The Voice From The Back Column from the January 2014 issue of the Socialist Standard
Zillionaires And Nonsense
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has told people to stop bashing the super-rich. 'Mr Johnson accused ‘everyone from the Archbishop of Canterbury to Nick Clegg’ of bullying the group he defined as ‘zillionaires’ and said the most rich of all should receive ‘automatic knighthoods’. ........ Mr Johnson said the rich deserve our ‘humble and hearty thanks’ for their contributions to charity and the exchequer - quoting figures that say the top 1 per cent pay 29.8 per cent of all UK income tax’ (Independent, 18 November). Since Mr Johnson's zillionaires tend to get knighthoods anyway we wonder at his concern for them, especially when all their wealth has come from the exploitation of the impoverished majority.
No Recovery For Some
It is often difficult to get up to date figures about poverty in Britain but a recent survey backed by public money has come up with some current statistics. 'Nearly nine million people across the UK are living with serious debt problems, according to a new report. The Money Advice Service (MAS) also said very few people were making any attempt to get professional help. The problem is particularly acute in five English cities, where more than 40% of the population is struggling to repay debt. According to the survey, 18% of Britons, 8.8 million people, consider they have ‘serious’ financial issues’ (BBC News, 27 November). These figures give the lie to political nonsense about a so-called economic recovery.
Not So Glamorous
The following scene is a common one throughout capitalism. 'The line for the soup kitchen starts to form at dusk, and by the time it is fully dark more than 200 people are waiting to be fed. There are toddlers in prams, and military veterans in wheelchairs’ (Times, 29 November). The scene is not all that unusual but this is not happening in Asia or Africa but in modern sophisticated Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood. Every night for 27 years the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition has given a hot meal to some of the 53,800 homeless estimated to live in Los Angeles. Behind the chauffeur driven limousines and expensive cocktails of the Hollywood cinema dream factory lurks the sordid reality of modern capitalism.
British MPs like to pat themselves on the back and boast about improving living standards, but recent information from official sources paints a completely different picture. 'Food poverty in the UK has now become such a big problem that it should be seen as a ‘public health emergency’, a group of health experts says. In a letter to the British Medical Journal, six leading public health figures warned poor nutrition could lead to a host of problems. It comes amid reports that people are struggling to feed themselves. The UK Red Cross has started asking for food donations for the first time since World War Two. And in October the Trussell Trust, which runs 400 food banks, said the numbers of people it was helping had tripled to 350,000 in the past year’ (BBC News, 4 December). Poor nutrition for thousands of workers in one of the most developed capitalist countries in the world despite politicians boasts is the harsh reality of the profit motive society.
Poverty Stricken Millions
'More working households were living in poverty in the UK last year than non-working ones - for the first time, a charity has reported. Just over half of the 13 million people in poverty - surviving on less than 60% of the national median (middle) income - were from working families, it said. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said low pay and part-time work had prompted an unprecedented fall in living standards’ (BBC News, 8 December). These figures underestimate the extent of the problem as the JRF's annual Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion report was written by the New Policy Institute and tracks a range of indicators, including government data and surveys covering income, education and social security, and has a very frugal concept of what poverty is. In the 2011-12 period, the amount of earnings before a household was said to be in poverty was £128 a week for a single adult; £172 for a single parent with one child; £220 for a couple with no children, and £357 for a couple with two children. How many of the ‘we are all in this together’ MPs could survive on £128 a week?