Poverty Is a Threat to Democracy, with Tavis Smiley


I believe that poverty is the defining issue
of our time. I believe that poverty is threatening our very democracy and I mean that sincerely.
It’s threatening our very democracy, the existence of it, the future of it. I believe that poverty
is a matter of national security because these numbers are not sustainable. One percent of
the people cannot continue to own and control 40 percent of the wealth. The top 400 richest
Americans, 400 individuals, have wealth equivalent to the bottom 150 million fellow citizens.
That’s not a democracy. You can call it an oligarchy, you can call it plutocracy but
it’s not a democracy. And that’s why say that poverty is threatening our very democracy.
So there is clearly the issue of poverty, there is the issue of incoming equality, but
I think there’s a third issue that we don’t talk about enough is the issue of economic
mobility. So income and equality is the difference, the gap between the rich and the poor. Well
let’s be frank, to some degree you’re always going to have a gap between the rich and the
poor. Economic mobility is about how you lift the poor up from the suffering that they have
to endure every day. So the conversation is really not so much about income and inequality
or wealth and inequality as it is about economic mobility, that’s the issue we have to focus
on.

Maurice Vega

86 Responses

  1. No doubt that poverty sucks…
    but why do poor people reproduce and have children?? The first step towards economic freedom (and especially poverty) is not making more mouths to feed when you have no business doing so.

  2. gave new definition to old old problem, but where is solution? It's about nothing. The thing is the features of "democracy" (US, UK and etc) create condition when 500 families own this world. When you say about it straight away they recall next from Churchill like democracy is bad but it's the best from all options. Fuck them off. That's it.

  3. This should have been at least 6 minutes long. I still don't understand what he means by economic mobility :/

  4. Bernie is right on this one. We need to be a welfare state. We don't care if there is a wage gap as long as we can feed our families and pay for our children's medical bills. We don't need to be socialist, we don't need to take the rich peoples' money, we just need to be able to support ourselves.

  5. Statistics on economic equality has dramatically changed in the past 5 years. 1% of American citizens own more than 40% of capital. $ isn't wealth. Capital is everything you own, the richest people invest their $ not hold on to it as if they want to pay taxes on it.

  6. This is where liberals miss the boat imo. They get too caught up in hating people with money that they forget about economic mobility and the fact that the citizens and voters want money. This government is too anti-business that's why u don't see people boot strapping themselves out of poverty as much. The liberals are pointing out a problem and making it worse by offering weak solutions.

  7. The direction of the progressive agenda economy reminds me of the schools. They are more worried about making sure everybody is on the same level than allowing the supreme intelligence and hustle to flourish. That will lead to more mediocrity. People's minds are this country's biggest resource. And I'll tell you half these human resources out here are relatively untapped. You'd be surprised what even the average person is capable of if they're let loose to succeed. And everybody doesn't have to be a winner. Everybody still benefits.
    And our goal should be heading toward replacing most of the welfare system with Universal Social Security for all. Universal basic income will fill in the cracks in the economy going forward because things are going to get very disruptive.

  8. Yes, income inequality is definitely the issue. It would literally solve the working poor problem if every job had to pay a decent living wage.

  9. Yh we need to bring up the lowest level of income and down the highest so compression. The only way i can think to do it is when someone reaches billionaire status they get a certificate that says your too good at taking money off people then giving them a huge tax from any more they earn past a billion (95%) which either pays for all of the taxes of the poor or directly funds them on a percentage basis through their wages. Like if you've got a 1000 million do you really need anymore? hell no that;s just greedy at that point. But yh i haven't thought this through enough so some economic expert who isn't invested in the issue would have to work to devise a plan not me some random guy on youtube…

  10. Income inequality is also an issue, at least at the level it is at now. It's nigh inextricably linked to economic mobility.

    That aside, fantastic video.

  11. Fuck off. Some people are plain and simple better than others, and some people are just worthless, deal with it. Right now, you have people busting their balls studying extremely hard things and becoming doctors, engineers, scientists, people who are going to solve a bunch of problems and build a ton of stuff. And you also have a whole bunch of good for nothing completely useless and unemployable feminist hip-hop Zambian studies that provide skills no one needs. And you want them all to have the same paycheck??? Some people put in hard work and considered economic viability of their actions, others think economy works on hobbies and the world on their feelings. Some people should be rich, some should be poor.

