Rich Fools Fund
In the Scottish Independence debate I remember one of the shared convictions was that Scotland was “rich enough” to be independent. Without entering anew into that debate, it would seem to me that, on the face of it, Scotland is a rich enough country. Whenever I have travelled around you certainly pass through places where housing and surroundings paint more of a picture of poverty, but there is no doubt, in many places, the housing speaks of wealth. Exceptions there will always be, but I believe there to be wealth in Scotland, and for that matter throughout the United Kingdom. Enough wealth to be shared.
Newsnight recently highlighted the fact that it is often lower paid workers who are keeping us going through Coronavirus days – bus drivers, shelf stackers, care home workers, hospital staff, for example. Whilst our focus at present is on containing the spread of the virus and coping through these difficult months of lockdown, Newsnight also highlighted that we will probably then be facing the deepest economic downturn of our lifetime and asked the question, “What kind of social settlement might need to be put in place to stop the inequality becoming even more stark?”
Wealthy footballers were a target for pay cuts but it was rightly pointed out that there are many more professions where people are just as wealthy, if not more so. Given that the rich seldom like tax hikes, and that some politicians don’t like them either because they want to encourage the growth of wealth and business, it looks like we are left with one very obvious way of extracting more wealth to bridge the great poverty divide which exists and will probably exist to an even greater extent post Coronavirus – the wealthy need to part with their money voluntarily!
Coronavirus can affect anyone, rich or poor, although many on the poorer side of the fence are more front line and therefore more susceptible to catching the virus. In a tweet in mid-March I asked a simple question: “Time to dig deep! So come on all billionaires and millionaires and wealthy folk everywhere, what are you going to do to help folk in need through the months ahead? Sit on or share your good fortune?” Silence. Of course, silence. A voice in the wilderness is rarely heard.
For me the words of Jesus about wealth and money are quite clear. Jesus encountered a rich young man who seemed to live a good life but who refused to part with his wealth for the sake of the poor. Jesus encourages us all to store up riches in heaven not here on earth. Some say wealth is fine, as long as it doesn’t mean everything to us. But we are approaching a time – in reality we have seen it for years in the poverty tackled by Christian Aid, Mary’s Meals, The Vine Trust and others – when wealth will need to be shared more than ever.
Climate change is already affecting the world’s poorest and will continue to do so, especially if we all return to “normal” life. Some wealthy people have shown great generosity in these troubled virus days, others have acted shamefully. The irony is that if we refuse to do business with them in the future we would probably see many more lose their jobs. To all those who previously claimed that Scotland is “rich enough” then let’s prove it. Let an independent body be quickly established – I’ll happily stick up my hand to help – to set up a “Rich Fools Fund” and ask for donations, a fund that would be there to help those in need in our society. A Fund that seeks to redress the balance.
If you think it is someone else who is rich then think again. How much do we actually need to live? If we have over £25k in the bank give £5k, if we have £50k in the bank, give £10k, if we have over £100k in the bank give as much as you can! Maybe give millions! This Fund could and should have billions! And what will you get in return? The satisfaction of knowing that you helped without having to have your name in lights!
In times of crisis we look to the Government of the day to help and, to their credit, they seem to have helped as much as they are able. But what about all the wealth sitting in bank balances up and down Scotland and indeed the whole of the UK? Instead of looking for tax loopholes, why don’t the wealthy just give their money away to a deserving cause? Now there’s something to think about in isolation!
I wonder why Jesus said we would always have poor people with us? Is it because we hate to part with our hard-earned cash? Is it because we deserve to be rich? Is it because people see their wealth as theirs by right? And no, the Church is not exempt. If we are to meet the needs of the poor then we need to address how we live and work and spend our money – fine words are easy when it is radical action that is needed!
Money cannot buy happiness nor health, so why not give it away to the Rich Fools Fund? It might breathe new life into people’s troubled lives! Or is the reality the fact that I am the fool for even thinking this might be possible? Probably, but then I believe in the One who came back from the dead!