Monday, June 18, 2018

US Inequality Hurts

Right now, four in 10 Americans can’t come up with $400 in an emergency.
 Two out of 10 Americans have either no financial assets at all, or they owe more than they own. 
Over 70 million workers make less than $25,000 a year, 
The federal minimum wage is less than the cost of living in every major city in the country.

The top 1 percent according to a new study in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, pulls in at least $458,000 a year. 
 The top 0.001 percent pulls in over $47 million.

While the 1% fly first class to fancy hotels on exotic vacations, the other flies in their private jets to mansions they own on islands they also own.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Where are the pay rises?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this week that wages for production and nonsupervisory workers decreased by 0.1 percent from May 2017 to May 2018 when inflation is factored in. 

The compensation for all workers together, including supervisors, rose an underwhelming 0.1 percent from April 2018 to May 2018.

When Republicans in Congress passed the tax break bill in December, they insisted it meant American workers would be getting raises totaling $4,000 to $9,000, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers assured workers. 

Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities and former chief economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, estimates that the real hourly pay of middle-class workers has risen 0.4 percent over the past 18 months of Republican control of Congress and the White House.At that rate, Bernstein figures, it will take 28 years for a worker to get that promised $4,000 pay bump.

In fact, their real wages declined because of higher inflation. At the same time, the amount workers had to pay in interest on loans for cars and credit cards increased. And, to top it off, Republicans threatened to make workers pay for the tax break with cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. So now, workers across America are wondering, “Where’s that raise?” It’s nowhere to be found. Some workers got one-time bonuses and an even smaller number received raises. But not many. The group Americans for Tax Fairness estimates it’s 4.3 percent of all U.S. workers.  Those who earn less than $25,000 a year, that is those in the lowest fifth of income brackets, will get a tax cut this year totaling $60. That’s just about a dollar a week. For those in the middle-income quintile earning between $49,000 and $86,000 a year, the average tax cut is $900. That’s $17 a week—the cost of a large pizza and a Coke. By contrast, the top 1 percent of taxpayers, those with incomes above $733,000 a year, will get a tax cut averaging $51,000. That’s $980 a week. So every week this year,  the nation’s richest will benefit $80 more than the entire amount that the middle-income worker will get in a year.

Most of the tax-gift went to stock buybacks, which enrich corporate executives and wealthy stockholders because they have the effect of raising stock values. Corporations set an all-time record for buybacks in the first quarter of this year. They bought $178 billion of their own shares, up by more than 42 percent from the first quarter in 2017. Companies buy back their shares when they believe they have nothing better to do with their money than to return capital to shareholders. So despite promises from the GOP and the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, corporations believed further enriching their own executives and shareholders was a much better way to use the money than increasing workers’ wages—wages that have been stagnant for decades.

In 1981, S&P 500 companies spent about 2 percent of profits on buybacks. Last year, the S&P 500 companies spent 50 percent of profits on buybacks and 41 percent on dividends to stockholders. That left a pittance—9 percent. Corporations socked away some or all of that in overseas tax havens. Their workers, whose labor produced that profit, got virtually nothing.

The Federal Reserve increased the cost of borrowing this week for the second time this year and promised two more hikes before year’s end.  Workers will have to pay more for cars and homes and credit card debt. 

The  tax cut will add $1 trillion to the national debt. Even before passing the tax cut legislation, Republican leaders like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan began saying that workers would have to pay those costs in the form of cuts to cherished safety net programs—that is, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. They already tried to slash funding for food stamps, the program that feeds the poor.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Media Misrepresentation on Migrants

Mainstream media are facing mounting criticism over the coverage of crime stories involving refugee and migrant suspects. Media analyst Kai Hafez told DW that the coverage reveals Germany's unexamined biases.

Recent cases in Wiesbaden, Kandel and Freiburg where young girls and women were murdered sparked outrage in Germany and were widely covered by the media. The nationality of the suspects became a central aspect of many of the reports, although German press code advises journalists only to mention ethnicity sparingly, if at all, in crime stories. We are only interested in refugees and migrants when it comes to big problems like terrorism and crime. There are exceptions to the rule, but a large part of it is negative. And the problem from an ethical point of view is that the ethnicity or the religious background of a person usually is not connected to the crime. Statistically, migrants in Germany are not more criminal than the rest of the population — so why identify a person in terms of ethnic background? 

