The Government’s Deliberate Policy of Prejudicing the Poorest in Our Society Is Imposing Destitution on Millions

Yves here. Richard Murphy inveighs against the UK’s hate-the-poors posture, leading off with its level of food insecurity and follow-on health costs. The UK just entered a recession after lousy performance in 2023. Recall also that the UK suffered acute energy and food cost increases in 2022.

But it is not as if the US, with our supposedly better economic performance, is doing all that much better with the impoverished. Our level of food insecurity in a supposedly booming economy, rose to 12.8% in 2023, not that much lower than the clearly struggling UK’s 15%. US life expectancy has fallen when even with Covid, it’s held steady in other advanced economies. From KFF Health System Tracker:

Even low income Thailand has a higher life expectancy at birth than the US.

Note that American officials like to complain that we can’t find enough fit and bright enough young men to serve. (yes you do need young men to serve in the infantry; only a very few women have the genetics to be able to carry heavy loads long distances; women do just fine in many other positions). Has no one connected the dots that it’s not just the sedentary lifestyles and junk food but also too many instances of underfeeding? It may be apocryphal or an exaggeration, but Winston Churchill claimed than an objective of his time as Home Secretary was to improve nutrition of the lower classes (his term was so short, from 1910 to 1911, I doubt he could have implemented much but perhaps he was one of several in the Liberals who promoted this policy). Churchill said that by the start of World War II, it was no longer possible to look at British soldiers and correctly guess their class by their height.

Colonel Smithers weighted in on the original post, giving a thumbnail version of Jeremy Hunt’s family connections and concluding: “The above elite is sheltered. To preserve their power and comfort, others must pay.”

By Richard Murphy, part-time Professor of Accounting Practice at Sheffield University Management School, director of the Corporate Accountability Network, member of Finance for the Future LLP, and director of Tax Research LLP. Originally published at Tax Research

A number of related themes are apparent in commentary on the economy this morning.

One is poverty. As the Guardian notes:

Millions of people – including one in five families with children – have gone hungry or skipped meals in recent weeks because they could not regularly afford to buy groceries, according to new food insecurity data.

According to the Food Foundation tracker, 15% of UK households – equivalent to approximately 8 million adults and 3 million children – experienced food insecurity in January, as high food prices continued to hit the pockets of low-income families.

This is a tale of destiution and misery in the UK.

They add this graph:

We have a health crisis not just caused by Covid (although that is still very real) but by the existence of poverty thanks to George Osborne and successive subsequent Tory Chancellors, soon the be perpetuated by Rachel Reeves. That crisis is not just personal; it is collective in its cost.

Then there is this in the FT:

A lack of available loans from traditional UK lenders is pushing vulnerable consumers towards unregulated credit products as they struggle financially in the cost of living crisis, according to a study.

The UK nonprime lending market — which offers loans to riskier customers with average to low credit scores — has shrunk by more than a third since 2019.

In contrast, unsecured loans from unregulated lenders, such as those offering buy now, pay later (BNPL) products, have jumped in recent years, according to research from credit-checking platform ClearScore and consultancy EY.

The result is that the most vulnerable people in the UK who need to borrow to meet unexpected costs because they have little, or usually no, savings are being forced into the highest cost, most abusive, arrangements. It was this concern that motivated a post I made yesterday: you would never have known it from the comments of the right-wing trolls who poured in during the day to offer abuse, and who got deleted for their efforts.

And finally, there is this, also in the FT but reported in a remarkably similar style in the Guardian:

Jeremy Hunt’s financial planning is “dubious” and “lacks credibility” and the chancellor should not announce tax cuts in next week’s budget if he cannot lay out how he will fund them, an economic thinktank has said.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) calculates that Hunt would need to find £35bn of cuts from already threadbare public services if he plans to use a Whitehall spending freeze to pay for pre-election giveaways.

A fresh round of austerity in unprotected departments would boost the chancellor’s war chest for tax cuts, the independent tax and spending watchdog said, but an increase from an expected £15bn of headroom to about £50bn over the next five years would come at a high cost.

That cost will, in very large part, be seen in the perpetuation of poverty. The lowest paid will suffer tax rises. They will have the services that they need cut. The NHS, social care and housing will not be properly funded. Education, that was the route out of this, is unable to meet need. And benefit increases have not met inflation-hiked prices for basic commodities.  And Hunt wants to make all of this worse.

A government unable to admit that there is Islamophobia in its rank hopes that rows on that issue will distract attention from another pressing concern, which is that its deliberate policy of prejudicing the poorest in our society is imposing destitution on millions and relative poverty on us all because of the opportunities lost to the communities in which we all live.

