We can choose to eliminate poverty

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The Guardian has reported:

Britain under Gordon Brown is a more unequal country than at any time since modern records began in the early 1960s, after the incomes of the poor fell and those of the rich rose in the three years after the 2005 general election.

Deprivation and inequality in the UK rose for a third successive year in 2007-08, according to data from the Department for Work and Pensions that prompted strong criticism from campaign groups for the government's backsliding on its anti-poverty goals.

The detail is all in the article. I won’t repeat it here. I note two things. First, as Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett note at the Equality Trust the following all get worse with increasing inequality in society:

Physical Health

Mental Health

Drug Abuse

Education outcomes



Social Mobility

Trust and Community Life


Teenage Births

Child Well-being

The cost of inequality is enormous. The human tragedy more so.

Second, this is a choice. As the IFS note in the Guardian article, it would cost £4 billion a year to eliminate child poverty in the UK. That could be raised by any one of:

  1. Abolishing the domicile rule
  2. Introducing country by country reporting for companies — and picking up the tax shown to be due
  3. Restricting tax allowances for those earning more than £100,000 a year
  4. Making the top rate of tax 50% over £100,000
  5. Eliminating all pension relief at higher rates
  6. Charging NIC on investment income of more than £5,000 a year, or £15,000 a year for pensioners

There are plenty of other options too. CGT at income tax rates, and more. But what this demonstrates is that this increase in poverty is a choice.

What Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett so clearly show in their work is that it is an incredibly poor choice. We are all worse off as a result. It’s not just the poor who have the worse outcomes noted: we all do.

There has never been a time when we have needed equality more — precisely because the excess of some is now so great. The failure to supply it will tear out society apart.

The message is simple: we need a bias to the poor. Now.

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