Preference for the Poor

There are so many issues around poverty, but the spiritual issue is largely ignored in our consumption-worshipping culture. We’re all supposed to be medium-poor in our frugality of spirit, as we renounce the excesses of empty affluence. Instead we glut ourselves on all the commodities we can wring out of the market, and we ignore the destitution that inevitably results when we suck all the resources out of the weaker nations. We make ourselves rich by making others poor.

Economists say — “No Way! There is no poverty. Global competitive markets level the playing field so that the only poor are those who don’t try, and they don’t count. All those who count, and play by our rules, are flourishing. Positive-sum game — everybody wins.”

So now they have to fix the facts to match the ideology. They need to show that poverty is declining. Call in the World Bank.

But it’s no easy task. First they have to decide what to call poverty. Serious researchers look at $5 per day, $4.50 of which is barely enough to meet basic human nutrition requirements. This measure converts local currencies to dollars, adjusted for lower prices abroad, so that it’s meaningful to compare what $5 per day would buy here.

Well — how well could you live on $5 dollars a day? Pretty crappy life, eh?

The problem for the World Bank is that $5 a day poverty is increasing nowadays. Whoops. How are they going to prove that capitalism is heaven if poverty is rising?

No problem. Measure it differently. Take it down to $1.00 per day. They’re practically dead anyway — surely there are less of them. Nope. Still rising.

They tried $1.02 a day and $1.08 a day. Hey, $1.08 worked! Slight decline in that level of poverty in recent years. Yay, we got a case! But wait, no, it’s next to nothing. Back to the drawing board. There must be some sweet spot, some poverty metric that’ll look good.

The best one they could find was $1.25 a day — 120 million less people at that level of poverty over 15 years. Time to crank up the propaganda machine. Global capitalism has been reducing poverty. All hail unregulated capitalism!

Yeah, right. What about $5 a day poverty — 4 billion people and rising.

The other side of the problem is — why are they destitute? Because we’re sucking the life out of them. And why? Because we can. Of course there are worse bloodsuckers out there than you and me — look toward the famous 1% for that. But hey, we’re all gluttenous pigs over here by comparison — and the economists’ line that everyone’s a winner is total bullshit. We’re winning, they’re losing.

Here’s where we’d better take a look at the spiritual issue. We’re not supposed to be sucking the life out of people. The opposite. We’re supposed to be nurturing people — nourishing then — then giving them the shirts off or backs. Any religion that realizes what it’s preaching calls us to give preference to the poor. Go hungry till the hungry are fed.

What do we do? We tell the poor they need to get even hungrier, so the gluttons of the world will have more crumbs to trickle on down to them. The hypocrisy is breathtaking, unles we’re too busy gorging ourselves to notice.

Shame.

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