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          1. GramSci

            Wow! That?s a disastrous slide in Cuba’s life expectancy in one year! I can only imagine it’s Putin’s fault?

  1. CA

    “The Government’s Deliberate Policy of Prejudicing the Poorest in Our Society Is Imposing Destitution on Millions”

    February 26, 2024

    The Mystery of White Rural Rage
    By Paul Krugman

    [ Paul Krugman could of course have considered Blacks who live along the traditional cotton belt, but the need is to blame the poor for being poor and Krugman needed to be careful creating stereotypes that WEB DuBois knew were incorrect more than a century ago. ]

    1. JonnyJames

      Krugman just never stops spreading BS, he should be a farmer of toxic plants. He also claims that there is no such thing as the MIC (MICIMATT) and that the US should spend more on war, weapons, etc.
      He has become a laughingstock to informed people, but he has a role at the NYT as one of their chief propaganda pushers. After all, he does have a “prize” for economics. We can have a good (tragic) laugh at his expense.

      I enjoy reading and hearing from Yves Smith, Steve Keen, Michael Hudson and others ridiculing his specious claims.

  2. Feral Finster

    Rhetoric aside, what on earth makes anyone think that anyone of influence and authority in the governments in the US or the UK care in the least about the poor?

    1. Watt4Bob

      The people of influence and authority are terribly concerned for the poor.

      The poor are incredibly important to the systems of control that manage the expectations of the rest of the population.

      The poor must be made an example of so the rest will submit to the will of those have influence and authority.

    2. Neutrino

      The decline of civil liberties used to be shocking, but has become commonplace. UK citizens face assaults routinely without much recourse. At least there remains a semblance of rule of law in the USA, if more frequently observed in the breach. Emulating those betters across the pond, scum.

    3. BeliTsari

      You can’t perpetuate duopoly protection schemes, without ever more desperate, debilitated, precariate folks huddled into storefronts on icy streets? We’d FOX’s UWS “SCARY deranged homeless stereotype camped outside Victoria’s Secret (now a Israeli restaurant & Panera, I think?) Irony isn’t permissable. It confuses the locals & they all make the exact same Mel Brooks’ quizzically, bemused grimace (specious obliviousness being their most precious commodity, following recent cascading indignities!)

  3. Paris

    Underfeeding in the most obese country in the world? You must be kidding. Nobody goes hungry in this country. People eat bad stuff, but they don’t go hungry. There’s plenty of “food” around here.

    1. CA

      November 29, 2023

      The prevalence of food insecurity increased in 2022 compared with 2021

      In 2022, 12.8 percent of U.S. households were food insecure at least some time during the year, meaning they had difficulty providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of resources. The 12.8 percent of food-insecure households (17.0 million households) includes 5.1 percent (6.8 million) that experienced very low food security, a more severe form of food insecurity in which the food intake of some household members was reduced, and normal eating patterns were disrupted. The 2022 prevalence rates for both food insecurity and very low food security were statistically significantly higher than the rates recorded in 2021 (10.2 percent and 3.8 percent).

      1. JBird4049

        The cutting both in the number of recipients of SNAP as well the size of the benefit is large, perhaps primary, reason for the increase in hunger. The concurrent elimination of the child tax credit at the same accounts for most of the rest. I am getting the minimum $23 monthly SNAP benefit. Maybe I should not complain, but having the cost of food increase so much, I miss the previous $190 that I used to get. Trying to feed children, if you are anywhere near the edge, and having both the cuts in food stamps and the tax credit at the same time, must be a grinding task.

    2. CA

      November 29, 2023

      Food insecurity rates are highest for households with incomes below the poverty line and single-mother households

      In 2022, 36.7 percent of households with incomes below the Federal poverty line were food insecure. Food-insecure households include those with low food security and very low food security. Rates of food insecurity were also substantially higher than the national average for single-parent households, and for Black and Hispanic households. Food insecurity was more common in both large cities and rural areas than in suburban areas.

      1. JBird4049

        In those rare times that I have had to use a food bank, they are always too many people getting too little food; it has been a problem for decades and getting worse every year. I still need to cut a
        check to the local food bank because I can eat now and too many cannot. And if you can eat, why not donate or volunteer?

        1. Lena

          A local food bank helped me when I had nothing. Those wonderful people gave me food and a bus pass. They gave me a blanket in the winter. They kept me alive. When I got my first COVID stimulus check, I gave it to that food bank. I said use it to help poor women and their children. I was so glad to be able to give back.

