Poverty debate in Britain – and more on US

In: Uncategorized

1 Apr 2007

While I was away with the ultra-rich in Switzerland it seems a new row broke out over poverty in Britain. It was sparked off by a report on trends in inequality from the Institute for Fiscal Studies. What caught the media’s attention was the news that New Labour is evidently failing to meet its much-hyped target of halving child poverty by 2010.

Polly Toynbee, Guardian columnist and alleged expert on poverty, wrote a column complaining that too little attention is paid to poverty. What she missed is the fact that, as I have written previously on spiked, the poverty debate has not disappeared but recast in different terms.

The Economist wrote that the bargain that has existed for the past 20 years has to be failing. The rich are getting richer but the poor are not becoming better off too. It also quoted the Tories as saying that Britain is getting a more American pattern of income distribution without a corresponding rise in philanthropy.

On Spiked Rob Lyons pointed out that absolute living standards are rising even if relative ones are not. He also argued that the discussion of poverty has taken a more moral tone than in the past.

Meanwhile, the New York Times carried an article this week on a new analysis showing that the American income gap widened in 2005. The piece was based on a study of Internal Revenue Service data by Professor Emmanuel Saez, an economist at the University California, Berkeley, and Professor Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics. The two authors have also done longer-term studies on income inequality in America.

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