July 24, 2024

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Slim and Laria are as rich as the poorer half of Latin Americans

There’s an old man in Mexico who owns telephone companies, tobacco companies, mining companies, financial companies, hotels, paper companies, whole neighborhoods, a good chunk. The New York Times, a museum, 82 years, some gold teeth, 300,000 people working for him, over 100,000 million dollars. Mines, oil, trains, cinemas, construction companies, buildings, shopping centers, lots of hair, waterfalls of ties, 70 years old and about 30,000 million dollars is another minor. Their names are Carlos Slim and German Lauria and they are definitely two nice guys, their outfits are sinful. They are also the two richest people in Latin America, and between them have about $130 billion: the same amount owned by the poorest half of Latin Americans, 334 million people. Equality, taught in school, is simple: 1=1, 2=2… Inequality can be more complicated: 334,000,000=2. If someone wants to summarize what the famous Latin American inequality is, they can use that straightforward formula: 334,000,000=2.

Although perhaps we should rethink that: imagining inequality as numbers, graphs, charts often calms us down. But inequality means, in reality, that millions of people – many people – day after day, cannot cure their illnesses, cannot educate their children, cannot feed them: they are not living the lives they deserve. This Oxfam report For example, he says, an average person in the region would have to work for 90 years to earn what a millionaire would earn in a day.

We know it and forget it: Latin America is the most unequal region of the world. The numbers are stark: Latin America’s richest one percent amass nearly 55 times more wealth than its poorest half; In the European Union, the richest one percent has accumulated seven times more than its poorest half. That means Latin America is eight times more unequal than Europe; The question that remains is why.

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One of the answers is that in these silly days, two people owning 334 million in assets seems normal to many people: it is an extraordinary cultural achievement, as funny billionaire Warren Buffett was struggling when he pointed out. There were classes and his class was successful.

But the basic answer often comes from Dr. Pero Crullo: Latin America is too unequal because it can. Or, better: Wealthy Latin Americans can. These men have always lived off the extraction and export of gold, silver, bananas, meat, soy, coffee, cocoa, copper, wheat, oil, sugar, lithium and many other raw materials. These farms did not require a large or highly skilled workforce: rich Latin Americans did not need their poor to work. Also, because their products are exported, their internal market is more important to them: rich Latin Americans do not need to consume their poor ones. If they do not need to work or consume, it can keep them in poverty and marginalization. They can tolerate so much inequality.

Why do they need, above all, states. Wealthy Latin Americans generally complain that they pay a lot in taxes and that their states do not provide them – as they do in Europe – health, education, security. They say they buy these services from private companies and why should they pay tax to a state that is not of use to them – it is true. It’s blindness or cynicism: what they buy when they pay taxes is their security. They pay their states to control these poor people, and prevent them from destroying everything: if possible, with subsidies and handouts; If necessary, with force.

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But for that, they believe that little is enough. That’s why their personal income taxes are — on average — the lowest in the world, having been cut in half over the past four decades. Still, they escape easily. Oxfam reports that the poorest half of people across the region pay 45% of their deficit in taxes; The rich don’t pay 20% of the one percent.

So that the poor can get the attention they deserve – and to reduce inequality – Oxfam is proposing, among other things, a tax on large assets. Their numbers are clear: 2% of net worth annually for those with more than $5 million, 3% for those with more than $50 million, and 5% for those with more than $1,000 million. This is what people like Javier Millay call “the perversion of social justice,” “armed robbery.” In the most brutal robbery, even if one person has 1 billion and hands over 50 people, they still have 950 million left over: enough to eat almost every day – and preserve inequality.

But these taxes, without seriously affecting anyone, would raise more than $60 billion a year, enough to end hunger in the region — and many other accomplishments. If these rich people were smart, they’d do it: they’d better keep a small piece of the cake and enjoy it in peace. This extreme inequality makes many millions of Latin Americans loathe democracy: how can they expect to defend it when it is nothing more than a system in which they live unhappy lives, a set of privileges and differences?

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Inequality is not just a moral problem: it creates more hunger, more suffering, more violence, and the anger felt by millions. For now, the rich are getting it done: they can find and impose characters who criticize the political system while deepening economic disparities, but the trick isn’t going to last forever—and then, they’ll lose that time. They could have given something to protect almost everything.

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