      2. TomDority

        If, as I believe also that 36.7 percent of households with incomes below the Federal poverty line were food insecure…….. then does that mean — 63.3% of households with incomes above the Federal poverty line were food insecure.
        And if both statements are true, could I speculate that the Federal poverty line is far too low because of the rentier speculative FIRE sector is far too concerned with asset price inflating (induced with congressional laws and taxes) than productive investment (reduced by congressional laws and taxes) . I hear the same old saw that wall street is doing well – with the blatant erroneous view that because Wall Street is doing good then the economy is doing good — wink wink nudge nudge.
        Today – IMHO – Wall Street doing good is direct confirmation that Main Street is doing bad – given the law and tax environment produced by our elected leaders at all levels which directly produced this and all ills ‘financial’

    3. Albe Vado

      Take part in making and distributing food boxes at my job and then say that. Plenty of people are in fact literally starving.

      1. Sue inSoCal

        I have not been dependent on food banks. But the level of hunger here should be intolerable. I’m so done with euphemisms. Along with regular checks to our food bank, I’ve donated every one of those Covid checks also. I honestly don’t know what more there is to cut. The opinion section of the Times this past weekend was devoted to homelessness. “The unhoused”. I was a first line old-school social counselor when Reagan arrived in DC. CA was struggling with services between him and Brown, but there were safety nets. I knew Reagan was going to be it – job change time! Gradually outsourced work, no real jobs, more austerity, deregulation, no antitrust etc and years later, you have a fictitious “booming economy” with starving people. I’m not an economist, but I can’t buy the booming part. I see utter decline and plunder, both here and across the pond. (And I might add the uber rich certainly have no quaint notion of noblesse oblige.)

    4. CA

      Yes, there is sadly considerable food insecurity in this country:

      November 29, 2023

      In 2022, 17.3 percent of households with children were affected by food insecurity

      Parents often shield children from experiencing food insecurity, particularly very low food security, even when the parents themselves are food insecure. In 2022, 17.3 percent of households with children were food insecure. In about half of those food-insecure households with children, only the adults experienced food insecurity. But in 8.8 percent of households with children, both children and adults were food insecure sometime during the year. In 1.0 percent of U.S. households with children (381,000 households), both children and adults experienced instances of very low food security.

  4. Amfortas the Hippie

    the ONLY reason me and my boys are not “food insecure” is because i grow so much of what we eat.
    majority of poor people in usa do not have that option….because they have no land.
    of course, subsistance farming is verboten under the neoliberal hypercapitalist dispensation(apparently, i’m supposed to claim what we grow for ourselves with the irs as income…but thats not verified, and is a mere remembrence from digging around in tax code, long ago)
    all over the world, wherever the imf, et alia have been, they have endeavored to kill peoples’ ability to feed themselves.

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      has its downsides…and not what you might think:
      all my fruit trees are in full bloom atm….way early, but this has become common(and unless its a really hard “late” freeze, i have simple mitigations for frost damage(big sprinklers as its freezing…i get wet and cold, buds survive))
      so i’m wandering around, scrutinising the buds…and get to Tamster’s plum trees, there in the Pan Yard, outside the small greenhouse…and then wept incessantly for 2 hours.
      because those were her favorite fruit trees, and we’d scrutinise the buds together…and watch the progress of the fruits together…and so on.
      querencia, etc

      1. DJ

        You caught me there. Thank you for the wonderful link, and for sharing something that is so deeply personal, yet universal.

    2. eg

      The whole point of the enclosures was to eliminate your sort, Amfortas.

      And before that the dispossession of the Diggers.

  5. Lena

    As someone who grew up often without enough to eat, I prefer the word “hunger” to the term “food insecurity”. Somehow “hunger” better describes that gnawing, empty feeling inside.

    I also prefer the word “poverty” to the term “income insecurity”. When you’re poor, you don’t feel “insecure”, you feel terrified.

    1. SocalJimObjects

      “I used to think I was poor. Then they told me I wasn’t poor, I was needy. Then they told me it was self-defeating to think of myself as needy, I was deprived. Then they told me underpriviledged was overused, I was disadvantaged. I still don’t have a dime, but I have a great vocabulary.”
      ― Jules Feiffer

    2. ambrit

      “When you’re poor, you don’t feel “insecure”, you feel terrified.” Absolutely right. With a bit of reflection, one soon learns that society, through it’s agents, is actively hostile to the poor.
      It’s like replacing the word “parrot” with the word “America” in the Monty Python pet shop sketch. A change of wording makes a lot of difference to the eventual outcome. Stealing Orwell’s conceit, it is now clear that in America today, “poverty” is “wealth” and “war” is “peace.”

