I am a poor young person and I don’t care about your rich people woes. This calculated apathy has come about after rich people got up in arms at Labour’s John McDonnell for daring to claim that earning between £70,000 to £80,000 per year would make you well off. The silver spoon-fed elite immediately took to the comment sections. “We only get to go on one holiday a year after we’ve paid for Belinda and Jeffery’s private school education,” they squealed emotively. “And daddy only has two cars!?”
I joke, but it’s true – I just don’t care about the £70k-earning “squeezed middle”, that irritating term for people who, as put by Janan Gamesh in the Financial Times (newspaper money bible), are “objectively, measurably rich people who believe they are part of the put-upon middle-class”. And I don't think you should either.
“There are plenty of British people living (and dying) in abject poverty who would have every right to punch you in the face for claiming that £70k isn’t a hefty sum”
Yes, it’s true that two parents and three kids on one income, renting in London, might not have very much disposable income and could be negatively affected if Labour gets into power and actually decide to tax them a little more. I understand the concept of relativity. But the other reality is that the average full-time worker in the UK is only earning £27,600, meaning that if you are earning £70k per annum that’s more than 95 per cent of the country. There are plenty of British people living (and dying) in abject poverty who would have every right to punch you in the face for claiming that £70k isn’t a hefty sum.
My monetary empathy is now mainly reserved for young people like myself, who come from genuinely low-income backgrounds, who are still struggling to find their way because being poor is hard, who have had the indignity of having to fill out a million and one bursary application forms to break into their careers, who are living in mouse-infested rental properties in urban centres, held to ransom by corrupt landlords who think it's chill to up the rent every six months.
At present, things for young people – especially those attempting to enter the creative industries – are fucking hard. That’s why it’s so frustrating to hear people try to justify the idea that being on an annual wage that is more than two times the average in the UK isn’t a privilege. It’s wild that I can say this already, having only graduated from uni a few years ago, but back in my day there were actually a few more cushions to soften the blow.
“Thanks to new Tory government legislation poorer young people can't even get a maintenance grant to go to uni with anymore”
If you could make it to school on time you’d get Education Maintenance Allowance, a sweet £30 a week which meant that I could stop scavenging money off my pals to afford the bus home. Tuition fees were £3,000 per year, compared to £9,000 now, under-25s had tax credit wage subsidies, and 18-21-year-olds were able to claim housing benefits and jobseekers allowance. Thanks to new Tory government legislation, all of this is gone, and poorer young people can't even get a maintenance grant to go to uni with anymore.
Apparently ‘the people’ don’t like the idea of rich people being taxed which is a real shame as I think it’s a policy that young people should be able to get behind. It’s idealistic, Robin-Hood-esque, and even quite poetic. The people who have a bit more can give that up to help others who are struggling. Young creatives don’t have to live on the breadline. Single mothers don’t have to work two jobs. Taxation of the rich, if done correctly, could be a beacon of hope in dark times. And so what if they're not able to afford their organic veg anymore?
Follow Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff on Twitter here @CharlieBCuff