Sunday, October 21, 2018



7.30PM – 24TH OCTOBER cancelled

The Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh,
17 West Montgomery Place, 
Edinburgh EH7 5HA

Membership of the Socialist Party does carry with it the definite and absolute prohibition of membership of any other political party in this country.  Having made up our minds that the paramount need of to-day (not of some distant time in the future) is socialism, we came together in a Party which exists only for that purpose. A socialist party must maintain independence and have no compromise with capitalism. It neither supports nor opposes reforms even if they appear to benefit workers at some time. The SPGB is opposed to reformism because: (a) it makes capitalism run more smoothly (b) it is the capitalists who pay for reforms and decide which ones, and (c) we have had them for 150 years and they have not led to Socialism and never will. At most they are a temporary appeasement to some sections of the working class and can be withdrawn at any time. The Socialist Party likens reforms to crumbs from the capitalist table. Capitalism can find something new every day, some problem which can occupy your time until another comes along to take its place in your mind. That is the trap which capitalism sets and into which reformist parties are continually falling. They say "This problem can't wait until we have socialism, so we must deal with it first." And capitalism continues to produce problems of apparent immediate urgency; so that somehow they never get to socialism—and, in the MEANTIME, CAPITALISM REMAINS.

The political aim of the Socialist Party is a response to the futility of reformism. Ours is the politics of revolution. We do not mean bloodshed and barricades when we speak of revolution, but a fundamental change in social relationships. Socialism means revolutionary social change. The Socialist Party stands for a totally new system of social organisation in which the means of producing and distributing wealth—the land, factories, mines, docks, hospitals, railways—are commonly owned and democratically controlled by all members of society, without distinction of race or sex. In socialism, each member of society will give according to ability and take according to self-determined needs. Money, wages, buying and selling will be things of the past, when wealth is held in common. Clearly, such a system does not operate anywhere in the world today. Neither could it exist in one country; the world system of capitalism can only be replaced by the world system of socialism.

Socialism is a democratic concept and it can only be established by conscious, democratic socialists. Leaders cannot get socialism for the working class. Indeed, the Socialist Party urges workers to reject all leaders and do your own thinking for yourselves. The emancipation of the working class by the working class itself is what we stand for. When the workers of the world understand and want socialism they must use their political power—in many countries this makes use of the ballot box—to take social power away from the capitalists and their representatives and to place the means of life in the hands of the whole community.

The socialist revolution is not an unattainable ideal. It can and will happen when millions of workers all over the world recognise their class interests, form socialist parties and use the political strength which they have. Once a majority of workers are resolved to establish socialism there is nothing that can effectively stand in their way.

The Red Cross Appeal

Climate change is already exacerbating domestic and international conflicts, and governments must take steps to ensure it does not get worse, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, told Guardian Australia.
 In many parts of the world where we work it’s not a distant engagement,” he said. “When I think about our engagement in sub-Saharan Africa, in Somalia, in other places of the world, I see that climate change has already had a massive impact on population movement, on fertility of land. It’s moving the border between pastoralist and agriculturalist.” He said changing rainfall patterns change the fertility of land and push populations, who may have settled and subsisted in one area for centuries, to migrate. “It’s very obvious that some of the violence that we are observing … is directly linked to the impact of climate change and changing rainfall patterns.”
“When populations start to migrate in big numbers it leads to tensions between the migrating communities and the local communities. This is very visible in contexts like the Central African Republic, like Mali and other places,” said Maurer. He said it was up to governments, not humanitarians, to develop the policies needed to deal with the “root causes” of climate change. “As a humanitarian I am used to political decisions … never [being] as fast as we hope for them, or as generous or as big, but it’s encouraging an increasing number are recognising the importance of the issue and are taking steps to reduce the impact of climate change on our habitat – the Paris Agreement is an important step forward,” he said. “For us we hope the international community will soon enough take necessary steps, so at the end of the day they won’t have to pay by increasing humanitarian impacts which, again, we already see in other conflicts.”
Maurer said there were now more people displaced than ever before, approaching 70m across the globe. Two thirds are displaced internally, and most of those who fled would go to a neighbouring country.
Maurer, also said concern about the impact of climate change in the Pacific was “enormous”. Anote Tong, the former president of Kiribati, was in Australia this week advocating for action.
“It’s not about the marginal rise in price or reduction in price of energy, it’s about lives, it’s about the future,” he told Guardian Australia.
Australia’s treasurer and former energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, rejected the suggestion it should get his government rethink its policies. He said the government did not intend to “reduce emissions at the expense of people’s power bills”.
The Australian government largely dismissed the recent IPCC report and its recommendations – which included the rapid phase-out of coal – as well as the pleas of Pacific Island nations. Australia has no formal energy or climate change policy, and the Coalition government at one point flagged pulling out of the Paris Agreement. MPs and ministers maintain that Australia is on track to meet emissions reductions targets, despite official government figures on emissions suggesting Australia will not, according to current projections.

