No matter what way you look at it, it’s plain to see that wealth divides have been worsening for years. In some ways, this is an issue which has always bubbled under the surface. During points in history, such as The Great Depression, wealth inequality came even more to the fore. And, while it’s hard to imagine things reaching those same devastating heights, it’s fair to say that they aren’t great at the moment. So much so, in fact, that The Washington Post recently revealed that the wealthiest 1% now own more of the country’s wealth than in the past 50 years. To put that into perspective, that’s a whopping 40% of the wealth for 1% of the population. And, it’s not only in America this can be seen. The same can be said in countries like the UK, among others. Here, the wealthiest 0.1% have seen their wealth more than double since 1984. The list could go on.
With these old issues back at the forefront, it’s really no wonder that tempers are frayed, and countries are dividing. In the U.S. this can be seen in many of the divisive debates which have arisen during Trump’s presidency. In the UK, issues like Brexit very much bring the point to the fore. Workers unions are out again in force, and strikes are only becoming more common. Of course, issues like these are easy to point out, and a little more tricky to understand. There are a variety of reasons for this ever-worsening divide. So much so that multiple articles out there look further into the problem. But, that’s not what we’re going to do here. Instead, we’re going to look at a few of the misunderstandings on both sides, which have only widened the gap. It should be no surprise that rich and poor are locked in an ugly battle at the moment. And, in a lot of cases, they’re fighting for the wrong reasons. Media outlets and politicians often fan these flames with untruths aimed at both sides. How better to keep the country divided?
But, in an attempt to at least put some of those untruths to question, we’re going to take a closer look at each. People are poor because they’re lazyLet’s start with the kicker. Many people are under the belief that poor people are in that position because of laziness. The term ‘deserving poor’ often leaves the mouths of those better off, who deem that they deserve the life they live because they’ve earned it. Now, no one’s saying that those who work for their money don’t deserve to enjoy it. But, the issue with beliefs like these is that they simply aren’t based in fact. A statement like the above would be fair to make if people were paid for the amount of work they put in. But, that just isn’t the case. Supermarket workers, for example, work hard for their money, sometimes in physical roles with gruelling hours. But, the financial recompense is rarely enough to afford even a basic lifestyle.And, it’s not only in supermarkets that this applies. Many low earning jobs are highly physical, and often require individuals to compromise rights for extra pay. That includes signing contracts which, effectively, mean they have to work at the drop of a hat if their employer requires. Compare that lifestyle to those of us who work a set 9-5 every day, and get our evenings and weekends free. Sure, we work hard when we’re working. But, we certainly don’t have to compromise our rights in the same way. Consider this, then think again about whether poorer people are as lazy as you believed.
Anyone can make a success of their lives if they want toNicely tying in with the above is the belief that anyone can make a go of anything if they want to. Again, this is an insult often aimed at lower-earners. Even those who accept that low-income jobs can be gruelling may use this argument to alleviate guilt. After all, that person didn’t have to go into the construction industry. They could have gone to university and worked their way up. For the most part, this is another misunderstanding. Those who are born into a middle or upper-class family do have the chance to make anything of themselves. Yes, some choose not to. But, many go on to higher education and better jobs. The sad truth is, that isn’t always a possibility for lower-income families. There’s no getting around the fact that opportunities cost money. University fees aren’t even an option for many low-earners. Instead, they have to head into the working world as soon as they’re old enough. And, those low-paying jobs make studying in later-life, or even part-time, near enough possible. So, yes, in an abstract sense anyone can make a success of themselves. We are, after all, in control of our destinies. But, it would be naive to disregard outside factors. The possibilities may always be there, but not everyone has the chance to grab them. The wealthy only care about themselvesOf course, it isn’t only the upper classes who are guilty of this unfounded stone throwing. The lower-classes also experience a fair amount of hatred for the wealthy. And, they throw baseless accusations of their own. Many low earners make the false assumption, for example, that the upper-classes don’t care about anyone else. They must hoard their money for themselves to have so much of it, right? Not necessarily. Step back and consider that wealthy people often get that way from saving, and being careful with their money. But, that doesn’t mean that they’re entirely unwilling to help others. Many of the highest earners in the country give considerable quantities to charity. In fact, it’s thought that the typical high-net philanthropist donates a whopping $25 million in their lifetimes. The wealthiest people also respond with speed when disasters happen. A fantastic example of this would be this year’s Hurricane Harvey, where CEOs like Issa Asad of Q Link Wireless did everything possible to help those affected. In the case of Assad, in fact, his whole life is dedicated to making the lives of low-earners easier. Yet, much criticism came out of the disaster because of Trump’s seeming lack of care towards those involved in Hurricane Harvey. By comparison, Hurricane Irma, which hit wealthier areas later in the same month, received much more media attention. Many struggling communities took this as a slight, and there is some truth to the accusation. But, to say that no wealthy people thought twice about Harvey survivors merely is not true. You only come into wealth if you’re born into it
As much as the wealthy believe in a ‘deserving poor’, poorer individuals also believe the opposite of richer counterparts. Instead of thinking that these people deserve their wealth, or that they’ve worked for it, struggling individuals often believe wealth is simply something you get given. Many even go as far as to believe that wealth is only possible if you’re born into the right family.Now, no one’s saying that inherited wealth isn’t a thing. It most definitely is. Though, it’s arguably as unfair to discriminate against those born into wealth, as it is to pick on people born into low-income families. But, this lie also has a more severe impact. It leaves many working class individuals believing that the wealthy are never deserving. That their money shouldn’t go to them, or that they haven’t had to work for it. Again, this is rarely the case. Few individuals are born into families affluent enough to sustain them for all time. Instead, most wealthy people have to work hard for their money and go after opportunities. You could argue that, as mentioned above, they are handed those opportunities. But, it’s still down to them to take them. And, let’s not forget about those who really have come from the bottom. More working class individuals than you realize manage to climb to the top. Howard Schultz, for example, grew up in Brooklyn with his truck-driver father before founding the Starbucks corporation. Now, he’s worth an estimated $1.1 billion. Instead of failing to acknowledge these individuals, why don’t we shout about them as the heroes they are? In many ways, those who have made it from rags to riches are the best chance we have of breaching this gap. It’s past time we stopped swallowing lies and acknowledged that. A final wordThese are, by no means, the only lies we tell ourselves about this issue. As you can see, the stone throwing is bad from both sides. When you look at it like this, the divide seems near enough impossible to cross. The sad thing is, the arguments on both sides aren’t that dissimilar. Perhaps if we put down those stones, we’d realize that the main thing keeping us apart is the fact that we listen to the wrong people, instead of taking each other at face value.