Free to be poor

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Not everything is fine in the land of the free. The rampant free market has led to a huge distortion in the relative wealth of its citizens. It has long been known that the richest economy in the world has significant problems with poverty. Like the UK, the USA is a very rich country filled with poor people.

Bernie Sanders, in his opening remarks at the Senate Budget Committee hearing, titled The Income and Wealth Inequality Crisis in America, drew a direct comparison between two individuals and huge swathes of society. “Bezos and Musk now own more wealth than the bottom 40%. Meanwhile, we’re looking at more hunger in America than at any time in decades,” 

There are over 328 million people living in the USA and so the Amazon and Tesla tycoons have a combined wealth of over 131 million of their fellow citizens.

Bernie Sanders, an American Congressman and self-identified democratic socialist laid into Jeff Bezos during the senate committee over an ongoing dispute over unionisation: ‘You are worth $182 billion … why are you doing everything in your power to stop your workers’ from unionizing?

I have no problem with people making money, even lots of money, if it is done in a way that is legal and fair to those that help them along the way. But how much is enough. Allegedly, when financier John D Rockerfeller was asked “How much money is enough money?” He replied, “Just a little bit more.”

There is something wrong with the system. The problem is that individuals are earning a disproportionate amount for their effort. In truth, both Bezos and Musk have not earned their fortunes on their own. They have needed considerable help from all of those that have worked for them and bought their products.

Yet once you have a lot of money it runs away. The only thing you can do with a fortune (apart from giving it away) is to buy other things, trinkets, companies or countries. If the free market  was operating as it is supposed to then other individuals and companies would rise up, challenge other’s dominance and impact upon their fortunes. But it isn’t.

What is to be done then? I don’t know. My brain isn’t big enough yet it is good that these issues are being discussed at senior political levels. Perhaps a place to start would be for Amazon to share some of its good fortune with those who have helped make it.

13 thoughts on “Free to be poor

  1. Perhaps it would be a good idea if Amazon paid an ‘appropriate’ rate of tax to spend on those in greater need? That would be a positive attitudinal change, and could be the start of something great in terms of trend-setting?

      1. Phil Jackman, here is what I mean when I claim that it is a choice: If people have children out-of-wedlock, something that is made voluntarily, the family chose to be in that situation. Just because the economic times are hard does not mean that the situation is entirely self-inflicted.

      2. I get what you are saying and accept that people make poor choices that may make them poorer. People, however, do not deliberalty set out to be poor. A child never has the choice.

      3. Phil Jackman, outside of truly hard economic times, do you think most of the people who live on the streets are there because of their own choices?

      4. Yes and no. I am no expert on rough sleeping but accept that many will be there due to bad choices. I don’t accept, however, that people choose to end up there. There is a difference. I stand by my argument that nobody chooses to be poor but accept that people can end up poor through bad choices. Rough sleeping is a stain on all of the richest countries in the world. We should be ashamed that it is so prevelent.

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