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I don't blame the rich for poverty; I blame them for not solving it.


by Mike Mercer


The Montreal Review, February, 2011




"No one must live in poverty." Yet many people do. I have often thought about why this is the case in our society. In some places it can be argued that there are simply not enough resources to allow everyone a decent standard of living. Another argument has it that each person gets what he deserves according to his hard work. As there is no call for equality in nature, there need not be one among humans.

The first argument clearly does not apply to us in North America, we have lots of "fat" people; that is to say people with double or ten times more than they need to survive. The second argument presents an odd morality that is troubling to me. It justifies inequality as a natural result of hard work, negating compassion or any claim for redistribution. It also ignores the fact that some people are wealthy simply from being lucky enough to be born into a rich family.

My point is; people must not live in poverty, but they are forced to do so.

So long as any individual makes a multi million dollar yearly income, so long as anyone can afford a $500,000 paint job for his yacht, there is no excuse to allow anybody to suffer cold and hungry, unsure of how he will pay his basic bills. Our capitalist system supports hard work and rewards success; that is fine. But it also supports poverty. We all accept the idea that a man has the right to earn as much as he can and keep most of it. For many people this is the key to basic survival, if half of what they earned was taken away they would be below the poverty line. However it is inaccurate to apply the same notion to the rich.

Mr. G. Nixon, CEO of Royal Bank, may work hard for his money, but his earning $11 million in one year is exactly the sort of proof that no one needs to live in poverty. People live in poverty because the rich chose not to part with their money. Just think of the aid fund we could have if every high paid executive who made over $4 million / year donated half their income. They would be in no danger of starving and many people would be much better off.

Think about it.


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