  12. Lack of Economic Mobility, Income Inequality, Resource Shortages, Clean Water & Food Shortages, Land Shortages, Over Population, Money as the Dominating Speech, Dogmas & Demarcation, Ego & Bias, Energy Shortages, Poor Educational Systems, Herdism & Idiocracy, Parasitic Systems, Global Warming, Global Conflicts, Mutually Assured Destruction instead of Mutually Assured Survival.

    I would say these are America's Problems & are Global Problems.

  13. Democracy isn't for income to be distributed evenly; communism is for that. Means of living have increased in all income levels due to capitalism and there will be no end. Without the natural driving force of ownership and power, there will be no investments or aspiring economic activity. Go back to school and read economics and psychology.

  14. Well said in such a short time. Now days people seem to think it has to be one way or the other (Everyone equal or everyone very unequal). Both of those don't work. You will always have/should have a gap between the rich and the poor, it's about lifting the poor up and helping them, not just giving them free handouts.

  15. Plato said this in The Republic. He said a republic would fall if wealth inequality persisted unchallenged.

  16. I would go a step further and say economic mobility isn't the problem, but rather lack of education on how to move up in our economic system is. Many people do move up economically in today's society, but there are vast numbers stuck in poverty that don't have the knowledge of what it takes to become successful.

  17. Interesting, since 9/11 every liberal issue has been linked to national security. Poverty is a threat to national security , obesity is a threat to national security , so called gender inequality is a threat to national security. Everything is a threat to national security except for Islam . You know , the ones who actually make threats to our national security

  18. Well ofcourse the income inequality is a HUGE problem. Much bigger than mobility!

    1) If you have small amount of very powerfull people. Their interest is for them to stay powerful, so they will subvert any atempts of economic mobility. Therefore, you cant solve the problem of economic mobility if you havent solved the problem of income inequality.
    2) If you have solved the problem of income inequality, than there is no poverty you need to solve (unless you are talking about unemployed, which are a small minority and are not hard problem to take care of)

    What the talk about economic mobility does, is shift the narative to the useless topic wasting time and energy on it away from the real problem, and thus suporting the status quo.

  19. Actually , what threat the most democracy is ignorance . Brazil is supposed to be a huge democracy, But , it isn't ! Such regime don't work on massive crowd of stupid idiots . Take for exemple the recents years , when a gang of robbers took office in the presidency of Brazil and destroyed an emerging and booming economy. Brazil would be much better with the military in power. They are reputable and competent

  20. Income inequality really comes down to this, poor people have way too many children, and the US government does not want to properly educate people. So stupid poor people stay stupid and they want more money. Well these stupid poor people end up in prison, unemployed, criminals, getting govt jobs that they are not qualified to do, and they cycle continues.
    The only way to fix this is to educate and assist these people to become better members of society, and this will in fact help the population problem. Wealthy people have less children.

  21. There will always be poor (the fictitious Jesus said so in Mk. 14:7, Mt. 26:11, Jn. 12:8) – people who expect society to take care of them, those too lazy to work hard, those where society doesn't need their skills any more, those who don't prepare for their future, &c. The important thing is to stop the poor from passing their poverty on to the next generation. The same for the rich: inheritance tax should be near 100%. Start with a more level playing-field and let the best become wealthy. After all, you'll always have poor and wealthy as long as you have a currency.

  22. I agree with some of Mr. Smiley's assertions but not sure if income mobility is the cure. I am no expert in this field but wonder

    1. Is Income Mobility feasible? My speculation (no basis) is that Income Mobility, in the aggregate or whole population sense, is a zero sum game. For someone to move up, someone (or portion of their wealth) must move down.
    2. The "wealth growth rate" (my description), where the rich's ability to grow their wealth is faster / bigger than the poor. This is not inflation where everyone poor or wealthy rise up and down the same (e.g. inflation is similar to velocity), but this is the rate of growth (e.g. similar to acceleration).

