Editorials 11.5.2017 05:17 am

The dangers of the rich getting richer

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Squeezing out the middle class removes the glue that cements two sides of society’s monetary equation.

When Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, said in a speech in 1832 that “when the laws undertake … to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society … have a right to complain of the injustice to their government”, he could have been predicting the current state of the South African nation.

When an authoritative Sanlam Benchmark Survey points out that the professional middle class – 73% of them – are under acute financial stress, Jackson’s words ring prophetic.

Ratings agencies Fitch, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s were obviously not in existence in Jackson’s time.

Indeed, his speech was aimed at vetoing the hegemony enjoyed by the fabulously rich individual shareholders in the second Bank of the United States, so we must conclude that his aims were to spread the wealth rather than concentrate it in the hands of the already wealthy.

Squeezing out the middle class removes the glue which cements two sides of the society’s monetary equation.

Yet as our currency deflates like a discarded party balloon, this is happening before our eyes.

And when public employees are identified by the office of the auditor-general as being guilty of R48 million in shady tenderpreneurship – the bulk of them from the law and order cluster – and able to get away scot-free through a legal technicality, the middle class are left with no moral anchor and the ranks of the impoverished and financially stretched can only grow exponentially.

In short, the poor will be the first to suffer.

History would prove conclusively that the poor will always be with us and that the rich and connected elite will always exist to lap up the cream.

But widening the gulf between the two is tantamount to committing national suicide.

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