Should English schoolchildren receive free school meals during the autumn and winter holidays or not? This question divides the Conservatives in power in Great Britain. The trigger is a campaign by Marcus Rashford, who plays for the Manchester United football club and who started an online petition a few weeks ago. To jW– The editorial deadline was over 950,000 people.
Last week, the Labor Party MPs sitting on the opposition benches pushed through a vote on the issue. 15-pound vouchers were requested for children in need in order to be able to guarantee them hot meals during the holidays. Due to the policy of cuts that has been in place in Great Britain since 2010, child poverty has risen significantly in households with working parents alone. This emerges from surveys by the British trade union federation Trades Union Congress. The number of children affected grew from 800,000 to currently 2.9 million. According to the latest government statistics from 2018, a total of 4.2 million children in the UK were affected by poverty at the time.
The Tories initially refused to accept the emotional weight of this topic. Their lower house parliamentary group voted almost unanimously against Labor’s motion, which thus failed. Subsequently, various conservative parliamentarians cavorted on the Rashford Twitter account. They all expressed their disapproval of his initiative. For example, the conservative backbencher Brendan Clarke-Smith went so far as to say: “I don’t believe in the nationalization of children.” Rather, one must increase people’s “sense of responsibility”.
Such sentences are not well received by large sections of the population. After all, it was the Tories who have repeatedly cut state aid for children in recent years. In total, funds totaling £ 34 billion have been cut since 2010. Since then, there have been hardly any increases in the aid rates paid to families. And if so, then below the inflation rate. The situation has worsened again due to the Covid 19 pandemic. On October 21, Rashford calculated his conservative opponents on Twitter that 44 percent of the 2.2 million children entitled to participate in the free school meal had “re-registered”. In this context, Rashford announced a long-term campaign against child poverty.
Unlike most Tories, Rashford knows what he’s talking about. He grew up as the youngest of five siblings in the working class district of Wythenshawe, part of the Greater Manchester area. As a child he was dependent on free school meals and also on support from wealthier classmates who gave him something from time to time.
And so the confrontation between Rashford and the Tories became a symbol of British class conflict. Rich snobs against the working class child. Within a few days, the phones were running hot, especially among Conservative MPs in northern England’s constituencies, and their e-mail accounts were filled with protest mails. “That was a shitty show,” says a North English MP from the HuffingtonPost quoted.
The Tories sought to turn things around by pointing out £ 63 million in corona aid to English municipalities. These could also be used for school meals, said Prime Minister Boris Johnson in various interviews last weekend. However, these funds have almost been used up. Hardly any city administration has used it for school meals, but for plugging numerous other holes. In the meantime, 54 Conservative MPs from northern England have called on the British government to rethink. That is a first impact of this government ownership gate.
For his work against child poverty, Marcus Rashford recently received a medal from the Queen. The 22-year-old soccer striker, who plays for Manchester United and the English national team, does not want to rest on the glory of his acceptance into the British Knightly Order. He is committed to ensuring that needy schoolchildren get government-subsidized food during the holidays, and makes Prime Minister Boris Johnson look like a miser.
The one who got rich with his sport did not forget the poverty in his childhood. As the child of a single mother in the Manchester borough of Wythenshawe, Marcus and his siblings relied on free lunches at school. However, they do not exist during the holidays. During the Covid pandemic and under a Tory government, more and more children are growing up in poverty, many starving.
Rashford is fighting against this and is in agreement with the British majority. With the »FairShare« group, he achieved a rethink among enough conservatives that the government subsidized lunches for the children during the summer holidays. Johnson himself found himself grudgingly forced to campaign for the award of the order to Rashford.
But now the prime minister claims to have done more than enough for children from households with little money and is opposed to any further help – neither in the current nor in the Christmas holidays. Inspired by Rashford, others step in: Many restaurant and café owners who are facing bankruptcy due to Covid restrictions are now giving out free meals for needy school children. Even conservative media are urging Johnson to rethink. It would be another success for Rashford.
Corona works like a burning glass, says poverty researcher Christoph Butterwegge. The real virus of inequality is neoliberalism.
A corona test station on the A8 from Munich to Stuttgart Photo: Daniel Biskup / laif
taz: Mr. Butterwegge, the second corona wave is sweeping across the Federal Republic. What social impact will that have?