    IMHO, the long term cure is to decelerate the rate of wealth growth for riches and accelerate for the poor, the short term is to fix the tax avoidance schemes.

  23. The income gap is completely irrelevant to any problem relating to fairness or happiness in a free world. It is only a problem if you view wealth as a zero-sum game, which it isn't or else most of the world would still be in the stone age. It would also be a problem if you view wealth as a thing society owns, which there is no rational reason to think this ought to be the case.

    When you spend $20 on a Harry Potter book, you are expecting to get more than $20 worth of value out of the book, otherwise you wouldn't buy the book. JK Rowling gets the $20 (for all intents and purposes, publisher aside) which she values more than her book. Both you and JK Rowling have benefited from the trade. Repeat this type of transaction 50 million times over the course of the Harry Potter series and JK Rowling is now a billionaire while 50 million people have had a slight increase in value added to their life from buying her book, which justifies Rowling now being a billionaire. In this instance, the income gap has increased, perhaps dramatically, but wealth overall has increased and no one is worse off as a result. The income gap tells nothing about wealth or happiness in a country. Capitalism is the way to go. Cronyism and political inequality must go.

  24. I agree that "economic mobility" is a major issue, but I wouldn't be too quick to dismiss the impact "income inequality" has as well, because income inequality is the greatest factor on the monopoly effect – the one with the greatest resources is able to influence and control yet more resources and so on…

  25. American poverty is manufactured/manipulated by corporate greed to debilitate the education and earnings ability of the population.

  26. Our government is a Republic, not a Democracy. These wealthy people are representing what happens when everyone else decides to not become financially literate. You get a 1%.

  27. America is not and has never been a democracy. It's a constitutional, representative republic.

    Poverty can't threaten democracy if there isn't one.

  28. So what type of solutions can be offered in a capitalist pyramid? Trickle down economics certainly isn't the answer

  29. You think the top 1% or whatever is going to just abandon their gonad grip of power? Your way doed not work. Your way is merely installing new masters. Your way is encouraging people to breed more litters of mindless consumers. 90% population reduction is in order or at least open up public lands to homesteading.

  30. yawn, read Thomas Sowell on wealth inequality. Most Americans will be in the top 5% at some point in their lives, and most people in the bottom 20%/top 1% arent in there for more than one year.

    Nice try at weak bait, read some economics though.

    Edited to say; Thomas Sowell : Basic Economics is just one book that contains a lengthy chapter on these myths.

  31. What this didn't say anything at all. Usually I'm in for a thirteen minute brainfuck but today's bigthink left me agape.

  32. thw psychology of wealth enequality is an economic problem as the drive to rise above the gap lowers once its perceived marginally unpreportianate as sustainability becomes a greater focus for the opportunist

  33. just remember: income inequality has been rapidly increasing since the 70s….not good for stability

  34. Tavis Smiley ought to replace Al Sharpton as one of these pseudo "leaders" of the black "community". He speaks the truth instead of constantly playing the race/victim card.

  35. The US is ultra-good in terms of absolute economic mobility. That is the raw increase PPP that the next generation can achieve. In terms of quintiles it may not be quite as good, but, I would argue that moving through quintiles in the US is a pretty amazing business.

  36. economic mobility is higher when there is less income inequality. when all of the money is held by the top 1% of 1% than the rest of the 99.9% have to fight over crumbs, and it is virtually impossible to get into that top 1% of 1% if you don't start there.

  37. But we are not a democracy we are a republic. Also, the top rich people in a capitalist society get their money by selling products and services people want so it is our fault they are rich. Bill Gates having billions of dollars is none of your concern if he got it honestly.

  38. Economic mobility and economic equality is connected. More economic equality is generally tied together with greater economic mobility. The nordic countries, Germany and New Zealand have more economic mobility than the more unequal Italy, USA and UK. Business Insider had a short piece about it called "Inequality and Mobility in the United States". So I don't think you can disconnect the two as Tavis Smiley urges us to do.
    Also, economic mobility is not only about poor people moving up, it is also to some degree about more affluent people moving down relatively.