 In many cases the German press code regulation is not adhered to and we see a constant violation of such norms and media ethics in our daily reporting. We have a loss of professional control, we have a loss of professional values. It seems to be OK nowadays to ethnicize events rather than to reflect whether this is fair. It's actually a specific form of racism — latent racism.  If people are constantly bombarded with messages of crimes committed by asylum-seekers and migrants, there's a high probability that they will tend to think that migrants are more criminal than the rest of society, which is not the case.

When it comes to migration, negative issues are more often covered than positive issues. If everything is OK, then migrants are not covered. If something is wrong, they're covered.

Russia ends extra time

Prime minister Dmitry Medvedev announced the Russian state pension age would be hiked from 60 to 65 for men by 2028 and 55 to 63 for women by 2034.
Expected to be officially adopted by next year, the new policy would mean the country’s retirement age for men would be a year higher than the World Health Organisation’s estimated life expectancy for a Russian man of 64. It estimated around 40 per cent of men and 20 per cent of women would not live long enough to claim their pensions under the new rules.
The announcement came during the national team’s 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in the opening game of the World Cup, a move that led some to accuse the government of trying to bury the news.

Class-Riven America

When analysts at Oxford Economics recently studied American spending patterns, they found that the bottom 60 percent of earners was essentially drawing on their savings just to maintain their lifestyles. Their incomes weren’t enough to cover expenses.
“Many people are still living on a paycheck-to-paycheck basis,” said Gregory Daco, head of U.S. economics at Oxford.
The top 10 percent of the country holds 73 percent of its wealth, a share that has crept steadily up since 1986, according to the World Inequality Database. The most sweeping gains are concentrated among the top 1 percent; this group holds nearly 39 percent of the wealth. And they’re arguably poised to become even more prosperous because Trump’s tax cuts largely favored the wealthiest taxpayers.
Contrast that with the middle 40 percent, a group that would historically be considered middle class. In 1986, they held 36 percent of the country’s wealth; now, it’s just 27 percent.
Worse off is the bottom 40 percent of Americans: They have a negative net worth and almost no financial cushion in case of an emergency.
Most Americans can’t draw on stocks, rental properties, capital gains or significant home equity to generate cash. They depend almost exclusively on wages. And after adjusting for inflation, the government reported that Americans’ average hourly earnings haven’t budged over the past 12 months.

Stuck in poverty

Income inequality has increased and social mobility stalled across the world’s richest countries since the 1990s, trapping families on low incomes at the bottom of the earnings ladder, according to an in-depth report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. While income mobility was a reality for many people born between 1955 and 1975 from low-educated parents, it has stagnated for those born after the mid-1970s. "Fewer people at the bottom have moved up while the richest have largely kept their fortunes," the OECD said.

In the UK the report found it could take at least five generations, or 150 years, for the child of a poor family to reach the average national income, currently about £27,000 for those in full-time employment. In the UK, 46% of children whose fathers have high earnings grow up to have high earnings themselves. Only 18% of sons born to low-income fathers make it to the top-earning group. The child of a parent with low educational attainment has only a 21% chance of gaining a degree-level qualification at college or university, compared to 71% of those with parents who themselves have a college degree.

However, the OECD found that the poorest Britons are more likely to escape poverty than those on low incomes in France and Germany, where it takes six generations to reach the average national income. A typical poor child in Germany would need 180 years to reach the average German.

 The average across the entire OECD, a group of 37 industrialized countries, is five generations. Children in low-income families in Denmark would need two generations, while children in the United States would need five generations.

To further illustrate the lack of social mobility across the 24 countries assessed by the OECD, one in three children with a low-earning father will stay trapped on low earnings, while most of the other two-thirds will only move one rung up the income scale during their lifetime. 