Christoph Butterwegge: That of course depends on how hard it hits us. Much will depend on whether social life has to be shut down again. In any case, experience with the first wave shows that socio-economic inequality will continue to grow.
What are you up to?
That inequality worsened during the lockdown and economic slump is evident on three levels. First of all, there is the health level with the infection itself: Before the virus, all people are ostensibly the same, but there is a causal connection between income and immune deficiency. The poor are exposed to a higher risk of infection because their working conditions are generally poorer and their living conditions are more hygienic. In addition, they often suffer from social pre-existing illnesses, which increases the risk of getting seriously ill with Covid-19. In addition, there is the psychological stress: Those who have a large apartment survive a quarantine much more relaxed than a family whose members do not have their own rooms.
born 1951, has been researching economic, social and political inequality in Germany for decades. The political scientist taught as a professor at the University of Cologne until 2016. A member of the SPD from 1970 to 1975 and from 1987 to 2005, he ran for the office of Federal President in 2017 as a non-party member at the suggestion of the Left Party. His latest book “Inequality in Class Society” has just been published by PapyRossa Verlag.
And the second level?
That is the economic one. Radical infection control measures are necessary, but leave behind economic collateral damage that does not affect all strata of the population equally. Rather, the corona crisis has made some people richer and many poorer. There is a social polarization between those who suffer severe financial losses due to lost earnings, business termination, short-time working or job loss, and those who have a company or a job that the recession cannot harm. Some industries such as online trading, logistics companies and delivery services even increased their profits during the crisis.
The lockdown phase in the spring made it clear that a large proportion of the people living in Germany are barely able to make ends meet financially if their regular income is lost for a few weeks. Right down to the middle class, there is simply a lack of reserves. Ultimately, it is not your income that counts, but your wealth. It is particularly unevenly distributed in this country and is concentrated in 45 hyper-rich families who own more than the poorer half of the population – over 40 million people. Around a third of the population has no wealth worth mentioning and is therefore only one resignation, a serious illness or a new lockdown away from poverty.
But haven’t the federal and state governments cushioned a lot with their multi-billion dollar aid programs?
This brings us to the third level. I am far from condemning the state aid packages, rescue packages and subsidy measures in their entirety. Much of it was needed. But their distribution policy imbalance is striking and worthy of criticism. There is a clear overweight in favor of the large companies, which are supported even when that is unnecessary.
Can you give us a specific example?
Take BMW as an example. I am a supporter of short-time work benefits because it can prevent mass layoffs. But I think it’s a scandal when the Federal Employment Agency takes over a large part of BMW’s wage costs by paying short-time work benefits, even though there was enough money to pay shareholders a whopping dividend of 1.64 billion euros. The richest siblings in our country, Susanne Klatten and Stefan Quandt, took in more than 750 million euros.
Denmark and France make bridging aid subject to the condition that a company does not distribute profits. I would like that for Germany too. On the other hand, those most in need were given far too little attention by the relief efforts. The willingness of the state to help varies depending on the social status.
However, Parliament has also passed two “social protection packages”.
Queue instead of Porsche in the drive-in: Corona test station in Wuppertal Photo: Caroline Seidel / dpa
They were also urgently needed. People who, for example, fell into Hartz IV as self-employed persons and small businesses were considered. The job centers grant you limited access until the end of the year without having to examine your assets, the size of the apartment or the rent. But that does not go far enough. A less bureaucratic approach should apply to every applicant, and in the long run. I consider it extremely problematic that the groups of people hardest hit by the pandemic have only been given marginal consideration. Homeless and homeless, refugees, migrants without a secure residence status, people with disabilities, people in need of care, addicts, prostitutes, unemployed, low-income women, low-income pensioners and transfer benefit recipients are hardly among the winning groups.
In your opinion, how exactly should they have been helped?
Let’s just take single parents and families in the Hartz IV relationship: They had the biggest problems because schools and daycare centers were closed and the free lunch that poor children there now get was no longer available. The state could and should have helped immediately and quickly. Why wasn’t they granted a premium of 100 euros per month for food, protective masks and disinfectants in the spring?
In the meantime there has been a child bonus of 300 euros per child, which is not counted towards unemployment benefit II or social benefit.