      1. JBird4049

        Well, yes, when hungry and broke with rent due, you certainly are in terror, but it can’t exist because then the War on Terror might actually be focused on hunger and homelessness; we can’t have that. Or can we?

  6. Victor Sciamarelli

    According to Feeding America, “In the United States, people waste 80 million tons of food every year, which equals 149 billion meals. They throw away over $444 billion worth of food annually. Shockingly, they waste 38% of all the food in America.”
    What they describe as food waste is “safe, high-quality food, thrown away instead of eaten.” For example: People throw away uneaten food at home, stores, and restaurants. Farmers leave unharvested crops in fields due to low prices or overproduction. Problems occur during the transportation and manufacturing of food. Retailers reject food that doesn’t meet appearance or color standards.
    While they enjoy subsidies and tax breaks, the capitalist carnivores loath giving the poor anything for free. Yet, when it comes to food, the capitalist system is extremely inefficient and wasteful. You would think connecting people with already available food is not that complicated.

    1. JBird4049

      >>>You would think connecting people with already available food is not that complicated.

      It is not, but it is not profitable to do so, which means that perfectly acceptable food is deliberately destroyed.

  7. W

    I’ve had a realization recently, that I’ve not seen expressed frequently, and I wonder how widely shared it is. Among the reasons why GDP per capita is wrong as a measure of how an economy is doing for its people, is a fundamental flaw: it uses the wrong notion of “average”, the arithmetic mean. However, money does not behave linearly, but exponentially — we see this in lending at interest, investment strategies, gambling strategies, and simply when we discuss income or prices in terms of “number of figures”. The mathematically correct notion of “average” is then the geometric mean, which takes the average in logarithmic terms. The key point is that the geometric mean decreases when inequality increases — so it combines the overall value of an economy and the inequality within it in a single measure.

  8. Luke

    “Note that American officials like to complain that we can’t find enough fit and bright enough young men to serve. (yes you do need young men to serve in the infantry; only a very few women have the genetics to be able to carry heavy loads long distances; women do just fine in many other positions).”

    Note that women in the military in positions other than noncombat medical or home country clerical invariably reduce unit esprit de corps by their very presence (a trade of the equivalent of at least two good men lost to gain one female who is physically below-average for men seems common), even when individually they are among the few able to measure up to (pre-sexual integration) standards. Further, as fewer women than desired will so measure up, universally there will be a reduction in standards, at least for the women, to get their numbers up. The standards for the men will usually plummet as well. Submarines are having their capacity to store fuel and munitions reduced by as much as 20% to make part-female crews possible; female firefighters can’t handle the hoses; female repair technicians can’t carry their toolboxes or manipulate their tools; etc., etc.

    If someone genuinely wanted to help out the poor in this country, there are well-known but politically impossible measures that would help them massively. Among those are:
    1) An effective end to immigration, as it lowers their wages;
    2) Near cessation of taxation on the poor (while they don’t pay significant income tax, they certainly pay consumption taxes, “sin” taxes on recreational chemicals like tobacco and beverage ethanol, the housing they reside in has to have rents covering property taxes, etc.)
    3) A gold-based currency to stop the inflation that hurts them cold.
    4) The huge scam that is U.S. health care brought at last to heel under the law; good treatment of what must be done is here:
    5) An end to unnecessary licenses and unneeded educational degree barriers (someone needing 2000 hours of formal Cosmetology training to be legally allowed to braid hair comes to mind), along with restrictions on home businesses. Elimination of such restrictions initiated post-WWI would be a good place to start.
    6) An end to no-fault divorce and the court systems and welfare apparatus that support it. The latter two ultimately serve only themselves. This would give security and motivation to millions that 60 years ago they began as a group to lose, to the lament of all but those who would exploit them.
    7) A general reversal of the Sexual Revolution. Sex without obligations only benefits a few high-status men in the long run (average to attractive women temporarily while under age 35 is the only other group). The lower-status 90% of men, plain women, women past age 35, and children are all inarguable losers since the SR came about.
    8) Restoration of bankruptcy legal options to those of 40+ years ago, to include unpaid taxes/fines, alimony, child support, and student loans.

    I can think of others (there is a list at the end of Edward Banfield’s excellent The Unheavenly City Revisited I found persuasive, but this is a good start.

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