“Too many people feel they are being left behind and their children have too few chances to get ahead,” said Gabriela Ramos, OECD chief of staff.  
“The wealthy will stay wealthy and the poor will stay poor . . ." Ms Ramos said people in the UK were more likely than in other countries to worry about losing their job or falling ill, because they lacked the savings or support to tide them over. The OECD said the UK’s high housing costs, which favour homeowners and make it harder for people on lower incomes to move to areas with better job prospects.

British people on lower middle incomes face a bigger risk of sliding down the scale than they did 20 years ago. The OECD said that there was a risk of the middle class “fracturing”, with the UK being one of four countries where the pattern of a widening divide between the lower and upper middle classes was “particularly pronounced”.

Poor and no vote

"The principle of 'one person, one vote' applies in theory, but is increasingly far from reality," UN special rapporteur Philip Alston says in the report. 

The net result of gerrymandering of electoral districts to privilege particular groups of voters, and the imposition of artificial and unnecessary voter identification requirements, among other factors, is that "people living in poverty, minorities and other disfavoured groups are being systematically deprived of their right to vote", the report says.

"In the US, there is overt disenfranchisement of more than six million felons and ex-felons," writes the Australian professor, who is co-chair of the New York University School of Law's Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice. This "predominantly affects black citizens since they are the ones whose conduct is often specifically targeted for criminalisation," he writes.

The US has one of the lowest voter turnouts in elections in the developed world - 55.7 per cent in the 2016 presidential election. Only about 64 per cent of America's voting-age population was registered in 2016. This contrasts sharply with other advanced countries. Canada and Britain are at 91 per cent, Sweden is at 96 per cent and Japan is at nearly 99 per cent.

Low voter turnout is also explained by "the perception that election outcomes will have no impact on the lives of poor people", the report says. There is a broad absence of party representation for low-income and working-class voters.

About 40 million Americans live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and 5.3 million in "Third World conditions of absolute poverty", the report says. At the bottom are indigenous people.
 "Indigenous peoples, as a group, suffer disproportionately from multidimensional poverty and social exclusion. The 2016 poverty rate among American Indian and Alaska Native peoples was 26.2 per cent, the highest among all ethnic groups," the report said. Indigenous peoples also have the highest unemployment rate of any ethnic group - 12 per cent in 2016, compared with the national average of 5.8 per cent.

Stanford Centre on Poverty and Inequality researchers Charles Varner, Marybeth Mattingly and David Grusky wrote in a spring 2017 paper that the poor in America were "becoming a more deprived and destitute class, one that's disconnected from the economy and unable to meet basic needs".

For migration - The World Bank

Global migration has lifted millions out of poverty and boosted economic growth, a new World Bank report finds. But destination countries risk losing out in the global competition for talent and leaving large gaps in their labour markets. The report argues that migration will be a fundamental feature of the world for the foreseeable future due to continued income and opportunity gaps, differences in demographic profiles, and the rising aspirations of the world’s poor and vulnerable.

Large and persistent differences in wages across the globe are the main drivers of economic migration from low- to high-income countries, according to Moving for Prosperity: Global Migration and Labor Markets. Migrants often triple their wages after moving to a new country, helping millions of migrants and their relatives at home escape poverty. Destination countries often benefit as migrants fill critical roles, from advancing the technological frontier in Silicon Valley to building skyscrapers in the Middle East.

Despite the lure of higher wages, rates of migrants as a share of the global population have remained mostly unchanged for more than five decades, even as global trade and investment flows have expanded exponentially during this time. Between 1960 and 2015, the share of migrants in the global population has fluctuated narrowly between 2.5 and 3.5 percent, with national borders, distance, culture, and language acting as strong deterrents. 

“The number of international migrants continues to remain fairly modest, but migrants often arrive in waves and cluster around the same locations and types of jobs,” said Shantayanan Devarajan, World Bank Senior Director for Development Economics and acting Chief Economist. “Better policies can manage these transitions in a way that guarantees long-term benefits for both citizens and migrants.”