That helped those affected, no question about it. However, the one-off payment by the federal government in two autumn installments comes very late. In addition, of course, it does not replace permanent support. It seems to me more like a trade in indulgences with which the government frees itself from the actual obligation to provide continuous aid. It is also questionable that the parents from the middle and upper classes also receive the child bonus and only have to pay it back with the tax return.
But don’t you have to acknowledge that Germany has come through the crisis quite well so far?
Compared to other countries where there are many more Covid-19 deaths to complain about, the Federal Republic has so far got through the pandemic relatively well. But this does not change the fact that the already considerable inequality in Germany continued to grow during the exceptional pandemic situation and the gap between rich and poor widened even more.
Is Corona an inequality virus for you?
No, the real inequality virus is neoliberalism. Corona only acts as a catalyst. In the pandemic, inequality has worsened due to capitalist ownership and policies that idolize the “business location”, serve the interests of financial investors and therefore have a socially polarizing rather than equalizing effect. The cardinal problem of our society is the existing distributional imbalance.
Can you be more specific?
According to the criteria of the European Union, 13.3 million people in Germany are poor or at least at risk of poverty today – a record figure. You have less than 60 percent of the median income available – that’s 1,074 euros a month for a single person. At the same time, according to a recent study by the German Institute for Economic Research, 67 percent of total net assets are now in the top tenth, 35 percent are concentrated in the richest percent of the population and the richest per mille still comes to 20 percent.
This means that even among the rich themselves, most of the wealth accumulates in the hyper-rich. The richest man in Germany, Dieter Schwarz, owner of Lidl and Kaufland, already owned 41.5 billion euros in private assets before the pandemic. That has now increased by another 300 million euros.
As a consequence not only of the current corona crisis, you demand in your new book that “the capitalist economic and social system” must be fundamentally changed ”. That sounds quite a long way from social reality.
You don’t have to be a Marxist to realize that Germany is a class society with growing socio-economic inequality, the main reason being the persistent conflict of interests between capital and labor. If you want to fight poverty effectively, you have to touch private wealth. The pandemic state of emergency has shown many people the value of solidarity again. They notice that the fixation on the market and the competition is of little use in such a situation. This also includes the realization that further economization, financialization and privatization, especially of the health care system, would be a mistake.
Skepticism about the promises of neoliberalism is the basic requirement for critical social awareness. This is just as positive as the knowledge which professional activities are “systemically relevant” – but are not paid accordingly well. Whether it is about a decent collectively agreed wage, an increase in the minimum wage to at least 12 euros, the introduction of solidarity-based citizens’ insurance or a correction of course in tax policy – there is still a lot to be done if the gap between rich and poor does not widen further should.
You are considered the best-known poverty researcher in Germany. You have been analyzing the existing misery for decades. Didn’t that make you a deeply frustrated person?
No, not at all. Because I am concerned with poverty, its causes and manifestations, but also with enormous wealth. The critical analysis of social developments can be discouraging. Nevertheless, my will is unbroken to change the existing conditions in the direction of more social justice. I will not let myself be dissuaded from this by some setbacks and right-wing tendencies.
The Calvary Baptist Church in East Orange is bustling with people. As early as 9 a.m., the line of cars in front of the Essex County church is several hundred meters. Two blocks in front of the building, cars with LED displays and orange rubber cylinders are being funneled into the church parking lot. What draws people here is not the prospect of comfort or peace of mind. It’s about food. “People come here who have never needed help,” says Joseph DiVincenzo as he waves one car after the other into the parking lot.
DiVicenzo is the chief administrative officer of Essex County and has had a coronavirus infection himself. With four dozen employees in the district administration, he manages the needy in a sophisticated system for the distribution of food parcels. The applicants have to wait in their cars in the right lane, in the church parking lot they drive up in two rows, signs announce two simple instructions: “Open the trunk, leave the window up.” The district employees with colorful masks then carry one of the 16 kilogram cardboard boxes with groceries to the trunk and close it again, the car continues and leaves the parking lot on the other side. Distribution has been going on for 25 weeks, and there is no end in sight for the time being. “We will continue as long as there is a need,” says DiVincenzo, “at least until the end of the year or March.”