India's Poverty and Inequality

Poverty and hunger are common features of India. The Global Hunger Index has India is ranked 100th out of 119 countries, the third- highest score in all of Asia with only Afghanistan and Pakistan are ranked worse.

Mohan Guruswamy in an article 'How Hungry is India and Why?' (20 October 2018, the says: "Hunger in India is not a consequence of not producing enough food. It is a consequence of very many people not having enough money to spend on food, sometimes even for bare sustenance".

 Food production is rising but deaths due to starvation continue unabated. 

There were over 190.7 million people who were undernourished in 2014, the number has increased since then. According to FAO estimates in ‘ The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018’ report, 195.9 million people are undernourished in India. 

 That is ,14.8% of people are undernourished. India has the largest undernourished population and yet, total foodgrains produced reached an all time high of 251.12 Million tonnes (MT) in FY15. Total Rice and Wheat production stood at 102.54 MT and 90.78 MT respectively. Thus, distribution of food is a primary cause of starvation and deaths.

Most important factor for hunger is that food remains inaccessible to most poor people. Much food is wasted which may feed thousands of people. Indians waste as much food as the whole of United Kingdom consumes. According to United Nations Development Programme, upto 40% of food produced in India is wasted. (Food Wastage in India: A Serious Concern, September 10, 2015, the According to agriculture ministry, about Rs. 50,000 crore worth of food is wasted every year.

Another factor relates to the small size of land holdings. There are about 58% of rural households depend on agriculture for their livelihood. According to 2011 census, there are about 118. 9 million cultivators across the country in addition to 144 million landless labourers . Both together constitute about 22% of the population. About 65 per cent of farmland consists of marginal and small farms less than one hectare in size. The average holding size has halved since 1970 to 1.05 ha. As per 2001 census, about 490 million people depend on small farms. This reflects the spread of poverty.

Also, poverty and hunger is more in lower castes because of low and pathetic wage levels. They are well below the level of minimum wage prescribed by government in construction, marginal labor, agriculture labor, unorganized labour, etc. Another cause of hunger is high rate of unemployment specially among lower castes and sections of society. They go without food for days due to unavailability of enough money.
Adding to misery, the present system of identification has contributed to starvation deaths. PDS , which assisted many poor to get ration in time, became inaccessible due to technical glitches for identification. Many women and children died of hunger due to unavailability of monthly ration in states like Odisha and Jharkhand.
Poor healthcare system also led to deaths of rural poor who could not afford medication to get treated for malnutrition. The starved people in tribal areas were not provided with adequate medicines for improving health and alleviating from hunger.
Thus, hunger and starvation is mostly not due to unavailability of food but apathy of the ruling class. Unequal distribution of wealth and resources widened gap between rich and poor. The poor do not have minimum money for subsistence.
The system has created more hungry people because of the hegemony of elites controlling wealth of the country. India is the second most unequal country globally with millionaires controlling 54% of its wealth. (Inequality in India: what is the real story?, 4 Oct 2016, we The richest 1% own 53% of wealth according to latest data by Credit Suisse. Richest 5% own 68.6% and top 10% own 76.3% . The poorer half has only 4.1% of national wealth. 
Taken from

