Unjust income distribution becoming a political threat
Growing inequality between the rich and poor in Western societies has become a key issue for the first time as it has emerged as not only a social problem, but a political one as well – to the point that it could even become a serious political threat. Social unrest caused by unjust income distribution in the Western world is the first sign of this new threat.
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to tackle the problem of poverty and find a way to help the poor in a reasonably short amount of time in the midst of a serious recession. Besides austerity measures, discussions on new tax strategies in both the United States and in Europe seem to be merely aimed at solving deficit and debt problems, rather than balancing income distribution, even if only partly.
Only during the last century did governments, especially in Western countries, begin to approach unjust income distribution as a social problem. Naturally, it was accepted that poverty could also create some political problems, but not as serious as social ones. Governments with different ideologies again implemented different policies to fight poverty, but the percentage of poor families in the total population, even in some rich countries, did not decrease considerably. The situation in poor and emerging countries is obviously worse, but unjust income distribution is still not a political threat, mainly because of their political regimes. However, this is not the case for democratic Western countries.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK), the percentage of people living below the poverty line is still 16 percent even though income distribution has improved slightly in recent years. It means that nearly 12 million people can be defined as poor. It is also surprising that the percentage of people living below the poverty line in some European countries and in the United States is almost the same as Turkey. It means that unjust income distribution is a common problem and that different per capita income levels have no direct influence on it.
The austerity measures that are being implemented in some European countries have negatively affected income distribution further. Many countries, even the richest ones, which did not, or perhaps could not, deal with problems of poverty properly during the “good old days” are naturally more helpless in the midst of a worldwide crisis; as a result, they now face unexpected political problems, even political threats.
First of all, it must be understood that there is no short-cut solution to ease the pain of this social malady. For example, past experiences in some Western countries have shown that some simple remedies such as a “tycoon tax” or, in other words, “high tax rates for the rich, low ones for the poor,” did not succeed in balancing income distribution. However, it seems that in some Western countries, politicians want to again implement the same tax policy in haste in order to stop the growing popular sympathy for marginal political groups whose ideologies do not seem democratic.
The recent rise of these political groups, which are now organized as political parties, might harm the democratic structure of the countries which were once known as fortresses of democracy. For poor and hopeless people, any kind of irrational promises might seem rational. There is wisdom in remembering that history generally repeats itself.