Wednesday, February 21

The old debate between greed and misery

Faced with “save yourself who can” there is an alternative: “save yourself who can”. Only one letter, one preposition, is needed to turn the situation around. The question is how, and for that it is necessary to mention that a large part of the population is carrying on its shoulders the consequences of a global crisis that does not affect everyone equally. And that, for social justice and in favor of coexistence, it cannot continue like this for much longer.

Former President Mariano Rajoy has inadvertently “resurrected” the “old rich-poor debate”. In a forum -which, by the way, lacked the female representation that it should have- he stated that one should not confront those who have more and those who have less, nor fall into the demonization of the former. That rich and poor are connected, he was right. Yes, but in a balance that is not balanced and leaves the weight of the crisis falling on a majority that looks with more and more fear at his account at the end of the month. To deny that the skyrocketing increase in high incomes has an implication in the growth of inequality is to cheat the loner.

The truth is that, if there is something to demonize, that is greed while misery grows. What if. Inequality already pits the poor against the rich. Just go to the data. The number of millionaires broke all records in 2020. Year in which the income of the richest 20% of the population was 5.8 times higher than that of the poorest 20%, according to the AROPE report 2021.

The same report warns that, in European terms, “inequality in Spain is the sixth highest in the European Union.” And remember what should be evidence of an outdated debate: that “poverty is an extreme expression of inequality” and that “both are inseparable concepts.” It also highlights that the fight against inequality is recognized in the constitutional order of most developed countries and in the Spanish Constitution itself, which says in its article 40: “The public authorities shall promote favorable conditions for social progress and economy and for a more equitable distribution of regional and personal income within the framework of a policy of economic stability.

Former President Rajoy said that “governments cannot play to divide people, to distinguish between one and the other.” We agree. That is why the authorities must confront inequality, which involves rich and poor. He also said that “a government has to try to add up, set a clear objective and, if possible, an objective that coincides with what is reasonable, sensible and moral.” What is more sensible than guaranteeing a decent life for the majority of the population? The big question is how.

“There are some here who seem to believe that to rule is to kill off the rich. Do away with the poor, make them rich,” said the former president. But how is it achieved without this having consequences on the pockets of those who have the most? Raising the SMI? This challenges companies. As does the shopping basket, which has registered its highest rise in 34 years, according to the OCU. The weight is falling on a social majority that has less and less room for maneuver to live with dignity, something that should be guaranteed for any human being.

The debate is precisely that: who has more room to live a little worse: those who have more or those who have less? Obviously the first. And, if the objective is that the bulk of the population does not fall into a situation of misery in exchange for those who have the most to tighten their belts, there should be no discussion. We are not talking about the rich sinking into poverty, we are talking about giving up certain privileges in favor of the majority of the society with which they live and that has a greater risk of falling into exclusion than them.

A Bank of Spain report, citing data from Eurostat, underlined that 48.7% of society living in rent at market prices in 2020 was at risk of poverty or social exclusion. To give us an idea, “it is the highest percentage in the EU, where the average rate is 32.3%”.

The Bank of Spain itself says so. Society has faced “high rental prices, compared to labor income, which increase the proportion of the population at risk of social exclusion and of households with restricted spending capacity on other goods and services.”

In this context, the discourse that appeals to have empathy for those who have the most is unconvincing. The sample is that 62% of the Spanish population is in favor of raising taxes on the rich to deal with the economic crisis. That majority is aware that we are not in the “old debate between rich and poor”, but in one between greed and misery. Between save yourself who can or save yourself who can.