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Americans flat-lining

The median US household income rose last year to $61,400 – roughly matching what Americans were making before the great recession. The median income went up by 1.8% from 2016.
The real median earnings of people working full-time and year-round actually fell by 1.1%, to $52,146 for men and $41,977 for women.
For some of the poorest Americans, those at the 10th percentile, incomes stayed flat. 
“Today’s data shows a marked slowdown in the pace of improvement relative to the previous two years. While any reduction in poverty or increase in income is a step in right direction, most families have just barely made up the ground lost over the past decade,” said Elise Gould, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute. “Well-worn patterns of inequality reemerged, with stronger growth at the top than for typical households.”
Last year’s median income of $61,400 was up from $60,300 in 2016 and is the highest level ever recorded. However, because of changes in the way incomes are measured, officials say incomes are about equal with what they were in 2007, before the financial crisis.
“It’s statistically tied with 1999 and 2007,” Trudi Renwick, an assistant division chief at Census Bureau, told reporters.
39.7 million people were living in poverty last year – a number that did not change significantly from the year before. A family with two adults and two children is counted as living below the poverty line if they make less than $24,800 in a year.
 8.8% of Americans, or 28.5 million people, went without health insurance for all of 2017. That was virtually unchanged from 2016, staying flat after years of declines in the uninsured rate following the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

Thousands of children murdered by Saudi Arabia - where is the outrage?

While the world is focused on the murder of a journalist by Saudi Arabia and debates whether it is worth it to impose sanctions upon the country, Saudi Arabia is behind "the single biggest attack on children" during the war in Yemen, rights groups say. 

Dozens of children were killed a few weeks ago when Saudi-led forces launched an airstrike on a bus, UNICEF confirmed to DW. The tragedy has been dubbed "the single biggest attack on children" since the conflict erupted in 2015In the wake of the deadly attack, some observers have asked whether Saudi Arabia and its coalition of pro-government forces are intentionally targeting children yet little is said about imposing bans on selling the nation weapons.

Save the Children Germany has called for a "full, immediate and independent investigation into this and other recent attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, like schools and hospitals," the organization's chief executive Susanna Krüger told DW. "We have seen a worrying rise in these incidents and no action has been taken to hold the perpetrators to account."

This isn't the first time children have taken the brunt of the war in Yemen. More than 6,000 children have been killed or injured since March 2015.

"It's one of the worst places to be a child," UNICEF spokeswoman Juliette Touma told DW. "It's probably safe to say that right now no place is safe for children in Yemen. The safety and protection of children has deteriorated because of continuous attacks, because of relentless violence against children," Touma said. "But it is also because the humanitarian situation in Yemen has become worse because of the war."

UNICEF says "nearly all children" in the country are in need of humanitarian assistance due to the conflict

Ali al-Absi, a Yemeni political scientist based in Berlin, told DW, "Saudi Arabia regards anything in Yemen as a legitimate target, including schools, markets, infrastructure, weddings and orphanages. Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia does not seem interested in sparing civilians the scourge of war," al-Absi said. The Yemeni scholar noted that atrocities have been committed against children on both sides of the conflict. "Even the Houthis besieged the city of Taiz and targeted civilians and children with sniper fire," he said.

The US and other Western countries have given significant support to the Saudi-led coalition through logistics, intelligence and arms sales, actions which human rights organizations say have further fueled devastation in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Hady Amr, a former senior diplomat for the Obama administration, told DW that while external influence can help ease the conflict, the US "cannot have an effective role in brokering a solution" since it has "clearly taken sides." 

For children's rights advocates, more needs to be done to end hostilities against children and, more generally, against civilian populations.

"There is no military solution to this conflict," said Save the Children's Krüger. "Only a political solution can bring the war to an end and reinstate peace in Yemen."

"Until the war finally comes to an end, we will continue to push forward with our humanitarian work and the delivery of humanitarian assistance," said UNICEF's Touma.

Germany weapon supplier the Saudis

The usual suspects, the US and the UK,  are always associated with the arms supply to Saudi Arabia but the armament industry is global and other nations are involved.

