Why inequality doesn’t matter

I don’t care about inequality. I confess. It’s heresy in this day and age, I know. But the plain and simple fact is I would rather be doing something useful with my time.

So it was with teeth gritted that I worked my way through Oxfam’s latest attempt at stirring the proletariat up to overthrow the billionaires. And I am still getting over the effort, to be honest.

First, I read how two Kiwi billionaires (who both live overseas) are worth as much as the poorest 30 per cent combined, and how the problem was “big businesses and the “extremely wealthy” are avoiding taxes, keeping wages down and paying producers less”.

I trudged through reports on the way in which Oxfam’s main source, Credit Suisse compiles numbers. You know, how it judges people based on assets, and therefore considers those with university debt, about to step into six figure jobs, as poorer than subsistence farmers in Africa. Oh, and the source for the wealthy was Forbes Magazine.

In fact, according to Forbes Magazine, this way of calculating things also means there are more poor people in the US and Europe than in China. Oh, and that wealthy 1 per cent that own more than the world’s poorest 50 per cent…well, the included in that poorest 50 per cent they are up against is, once again, European and American University students. Forgive me for saying the Oxfam definition of “poor” seems a mockery for those really struggling with poverty.

And that brings me to my next point. I would haved liked to have had the energy left to focus on the real problems in New Zealand society, as I’ve said, like how our poorest families are faring.

Because the truth of it is that inequality isn’t actually important when it comes to dealing with poverty. After all, we would all be perfectly equal if we were all just as poor as each other, but we certainly wouldn’t all be better off.

So the gap between our two billionaires and the bunch at the bottom isn’t what matters when it comes to poverty. What matters is the middle.

The you and me.

And I have a bone to pick with my fellow Millennials on this one. You see the combined wealth of those in the middle outstrips that of the 2 billionaires whom Oxfam headhunts (by how much they, strangely, are unwilling to say).

There are plenty in my age group who swan around with iPhones and branded clothes and $300 haircuts and rack up debt on credit cards, then Tweet about how irresponsible the billionaires are when it comes to giving back.

We, to our great shame, are the generation who share Facebook posts around the world about how bad business people are, but we don’t know whether our own neighbours are struggling. In fact, we don’t even know our neighbours.

We, I’m very ashamed to say, have redefined compassion from meaning “suffering with” to meaning “I made a post about it”.

Far too often, those of us in the middle of the Oxfam report, between the have-nots and the have-loads, between the baby-boomers and Generation Z, do not lift a finger to fix poverty. And yet we cumulatively own so much.

That’s why I can’t be bothered with inequality. All it does is point the finger at someone else and say they are responsible for fixing a problem perfectly within our reach to solve.

And poverty – not inequality – is the real problem, along with lazy, irresponsible millennials.

One thing is certain, we have more dollars than sense.

This article was first published on Stuff.co.nz

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