Highlights of key findings from the report include:
• Migration flows are highly concentrated by location and occupation. Currently, the top 10 destination countries account for 60 percent of around 250 million international migrants in the world.
• Surprisingly, concentration levels increase with skill levels. The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia are home to almost two-thirds of migrants with tertiary education. At the very peak of talent, an astonishing 85 percent of all immigrant Nobel Science Prize winners are in the United States.
• Education levels of women are rapidly increasing, especially in developing countries, but opportunities for career growth remain limited. As a result, college educated women from low and middle-income countries are the fastest growing group among immigrants to high-income countries.

Fact of the Day

According to the International Institute of Strategic Studies, the United States already spends more on the military than the next 10 nations combined. Even if the Pentagon budget were cut in half, the United States would still outspend China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea combined.

America doesn't care about children

In the six weeks that President Donald Trump's family separation immigration policy has been in effect, nearly 2,000 immigrant children have been separated from their families, according Department of Homeland Security (DHS) data which averages out to 47 children taken from their parents each day.

America is erecting tents to house them.

Ronaldo scores a hat-trick and escapes jail sentence

Portugal and Real Madrid star Ronaldo was accused of evading 14.7 million euros in taxes, reached an agreement with Spanish tax authorities that would see him pay 18.8 million euros. 
The agreement, which has still to be ratified, will also likely include a two-year prison sentence. However, jail terms of up to two years are not normally served in Spain for a first-time offense.
He was channeling earnings for image rights through a network of screen companies between 2011 and 2014
Barcelona and Argentina star Lionel Messi was given a fine and a 21-month prison sentence last year on similar charges, which he did not have to serve.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Unaffordable Houses

The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) shows that "affordable housing" is virtually nonexistent—and that in many states, even efforts to institute a minimum wage of $15 per hour would still leave many American workers struggling to find suitable housing that they could easily afford.

The study's authors calculated the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment without spending more than 30 percent on his or her rent—as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recommends.
In no state would it be possible for a worker to afford this modest housing arrangement while earning the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, the coalition found:
"A full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 needs to work approximately 122 hours per week for all 52 weeks of the year, or approximately three full-time jobs, to afford a two-bedroom rental home at the national average fair market rent. The same worker needs to work 99 hours per week for all 52 weeks of the year, or approximately two and a half full-time jobs, to afford a one-bedroom home at the national average fair market rent."
In just 22 out of more than 3,000 counties in the country, the report found, the report also found, a minimum wage worker would be able to afford a one-bedroom rental apartment at fair market rent.

"We need to change the way we produce food."

 Increasing food production through intensive farming will not necessarily end world hunger, experts said. One in nine people already do not have enough food.

Adrian Martin, a professor at Britain's University of East Anglia and a team of international researchers, reviewed 53 studies on intensive farming in low- and middle-income countries and found few benefits for poor farmers and the environment.Intensive farming increases productivity through chemical fertilisers and pesticides, among other activities. The group's research, published in Nature Sustainability, found "scant evidence" of success and said such methods "rarely" lead to positive results.

"It surprised me how few examples we found that were really positive," Martin told the Thomson Reuters FoundationPoor farmers instead face a "double whammy" - least likely to afford new crops and most likely to suffer from environmental damage, he said. Intensive farming might increase production in the short-term but reduce it in the long run because intensification often undermines vital underlying conditions for growth, Martin said.

It also replaces complex local knowledge with "a one-size-fits-all" approach, advocacy group Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa said in a statement. "Experience in Africa shows this path leads to poverty, poor health, a degraded environment, high-risk business ventures, loss of biodiversity, and weakened resilience," it added. 

 In Bangladesh, investors and large landowners profit from salt-water shrimp production but poorer farmers suffer from soil salinisation that undermines their rice production, he said. Rwandan smallholders had to switch to government-regulated crops but could not then afford extras such as fertiliser, the paper said.

The latest research "identifies the importance of seeing the bigger picture," said Phil Stevenson, a professor at the University of Greenwich's Natural Resources Institute in Britain who was not involved in the research. "It showed that it isn't just about producing more food… especially if you don't consider what the fallout of that could be." Both Martin and Stevenson suggest instead "an ecological intensification of agriculture" that has fewer chemical inputs and relies more on natural processes, such as pollination. "The approaches we've used up to now, which have largely relied on, for instance, fungicide and pesticides, we've reached a point where they're no longer delivering," said Stevenson.