Germany has approved arms exports to Saudi Arabia to the tune of more than €416 million this year. The German goverment gave the green light to arms exports worth some €254 million ($291 million) to Saudi Arabia in the third quarter of this year, the Economy Ministry said.

Arms sales to Saudi Arabia are also contentious because they may contravene a clause in the coalition agreement signed by Germany's governing parties stating that no weapons exports may be approved to any country "directly" involved in the war in Yemen. However, the agreement does exempt countries that had made weapons deals with Germany before the current government took power. The clause was entered in the agreement at the instigation of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the junior partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Left Behind

Job growth has long been seen as a likely cure for poverty. But new research suggests that poor Americans are frequently left behind even when their cities or communities benefit from hiring booms.

When such cities as Atlanta and Charlotte enjoyed a job surge in the 20 years that began in 1990, for example, the job gains mostly bypassed residents — often African-American — who had been born into poverty.

That is among the findings of a study led by Raj Chetty, a Harvard economist whose newly launched Opportunity Atlas found no association between job growth and economic mobility for poor residents of the affected areas.

“Job growth is not sufficient by itself to create upward mobility,” Chetty said. “It’s almost as though racial disparities have been amplified by job growth.”

His finding challenges much of the conventional thinking, of government officials, business executives and economists, that job gains are the surest way to lift up people in impoverished communities.

Chetty and his colleagues found that economic mobility hinges more frequently on other factors. A person’s race, for example, plays a pivotal role. Economic mobility varied widely among people of different races who lived in the same neighborhoods in Los Angeles or Houston, among other places.

Additionally, living in neighborhoods with many two-parent families improves the likelihood of emerging from poverty— even when someone was raised by a single parent. Mobility is often greater for children who come from neighborhoods with higher-priced housing. And it’s generally better when a high proportion of adults in a neighborhood are working, according to the analysis by Chetty; economists Nathaniel Hendren of Harvard and John Friedman of Brown University; and researchers Sonya Porter and Maggie Jones of the Census Bureau.

“It has been a surprising finding,” Hendren said. “Places that have a lot of job growth don’t tend to be places that are better to grow up in.”

In the two decades that ended in 2010, the Atlanta and Charlotte areas were flooded with jobs. Yet many of those positions appear to have skipped over the residents who were born in those cities’ poorer neighborhoods. The jobs were instead filled by college graduates who had moved to the South. At the same time, mobility worsened in neighborhoods with a high concentration of African-Americans.

Disparities exist not just among metro areas but also among neighborhoods within the same city. In Baltimore, the “Old Town” neighborhood near Johns Hopkins Hospital is a mecca of entrepreneurship. The number of jobs there surged 21 percent between 2004 and 2013, compared with job growth of just 3.4 percent nationally. Nearly 15,000 people work in the area because of the hospital, and 60 percent of the companies are younger than 4 years old, according to government data compiled by the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance.

Yet the neighborhood is marked by abandoned storefronts, public housing and a 93 percent non-white population. More than half its residents live in poverty. Ninety percent of the children are raised by single parents. And the Opportunity Atlas shows that a low-income child from that neighborhood is likely to become even poorer as an adult.

Connecting its residents with employers has proved problematic, as it has in poor communities across the country. The disparity between residents and workers in the neighborhood suggests that the jobs have gone to people who either live in other, more prosperous neighborhoods or who commute from the surrounding suburbs.

The discovery that job growth is no panacea for impoverished neighborhoods adds a new complication to economic policy.

Recent data suggests that Americans who can afford to do so are increasingly clustering in the most prosperous parts of the country. Since the financial meltdown a decade ago and the recovery that followed, people with college degrees have increasingly settled in the wealthiest 20 percent of ZIP codes. These areas have enjoyed the most job growth and have accounted for almost all new business formation, according to a new report by the Economic Innovation Group, a policy and advocacy organization. By contrast, in the most financially distressed 20 percent of ZIP codes, populations have dwindled, and there has been almost no recovery from the recession that officially ended more than nine years ago.