On dry land
Each of the food boxes contains 40 meals, 1000 boxes will be handed out that day, after an hour and a half they are all gone. This is paid for with funds from the Corona emergency aid decided by the US Congress in March, the Cares Act. But this source of money is slowly drying up. For months, the Republicans in the US Senate have been blocking the adoption of further aid in the corona crisis and only want to provide minimal aid.
Washington is a long way from the Calvary Baptist Church, it is about concrete problems. Drive-thru grocery distribution – some people also come by on foot – meets all the requirements of social distancing. It is also important that no questions are asked. Accepting help from others, including from the welfare state, is a shame, especially in the USA.
Hyacinth passed by on foot. The teacher was actually already retired. However, since her pension was insufficient, she worked as an assistant teacher until recently. However, she was not allowed to give distance learning as an assistant in the corona pandemic – she lost her job. Now she is getting a little social assistance and some unemployment benefits. But that too is “little,” says the black woman, and besides, not sure. Because in a few weeks your entitlement to unemployment benefits will expire. In many states in the USA, this support is only available for 26 weeks. The Cares Act allowed states to extend this for 13 weeks. What happens after that? “I really don’t know,” she says as she waits for a lift with her grocery package. Hyacinth is not alone. More than 350,000 Corona unemployed in the USA had already exhausted their 13-week extension in mid-October. The program expires at the end of December, then 13 million corona unemployed could be left completely without unemployment benefits from their states or the federal government if the period of benefit is not extended or new aid is decided in the US Congress.
No one is currently immune from falling into poverty. “Each of us could be in this situation,” says DiVincenzo. His county is “very diverse,” it includes urban and rather black and poor Newark and East Orange with the poor wooden houses in narrow rows, from which the paint is peeling, to affluent suburbs, more inhabited by white Americans, with mansion-like houses and stately ones Driveways. “The poor as well as the more affluent are affected by the crisis,” he says. In fact, some of the cars pulled up outside the church don’t look poor. According to survey data on the corona crisis in the USA, however – unlike the financial crisis in 2008 – this time it is less white workers and more Latinos, blacks and women who are losing their jobs.
“People in the area who work in retail are particularly affected, many small businesses have to close,” says DiVincenzo’s colleague Cinda Williams as she waves cars to the pick-up point. Usually she advises people looking for work for the district. Now she is helping out with the box allocation.
Even before the corona crisis, there was a lot of social hardship in the USA. 34 million people lived below the poverty line. In the past few months, according to calculations by researchers at Columbia University, another eight million people have been added – for the most part since the federal extra corona crisis unemployment benefits expired in late July.
You don’t just need groceries. There is even a lack of money for the funerals of deceased relatives, Williams said. And with the approaching winter, switching off electricity and heating due to unpaid bills and the procurement of warm clothing will become a problem. In addition, “people have to decide whether to pay the rent or spend money on food,” she says. Those who fail to pay the rent quickly end up on the street – or in the nearby Isaiah House, a homeless shelter with a food board. “When the $ 600 extra unemployment benefit ceased to exist at the end of July, a lot more people suddenly reported who could no longer pay their rents,” says employee Julia Hismeh.
No hope of Biden
Isaiah House has been offering a blackboard for 25 years. In the corona crisis, however, the need is twice as high. “In the first two months of the pandemic, we sometimes had 600 people waiting for food and queues around the block,” says Tafel boss Latoya Anderson.
As with the Calvary Baptist Church, no further questions are asked of the needy. Anderson does not want to scare them off with requirements like those prescribed by other institutions. For many marginalized people, these are hardly achievable, for example showing a social security number or a birth certificate. What Anderson distributes should “only be additional help, people are also entitled to food stamps,” she emphasizes with reference to the corresponding state program.
In addition to food tables and social institutions such as Isaiah House, groups have also sprung up all over the country that offer mutual help. Both citizens who are active in Facebook groups and left-wing activists like Jeff are involved in it. He is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America group in northern New Jersey. With other volunteers, the DSA activists offered food aid in a Newark neighborhood with high homelessness before the pandemic. At the beginning of the pandemic, this was discontinued to protect against infection, now those in need are supplied by delivery, around 200 times so far.
