A few days ago I found something that I thought interesting and so I posted it on Facebook. A good friend of mine, Hoz Shafiei, reposted it and in response one of his friends posted a rebuttal from Forbes Magazine. What I found interesting was the way in which the Forbes article responded and in which the author of the Article both used his response as a way to throw a few sly insults and that the response completely missed the point.
Take a minute to read both the original article and the response.
The original article by a rather rich man called Nick Hanauer is here.
There is also a Youtube TED talk by Nick Hanauer covering the same subject, Google for the link I’m not doing everything for you.
The Forbes response written by a man called Tim Worstall is here. Some of this response refers to the video talk rather than the article as the video went into more detail.
Now I found the original article interesting, but far more interesting is the response from Forbes.
Forbes magazine can be considered to be a rich man’s journal, you hardly see it in the corner news agents and I doubt you will find too many people reading it in the lower 50% of the income range, or the lower 75% for that matter.
Likewise Tim Worstall is a Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London and a writer on Economics, Finance and public policy for a number of newspapers and magazines from the Times and Wall Street Journal down to the more plebeian rags such as the Guardian.
Reading the way that he replies and then attacks Nick Hanauers comments with his own flawless economic comments and Keynesian logic I can see Tim is a Banker at heart. Steeped in economics and finance and marketing and rules and logic, he lives and thinks a world of numbers where people are just more numbers.
His response to Nick Hanauers article shows very clearly not just his own thinking but the thinking, the attitude, the automatic response of our political and economic classes.
THEY DON'T GET IT!
The utter detachment and isolation which is clear to see in the Forbes article is both disappointing and frightening, disappointing because Tim is the sort of person that our politicians go to for advice, frightening because the more Tim speaks and the more he attacks the situation the more he helps to bring about the very revolution that Nick speaks of.
People are not numbers, they are living beings, humans, full of hopes and dreams and fears and worries. When you reduce humans to numbers and wipe away their concerns and worries and fears you send them a very clear message. If you treat them as numbers, then you value them as much as you value numbers.
People see this.
The situation is not about tax and Keynesian logic and careful calculations.
It doesn't matter that the rich man who earns a thousand times as much as the peasant pays two thousand times as much tax.
It doesn't matter a government or economic system benefits more from one billionaire than it does from a thousand poor people.
It doesn't matter what the accountants and bankers and the economists and the politicians say when they sit there in their suits and shirts worth several months wages to the average peasant.
People will not demonstrate and riot and rebel because of Keynesian logic or the tax system, people DO NOT care that Mr. Billionaire pays twice as much tax as a thousand peasants and commoners and proles.
What people care about is food on their tables, a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs. Paying the electricity and gas and water bills. People care about being able to do more than just exist, people want to do more than just survive.
When one man earns the same as a thousand it does not matter that he pays the tax of two thousand people.
What matters to that one thousand people is that they have to go to food banks to feed their children, what matters is the threatening letters about overdue utility bills, what matters is overdue rent and debt collectors and the risk of being cut off from services.
People who are facing loss of desperately needed benefits because the DWP has changed paperwork or policy do not care how much or how little tax is fair.
People who have been sanctioned and now face homelessness and hunger because they made the slightest mistake and fell afoul of a deliberate policy to sanction hundreds of thousands of people to get the JSA numbers down are not concerned with the logic of economics and market forces.
People care about going hungry, people care about reaching the end of month with something other than an empty bank account or being in the overdraft as usual.
People do not take up torches and pitchforks because they disagree with economic logic. They do so because they believe they are the victims of an uncaring system that treats them as numbers.
People demonstrate and riot and overthrow governments because all those politicians and economists and bankers who have never had to worry about going homeless or hungry have stopped treating them as humans and started treating them as statistics.
But hey, don't worry.
When your logic and economics and Keynesian facts don't impress the people going hungry.
You still have these guys to keep the peasants in line.
Or a few of these, give those revolting peons a good wash, they clearly need it.
Smelly peasants daring to ask for a decent wage or standard of living.
Or if things get too bad and those dammed peasants actually dare to revolt you always have these.
But just remember, historically, the end result of this chain of events leads here.
The point here is not that one man earns the same as a thousand others, the point is not that 1% of the population control hold and control as much wealth as the lowest 55% o the population.
The real problem is when those thousand people do not earn enough to leave them living stable and economically safe lives since there is no money left for them. The problem is that 55% of the population struggle and scrimp and save and budget to make their income match their cost of living to a degree that the 1% cannot understand.
This is not about a few people earning too much.
This is not about taxing the rich or how much the government makes from Income tax.
This is not about class envy or soak the rich or inequality at the top.
This is about hunger and suffering and poverty at the bottom.
The fact is this problem is really big.
The fact is that this problem is big enough to lead to riot and revolution.
The fact is that Tim Worall and Forbes magazine utterly fail to see that just shows us how big the problem is.
So how big is this problem?
It’s so big that our leaders apparently cannot even see it.