Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Equal time for the poor

John Darkin suggests in the Herald today that somebody match the NBR's annual publication of the Rich List with a Poor List:

Richly designed, an annual Poor List would be more than a who's who of the needy. Backed with pertinent statistics, such a list would be a sobering device for measuring the gaps between the rich and poor, and a dramatic expose in the fight against poverty.

Published as a glossy, the Poor List would profile the 200 poorest people in the land. Potted biographies of the chosen subjects, including how little money they possess, their atrociously overcrowded housing conditions, poor health prospects and the social stigma they suffer as pariah members of a first world nation, would be intimately detailed, along with their reflections on their fiscal misfortunes and prospects for the coming year.

Photographs of despairing and grim-faced families outside their houses will remind us not to aspire to be like them.

While the actual 200 poorest people may be more difficult to track down - there's a reason why we say that poverty is "invisible" - it would be perfectly possible to publish the statistics and some representative interviews, and it would provide an excellent counterpoint to the Rich List. It might also show us the real, human cost of "growth promotion" policies which favour the wealthy, and help build support for policies aimed at lifting the quality of life of those at the bottom, rather than further lining the pockets of those at the top.

So, any volunteers out there among our political parties or social agencies?