WHY HAVE NO RICH AND NO POOR?
i.e. Why Have "From Each According to Ability, to Each According to Need" Equality?
[To see a video about this click here]
[To read about why it is not sufficient merely to reduce the gap between the richest and the poorest, or merely to return to being "a republic, not an empire." click here]
[To read why it is NOT true that some people DESERVE to be richer than others, click here]
[To read HOW an economy can work with no rich and no poor, click here]
[A related article: "Can Co-operative Economic Enterprises Make Our Society a Good One on a Large Scale?"]
[In case you were wondering, "Some Rich People ARE Good"]
A society with some rich and some poor is a class society, one based on class inequality. It is a society with an upper class and a lower class. The very worst thing about a class society is that the upper class has to treat the lower class like dirt. The upper class must do this in order to make lower class people "know their place," to make lower class people internalize the notion that they are an inferior lot that does not deserve to enjoy life the way upper class people do, and to accept their position at the bottom of an unequal society where they must unquestioningly do what they are told to do by their "betters"--the upper class folks.
If lower class people were treated with the full dignity and respect that upper class people take for granted as their due, then before long the upper class would be in serious trouble. Lower class people would begin to question--even more than they do already, which is a lot!--why society is so unequal with a privileged few lording it over everybody else.
The upper class knows very well that most working class people value equality and think the inequality of our society is morally wrong. The upper class knows that working class people, if left to themselves, would make a far more equal society. This is why the upper class dares not leave working class people to themselves. The upper class is forced to control the working class intensely. Treating the working class, especially the poorest working class people, like dirt is a strategy of social control that the upper class must use or risk revolution.
The upper class knows that when people are not economically insecure (i.e., when there is no poverty and no fear of falling into poverty) people start feeling not like dirt but like people who can dare to stand up to the ruling upper class and fight to make society truly equal and egalitarian. This is what happened in the "radical 60s," when economic inequality was at a long time MINIMUM in the U.S. and unlike today many families could live well on the income of only one high school graduate; in France a revolution almost took place in May of 1968 when economic inequality was at a long time minimum and economic prosperity was very high compared to the hardships that had followed World War II. The ruling class was frightened to death in the "radical 60s"; it blamed the problem--a challenge to its authority in all walks of life--on "rising expectations." It deliberately arranged in subsequent decades to lower people's expectations. This is discussed in an article (click here) about one of the ways the ruling class did this: making health care profit-driven with HMOs.
Almost all of the problems that the upper class creates for working class people (many of which are discussed on the subpages of our "Specific Issues" page) are ways that the wealthy ruling upper class treats working class people like dirt. The upper class motive for this is not simply to maximize profits; it is to assert social domination over the working class.
When our rulers treat us like dirt, it is for the same reason that slave owners in previous centuries treated their slaves like dirt--to make them know their place. It is the same reason that the royalty and aristocracy treated peasants like dirt. The way that we're treated like dirt has changed over the years, but it's still a fact that we're treated like dirt, especially the poorest of us.
Treating working class people like dirt is what all of the following things, to select just some of many, have in common:
1. Paying low wages with minimal, if any, benefits and threatening to move jobs overseas if workers don't agree to even lower wages and reduced benefits.
2. Subjecting retail workers to "on call shifts" --"periods for which an employee must keep an open schedule but might not end up working. Instead of simply reporting for work, the employee has to check in with a supervisor a few hours in advance. If she gets called in, she may have to scramble for a babysitter. If she doesn’t get called in, she doesn’t get paid, and it’s too late to get a shift on a second job. 'People will be scheduled for eight on-call shifts in a pay period and only get called in for one shift,' says attorney Rachel Deutsch of the Center for Popular Democracy, a labor advocacy group." [Boston Globe, April 19, 2015]
3. Making people pay through the nose for health insurance, which may not even cover crucial health care needs when they are very sick or very old.
4. Telling our children in public schools that unless they score high on some absurd "high stakes" standardized test (that is designed so that children from poorer families get lower scores) they don't deserve to have a decent-paying job or perhaps any job at all. Read here about one big reason poor children get lower scores; it's because correct answers to test questions are marked wrong if they do not use virtually the same wording in the textbook that is linked to the test, and the poorest schools don't provide many (or sometimes any) of their students with these textbooks! These tests are a form of child abuse. Working class children in public elementary and high schools are required to take these tests, which are called "high stakes" tests because the child typically cannot be promoted or graduate from high school without passing the test. State governments tell parents that the tests are like the written test to get a driver's license in that if everybody has learned the material satisfactorily then everybody will pass. But in truth the authorities can and often do keep making the tests harder to pass in order to ensure that a large number of poor children will get a "fail" score no matter how well they have learned the material. Thus in Florida the Orlando Sentinel, in an article headlined, "Lawmakers push tougher scoring for high-stakes tests," reports:
"Florida’s key standardized tests, which already trip up more than 40 percent of those who take them, should be even tougher for students to pass in coming years, some House lawmakers say. Reviving a debate from last year, they want to require students to show 'proficiency' in order to pass Florida’s language arts and math exams, a move that could have far-reaching implications. The percentage of 10th graders who, on their first try, would pass the test needed to earn a diploma, for example, could fall from 51 percent to 36 percent, state data shows."