The Rich getting richer

The pool of money held by the world’s wealthiest people grew by 12 percent last year to nearly $202 trillion (£152.1 trillion) as bull markets and the dollar’s weakening against most major currencies boosted global fortunes. Adjusted for exchange rate swings, wealth rose 7 percent, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) survey found. Millionaires and billionaires own nearly half of all the world's personal wealth, which reached $201.9 trillion last year, according to the new report.
"The share of global wealth held by millionaires increased to almost 50 percent in 2017, compared with just under 45 percent in 2012, driven mainly by higher-wealth individuals investing in higher-return assets," the report (pdf) states.

While residents of North America held the greatest share of personal wealth at almost 43 percent, the fastest growth came in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Most super-rich individuals lived in the United States, China and Japan.  Switzerland remained the world’s biggest centre for managing offshore wealth with $2.3 trillion, followed by Hong Kong with $1.1 trillion and Singapore with $0.9 trillion.

More than 35 million Americans now have between $250,000 and $1 million, a wealth bracket the industry calls mass affluent. BCG senior partner Brent Beardsley said that many mass affluent savers hold a lot of their money in a retirement account, like a 401(k).

Right now, four in ten Americans can’t come up with $400 in an emergency. Two out of ten Americans have either no financial assets at all, or they owe more than they own. Over 70 million workers make less than $25,000 a year, and the federal minimum wage is less than the cost of living in every major city in the country.

Yemen won't go away

Nadine Drummond, the spokesperson for Save the Children in Sanaa said the Saudi-led assault on the port of Hodeida will bring 'famine' and 'devastation.'

Nadine Drummond explained " I think the situation in Hodeida and Yemen is morally reprehensible. People are calling Yemen the forgotten war but it hasn't been forgotten, people just don't care enough. I think people are far to quick say the war in Yemen has been forgotten because then there is no moral culpability in what is going on there. People are simply ignoring the situation there. There is a moral culpability, particularly for governments that sit on the UN Security Council who have the ability to influence the conflict. These governments include the United Kingdom, the United States and perhaps even France...these are peoples' lives and there are no winners. This is what people need to understand."

Two-thirds of Yemenis don't know where their next meal is coming from and many Yemenis only live on one meal a day.  Hodeida has 100,000 children that are severely malnourished.  Last year, 50,000 children died of preventable diseases such as cholera or measles and that was even before the escalation on Hodeida. There is little hope for the children in Yemen unless there is an end to the conflict.

UK's criminal associations

Britain’s contribution to fighting Russian organised crime is “less than negative”, one of Europe’s leading prosecutors has said. 
Jose Grinda, hailed as the man who "brought down the Russian mafia in Spain”, condemned the UK’s lack of cooperation in a fight which has gone increasingly global.  The Spanish prosecutor told The American Interest magazine. “...we have a very serious problem in fighting organised crime with the UK. We have very serious problems in getting them to cooperate—with the exception of drug trafficking cases. It’s zilch, it’s less than negative. It just doesn’t exist.” 
He said Britain was suffering “economic contamination”, that UK politicians “had been linked to oligarchs” and that the country was riddled with “oligarchs that have taken dirty money, taken money from a criminal organisation”. 
The prosecutor claimed authorities in the UK had failed to arrest a Russian-Israeli businessman, Michael Cherney, when he visited in 2009, despite an Interpol arrest warrant issued against him. The Spanish believe Mr Cherney to be the leader of the “Izmailovskaya”, one of Russia’s most high-profile mafia groups.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Fighting the gig economy

