How poor citizens are paying the price for British economic reform

How poor citizens are paying the price for British economic reform



Author: Stewart Lansley, visiting researcher at the School of Policy Studies, University of Bristol.Originally published on dialogue

Despite the early claims of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, plan In order to limit the cost of personal adult social care, his government’s new plan -Aims to save 900 million pounds a year for the Treasury-only those who own more expensive houses will benefit. Poor pensioners still face the risk of losing their homes.

In response to this plan, Welsh economists Andrew Dino, Who first proposed the idea of ??the upper limit of social care costs, Expressed disappointment Is changing. He explained that, unlike people with higher asset levels, “less wealthy people will not benefit from the ceiling.” Critics also pointed out that this conflicts with the government’s goals. upgrade The gap between the rich and the poor between North and South in the UK.

For those low-income earners who are suffering the heaviest costs of social and economic changes, nothing is particularly new.As My research showsFor a long time, Britain’s poor have been the first to bear the brunt of most of the country’s industrial and economic shocks. From the acceleration of deindustrialization and globalization that began in the early 1980s, to the financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent decade of austerity, the British economic system has been operating with inherent inequality biases.

Historical precedent

Britain’s huge private wealth boom in the 19th century was largely at the expense of the livelihoods and opportunities of the poorest and most vulnerable in the labor force. A small group of landlords, merchants, and financiers used their political and economic power to capture most of the benefits of industrialization.

Queen Victoria died in 1901, French economist Thomas Piketty (Thomas Piketty) show In “Capital of the Twenty-First Century”, the richest 1% of Britons own about 70% of land, property and financial assets. The vast majority of people have nothing.

Through the Poor Relief Law promulgated in 1834, assistance to the poor was accompanied by state coercion and the most severe conditions.

The Victorian economy was a kind of squeezing capitalism, and a few capital owner elites were able to use their collective monopoly power to obtain a disproportionate economic pie. The business practices they carried out—from creating a near-monopoly to hindering competition, to using joint forces to prevent state regulation—effectively reduced wages and affected the working conditions of the labor force, thereby weakening the community in the process. This pattern has been repeated for most of the 20th century.

The 1929 crash and the ensuing national deflation-including a 10% cut in already low unemployment benefits-caused years of damage in British industry. In 1936, Joseph Langtry’s Research on Poverty It shows that nearly one-third of the population cannot even afford the minimum standard of living.

Provide help for the unemployed Economic survey, Has become one of the most hated institutions in the UK. People often protest its intrusive and harsh management methods. In 1932, there were about 1 million people Sign the petition be opposed to.

In the 1980s, the country’s austerity policies and rapid industrialization brought the return of mass unemployment and the unemployment rate doubled. poor. Many older skilled workers were banished to unemployed lives and plunged into permanent poverty. In 1986, the number of unemployed for more than one year was 1.3 million.

Similarly, after 2010 Austerity plan Cut nearly 40 billion pounds from the government’s working-age benefits budget.And in an apparent revival Poor law thinking, The sanctions on claimants have been greatly strengthened.

Part of the reason is that between 2010 and 2020, the number of poor children increased by 700,000 to 4.3 millionAt the same time, in the mid-2010s, more than 5 million Sanctions Those who were imposed on benefits applicants-two-thirds of them had no income.

Built-in inequalities

Few governments have tried to resolve Britain’s prejudice in favor of inequality.The UK tax system is Retrogressive: Low income requires a larger share than high income.

The Bank of England’s quantitative easing program (“money printing”) began after the 2008 financial crisis to increase liquidity. In this case, policies that have not been tried before have injected nearly 900 billion pounds into the economy, with limited impact on the economy. However, it raises real estate prices and stock values, thereby benefiting already wealthy people.

Compared with the long-term development of the UK, there is only a short exception High inequality, high poverty history. In July 1945, the Labor Party came to power after World War II, and the government led by Prime Minister Clement Attlee ushered in the era of social democracy. All sectors of British society have shared in the economic and social progress made by social reforms and a more moderate capitalist model.

It did not last.Although the poverty rate fell to its lowest level in history in the 1970s and the UK achieved Peak equality, A group of new right-wing thinkers successfully challenged the egalitarian philosophy that promoted post-war reforms, and caused inequality to return to past levels.

Throughout modern British history, subsequent governments have proved that the impact of this unequal change is reasonable, because New research shows, By questionable doctrine. In the 19th century, the ruling chaebol defended economic turmoil as the price of progress, while leading thinkers believed that massive poverty was self-inflicted.

In the 1980s, rising inequality was also considered necessary to build a more entrepreneurial society, or, as Margaret Thatcher told the BBC in 1980, to “make children grow taller”.Since 2010, despite repeated claims that “we are all together”, it is the poorest people who pay the highest price Scroll crunch.

The pandemic has created a golden opportunity to start building a better society. The long-term debate on how to provide a fairer aged care system may also produce more progressive results. However, so far, both of these opportunities seem to have been largely missed.


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