5. Having the police treat the poorest people like dirt. The police forces in the United States are essentially an occupation force acting to cow ordinary people into submission to the dictatorship of the rich. This may seem like an unjustifiably strong statement to individuals who have not experienced the police as a hostile force, as is the case for many upper middle class people. But for working class Americans, especially black and Hispanic and Native American working class Americans, this statement about the police is uncontroversial.
A retired Philadelphia police captain, Ray Lewis, described the police this way:
“I want to try and get a message to mainstream America that this system is corrupt, that police really are oppressing not only the black community, but also the whites,” he said. “It’s an oppressive organization now controlled by the one percent of corporate America. Corporate America is using police forces as their mercenaries.”
The New York Times, in order, no doubt, to give that newspaper some credibility, stated in an editorial Nov. 26, 2014, that:
"News accounts have strongly suggested, for example, that the police in St. Louis County’s many municipalities systematically target poor and minority citizens for street and traffic stops — partly to generate fines — which has the effect of both bankrupting and criminalizing whole communities. In this context, the police are justifiably seen as an alien, occupying force that is synonymous with state-sponsored abuse."
Read a whole lot more about this here.
6. Incarcerating people for things like smoking marijuana. More than two million people are behind bars in the U.S., and about half of federal prisoners were convicted of drug related (marijuana more than any other drug) but not violent crimes, and are subjected in many cases to utter brutality such as long solitary confinement.
7. Making decent paying jobs, or any jobs at all, artificially scarce (see how so here) so people who are more than willing to work cannot find work that enables them to support themselves and a family, thus forcing them to rely on welfare or unemployment compensation and suffer being wrongly looked down upon and accused of being a free-loader or worse.
8. Using a combination of lies (like "Saddam Hussein's Weapons of Mass Destruction" and "Saddam was behind 9-11") and the poverty draft ("If you want a job your only hope is to enlist") and the offer of citizenship to non-citizens if they first serve in the military, thereby manipulating young men and women to join the military where they are ordered to kill innocent people abroad and risk being killed themselves, resulting for many in post traumatic stress disorder, deep remorse and suicide.
9. Telling people who smoke (who are disproportionately working class) who live in publicly subsidized housing that they cannot smoke in their own home, and (in some towns) having the government give a grant (a bribe, really) to landlords who order their tenants to quit smoking in their home or be evicted. Working class smokers are being increasingly treated like dirt. Whatever the health argument is for banning smoking in some places (and by the way, there is no persuasive evidence that exposure to second hand smoke increases the risk of lung cancer, despite the fact that many people just assume it does), the fact is that wealthy people can stay in expensive hotels that have rooms where smoking is permitted, and they can smoke in their own expensive houses, but working class people are increasingly being denied the option of smoking at home and in this way they are being treated like dirt. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) treats smokers like dirt by allowing insurance plans to levy a surcharge of up to 50% on tobacco users' premiums, while not allowing such a surcharge on other "high risk" behaviors or conditions. (I was alerted to these facts by the Cambridge Citizens for Smokers’ Rights organization.) Click here for some more facts about smoking and lung cancer, etc.
10. Having hospitals treat working class people with far less respect and dignity than upper class people, as described in this Boston Globe article.
11. Making people live in tents instead of decent homes, by depriving them of jobs that pay enough to own or rent a decent home. See what's happening to homeless people in this video and this video and this video and this video. Here's a Boston Globe article that shows why even people with jobs cannot afford to rent an apartment.
12. Forcing ordinary people in a neighborhood to yield to the demands of Big Money real estate/property developers. These developers dramatically change neighborhoods for the worse to make a profit at the expense of ordinary people who are adversely affected by the new development. Typically, the city government (beholden to Big Money and not ordinary residents of the city) holds hearings to let residents blow off steam, and sometimes the developer will make trivial changes in the design of their project, but in the end the Big Money developers get what they want and ordinary people don't. Read examples of this here and here and here.
13. Gaslighting us with Big Money-controlled mass media. Instead of doing unbiased solid investigative journalism, these mass media tell us we're crazy--we're a nutty "conspiracy theorist"--if we have perfectly reasonable reasons (as a very large percentage of Americans do) for being skeptical of the official stories our rulers tell us about major events such as the JFK assassination and 9/11.
