UN criticises UK austerity induced poverty…so…mission accomplished?

27.11.2018 - London, UK - Silvia Swinden

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UN criticises UK austerity induced poverty…so…mission accomplished?
A homeless man near Princes Street in Edinburgh. (Image by Benjamin Brock • CC BY-SA 3.0)

“The UK government has inflicted “great misery” on its people with “punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous” austerity policies driven by a political desire to undertake social re-engineering rather than economic necessity, the United Nations poverty envoy has found.

“Philip Alston, the UN’s rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, ended a two-week fact-finding mission to the UK with a stinging declaration that levels of child poverty were “not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster”, even though the UK is the world’s fifth largest economy” He concluded “in the UK “poverty is a political choice”. The Guardian

”The report’s authors said they were “deeply concerned” about “the various changes in the entitlements to, and cuts in, social benefits” which it says disproportionately affect women, young people, ethnic minorities and disabled people.“ The Independent 

In spite of its weight and opportune publication the report seems to look exclusively to one side of the equation. Because at the same time the less well off were being squeezed the top earners were increasing their wealth (people earning over a million pounds increased from 15,000 in 2014/15 to 18.700 in 2015/16, The Standard) creating the strong suspicion that the austerity policies were not about “balancing the books” as it was claimed, but about continuing concentrating wealth in fewer and fewer hands. The hands that hold power and dictate policy. Brexit has been the great smokescreen hoovering people’s attention away from this great robbery, even managing to deafen the public to Jeremy Corbyn’s attempts to denounce the catastrophic trend, the food banks, the engineered homelessness, the poverty inducing universal credit, etc. And the cherry in the cake, tax cuts that will hugely favour the high earners and leave part time working women worse off.

”Research from the High Pay Centre found that wages for CEOs in FTSE 100 companies rose 11% in 2017. The average wage for the top earners in the UK’s most lucrative 100 companies is now £3.9m.” The Canary.

The consequences are dire. For instance, according to new research published by Science Daily “Poorest dying nearly 10 years younger than the rich in ‘deeply worrying’ trend for UK”. Economic violence kills.

Cruelty and dehumanisation are not new, are not exclusive to the UK, the neoliberal agenda has it all mapped out. Instead of hanging their heads in shame the architects of austerity, wherever it takes place chant “success” and go for more. The so called “hard Brexit” demanded by the Tory right has nothing to do with controlling borders, the dread inducing racist dog whistle, but it is about deregulation, privatisation, shrinking the state, ignoring environmental and health concerns brought about by fossil fuels and complete elimination of workers rights. If it succeeds we can expect more inequality in life expectancy and everything else. The UN has been helpful to point out some consequences of austerity but this is part of a much bigger problem which has clear and practical solutions, starting with a complete change in the political direction.

It corresponds to each citizen to wake up to a media that degrade and ridicule alternative proposals, being as they are also owned by or subservient to the same political and economic class in power, with some notable exceptions. We must listen to them.

Categories: Economics, Europe, Human Rights, Opinions
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