There is now a clear and noticeable trend of increasing budgetary expenditure among the various countries within the framework of their economic policies. The United States is wait to get his biggest public spending bill passed. The new Japanese Prime Minister announced an overthrow of the “Abenomics” and turned towards higher public spending. China has launched an all-out attack on what it calls the “evils of capitalism” for address income inequality. Germany is preparing to introduce its first socialist leader since World War II.
Income inequality is one of the biggest scourges of societies around the world and has caused dramatic reversals in policy direction. Is this a question that bothers ordinary people around the world or is it limited to the interpretation of economists, sociologists or politicians?
Inequality is defined as the gap between the rich and the poor. But what bothers people the most? This gap or the lack of opportunities for the poor? Is the idea that the rich are getting richer more of a concern than the lack of opportunities for the poor?
These are the questions to which we have decided to find answers among the Indians. We interviewed 2,895 people in 14 states: Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. Our survey covered 40 percent of all electoral districts nationwide and is perhaps one of the largest such exercises conducted in India on the issue of income inequality.
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We asked respondents two questions in the local language of their respective states:
1: Which of these problems is the biggest problem in India today?
A: The rich are getting richer and richer
B: No opportunity for the poor to evolve
C: The gap between rich and poor is too big
D: The poor are getting poorer and poorer
E: no opinion
2: What should the government do to fix this problem?
A: Raise taxes for the rich and distribute to the poor
B: Reduce taxes on businesses so they can build more factories and create jobs
C: The government should get bigger and hire more people
D: Attract foreign companies to invest in India with tax breaks
E: no opinion
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Lack of opportunities for the poor
Contrary to popular belief, the gap between the rich and the poor is not seen as the biggest problem in the country today.
Most important, according to 34 percent of respondents, was the lack of opportunities for the poor to access upward mobility. While about 24 percent said the biggest problem was getting the rich getting richer, for 21 percent of respondents, the poor getting poorer were more of a concern. These results can make sense when you think about them only from an individualist’s perspective of what the bigger problem is. The gap between the rich and the poor is the aggregate result of each of these individual problems.
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Higher taxes for the rich
In a blow to neoliberal economic ideologues, Indians do not think lowering taxes for businesses or foreign investors is a good idea. There is overwhelming support to tax the rich more and use it to expand government and redistribute to the poor. This is obviously what our policy will reflect since, in a democracy, politics is only the reflection of societal desires. It is then obvious that the divestment Air India and other public sector companies may not be a popular move among the public. This, of course, goes against the mainstream media discourse for a neoliberal economic prescription of lower taxes and smaller government, which is reflected in the actions of the minority elite.
Prashnam, faithful to its principles of transparency and integrity, makes all the raw data of this survey available. here for analysts and researchers to verify and analyze further.
Rajesh Jain is the founder, Prashnam, an AI tech start-up that aims to make collecting opinions more scientific, easier, faster and more affordable. He tweets @rajeshjain. Opinions are personal.
The article is part of ThePrint-Prashnam Vox Pop series.
(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)
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