Changing the Poverty Numbers

Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers declared that poverty had, for all practical purposes, been eliminated. In a technical report, the economists wrote that the nation’s poverty rate was only 3 percent, rather than the Official Poverty Measure (OPM) of 12.3 percent for 2017, declared by the Census Bureau this September.
However, we are reminded of  Ronald Reagan’s famous declaration, in his 1988 State of the Union address, that “the federal government declared war on poverty, and poverty won.” 
The poverty rate is nowhere near as low as 3 percent. It is nonsense.  Almost all economic specialists found the methodology faulty.  If the claim that poverty is now 3 percent rather than the reported 12.3 percent had any validity, it would mean that more than 30 million fewer Americans are poor than previously reported.
Back in the real world, scholar Kathryn Edin, also with Luke Shaefer, published a book in 2016, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, which shows that 1.5 million families in America live on $2 of cash income a day per family member. They exclude the imputed income from SNAP because food stamps are not cash—you can’t use them to buy a warm coat for your child or to pay the electricity bill, they point out. Still, even if you include SNAP, 750,000 families live on $2 a day per family member, by their measure. That is roughly the same as the World Bank’s poverty line for poor nations.
The Kaiser Family Foundation finds that 62 percent of Medicaid recipients have full- or part-time jobs. Regarding SNAP, four out of five recipients worked either the year before or after they received food stamps (the typical SNAP recipient from 2008 to 2012 received benefits for just one year). As for TANF, it is in fact mostly failing. In 1996, benefits were provided to 68 percent of poor families, compared to 23 percent today, under TANF. More to the point, the jobs that recipients had been required to take under TANF mostly turned out to be short-term. 

Banksters' Loot

[Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo] "These six banks have constantly chosen to use these tax breaks to enrich their shareholders and executives while laying off employees and exploiting consumers," Not One Penny spokesperson Ryan Thomas said noted, pointing to the explosion of stock buybacks since the GOP tax bill became law."

  • Bank of America: The bank has seen a $3.1 billion tax cut so far this year due to the 2017 tax law. It announced earnings of $7.2 billion this quarter for a total of $20.9 billion so far this fiscal year. Since the tax law was passed, Bank of America announced a $20.6 billion stock buyback program and this quarter the company spent $6.6 billion on buybacks and dividends, enriching corporate shareholders. In May, Bank of America announced the closure of an office in California, resulting in 575 layoffs. The bank also agreed to pay $15 million to settle claims that its bankers overcharged their clients on securities.
  • Citigroup: The bank has enjoyed a $1.3 billion tax cut so far this year due to the 2017 tax law and announced earnings of $4.6 billion this quarter for a total of $13.7 billion so far this fiscal year. Since the tax law was passed, Citigroup announced a $17.6 billion stock buyback program and this quarter, the company spent $6.4 billion on buybacks and dividends, both of which enrich corporate shareholders. Meanwhile, in June, Citibank laid over off over 100 workers, paid$100 million to settle charges that it manipulated interest rates, and was forced to spend $355 million in refunds to millions of customers it was overcharging interest.
  • Goldman Sachs: Due to the 2017 tax law, the bank has enjoyed a $353 million tax break so far this year. Goldman Sachs announced earnings of $2.5 billion this quarter for a total of $7.5 billion so far this fiscal year. Since the tax law was passed, Goldman Sachs announced a $5 billion stock buyback program and this quarter, the company spent $1.2 billion on buybacks and dividends, both of which enrich corporate shareholders. Meanwhile, it has closed up shop in Cedar Rapids, resulting in layoffs for 39 employees, while it constructs a new office for its outgoing CEO that could cost up to half a million dollars.
  • J.P. Morgan: The bank has seen a $2.1 billion tax cut so far this year due to the 2017 tax law, and announced earnings of $8.4 billion this quarter for a total of $25.4 billion so far this fiscal year. Since the tax law was passed, JP Morgan announced a $20.7 billion stock buyback program and this quarter the company spent $6.9 billion on buybacks and dividends, which enrich corporate shareholders. The company plans to spend 151 times what it spent on wage increases for workers on stock buybacks. At the same time, JP Morgan announced that it will lay off 400 employees in its consumer home-lending business. In August, the company laid off 100 employees in its asset management division.
  • Morgan Stanley: The bank, which has enjoyed a $738 million tax cut so far this year due to the 2017 tax law, announced earnings of $2.1 billion this quarter for a total of $7.2 billion so far this fiscal year. Since the tax law was passed, Morgan Stanley announced a $4.7 billion stock buyback program and this quarter, the company spent $1.2 billion on buybacks and dividends, both of which enrich corporate shareholders.
  • Wells Fargo: Wells Fargo has enjoyed a $1.5 billion tax cut from the tax law, and announced earnings of $6 billion this quarter for a total of $16.3 billion so far this fiscal year. Since the tax law was passed, Wells Fargo announced a $24.5 billion stock buyback program and this quarter the company spent $8.9 billion on buybacks and dividends, both of which enrich corporate shareholders. Last month, Wells Fargo announced a plan to cut up to 10 percent of its workforce in the next three years, a loss of between 13,250 and 26,500 jobs. Wells Fargo has been mired in scandals this year, and is involved in numerous settlements.  It is being forced to pay $1 billion, the largest fine ever imposed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in addition to millions more in refunds to customers for misleading and predatory practices.
Capitalism is founded on greed. It is irrational to expect the oligarchy to limit theirs.

