Sunday, June 10, 2018
Poverty Is Man-Made - Is That Morally/Fiscally Justifiable?
The meme above appeared recently on Facebook. It shows eight super-rich individuals who control more wealth than 4 billion of the people in the world (which is more than half the world's population). I don't believe these men are necessarily bad people, but can such exorbitant wealth be justified, either fiscally or morally, when hundreds of millions of people in the world worry about feeding or housing themselves daily? I don't think so.
The world has a finite amount of resources, and like it or not, when one person takes more than their share it means another person must make do with less. Nelson Mandela tells us that poverty is man-made, and can be fixed by men (if they just had the desire to do so). He is right. There are enough resources/wealth to eliminate poverty in this world. The problem is that, in too many countries, we allow the enormous wealth of a few at the expense of many others.
As the richest nation in the world, the United States is not immune to the problem of poverty. Consider the chart below.
The chart shows the distribution of wealth in the United States. Note that 72% of the nation's wealth is controlled by only 5% of the population, and 93% of the wealth is controlled by the top 20%. That leaves only 7% of the wealth to be divided among 80% of the population (hundreds of millions of people). The chart is from 2007, but don't fool yourself into thinking things have improved since then. Thanks to the GOP's "trickle-down" economic policy, it has gotten worse -- and it continues to grow worse. The recent tax law will only ensure the gap between the rich and the rest of the country will grow even faster than before.
Ours is a system that creates and institutionalizes poverty. It ensures that poverty will exist, because it must exist to allow so few to be so rich. Conservatives will tell you that poverty cannot be eliminated, and will always be with us. I don't believe that. I think it is just a feeble attempt to justify greed.
I can understand the desire of people to be rich. Who wouldn't like to have more than you need to insure your existence? But do you want to be rich if it means others will have to be poor? Do we really want an economic system that glorifies some people being rich, while ensuring others will be poor (have less than they need for a decent existence)?
It doesn't have to be that way. It is that way because Republicans (the protectors of the rich) have tilted the economic playing field to favor the rich while penalizing other Americans. They have done this by removing regulations, cutting help for the poor and disadvantaged, and cutting taxes for the rich.
Capitalism is a system that can work for everyone -- but it can only do that if it is heavily regulated to prevent the few from abusing the many, and by taxing the rich to redistribute wealth.
Conservatives have convinced many people that "redistribution" is a dirty word. It's not. In fact, redistribution goes on every day in our economy. Currently, thanks to the unfair GOP policies, that redistribution goes from ordinary Americans to the rich. We need to change this unfair redistribution (which creates and maintains poverty) to a fair redistribution (which would benefit all Americans, and eliminate poverty).
It could be done, but not while the Republicans retain power. And even when the Democrats gain power, they will need to be pushed hard to create a fairer economic system.
Poverty could be eliminated, but only if we (the people) want to do it.