Despite paying self-employed tax and being VAT registered, Mr Smith was a worker, the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court, said. Worker status means entitlement to a national minimum wage, holiday pay and protection from discrimination.
The Supreme Court justices said: “The dominant feature of Mr Smith’s contract was that he must do the work himself.”
The company exercised “tight administrative control” over Mr Smith and he “undertook to do the work personally”, the Supreme Court said. Pimlico Plumbers required Mr Smith to wear a company branded uniform and to lease one of its vans, which displayed the company's logo and was equipped with a GPS tracker. Mr Smith also had to work a minimum number of hours per week.
Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, hailed the judgment as “one of the biggest decisions ever made by the courts on workers’ rights”.
“If you wear the uniform, if you drive the branded vehicle, if you only work for one business, you are employed. That means you are entitled to the appropriate protections and adjustments which go with the job, to enable you to work safely and productively. Everyone has the right to a healthy working environment, and to that end businesses need to recognise their duties to their workers.”  She added: “Thousands of workers like Gary Smith could now find themselves with the added security of benefits like sick pay and holiday pay.”

USA - Inequality

 Jeff Bezos ($112 billion), Bill Gates ($90 billion), and Warren Buffet ($84 billion), Koch brothers ($120 billion) and the Walton family, owners of Walmart (nearly $175 billion). Together with the rest of America’s richest 1 percent, they possess nearly 40 percent of the nation’s wealth.
But a great many Americans are not doing nearly as well as the nation’s super-wealthy. That 40 percent of the wealth, in fact, constitutes twice the total wealth held by the bottom 90 percent of the American public (about 294,000,000 people). On May 17, 2018, the United Way released a study indicating that nearly half of American households could not afford basics like food, housing, and healthcare. Many of the wage earners in these households were child care workers, home health aides, office assistants, and store clerks―people who had low-paying jobs and minuscule (if any) savings.
Furthermore, according to U.S. government statistics, some 41 million Americans live in poverty. Of these, over 5 million reportedly live on $4 a day or less―at least as long as they continue living. Life expectancy in some parts of the United States, for instance in Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta, is lower than in Bangladesh.
Employment income in the United States serves as another example of extreme economic inequality. Drawing on information provided to the federal government by 225 Fortune 500 companies with total annual revenues of $6.3 trillion, a Congressional study released this May reported that the CEO-to-worker pay ratio―which stood at 25 to 1 in the 1965―has now reached 339 to 1.
In some well-known firms, the ratio is much larger. Consequently, their employees would have to work considerably more than a thousand years to catch up with their bosses’ income for one year. These companies include Mattel (with a CEO-to-worker pay ratio of 4,987 to 1), McDonald’s (3,101 to 1), Gap (2,900 to 1), Manpower (2,483 to 1), Hanes Brands (1,830 to 1), and Kohl’s (1,264 to 1). Walmart, owned by the nation’s richest family and with 2.3 million employees, has a CEO-to-worker ratio of 1,188 to 1.
Somewhat later this May, the AFL-CIO came out with its own report, revealing even greater economic inequality. According to the labor federation, government figures revealed that CEOs of S&P 500 Index companies received, on average, $13.9 million in compensation during 2017―a 6.4 percent increase over the preceding year. By contrast, the average production and nonsupervisory worker received only $38,613, producing CEO-to-worker pay ratio of 361 to 1.
American workers are not only extremely unlikely to ever amass riches comparable to those of the wealthiest 1 percent, but even to see their incomes improve significantly through wage increases. Median real wages rose only one-fifth of 1 percent in the United States during 2017.
Taken from here

A letter to the Guardian

Surely little surprise that people in England will – when specifically asked – identify as English (Here’s why the left must place its stamp on Englishness, 7 June). At 3pm most Saturdays I identify as a fan of Partick Thistle FC, but I usually let that go by 5pm. National identity has no real relevance to our sense of self or our day-to-day deliberations, despite the desire of many that this were not so.
The left is right to ignore nationalism (though in Scotland it practices entryism, for the time being at least). When asked what this national identity actually amounts to, it all melts away into nothing. Martin Kettle gamely tries to flesh out some “witty and polite” English characteristics. For John Major, it was warm beer and long shadows on the cricket ground. And north of the border, being Scottish still amounts to little more than “not English”. What is masked by all this is that the real sentiments expressed in the YouGov poll that Kettle discusses – disconnection and disempowerment – are not dictated by postcode or the colour of your passport but are overwhelmingly, and inconveniently, class issues.
Brian Gardner
Glasgow Branch

Health Poverty

About 55 million Indians were pushed into poverty in a single year because of having to fund their own healthcare.