14. Forcing college students into debt slavery. College graduates today are in virtual debt slavery; they owe $1.5 Trillion (trillion, not billion!) in student loan debts. These debts are onerous. They are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy court (the government will garnish wages and intercept tax refunds.) They are unjust because a college education, like elementary and secondary education, should be paid for by society, not just the individuals in school.
These debts, which are impossible to pay back with only a modest income, force college graduates to work--or attempt to work--where they otherwise wouldn't choose to work, at the higher paying jobs devoted to making big profits for the rich, rather than lower paying jobs (often at non-profit enterprises) devoted to more noble goals. Those who choose, or more typically end up stuck in, the lower-paying jobs must put off marriage and having children, and must forget about ever being able to buy a house. Read about this here and here and here and here.
15. Poisoning poor people with toxic waste. Corporations (and government agencies) care more about saving a buck and lining their greedy pockets than they care about the health and lives of poor people. They view poor working class neighborhoods as a perfectly fine place to dump toxic waste and inflict related kinds of environmental hazards on people.
Read "How corporations dump their toxic sludge in areas filled with poor people: corporations still seek out the areas with the poorest people to dump their toxic waste" here.
Read "If you're a minority and poor you're more likely to live near a toxic waste site" here.
Read "Trump's EPA Concludes Environmental Racism Is Real: A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency finds that people of color are much more likely to live near polluters and breathe polluted air—even as the agency seeks to roll back regulations on pollution" here.
Read "How tap water became toxic in Flint, Michigan" here.
Read "The Love Canal Tragedy: Quite simply, Love Canal is one of the most appalling environmental tragedies in American history. But that's not the most disturbing fact. What is worse is that it cannot be regarded as an isolated event. It could happen again--anywhere in this country--unless we move expeditiously to prevent it" here.
People who live in poor working class neighborhoods know all about this from personal experience. People who live in places like Beverly Hills don't, and it's not hard to understand why not.
16. Causing poor people to die 30 years earlier than wealthy people, as discussed in some detail in a Guardian article titled, "'It's totally unfair': Chicago, where the rich live 30 years longer than the poor."
17. Treating working class people like idiots and ignoramuses. Here's one typical example.
The owner of the Boston Globe, John Henry (net worth $1.1 billion) treated the people who deliver the Boston Globe newspaper like dirt, both physically and mentally. The Boston Globe newspaper recently switched to a new company to deliver its papers and the result was a catastrophe of Biblical proportions, forcing the owner of the Globe to publish an abject apology, (note that if you are a non-subscriber you can view three online Boston Globe articles per month for free) and forcing the paper to hire 100 people just to handle (barely) all of the phone calls of outraged subscribers who were not getting their paper delivered at all, never mind on time, and forcing the owner to ask Globe reporters and columnists to help deliver the paper (i.e., using their car to drive to unfamiliar neighborhoods throughout Massachusetts with stacks of papers to throw out the window.) It was weeks-long disaster. Thousands of subscribers were cancelling every day. What is the significance of this?
First, if you read this article you will see how the people who deliver the Globe are treated like dirt. It is really disgusting.
Second, if you read this article you will see that not only are the working class people who actually deliver the newspaper treated like dirt in the sense of being made to suffer, but they are also treated like dirt in the sense of being completely ignored regarding their knowledge of what the main problem was that caused the delivery catastrophe, even though these workers--and ONLY these workers--knew EXACTLY what the problem was--that the delivery routes they were given (by the new delivery company the Globe hired) were absurdly inefficient and stupid.
This entire debacle illustrates a fundamental fact about any society based on class inequality. The upper class must treat the lower class like dirt and in doing so it dares not respectfully ask working class people to participate as equals in figuring out how to get things done sensibly, and for that reason often does NOT get things done sensibly. One of the main reasons for abolishing class inequality is to abolish the treatment of ordinary people like dirt, which--and this is perhaps the worst thing about treating people like dirt--entails treating them like idiots and ignoramuses.
The main reason, therefore, for abolishing the class inequality of our society, for removing the rich from power to have no rich and no poor, is so that people will no longer be treated like dirt.
WHY NOT LET SOME PEOPLE BE JUST A LITTLE BIT WEALTHIER THAN OTHERS?
One of the reasons for making society egalitarian (i.e., based not on money but rather on the principle of "From each according to ability, to each according to need," which is to say "No Rich and No Poor") is that if a society is based on money (i.e., buying and selling) then the conditions exist for some people (because of luck or intention, as discussed here and here) to become a little bit wealthier than others. But with a little bit more wealth these people are a little bit more powerful. With a little bit more power (to influence politicians or other people) these people gain a little bit more wealth, which leads to more power, and so forth until eventually there is an upper class with far more wealth and power than other people, and this upper class will need to treat other people like dirt to keep them from making society more equal.
Here's an interesting article I came across: "Why Billionaires Need Society More than Society Needs Billionaires."