Jeff has no hopes for the presidential election in early November. “The hardship in the country will not change just because we may soon have another president,” he says, referring to a possible election victory for Joe Biden of the Democratic Party. With the increasing number of corona infections, one will soon be back where we were in April with new restrictions or even a new lockdown. But this time we are better prepared, can distribute more deliveries and have raised more money. “
The US metropolis of Baltimore is a city of hopelessness in many places: two thirds of the population are dark-skinned and poor – they have no hope that anything will change after the presidential election in early November, regardless of the name of the election winner.
In the first half of 2020, electricity prices rose by 6.8 percent compared to the second half of 2019 to an average of 31.94 cents per kilowatt hour, the Federal Statistical Office announced on Thursday. The statisticians attributed the reasons for the significant rise in electricity prices to higher network charges and higher costs for electricity procurement and sales.
What some do not even notice in their account balance brings others into great distress. For a person living alone who has to receive Hartz IV, according to the underlying income and consumption sample, 35.30 euros are provided in the standard rate for paying the electricity costs. The comparison portal Check24 had already calculated at the beginning of the year that the electricity costs of a single household, with a consumption of 1500 kilowatt hours, would amount to 43.17 euros per month on average. For those affected who purchase electricity from the local basic supplier, the gap between actual demand and the item in the standard rate is even larger. Here the average electricity costs are 48.75 euros per month, so those affected are missing around 161 euros per year.
The comparison portal Verivox came to a deficit of 197 euros a year at the end of August. Switching to a cheaper electricity provider is also not easy, especially for people in poverty, because of the credit check. And even if they can switch from the more expensive basic provider, they are not even allowed to keep the switch premium that is often paid. This is offset against them as income with the standard rate. This emerges from a judgment of the Federal Social Court in Kassel last week. Another problem is that the standard rate does not provide any money for new, energy-saving large electrical appliances.
While electricity costs have to be paid from the standard rate, heating and rental costs are paid according to actual needs. At the beginning of October, the Federal Network Agency announced that in 2018 around 289,000 households had their electricity switched off due to unpaid bills. “Energy is part of the subsistence level like a roof over your head,” commented Ulrich Schneider, General Manager of the Paritätischer Gesamtverband. The Left also calls for electricity costs to be paid extra and not as part of the standard rate. Consumer advocates called on the energy companies on Thursday to cut electricity prices.
So the Federal Social Court (Az. B 4 AS 9/20 R). If existing overdrafting debts are only partially offset with the tax refund, the unemployed person does not have the one-off payment received as “ready means” to cover the subsistence level.
The job center may reduce unemployment benefit II by the amount of the tax refund received, but must at least grant an interest-free loan to cover the subsistence level for one-off payments that are “used up” and are no longer available.
In the case of dispute, a Hartz IV recipient from Herne received an income tax refund in the amount of 2382 euros in 2016. The money largely offset his two overdrawn checking accounts. The Herne job center evaluated the tax refund as a one-off income and reduced unemployment benefit II accordingly, spread over six months.
The BSG contradicted this. Basically, a one-time payment with the inflow to the account of a Hartz IV recipient would justify a reduction in unemployment benefit II. However, the one-time payment must be available as “ready means” to cover the essential subsistence level. This is not the case here. epd / nd
As the Covid epidemic has plunged 150 million more children into poverty, a recent Unesco report warns of the risk of large-scale dropouts. This particularly problematic situation calls into question the progress made in recent years, and the future of the children concerned. .
Much of the Palestinians live in dire poverty. The situation is particularly precarious in the refugee camps in Gaza, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner General of the United Nations Aid Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East (UNRWA) since March, said on Monday in an interview with the British daily Guardian. “More and more people are struggling to provide their families with a meal or two a day,” Lazzarini noted. In Gaza, many residents would search for food in the garbage. “There is despair and hopelessness,” said the Commissioner General.
UNRWA supports a large part of the approximately 5.6 million Palestinians who are living as refugees in camps in the Middle East. Their already precarious situation has worsened significantly due to the corona pandemic. »We are always in crisis mode when it comes to cash flow. UNRWA is always chasing the money, ”Lazzarini said. The relief organization is permanently facing bankruptcy since the largest donor, the USA, stopped its payments.
In 2018, Washington announced the end of its financial support in a press release: “The United States will not provide any more funds for this irretrievably flawed operation.” Hundreds of millions of US dollars, which the agency had received every year, has been missing since then. Other countries are trying to close the financial gap, but this is more badly than right. On Wednesday, India among others presented a check for one million US dollars, the Palestinian news agency reported Terrestrial.