  39. Fuck off economic quality is not the issue. When we could double the wealth of 3,500,000,000 people by getting rid of 85 billionaires then it's a fucking problem.

  40. Economic mobility means that we stop urban sprawl. Urban sprawl makes the cost of traveling more expensive by having to travel further distances, it lowers economic opportunities by limiting the number of job opportunities within a reasonable driving range, and for those who don't own a car it means that bus travel time can be up to two hours one-way. One way you can stop urban sprawl is by choosing to live and work closer to downtown. Another way is to lobby your politicians to create tax incentives for businesses to stay downtown, build vertical rather than horizontal, revitalize downtown, and create land use ordinances that limit urban sprawl.

  41. I think both issues are worth tackling. Yes, Economic Mobility is a huge priority, but Economic Inequality is also associated with detrimental social effects such as higher crime rates and drug usage. It's not just about making sure the poor don't stay poor for very long, it's also about helping them with some of their hardship while they are poor.

  42. this was a very good video, I just would have loved for him to talk more about how we can increase economic mobility and decrease inequality

  43. this is only a minute and a half…but there's so much left unsaid in the video. WHY does he beleive this?

  44. Whats sad is that I would be happy with 1 acre and a wooden shack out in the woods, no car, home grown food and sustainable energy.

    But even THAT costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to do.

  45. I feel like this video cut off right after he introduced the topic he was going to discuss. If you're not going to give him time to unpack his statement then we're just hearing him give his opinion. Really would have liked to hear him back it up.

  46. "economic mobility" is a major issue. You will always have rich and poor. People have to be able to READ, WORK and INVEST even if its small chunks of money at a time. being able to buy a house and have food is most important. people are focusing too much on I don't have the newest car, newest home, newest phone…thats not poverty.

  47. While I wholeheartedly agree that America's extreme consolidation of wealth is detrimental to a properly functioning democracy, I would also submit that the relativistic misuse of the the word "poor" has misled Americans' collective perception of "poverty".

    Income Inequality is NOT the same as Poverty. "400 individuals have wealth equivalent to the bottom 150 Million fellow citizens," does NOT mean those 150 Million citizens are POOR; it just means those 400 are RICH! Poverty is not defined by who has MORE; it is defined by who doesn't have ENOUGH, and of the 150 Million mentioned, the VAST majority of them are doing just fine. As for Economic Mobility, America currently has about 10.1 MILLION households with, at least, $1M in assets, AND half of those households reached that level just in the last twenty years, moving from the Middle Class to the Upper Class…Economic Mobility. While, the chances of a genuinely poor child growing up to be a millionaire are extremely slim, the chances of that same child growing up to be in the Middle Class are totally realistic…Economic Mobility. It isn't about giant leaps; it's about baby steps…the patience for which has been largely obliterated by a society that regularly demands instant gratification.

    Fundamentally Economic Mobility is also about HARD WORK, but our Public Education system has taught the last two generations to shun "dirty jobs", spend tens of thousands of dollars on college, and hold out for comfortable office work, even though it often pays LESS. On top of that, our broken Welfare System punishes economic progress by (A) subsidizing WAY beyond the bare essentials, thus motivating "on paper" poverty and (B) utterly cutting off (rather than stepping down) subsidy based on arbitrary income levels, thus causing INCREASED income to result in DECREASED quality of life. It doesn't help that "vote-buying" politicians have now defined "poverty" so broadly that 54% of Americans now qualify for subsidy…whether they NEED it or not.

    While poverty, income inequality, and economic immobility CAN be threats to a successful and stable democracy, the greater threat, at this moment in history, is that people have been conditioned to constantly demand MORE, rather than learning to be content with ENOUGH. Meanwhile, most of America's "poor" enjoy a quality of life many people in the world will only ever DREAM of having.

  48. The only thing he said was "Economic mobility is the real issue, not so much income inequality. And it threatens democracy." Ok, I agree with you, now explain why.

  49. I completely agree lack of social mobility in society, due to multiple factors of stratification and conscious and unconscious bias, causes a very large inequality of wealth and income.

  50. "Matter of national security", fuck yeah! So more regulations, laws, taxes and government control over people! That should help!

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