Typhus in LA

Los Angeles officials have pledged to fight an outbreak of typhus, as a city of glittering wealth grapples with a disease linked to intense poverty.
“We’re deploying every available resource to help control and stop this outbreak,” said Alex Comisar, press secretary for Los Angeles’s mayor, Eric Garcetti.
Many of those resources have focused on the city’s large homeless population, considered most at risk for contracting the flea-borne illness. There have been 64 cases of typhus reported across Los Angeles county so far this year, more than the 53 cases recorded this time last year, and on track to surpass the 67 cases diagnosed last year total. A department of public health spokesperson said the outbreak began with 11 cases of typhus in downtown Los Angeles, six of which were diagnosed in people who were homeless. U
 This same time last year, California’s homeless population was threatened by an outbreak of hepatitis A, another disease associated with impoverishment and poor sanitation, which killed 21 people and infected hundreds.
According to the most recent count, 53,000 people are homeless across Los Angeles county.  Chronic sickness and hospitalization are common.  Many have been forced into the streets by the city’s soaring rents and lack of affordable housing. Homeless residents have no choice but to live in close proximity to rats and other rodents, putting the homeless and their pets especially at risk for flea exposure and typhus. The lack of access to toilets and places to wash up can also help the spread of disease.
Dr Timothy Brewer, a professor of medicine, epidemiology, and public health at UCLA, said: “It’s an uncommon disease.” He said in his six years of practicing medicine in Los Angeles, he had seen one confirmed case of typhus. Some people may not even know they have it. The common symptoms are headache, fever, and sometimes a rash, he said.  It is the city’s very poorest, living under bridges or in tents, who bear the most risk.

Yet again - US Inequality

The 1% has never had it so good.
The average wage for the 1% of income earners hit $719,000 per year in 2017, up 3.7% on the year, exceeding their peak of $716,000 per year just before the Great Recession, according to a report released Thursday by the Economic Policy Institute.
The average wage for the top 0.1% reached $2.7 million in 2017, the second-highest level ever, just 4% below their level in 2007. 
However, wages for the 0.1% rose 8% on the year in 2017.

Income inequality has soared in the U.S. over the last five decades, despite increases in worker productivity, the report said. “Incomes for most Americans have been stagnant for four decades,” according to a separate report released earlier this year by the staff of Keith Ellison, a Democratic congressman for Minnesota. “Instead, this increase in income inequality was almost entirely driven by soaring compensation levels for the top 1% of income earners.”
Average wage growth for most working Americans continues to flat line in 2018, the EPI said. “Some of this real wage stagnation can be explained by an uptick in energy prices, but even the underlying pace of nominal wage growth has yet to pick up in the way it historically has as labor markets tightened,” it said. 
The median household income was $61,372 in 2017, up 1.8% after accounting for inflation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
For most U.S. workers, real wages have barely budged in decades, the Pew Research Center said in August. “On the face of it, these should be heady times for American workers. U.S. unemployment is as low as it’s been in nearly two decades,” the Washington, D.C.-based think tank said. “In fact, despite some ups and downs over the past several decades, today’s real average wage — after accounting for inflation — has about the same purchasing power it did 40 years ago.”

