Once Jesters Now Kings

I’m sure that everyone has noticed the slight kafuffle in the news concerning the salaries of a number of BBC employees. Whilst I agree with what seems to be the overwhelming opinion that these salaries seem to be completely out of step compared to the average wage of your general BBC viewer, especially when it is said viewers that are funding these pay packets, my concern comes from a slightly different direction.

Let’s step back a few years to an age when entertainment came in a slightly more basic format. Back to a time when what was considered to be entertainment was watching someone dressed in bright coloured clothing, perhaps juggling or walking on their hands.  Jesters in favour were rewarded with scraps of food, a place to sleep and maybe the odd coin or two if their antics and stories were funny enough. Jesters, or fools as they were commonly called, were considered to be no more than servants and were treated accordingly.

Fast forward a few hundred years and entertainment and more importantly, entertainers, are now viewed in a completely different light. Some are now the earning elite and command vastly inflated salaries for what appears to be the most perfunctory of roles. Whilst you could argue that newsreaders and the like perform a vital role bringing us the latest news and current affairs, does this really justify six and seven figure salaries. Especially when you consider that the average annual salary in the UK is approximately £26K. Basically, the lowest paid are helping to pay the wages of the top 1% of earners – that sounds fair! To look at it another way, if you were to relieve the top BBC earner of their salary, you would be able to give 440 nurses a £5K per annum pay rise.

And then it dawned on me. There is a solution to this problem. Are these people going to relinquish their salaries and take a huge pay cut? Of course not. Instead, what we should do, is re-categorise everyone’s job based on its usefulness and contribution to the rest of society. For example, jobs such as nurses, police officers, firefighters, teachers etc., would be seen as vital as their contribution is immense. As a result, these jobs would score relatively low. On the other hand, jobs such as actors, film stars, pop musicians, footballers (other sports are currently available) would be scored highly as their contribution to society would be seen to be comparatively low. Should the scoring system not be the other way around, I hear you cry! No, no, no. The reason being, the lower score a job carries, the lower tax that that person has to pay. Conversely, the higher the score, the higher the tax. Imagine an actor earning several millions for making a single movie paying 70 or 80% income tax, or a football player earning £500K per week paying a similar amount. All of a sudden, we would be in a position to lower the tax for everyone employed in one of these more “vital” roles, maybe even to the point that certain roles would actually be tax exempt. Writing off the income tax bill for a nurse is almost the equivalent of awarding them a 25% par rise.

I understand that there would be a huge resistance to such a scheme, but only from those top earners that are in that top 1% category. It would be down to the rest of us to ensure that the scheme was adhered to and people were accountable for what they owed. Incentive schemes could be set up, whereby discounts were applied for people that willingly “gave up” a percentage of their earnings. So, the footballer earning £500K per week could be liable for a £350K income tax bill, or alternatively they could “surrender” £250K of their salary into a government pot that then went to help fund health care, education, the police force etc.

On the other side of the coin, perhaps it would help encourage more people into jobs that were once seen as vocational rather than a career path to higher earnings. Am I being idealistic as well as unrealistic. Probably, but something has to be done to try and address the balance. And when all is said and done, if I were that footballer whose £500K per week was slashed to a mere £250K, could I survive. Possibly. It would be a struggle, but I’d give it a go!!

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