38 million fell below the poverty line due to spending on medicines alone, a study by three experts from the Public Health Foundation of India has estimated.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, reveals that non-communicable diseases like cancer, heart diseases and diabetes account for the largest chunk of spending by households on health. The study concluded that among non-communicable diseases, cancer had the highest probability of resulting in “catastrophic expenditure” for a household.

In the case of road traffic and non-road traffic injuries, it was found that catastrophic expenditure was higher among the poorest, with average stay in hospital beyond seven days.

Manchester's Pollution

Dangerous levels of air pollution are having a devastating impact on the health of people living in Greater Manchester reducing life expectancy in the region by an average six months and, over the next century, estimates “1.6 million life years” will be lost unless action is taken.

Alison Cook, policy director at the British Lung Foundation, said the report showed Manchester was one of the most polluted places in the UK.

The IPPR thinktank’s director, Sarah Longlands, said the “human cost of the air pollution crisis” in the city could not be overstated. “People’s lives are being cut short, our children’s health is being put at risk and this is before you even consider the £1bn annual economic burden that poor quality air places on the local economy. For too long, the debate on air pollution has been focused on London. But now for the first time, we understand the full extent of the problem in Greater Manchester. We simply cannot allow this to continue.”
The report found:
  • Central Manchester has the highest rate of emergency hospital admissions for asthma in England, more than double the national average. North Manchester comes in second place.
  • Manchester council ranks as the second worst in England for PM10 particulate pollution, which is linked to conditions such as lung cancer and asthma.
  • Hotspots for dangerous air quality include Manchester’s Oxford Road, which exceeded legal limits 90 times during 2016.
It also found that the region has one of the worst polluting bus fleets in the UK, with 20% of the fleet made up of the most polluting vehicles, compared with just 10% in London. Only 15 buses are entirely electric, compared with more than 500 in London

Israel's Crimes

The United Nations has overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning Israel’s use of “use of any excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force" against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

By a vote of 120 to 8, the United Nations approved a resolution decrying the “use of live ammunition against civilian protesters, including children, as well as medical personnel and journalists” and underscoring its “grave concern at the loss of innocent lives”.

The measure also called for the creation of a mechanism to ensure the “protection of the Palestinian civilian population” and urged Israel to lift its economic blockade on an area ruled by the militant group Hamas. It did deplore “the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilian areas”.

The use of lethal force against Palestinian demonstrators by the Israeli military in Gaza may constitute war crimes, Human Rights Watch has said. Human Rights Watch said the majority of the dead and wounded were unarmed and posed no immediate threat to Israeli troops or civilians. As such, the group contended the use of live fire suggests a violation of international law.  

Human Rights Watch said eyewitnesses reported seeing Palestinians shot from a great distance from border fences, and others who “had not thrown stones or otherwise tried to harm Israeli soldiers” being shot from a closer range.  

Human Rights Watch’s Middle East director called on the international community to “impose real costs for such blatant disregard for Palestinian lives”. 

“The UN Human Rights Council inquiry should identify and call for sanctions against officials implicated in ongoing serious human rights violations,” Sarah Leah Whitson said.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Ireland's Misery

Almost 800,000 people in Ireland are currently living in poverty in Ireland. The number of children living in poverty has increased by 70,000 when compared to ten years ago.

 St Vincent de Paul charity have branded Ireland's wealth disparity as completely "unacceptable" SVP claims that they are now receiving double the number of calls for assistance than it did in 2008.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Peace is bad business

In response to a de-escalation of the tensions between the USA and North Korea USA Today reported on Tuesday that shares of Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, and General Dynamics all "took a dive."

According to USA Today, "Shares of Raytheon, which makes Patriot and Tomahawk missiles, fell 2.6 percent. Lockheed Martin, which supplies the Pentagon with air and missile defense systems as well as the F-35 Stealth fighter jet, tumbled one percent. And Northrop Grumman, which has increased its focus on cyber warfare and missile defense systems more recently, declined 1.3 percent. Boeing, which makes Apache helicopters and aerial refueling aircraft, dipped 0.2 percent. General Dynamics, a Navy shipbuilder, fell one percent."