World Bank V. Oxfam

The World Bank published their 2019 World Development Report entitled ‘The Changing Nature of Work’. The report touches on the impact of advancing technology on labour needs and job security. The report acknowledges that many feel threatened by the shift toward automation, especially workers in advanced economies, but iterates that technology is also creating more jobs, increasing productivity, and delivering effective public services. It claims that the fear of innovation is unfounded. Among the suggestions put forth by The World Bank on how the world economy can begin to truly embrace technology include loosening labour regulations and encouraging governments to provide more inclusive social protection in conjunction with the rise of the ‘gig economy’ or short-term work.

Oxfam disagrees.

Head of Oxfam International’s Washington office Nadia Daar said in a statement, “It is irresponsible for the World Bank to promote the deregulation of labour and the dismantling of the rights that workers have long fought for. The report downplays the severity of inequality and contradicts internationally agreed labour standards. Just last week, the IMF said higher minimum wages are needed to counteract extreme inequality”.

Oxfam called on The World Bank to do ‘everything possible to encourage policies that help workers and reduce inequality’.

Targeting the poor

10.4m UK households – more than one in three, 26 million me, women and children – will be left on average £150 poorer than they are today. Worse still, this loss will be concentrated on families already struggling, or even failing, to get by: those at or below the UK’s poverty line.

What’s more, this year won’t be the first time those families have had money snatched from them: it is the fifth in a row. The reason isn’t a new tax, or unemployment, or universal credit. It’s the benefits freeze.

Usually, each year, anyone receiving a working-age benefit – which includes working and child tax credits, which prop up low wages for households that need it – gets an increase in line with whatever the level of inflation is each September.

This week, September’s inflation was announced at 2.4%, meaning that, on average, everything is 2.4% more expensive than it was a year ago. If the rate continues about that level, in the coming year you’ll need 2.4% more money just to afford to buy the same things. An increase to benefits in line with that amount would be what you would need just to stand still.

Ever since 2015-16, the Conservative government has instead “frozen” these benefits – a false term, given that in reality each year these families are seeing their incomes cut. For next year, the well-respected Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimates the average hit to income at £150.

But the cumulative effect of five years ends up much higher, at something in the region of £700 to £800, taken from families who were hardly finding it easy to get by in 2015. Even for those in work, the relatively fortunate ones, wages are yet to return to their pre-financial crash levels, meaning the government has imposed a devastating double whammy on the people least able to cope with it. The government did not need to take this money from low- and middle-income families. It made a choice, and has all but escaped condemnation for doing so. What amounts to a large-scale robbery has received hardly a fraction of the scrutiny universal credit has rightly garnered.

This does save the government a fairly significant amount of money. The IFS estimates the freeze next year will save about £1.6bn, instead of allowing benefits to rise in line with inflation. Keeping that freeze year after year – as the Conservatives have done – compounds these savings, meaning the measure has now probably reduced government spending by about £8bn a year. 

Ever since entering government, the Conservatives have made a series of cuts to corporation tax, reducing government revenues by between £12bn and £16bn a year – far more than the money saved by the benefits freeze.

It’s also the result of deliberate and sustained demonisation of benefits and the people who live off them – leading to the bizarre situation where it’s easy to cut benefits.

At no point did the Labour Party offer to reverse the benefit freeze and offset its effects. It didn’t even contain the bare minimum: a promise to at least end the freeze and increase benefits to – or, better, above – the level of inflation. Somehow the party of the workers forgot perhaps the most serious financial blight on millions of working families (and those looking for work) – and it has yet to make helping those families its stated policy.

In the UK’s ridiculous current politics, trying to enact a measure that would help 10 million families would be a tough political sell. But right now, no one is even trying to make it. As a result, 10 million families are being made poorer every year, and virtually no one in politics or the media has their corner.