The lack of money is a “real threat,” said Lazzarini. At the same time, Israel is stepping up its political attack on UNRWA. The schools that the agency maintains in Gaza are “United Nations-funded storage facilities for terrorists,” Tel Aviv’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon claimed in a letter to senior United Nations officials such as the Jerusalem Post reported on May 2nd.
If Tel Aviv does not intervene directly, there will be willing helpers: the olive harvest in the West Bank began a week ago, and as has been the case for several years, militant Israeli settlers have been using violence to prevent Arab farmers from reaping the harvest. The Palestinian newspapers have been reporting daily for a week about destroyed olive trees, harvest robberies and brutal attacks by settlers on field workers. The Israeli occupation forces are not taking action against the violent settlers, but in some places forbidding farmers to enter their own land for “security reasons”, reported Walid Assaf, head of the National Committee for Resistance to the Wall and the Settlements, on Monday towards the Turkish agency Anatolia.
The news agency also reported on Wednesday Reutersthat the Israeli government has allowed the construction of 1,313 new apartments in the illegal settlements on the West Bank. According to the Israeli NGO »Peace Now«, there should be more than 4,000 apartments. So far, around half a million settlers have lived alongside the roughly three million Palestinians on the West Bank.
Presumably Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to reassure the settlers who belong to his loyal base. They are still outraged that Netanyahu recently renounced his plan to annex the West Bank in exchange for diplomatic recognition by Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates – at least for the time being. In view of this, the Palestinians don’t have much left: “We urge the international community to intervene immediately to stop this madness of settlements, which is destroying any chance of a real peace process,” quoted Reuters the spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
New York Morris Pearl made his millions on Wall Street, most recently as managing director of the world’s largest wealth manager, Blackrock. In an interview with Handelsblatt, he explains why, as Chairman of the Patriotic Millionaires, he is demanding higher taxes for himself and his millionaire friends, why inequality is a danger to society and the economy and why philanthropy cannot be the solution.
Mr. Pearl, how are you financially? I retired from Blackrock in 2014. Since then, I’ve been living on the money I make with my investments. My tax rate is less than 20 percent. That’s less than most working Americans pay. That’s because the people who make money trading stocks have a lower tax rate than those who work to live.
The Patriotic Millionaires want to pay more taxes. It’s against their own interests. Why? It’s not that I personally want to pay more taxes. What I want is a system where rich people pay more taxes than those who work to live, not the other way around. I can see inequality growing around me. And I have the impression that people no longer take it that way.
How so? We are already seeing protests in this country. And that’s not just because someone was murdered in Minneapolis. This is because millions of people feel they are being treated as second class citizens. And they are right about that. Here in the US, the working people pay a lot more taxes than the rich. That means that the rich are getting richer and richer. And everyone else stays on the sidelines.
What has changed under President Donald Trump? Under Trump, the tax rate for the highest incomes has dropped significantly. This only increased inequality in this country as the rich got richer and richer. The others are unemployed and unable to buy anything. And that is not good for anyone: not for the unemployed, nor for business people and investors.
Why is this a problem for companies and investors? As a business person or investor, you don’t make money in a place with lots of poor people. You make money in a place where there are people who can afford things. Our Patriotic Millionaires members made their living selling expensive organic food, or expensive shoes, or expensive ice cream. We want to build businesses where people pay their rent and iPhone bills and all the other things that help us get rich.
Aren’t low taxes good for businesses? In the United States, new companies are springing up here in New York and California. These are places with lots of high-income people who pay higher taxes. Nobody says, “Oh, let’s start a business in Kansas because taxes are low there.” That’s because most people don’t want to live in Kansas: taxes are low, but they don’t have good schools and hospitals like we have here in New York, so we want our governments to have enough money.
How has inequality changed as a result of Corona? The inequality has definitely gotten worse with Corona. The very rich are richer and richer. People like me too: I own Amazon shares. I am wealthier today than when I retired. And I’ve spent quite a bit of money in the meantime! The wealthiest among us – people like Mr.Bezos or Mr Gates or Mr Zuckerberg – are much wealthier today than they were when the corona crisis began. At the same time, however, millions of people across the country are unemployed. People who have worked in nail salons, restaurants or in the theater or at sporting events. They are much worse off.
