More Rich People Who Don’t Understand Poverty

The NZ Herald is making a bid to have the most patronising rich white men writing about what poverty is and is not. It’s a pretty ugly race, to be honest, but I think the Herald can come through for us with their promising combination of Bob Jones and Damien Grant.

Monday was Grant’s turn to step up to the line, or whatever they use for ivory-throne commentators. He comes in on a headline of “Poverty isn’t the fault of the rich”. And we’re off to a great start. He then can’t imagine why inequality is not a good thing. And he crashes into a fence of reality. Sorry about that, Grant. I don’t know much about economic inequality, but from what I gather, it tends to be a Bad Thing. That widening gap between the wealthy and the everyone else adds to the wealthy’s tax burden, and the working poor find that they can afford less and less. Not less Nutella or sirloin. Less bread and milk. Eventually, you end up with people below the poverty line spilling into the streets. Inflation toddles along, but the poor don’t get much in the way of pay rises, and the pay rises don’t stack up well against the price rises of common household needs. At its worst, inequality leads to an underclass that decides it’s had enough and decides to have a good old revolution. There’s more of us than there are of you, mate.

Getting up again, and we’re on to the idea that poor people are just not improving themselves, but rich people are, and so the rich deserve to have more because they’ve worked more. Mr Grant, your farm comparison is bollocks. You may be *trying* to say that wealth isn’t a zero-sum game, but what you end up saying is that poor people just don’t try very hard, and so rich people are better. Your premise relies on the poor dude not working hard, and the rich dude working away industriously. Mr Grant, many poor people work harder that you can possibly imagine. They don’t get lucky, or the advantages that come from coming from a family with means.  Don’t try and boil it down to who works harder. You just look silly.

Recovering from being mocked, we go on to a bizarre metaphor of a surgeon who loves to help his patients and earns well. Apparently raising his taxes equals restricting the number of operations he will do, and then the rich will take all his slots and the poor are left out. I think I’ve got that right.Thing is, if you raise taxes, you’re not reducing the amount of work he will do. You’re taking a bigger slice off the top, which I rather think would help the poor, but you’re not limiting how hard he will work. How the rich taking all the appointments works is, I’m afraid, beyond me.

Here we come to something so reductionist as to be worthy of a direct quote:

There’s no evidence that rising social and health problems are a result of income disparities. Poor people get diabetes because they eat junk food, not because Sir Peter Jackson is rich.

This is . . . ridiculous. It makes no sense at all. Poor people aren’t making poor food choices because someone else is rich. They’re making them because they can’t afford good food (compare the price of Coke with the price of milk) or because they struggle in other ways to get good food. Long work hours, high stress lives, even lack of knowledge/education all affect their ability to eat good nourishing food. And how many of those are caused by inequality? Long work hours, inability to afford good food, and high stress lives are all a result of having to work extremely hard to get by on a crappy wage. Lack of education is also a feature of poverty. If he wants to see the difference that economic equality makes, go visit a decile one school and then a decile ten. The one is doing their best to give kids the basics of education. They survive on old resources and worn-out buildings, and the hope there is that at least some of these kids escape the cycle of poverty. The other looks prosperous. The kids all have lunch sent to school with them, a feature not found in the decile one school. The resources are new and sparkly, and the grounds look neat and tidy. There’s an air of prosperity. And the kids in here are competing to get into top schools and have the possibility of becoming something special, whereas in the poor school it’s just a hope.

We then go on to protest the tax inequality, bemoaning the fact that half of taxpayers are taking in more than they pay out. You know what would help that? Paying people like human beings instead of moderately well-trained monkeys. The they wouldn’t need assistance, and then they would pay more tax.

We finish the course with a thing of beauty, that also deserves a quote:

The maligned 12 per cent are business owners, accountants, surgeons, lawyers, singers and tradesmen who make things, employ others and create wealth. We work for them and buy their goods, then we tax them into the ground and curse them their easy life. Poverty has many causes, welfare dependency amongst them, but blaming the hard-working for the failings of the indigent is not a solution.

Well done, Mr Grant. You’ve set up a beautiful false dichotomy there. You’ve given us an upper class of hardworking, deserving people who are being threatened, oppressed even, by these lazy indigents who just want to take everyone’s hard-earned money for themselves. And that, as I said earlier, is bollocks.

Mr Grant, you article makes no effort whatsoever to be balanced, most likely because you want the torrent of readers that come from the spreading outrage about your bigoted writings.Contgratulations, you got that, but you made yourself look like a complete twat.

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One thought on “More Rich People Who Don’t Understand Poverty

  1. Pingback: Who are the rich people not understanding poverty? | Drop Bear Exterminator

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