Poverty and inequality

Covid: the bother with boosters

The British government is acting as if it has opted for extra jabs as its first line against the probable new Covid surge in winter. Those, rather than social improvements (ventilation, workers’ control of workplace safety, full isolation pay for all, boosting the NHS and reversing privatisation, improved housing, improved social care) or mild restrictions (mandatory mask-wearing and work-from-home, limits on indoor crowding). While the government has spent billions on extra vaccines, and test-trace contracts of dubious efficacy, it still stonewalls on proper isolation pay for workers in...

To tame Covid, combat inequality

Over the longer term, several studies suggest that the biggest factor reducing Covid toll so far has been lower income inequality. In separate studies Annabel Tan and others, and Tim Liao and others have found that for US counties; Carlos Oronce and others and Youyang Gu, for US states; Frank Elgar and others, for countries (among 84 that they studied). There are obviously many other factors: vaccines, of course, and judicious lockdowns and quarantines which can usefully slow (but on all evidence, not end) Covid spread. Hospitals get less swamped, and, in the meantime, more people get...

It's class inequality that blights school

The Tory-dominated Education select committee released a report, The Forgotten: How white working class pupils have been let down, on 22 June. The main conclusion of the report should have been: poor students are disadvantaged at school and New Labour and Tory education “reforms” coupled with cuts, austerity and increasing inequality in the UK have made matters worse. Labour members of the committee commented, “The evidence we received clearly indicated that the main determining factors of poor educational outcomes were class and regional inequalities caused by more than a decade of austerity...

Hedge funds drive food price rises

World prices for basic food commodities (grains, soyabeans, vegetable oils) were up 40% in May 2021 on their level in May 2020, and the trend is accelerating. The impact on food prices in shops is high at present in Nigeria and West Africa. It has been low in Britain, Europe, the USA, and China. Food prices are now moderating in India, after about 10% inflation in 2020. Shop food prices depend on processing costs as well as world basic-commodity prices, and those may filter through into shop prices only with delay. Still, the rise in the underlying index is comparable in size to the food...

Socialism vs capitalism

The world’s richest man, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has increased his wealth from $130 billion to $186 billion during the pandemic. US billionaires in general have gained by about the same. Meanwhile poverty in the US has exploded. Thirty years ago US billionaires owned less wealth than the poorest half of US society. Today they own four times as much. It’s the same basic picture in the UK, and worldwide. The number of billionaires in the world has increased by a third in the last year. Those 2,700-odd people now control combined wealth of almost £10 trillion, up from £6 trillion a year ago. This...

Build back fairer: tax the rich!

Robert Watts, who compiles the Sunday Times Rich List of the thousand richest individuals and families in the UK, feels obliged to comment on the 2021 List: “The fact many of the super-rich grew so much wealthier at a time when thousands of us have buried loved ones and millions of us are worried for our livelihoods makes this a very unsettling boom.” There are now 171 billionaires in the UK, up from the previous high of 151 in 2019. Their wealth has risen 21.7% during the pandemic, to £597.2bn. Between 2008 and 2009, the total wealth held by the Rich List fell as a result of the financial...

Class inequality and racism: the travesty of the Sewell report

The government-commissioned Sewell report into “race and ethnic disparities” (which can be read at bit.ly/sewellreport) has been widely panned as minimising the reality of racism and racial disadvantage in the UK, and rightly so. I don’t know to what extent the report reflects the honestly held views of the Sewell commission’s members, and to what extent they were just keen to ingratiate themselves with the Tory hierarchy and get ahead. Though overwhelmingly black or Asian, they are a privileged and conservative bunch even by the standards of such things, including six holders of MBE or CBE...

Tax the rich to unwind inequality

Economists on a Wealth Tax Commission reported in December 2020 in favour of a small one-off wealth tax to raise £260 billion over five years. Britain has the lowest rate of tax on corporate profits among big, rich countries — 19% where the US rate is 26%, Germany 30%, France 32%. To really “build back” for equality, we need to win democratic public ownership over the bulk of the business, financial, and real-estate wealth of the top few per cent, the bosses and bankers. Even short of that, there is overwhelming reason to tax the rich for reconstruction costs. Advance reports of the 3 March...

To attack inequality, fight "business", don't partner with it

Perhaps stung by criticisms about his lack of fight — and alarmed by stagnant poll ratings — Keir Starmer seems to be trying to indicate a change of tack, promising “a moral crusade now… to address the inequalities and injustices that this crisis has so brutally exposed”. “The Tories… want to build back”, Starmer said in his 18 February speech. “I don’t want to go back… certainly not to an economy rooted in insecurity and inequality.” “They’ve been slow at every stage. They’ve ignored advice. They haven’t learnt from their mistakes… Yet a government out of its depth is not even half the story...

A GP's view of the pandemic

A GP talked to Zack from Solidarity about the pandemic. An extract of this was printed in Solidarity, the full interview is below. Zack: What do you think should have been done differently in the vaccine rollout? GP: The Joint Committee on Vaccination should have planned from the start when they were going to give the second dose, so that they didn't change their mind. They shouldn't have asked private companies, like Pinnacle, to do things like the computing side. They should have used our existing providers. Vaccination isn't the only answer. You need to have track, trace, support, and...

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