Trump argues that all Americans benefit from the boom in the equity markets through their retirement plans. Is that not correct? It’s true for almost half of the country. But it’s not true for the other half. Here in the US, the majority of the people have no stocks at all; they don’t benefit from booming stock markets. In addition, the vast majority of those who are invested in the stock exchanges only hold a small proportion of the shares. The bulk of the stocks are owned by the wealthiest in the country.
Inequality has long been a motivation and a certain success factor in the USA because many wanted to become millionaires. Is it still like that? I think this is a picture that a few rich people like to paint for our country. There are, of course, many people who want to become a millionaire. But that also applies to Great Britain or Germany. But that’s not why people actually get wealthy. If you look at who gets extremely wealthy, the majority are people who simply inherit large fortunes from their parents and grandparents, or hedge fund managers in the financial world.
As a business person or investor, you don’t make money in a place with lots of poor people. You make money in a place where there are people who can afford things.
And the founders? The people who successfully start businesses in the United States are all people who have something on their backs if they fall. Mister Gates, Mister Zuckerberg, and Mister Bezos were all people who received hundreds of thousands of dollars to jump-start their parents when they started their businesses. It is very difficult, if not impossible, for the average person in the United States to start a business like this. The risk is enormous if they fail. It’s easier in countries like Germany or Scandinavia, where there is a safety net that catches you if you fail.
The Gini index for social inequality continued to rise in the US. When does that get dangerous? It’s already dangerous today. Inequality is the reason for the recent protests and riots. We have seen increasing inequality in other countries: South Africa in the 1970s and 80s, where they had institutionalized inequality. That didn’t turn out well for the rich.
So the Black Lives Matter protests are a reaction to inequality and not just police racism? Here in the US, some of our inequality is based on race. Yes, it is a big problem that some people have even been murdered. But the bigger problem is that some people are treated as second class citizens. We had racism legalized here in the US for a long time, even when I was a kid. There were laws that separated blacks and whites. It also has an impact on my life.
In what way? One reason I’m doing so well is because my parents supported me. And one reason they could do that is because they got government support for their home loan in the 1950s. And at that time this was only possible by law in all-white areas. That was the case until the 1960s. And today, 50 years later, the children of these whites are much better off than the children of the blacks. Many people who protest notice this. They may not know exactly why. But they realize that the whites are much better off than the blacks.
So the greatest dangers are violent protests and the poor purchasing power? Yes, but it’s also a society issue. I don’t want to live like in a third world country, where people live behind high walls with barbed wire and drive armored cars. I’ve been to these places. I don’t want my children to grow up there, or my grandchild now.
Which of the two candidates has the better program? We believe that the Democrats have by far the better program for reducing inequality. Biden will raise taxes for the rich – people who make more than $ 400,000 a year. This is a start to reducing inequality. He also wants to align taxes on salaries and taxes on investment income. That will make a huge difference.
So poorer people will ride better under Biden? I think the rich will do better under him in the long run. The current system is not sustainable. The current system is therefore not good for either the poor or the rich.
Because rich people also need people who can buy products? Yes exactly. I am not saying that I will be richer in a year if Mr Biden becomes President. But my children and grandchildren will live in a better country if they live in a country where Mr Biden becomes president.
We have to make the decisions together. It’s called democracy. Philanthropy cannot replace the state.
Many millionaires in the US like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett donate their money. Isn’t that a solution? Do you pay little tax, but then do you spend your money on the poor? No. First, the amount of money is only a fraction of what they would pay in taxes. In addition, you cannot rule a country by making each person decide for themselves what he or she spends money on. It is very easy to raise money for a new concert hall. But it’s not that easy to raise money for schools in poor areas or for a sewage treatment plant – things that are not so exciting. We have to make the decisions together. It’s called democracy. Philanthropy cannot replace the state.
Do your Wall Street colleagues think you’re crazy for joining the Patriotic Millionaires? No. Most think like me. They realize that the system is unstable and they worry which way it is going. More and more people are discussing progressive proposals such as those made by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. When Warren was in New York, thousands came to hear her. She wanted to speak for a few minutes and stayed five hours. People lined up to be photographed with her. Ideas that were once considered fringe group ideas have now become part of the mainstream in our conversations.
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