Extreme poverty is on the decline, extreme inequality is on the rise

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/08/07/economic-speciation.html


Incorrect tag, “Echatology Watch” should be “Eschatology Watch”
Same mistake was made on the article about the Kim-Trump commemorative coins btw.


… economic power is also political power. When you are rich, the world’s politics arrange themselves to your liking…

Truly, when money becomes “a form of free speech” and corporations can be considered people (on top of having nice perks that us regular folk don’t get) its easy to see that the current system in the US is set up to represent primarily the wealthy.


Apologists for neoliberal capitalism insist that these two factors balance out

It’s always the same BS argument from “free” market fundies: stop complaining, ungrateful American working-poor person and middle-class person underwater in debt, you’re in the global 1% by income* (pay no attention to that family over there with 10 yachts). It’s a global version of this:

[* never by wealth – that puts a different face on it]


“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”


By that standard alone the Know-Nothing 27% should all be socialists, since they’re motivated mainly by making them thar coastal librul elites as miserable as they are, even if it means making themselves more miserable in the process.

Then again there’s the whole “temporarily embarrassed millionaire” thing and the whole racism thing to keep them on the side of “free” market fundamentalism.


Yeah, I don’t believe that “extreme poverty is on any kind of decline”… not when I work in the one of the country’s richest cities, yet I see the destitute homeless population growing exponentially.

I fully believe that extreme inequality is increasing, though.


As for a fall in extreme poverty as a defense of neoliberal reform …

In Brazil, a huge reduction in extreme poverty was achieved by the social programs of the Lula era. The reduction of people living in extreme poverty was from 25 million to 5 million, and the percentage of the population in the middle class grew from twenty something to just about fifty from 2002 onwards.

This had very real consequences for millions of people - one of my Brazilian friends told me that her uncle got his first pair of shoes when he was 15. Today, she’s living in Denmark, used to work as a professor at the university and travels by plane all the time.

However, since the removal of Dilma, Lula’s female successor, in 2016 things have taken af turn for the worse. I visited Belo Horizonte last month and noted the staggering number of homeless people in the streets, among them many very young children. A friend told me that before 2016, you didn’t see children living in the streets - the social programs, now shut down, would stop people’s slide into destitution before that.

So the reduction of extreme poverty, if such a thing has indeed occurred, has not been because of neoliberal reforms, but in spite of it. What really helps is solid public services: Public health, publich education, a safety net for families with young children, and preferrably for the rest. A country like Brazil could never solve its violence problem with police, but social programs might actually still do it. If only anyone in the elite gave a shit.


The increase in inequality, if such a thing has indeed occurred, has been in spite of whatever that thing too. Surely.

Hardly. Look here in Europe - inequality is rising spectacularly because of tax cuts and concentration of property, and still all they can talk about is “reforms”, literally cutting down on schools so the rich can get off easier when passing on their wealth to the next generations.


I think so too, especially with housing becoming more expensive. I see a bit of it here in Austin too and its heartbreaking, especially when the weather outside is horrible like it has been this summer.

On hunger in the US:


This is shameful, that in a country with more than enough for everyone, children are going hungry. Wages are still stagnant, and people still regularly are having to make faustian bargains to take care of their families. Just because the rate of poverty has fallen, doesn’t mean that people aren’t still poor and struggling to put food on the table. In fact, we’ve gone backwards, because of wage stagnation, while the richest among us still get richer.


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Fixed both. Thanks!


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Are you in America? Because thanks to cost of living differences, what counts as extremely poor in the US is likely more than enough for fairly good living in a lot of the third world.

But yeah, I have no problem believing that globally the extreme poverty has been declining, even quite sharply, while in the wealthy countries like the US, the rise of inequality has also led to growth of poverty. It’s just that if fifty million Americans sink into poverty, and five hundred million people all over Africa and Asia rise from extreme poverty, globally we’re better off.

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In global terms, extreme poverty has sharply declined over recent decades. But that change is primarily due to rising living standards amongst Chinese peasants, not conditions inside the USA.

In 1981 around 88% of the Chinese population lived in extreme poverty (i.e. below the International Poverty Line). Today it’s at 2%.


Ya both got me; I do live in the US one of the richest countries on the planet. I wasn’t thinking globally, I was thinking locally because that’s the environment I live in; it’s what I see around me everyday.

And while I’m genuinely glad that 3rd world countries aren’t as desperately poor as they have been historically, I am still mortified by the obvious growing disparity in my own country.


Well, yeah, that’s absolutely understandable. The more so, since there’s no actual good reason for any of it!


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