Financial analyst Brad McMillan noted in an interview with USA Today, falling defense stocks represent investors' fears that the chance for a hot war between the U.S. and North Korea—which he describes as "one of the big potential growth stories recently"—could be slipping away. "If weapons are used they need to be replaced. That makes war a growth story for these stocks," McMillan explained. "What the agreement does, at least for a while, is take military conflict off the table."

No wage rises

The Phillips Curve for those who are interested - which suggests that when employment levels are high, wage increases follow. And those wage increases feed through to higher levels of inflation. When unemployment is at record lows, as it is now, firms have to battle harder for the little spare labour that is left. To do that they have to offer higher wages, which increases business costs. Those costs are then passed on to consumers via higher prices.
Yet despite record high levels of employment, wage growth has actually eased in the last three months, down to 2.8% from 2.9%. We have not seen average wage increases of 3% since the summer of 2015. Some economists argue that a lack of bargaining power - union membership has been in long term decline - is leading to fewer widespread agreements on earnings increases. And fears over job losses has also led to fewer demands for rises. Zero hours contracts and hyper-flexible employment can work against collective bargaining agreements on earnings. The trade union wage gap, the difference in earnings of union members compared with non-members, is 16.9% in the public sector and 7.1% in the private sector (which employs well over 80% of people).
Some 80% of men are in work, the joint highest employment rate since 1991. And over 70% of women are in work, the highest employment rate since records began in 1971. That increase is down, partly, to state pension age changes which mean fewer women are retiring between the ages of 60 and 65.
For households it still means the economy is in a difficult place, leading to disillusionment with "the system" which is not providing.
 Conor D'Arcy of the Resolution Foundation, puts it: "While the easing of inflationary pressures is helping pay packets to stretch that little bit further, there is still no sign of a long overdue pay rebound in Britain."

Hurting the old and infirm

Vulnerable old and disabled people will see cuts to vital care services and higher charges, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services shows councils expect.

Three-quarters said they would be cutting the amount of care they provided, while nearly half said they would be introducing higher charges - people are expected to contribute to the cost of care where they can.
ADASS president Glen Garrod said the findings were of "serious concern" and described the care market as "fragile".
Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, said it was a "disgrace" that there were people who were not getting the support they needed for daily essentials like "getting dressed, going to the toilet, taking their medication or preparing their food. Unless policy makers are willing to invest in care, hundreds of thousands of older people face a bleak future, living without their needs being met. "



The BBC recently broadcast a 3-part drama on the Jeremy Thorpe
scandal and a cancelled 1979 Panorama investigation all of which
demonstrated a cover-up between the three main political parties.

The sexual scandal 'dogging' Mr Thorpe,
Caused all of Westminster's elect to gawp;
'A murder plot' and then 'a gay nuance',
A note, “And Bunnies too, will go to France”! (1)

The 'victim' of this heinous 'murder plot',
Was ex-male fashion model, Norman Scott;
But Mr Thorpe at length got off the hook,
The High Court Judge called Mr Scott, “A crook”! (2)

And then summed up in such a biased way,
That Jeremy was happy and so gay;
To have been vindicated all along,
In spite the fact the evidence was strong.

But British justice dealt with bent MP's,
And Jeremy experienced the squeeze;
Which cost him leadership of all the Libs,
Because of the (alleged!) gay naughty fibs!

And so Thorpe lost his Parliamentary seat,
And thus departed Westminster's elite;
All those Six-Hundred or so well-paid bores,
Who sometimes turn-up for their Common's chores.

And who pretend that they're all deadly foes,
Whilst they all covered-up for one of those;
A Member of the House who was defined,
By those who knew, as musically inclined! (3)

(1) A promise made by Thorpe to Scott in a love letter,
“Bunnies can and will go to France”.

(2) The Judge was Sir Joseph Cantley. See Peter Cook's parody of his
pro-Thorpe summing-up, “Entirely a Matter for You” on You Tube.

(3) Players of the pink oboe.

© Richard Layton