(Commentary) It is hard to be rich in Norway today. Very hard. Or as one of our richest described it on national TV the other day: "We have become a pariah caste. We are being bullied."
The same day, the boss of all bosses in the Norwegian business sector, Ole Henrik Almlid, called the government's policies 'poisonous'.
The richest among us are verbally strong, if not very well-articulated, when they stick their heads out, one after the other. An increasingly audibly ensemble of less fortunate super-rich giants fighting for both national and international attention. This is about reiterating a narrative that will make the rest of us overlook the differences in a society where the gap between the rich and the poor grows larger every day.
A victim of bullying
The victim of bullying, Jan Petter Wilhelm Courvoisier Sissenes, a well-known Norwegian stock investor, described the brutal reality on TV five days into the new year. During the same five days, he had earned as much as the average Norwegian earns over the span of a whole year.
In other words, brutality is conditional.
The same can be said about the demand for predictability. I cannot recall any demands for advance notice when the poorest children were struck by a reduction in public funding for the purchase of glasses.
Brutality is conditional.
The less fortunate are not necessarily speaking on the behalf of very many in the Norwegian business sector, but they are speaking on the behalf of the insanely rich. With an almost Trumpian falsification of reality, they want us to believe that it is no longer possible to earn money in Norway. And that any attempt to reduce the increasingly large disparities between rich and poor is a threat to investments and jobs.
According to statistics, the average pay in Norway is about NOK 610 000 a year (2021), a figure that nevertheless hides the fact that around 60 percent of the population earns less than the average.
An annual salary in five days
The explanation is quite simple and at the same time illustrative of the disparities in society. A few ultra-rich drive up the average salary considerably. The fact that six out of ten earn less than average is a result of a small group of people existing in a salary paradise the rest of us will never experience.
Statistics Norway has therefore adopted a term called median salary. If one omits the super-rich, the average, or median salary, drops to NOK 550 000.
The victim of bullying, Sissener, earns NOK 41,1 million, or 75 times more than the Norwegian average, and takes five days to earn an average Norwegian salary.
It depends on who does the looking.
Another member of the Less-Fortunate Ensemble, who loves to share his wisdom in Facebook groups, is the investor Øystein Stray Spetalen. He could leave his office as early as the 2nd of January with an average annual salary in his pocket.
At the top of the income list sits a salmon heir. Already before the first lunch break of the year – even before the first morning coffee – his average pay was secured.
A Canadian think-tank, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) has made the same calculation and discovered that it takes the highest-paid Canadian CEO's 1 day and 43 minutes to earn an average yearly salary.
Perhaps it is calculations such as these that make the super-rich feel like a pariah caste. That makes them feel bullied. That drives them to Switzerland to escape the tax burden and find peace and predictability in a new country.
At a time when war is raging in Europe, and all Western economies are under pressure, where both poverty and energy needs are increasing, it is still something very cheap, not to mention tasteless, in suggesting that every attempt to reduce the disparities in society is an attack on the super-rich.
It depends on who does the looking.
With or without funding for glasses.
This commentary was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by Birgitte Annie Molid Martinussen.