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.