The deserving rich and the undeserving poor…


Saw this the day after I wrote this

And then this

So now rich people in the USA are now openly claiming that they are healthier than poor people because they are morally superior!

This idea that the rich are rich and healthy because of their wisdom, talent and, above all, hard work, and that the poor are poor, uneducated and unhealthy entirely because of their own ‘choices’, is of course at the heart of all conservative and neocon politics. Without it conservative politics is brutal, cruel and heartless. With it conservative politics is entirely justifiable because if this idea is true then the welfare state is not only expensive and inefficient it is in fact morally wrong, as it ‘rewards’ lazy, morally corrupt idiots at the expense of hard-working, ‘good’ people.

The idea that the rich ‘deserve’ their wealth and the poor ‘deserve’ their poverty is the moral justification of ALL conservative thought and policy.
Yet it is as true now as it has ever been that the single most important important determining factor in whether you will die rich or poor is whether you were born rich or poor. Almost all people born rich will die rich. Almost all people born poor will die poor. Statistically ‘social mobility’ is almost non-existent, and what limited social mobility there is occurs within the middle class and between the upper middle class and the super rich.
Richard Branson was the son of a Barrister. Rupert Murdoch and Trump were the sons of millionaires. Sir Philip Green is the son of a successful property developer and retailer. Mike Ashley grew up in Burnham in Buckinghamshire and went to Burnham Grammar School. Only Alan Sugar can genuinely claim to have climbed the greasy pole from the depths of poverty to extreme wealth.
Indeed, the only time when ‘social mobility’ had any real meaning in the UK was during the post war social democratic consensus when the grammar schools (which I attended) did open up the elite institutions of Oxbridge, the Civil Service, medicine, Law, the arts etc to a more diverse selection of candidates. But remember in 1976 when I went to University only 7% went to University with a further 8% into higher education of other kinds, including Polytechnics and conservatoire arts schools. So even this limited social mobility only applied to 15% of us.
The reality is that “it’s not what you know but who you know” is more true now than it was 50 years ago and the Public Schools (which in the UK perversely means the elite fee-paying private schools) are now one of the very few gateway’s to the elite.
Poverty is not the result of ‘bad choices’ it is the cause of them. And conversely the privilege of the wealthy gives them far more choices to choose from and enables them to ‘choose’ more successfully. Poverty is a more significant barrier to social mobility than race, sexuality, disability or gender.

About I Am Not A Number

I Am Not A Number is written by Chris Jury. For 30 years Chris Jury was a TV actor, director and writer best known for playing Eric Catchpole in over 60 episodes of the BBC’s antique classic, Lovejoy, and for directing over 50 episodes of Eastenders.
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8 Responses to The deserving rich and the undeserving poor…

  1. Sean says:

    Good article, but I am not sure I agree. A person’s success in life seems to be down to education and social skills. People with good social skills tend to do better in the job market.

    That comes down to good parenting, if a child has successful role models, then they will have an advantage over a child with lazy role models.

    As with all things, success and failure are complicated recipes

    • Well , the point is ‘success’ is largely defined by who you know rather than what you know. But even if we accepted your position for the sake of argument, ‘education and social skills’ are hugely defined by the social class you are born into. You say it is down to ‘good parenting’ but a ‘good’ but poor parent does not have the choice to send their children to an elite public school… however ‘good’ a parent they are. And social skills are largely learnt and entirely socially defined, so yet again the children of parents already educated in social skills have an advantage at birth.

      • reubeni says:

        A piece of advice I have heard many times for young people hoping to get into the media industry is that you have to ‘start at the bottom and work your way up,’ and that ‘the right attitude is more important than specific skills at the start’. It’s true of course, but while skills can be learned and taught, ‘the right attitude’ is much more elusive. It certainly seems to help if you have been exposed to robust public school values either by having parents who can pass these on to you or by attending such a place yourself. Others may come across as socially awkward, out of place, too big for their boots, or downright moany and ungrateful for the fantastic opportunities that are being offered to them in barely-paid trainee and internship positions.

  2. Steve says:

    As one of the ‘poor’ living in Silicon Valley, I see validity with both of the above comments & the original article. We (my wife & I) are not techies, which automatically limits out income. With limited resources (by the area standards), we managed to pay ridiculous rent & put our brood (x3) through the local University By paying as we went. Our daughters saw us make 8 tuition payments a year, for each of them. At times all three were at University, together. We did it by not doing anything else. A subject Sean mentioned, we tried to do good parenting. Using ourselves as examples of what not to do (neither of us attended College or University), we made them understand that their education was (potentially) part of their future success. As we are far from being lazy role models, the brood learned to work as much & as hard as required for at work, volunteer activities, et cetera. Social skills, depending upon one’s definition. I’ve taught them to be personality chameleons, when dealing with others. Instantly, adapting to those one is dealing with. The key, always acting as others expect…….even when one doesn’t want to.

    Chris, your opening….”So now rich people in the USA are now openly claiming that they are healthier than poor people because they are morally superior!”. Sounds like, most, of our ruling class. However, ‘morally superior’ needs to be replaced with……’because they can afford it’. In our area, those with lotsa dosh, do come across as superior due to finances. I’ve been ridiculed by some, for driving a 30 year old Range Rover. Not buying a new vehicle, helped us make those tuition payments. One tidbit, then I’ll stop boring all. My wife works for a very prominent group of Cardiologists. A simple stress test with an echocardiogram is nearing $2000. With medical insurance, that would be my cost. We have an $8,500/year deductable to meet, before the insurance kicks in. Major procedures will cost a percentage of their total. If one of us needed a device implant, or valve replacement, who knows the cost. Also, the possibility of death always exists. If either dies from post surgery complications the survivor could be left with huge debt. The alternative is to forgo healthcare, as burial w / cremation is less than $1,000.

    In other words, the rich are healthier because thay can afford it. Too many of them, are morally bankrupt. Comments courtesy of a guy that worked until the wee hours, with no sleep, & a vat of coffee. Some role model?

    • Agreed. Your own efforts are heroic and I wish you and your children the very best. The idea that the sons of millionaires like Trump ‘worked hard’ compared to you is outrageously disingenuous. It was once said that socialism never really took hold in the USA because poor Americans do not see themselves as an oppressed class but as temporarily financially embarrassed millionaires. The American dream.

      • Steve says:

        Back, again. The Market Watch link was, sadly, accurate. I read it to daughter #1, who cited examples, similar to what the article stated. Several students, what she called, “Trust Fund Children”, she had to deal with at University. The over confident, arrogant, looking down their nose upper society types. Some, hired into financial companies due to family connections………..most booted due to their inactivity.
        Her comment, as she this moment, is walking out the door………”So, because you & Mom are worthless (financially), this means, probably, I’ll die poor?”
        Great way to start the day!

      • Better that she knows what she’s up against than lives her life in a world of Disney delusion.

  3. Steve says:

    Chris, “Thanks”. However, we don’t view anything we’ve done as heroic. Suicidal, but not heroic. It’s what one does, for the next generation. Or, my warped idea of parenting.

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