Fat Cat Tuesday: top bosses have already made more money by today than the typical UK worker will earn in a year

Gold BentleyI work for a charity that helps homeless people in the West End of London. A few weeks ago I walked out of my office and saw this car parked outside – a gold Bentley.  I am used to seeing flash cars in the area – like people sleeping rough, it’s a hallmark of central London life.

But there was something about the brazen, ostentatiousness of this car that got under my skin. Of course, rich people buy nice cars. But this was not just a nice car: it is a car built to show off the wealth of its owner. It is an offensive status symbol parked in a street where many sleep rough.  An increasing number of these homeless people are working but are sleeping rough because they cannot afford the sky-high rents and travel costs in London.

It is a just a symbol of the UK’s gross inequality which seems out of control.

‘Fat Cat Tuesday’

An independent think tank called the High Pay Centre has dubbed today ‘Fat Cat Tuesday’ because it marks a point in the year when, after only 2 days of work, top bosses in the UK will already have earned more than someone on the average wage. The following is taken from the High Pay Centre’s website:

  • FTSE 100 chief executives are paid an average £4.96 million a year. We found that even if CEOs are assumed to work long hours with very few holidays, this is equivalent to hourly pay of more than £1,200 .
  • The typical value of a FTSE 100 CEO’s incentive award has risen by nearly 50% of salary since the previous year, while the annual pay of the average UK worker has increased by just £445, from £27,200 to £27,645.

Watch this brilliant 3 minute video which unpacks the issue really clearly:

A Christian perspective

The Bible, and especially Jesus, has a huge amount to say about the dangers of greed.  So this is an issue which Christians should care about hugely.  But, especially in contrast to issues of sexuality, it does not seem to feature high on the agenda for many churches.

Ron Sider, wrote the following in his classic book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger:

‘Most Christians in the Northern Hemisphere simply do not believe Jesus’ teachings about the deadly danger of possessions. Jesus warned that possessions are highly dangerous – so dangerous, in fact, that it is highly difficult for a rich person to be a Christian at all…Matthew, Mark and Luke all record the terrible warning ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ (p.95)

He goes on:

‘We madly multiply sophisticated gadgets, bigger houses, fancier cars, and fashionable clothes – not because such things truly enrich our lives but because we are driven by an obsession for more and more. Covetousness, a striving for more and more material possessions, has become the cardinal vice of modern civilisation.’ (p.98)

This is why initiatives like ‘Fat Cat Tuesday’ are a good idea – because the expose this ‘cardinal vice’ in ways which people can grasp and understand.   Right wing think tanks, such as the Adam Smith Institute, have dismissed it as ‘the hand waving of pub economics’. But, perhaps this is what is needed at a time when what seems to be dominating us is the economics of the champagne bar.

About Jon Kuhrt

Jon Kuhrt works with people affected by homelessness, offending and addictions at the West London Mission. He, his wife and three children are part of Streatham Baptist Church and he is a member of the Christians on the Left. He likes football...but loves cricket.
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9 Responses to Fat Cat Tuesday: top bosses have already made more money by today than the typical UK worker will earn in a year

  1. Tom Graham says:

    Great timely article Jon! I guess sexism is an issue most of us can easily distance ourselves from, whereas the pursuit of more stuff is difficult for all of us – even those who consider themselves extremely ‘godly’ – to disentangle themselves from. hence the relative silence?

    • Jon Kuhrt says:

      Thanks for the comment Tom. It is tricky – I am well paid and obviously enjoy nice things – so this is an issue which is both personal and political. It just seems that many are more comfortable in being black and white about things that Jesus did not say much about but then are quite ‘liberal’ in how they interpret other areas, such as about greed and materialism. It is fascinating seeing clips like this where US mega-evangelists are arguing for why they need their own airlines to fly them about: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/03/14/jesus-wants-me-to-have-this-jet.html

  2. Agent X says:

    I am not advocating it by saying so, but a day will come when enough misery in the face of such injustice and cold heartedness gives way to revolution. History is marked with many such developments. I don’t see it coming too quickly, but I am unaware of such disparity finding resolution any other way.

    Could be wrong. Not exactly the world’s greatest historian…

    Meanwhile, it could be Jesus (and his people) who make the difference and keep the peace.

    If I am right, then we are quite relevant after all.

    Peace

    Agent X
    Fat Beggars School of Prophets
    Lubbock, Texas (USA)

    • Jon Kuhrt says:

      I think you could be right Agent X. In London, many of the rich buildings built around the start of the 19th century were deliberately quite modest looking on the outside due to fears caused by the French Revolution and not looking too ostentatious to provoke the ‘poorer classes’. As the old saying goes ‘The castle is not safe when the cottage is not happy.’

      It is interesting about what ‘keeping the peace’ means – I think we should work for peace even if it causes disturbance to an unwholesome peace – like Jesus did in the Temple. As Martin Luther King said ‘True peace is not merely the absence of tension but the presence of justice’

  3. Agent X says:

    Jon,

    Peace “keeping” is so UN. Sorry I used that term actually. Peace “making” is much more Jesus-ish. But, yeah… the disparity is “asking for it” in my estimation. If I can aid the poor and find a way to bring conviction to the rich, it seems that both of those things would be involved.

    Ironically, it would mean some form of sensitivity to the rich. Not some free pass type sensitivity, but probably involving some real respect – if that will be had. After all, there is nothing wrong (as so many of my American Christian family and friends are apt to say) with being rich – per se. It’s not the having of wealth that is the problem.

    But you make an interesting point with your picture of that car. What is there about that car that says the driver of it cares about anyone else but himself? And parking that car on the street near a bunch of homeless people (and the offices that serve them) appears to be a statement of dis-regard, which could change the peace-making approach at some level.

    What ever the case, a confrontation seems key. And that is likely to be a matter of disturbing the comforted while comforting the disturbed.

    I recently read a fascinating blog post by an American Iraq war vet who suffered some vicious attacks as he helped to rescue peace makers under fire in the war. He says peace making is dangerous business. If you care to, I recommend a glance at his post.

    Find it here:

    http://theunlikelyevangelist.com/2015/12/06/peacemaking-is-a-dangerous-business-reflections-on-the-worst-day-of-my-life/

    Keep up the good work there!

    I am glad for the contact I have with you.

    Blessings from USA

    • Jon Kuhrt says:

      Thanks Agent X – I will check it out and thanks for reading, commenting and being so encouraging.

      You are right about being respectful to all – as I said above, I am well paid and struggle with all this stuff too.

      Tell us more about why you are called Agent X and what the Fat Beggars do?

      God bless,
      Jon

  4. Agent X says:

    PS…

    If you had said the owner of the car was offering rides around town in it to homeless people, I would have been impressed! No. Such kindness would do nothing to “help” the poor, but it would celebrate the poor, and the rich man/woman would be sharing his/her wealth if they had done it.

    Not likely, of course, but it would dramatically change the whole dynamic in some surprising and imaginative ways…

    X

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