mercredi 22 octobre 2008

Quick point 1

The latest OECD report on inequality and poverty in the world states that whilst the rate of inequality has slowed down in the UK, Britain is still a very divided country in terms of wealth. Further,

"The number of people living alone or in single-parent households increased in the UK more rapidly than in all other countries - average household size in the UK declined from 2.4 to 2.1 between 1985 and 2005 (OECD average decline of 2.7 to 2.6)
Income poverty - that is, a household with less than half the country's median income - fell from 10% to 8% in the UK between the mid-90s and 2005
For the first time since the 1980s, the UK poverty level is well below the OECD average
The number of children living in poverty fell from 14% to 10% between the mid-90s and 2005 - the second largest fall, behind Italy, during this period. But child poverty rates are still above levels recorded in the mid-70s and 80s
There is less social mobility in the UK, US and Italy than in Australia, Canada and Denmark, with parents' earnings being a more reliable guide to a child's future earnings"

The media is putting the best spin it can on these already suspect figures. The OECD is far from a neutral organisation. Its remit is determined by the needs of the free market and hence anything it concludes has to be seen in the light of its imperative to show that the markets work. It remarks that the culmulative rise in inequality over the past twenty years has been seven percent, which is, it holds, less than most people thought it was going to be. (But " "This may not sound like much of an increase," it explained, "but it is equivalent on average to taking $880 away from the poorest 50 percent and giving $880 to the richest 50 percent, although incomes at every level grew over the two decades.") It means that the highest paid receive nine times as much as the lowest paid but in Mexico and the US it is far higher. Britain's rate of inequality has slowed down according to the report and it is this that the lberal papers have seized upon. Desperate to protect the left flank of the Labour Party in the run up to the election, they will use any scrap of succour. And it is a scrap.

Firstly, the incomes of the exceedingly rich are excluded from the study. This severly reduces the meaning of the report. Secondly, the data only covers from two thousand to two thousand and five. In the British context, this is fortuitios because it includes various marginal trax reforms that benefited lower income people in the UK and excludes the return to neoliberal form from the end of the report up to now. Further, the report and its reporting play down the fact that inequality is still increasing. One must not forget that the creation of inequality is part of the purpose of neo-liberal economics. Hence the report's condescending attitude to those who argue, only with the naive evidence of their own experience of course, that inequality is deepening everywhere. The report claims, ridiculously, that there is a 'Hello' effect. People see the lives of the rich and famous in this type of magazine and subsequently, feel poorer than they actually are. I mean really. Do we need to go any further with that idea?

The report shows inequality is rising and excludes inconvenient data. It is just a propaganda piece - a sop to the liberal left in their desperate attempts to show that the free market not only works but is fair as well. In the current cimate, neither proposition is viable anymore.