

Owen Jones (not in picture he was speaking at another fringe) came on last and made the point that Labour leader Ed Milibands "Predistribution has a point since billions spent on family credit were in effect a subsidy for low pay...whatever predistribution actually means". 

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