Inequality and Poverty

robin_hood_and_maid_marian creative_commons Anthony_Dodd

Robin Hood is a storybook hero. Defender and vindicator of the oppressed. A courageous equalizer.

All children love Robin Hood. But not all adults do.

Many adults believe in a form of “economic Darwinism,” where the strongest earn their place at the top of the wealth food chain. To take away their hard-earned (sometimes) wealth is unfair and demoralizing to them. In their minds, wealth inequality is just a part of life.

On the other hand, some believe that socialism or communism is the most fair system. Since all people are equal in value, we should all have equal access to resources.

But can’t we find a spot between Darwinism and communism? Surely, there is place for economic achievement coupled with social responsibility? A quick look at the world over the last 100-200 years should convince us that landing at either end of the spectrum is self-destructive.

Communism and socialism would favor taxing at near 100%, and then redistributing the wealth. But if you had that situation, who would want to work harder? These political experiments have been tested, proven faulty (at least, on a large scale) and dismissed.

On the other hand, ignoring the plight of the poor is disastrous for any country’s economy. This is especially true when the middle class is shrinking. Go ahead; research what happened to any country when its middle class shrinks or disappears over the decades. The economy (and the country as a whole) tanks.

Furthermore, you have to admit that something is wrong when there is a racial correlation to the widening wealth gap. In 25 years, the wealth gap between white and black families has tripled. And equal achievements between white and black families have not yielded equal wealth rewards.

What’s the solution? Not just simple redistribution and handouts (though I think some level of taxation and welfare is needed). In a report on Inequality and Poverty in the United States, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) points to education reform, “to provide disadvantaged students with the skills needed to fully realise their potential.”

When it comes to poverty, there is injustice in the inequality of opportunity. Therefore, we have to Just Do Something.

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**image courtesy of Anthony Dodd via Creative Commons

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6 responses to “Inequality and Poverty”

    • joeyespinosa says :

      That is troubling. My Alma Mater (Furman) now costs $52,000+ per year. We met a young couple a few years ago who together graduated with a quarter of a million dollars of debt from Furman, between the two of them. And they didn’t become scientists or doctors or any great paying job like that.

  1. Terri says :

    Joey, I’m curious about your thoughts on education reform. I am of the opinion that simply throwing money at poorly performing schools does not result in better performance. Aside from increased funding, what steps would you say must be included in a more balanced approach? Where should the reforms concentrate most heavily… federal and/or state gov’t, district or school-level administration, classroom teachers, parents, or students themselves?

    • joeyespinosa says :

      You are right. More money being spent in unwise ways is not going to help. But, especially for low-resource, high-poverty areas (like Allendale) more money is needed — lower class sizes and recruiting top teachers are especially needed in poor, rural schools. So I think paying top teachers is the number 1 priority.

      And I think No Child Left Behind is one of the biggest mistakes that our country made, and the fact that we keep plodding forward with it says a lot. I can’t think of anyone who thinks that more standardized testing is a good thing, yet very few politicians are talking about getting rid of them. There is 1) THE test, then 2) the tests to prepare for the tests, and 3) the tests to prepare for the tests to prepare for the tests. Do you know who benefits? The companies that run the standardized testing, and the auditing/consulting companies that tell you how to improve your test schores.

      And for all the accountability that teachers need (and on the other hand, if we keep them accountable for not doing their jobs, we need to reward them well when they are doing a good job), admins and school boards need the same. If you don’t have good leaders, you won’t get any kind of positive change.

      While we do need to reach parents & students, I don’t know what kind of “education reform” you can do with those groups directly.

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