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Who are the real criminals?



Desperate poverty drives some people to desperate acts. The Hull Daily Mail reports that 40% more people seem to be stealing food for personal consumption in Hull than last year.

The police believe this is directly linked to the fact that more and more people cannot afford to pay for life’s essentials. As the bedroom tax, council and benefit cuts bite, more and more will be pushed towards tough decisions – “Do I pay my rent and bills or feed my family”?

The article says austerity is the cause of increased food shoplifting but sees the main victims of crime as the small businesses being robbed. In a time of austerity most small shopkeepers are squeezed by the giant corporations who can afford to undercut them and by sections of the working class who cannot afford to use their shops.

Austerity hits sections of the middle class badly – see how many independent shops have gone broke. Local butchers, bakers and greengrocers went bust and were replaced on the high street by pawnshops and payday loan sharks.

A determined working class fightback against austerity would draw in support from large layers of the middle class including small shopkeepers.

Tory media cry crocodile tears for the poor. The Hull Daily Mail’s scandalous ‘solution’ was to name and shame six local offenders caught stealing food. We do not support theft as an answer to poverty. But who are the real criminals here?

Is it the mother who has just had her benefit cut through bedroom tax who steals baked beans worth a few pence to feed her children. Or fat cat businessmen who legally rob millions of pounds a year through exploiting tax loopholes?

The real criminals are the ruling class who run a capitalist system which robs the poor to give to the rich. Join the Socialist Party and fight for a socialist society.


Austerity- Poverty Problems: Brits turn to food banks amid austerity & economic downturn

Austerity Discredited, Not Defeated. Time to Fight for Jobs and Growth.
Huffington Post
For four long years after the recession officially ended, conservative austerity policies have sabotaged America‘s economic recovery, condemning millions of Americans to unemployment and poverty. And in Europe, the same policy regime of spending cuts 
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Poverty Problems: Brits turn to food banks amid austerity & economic downturn


Increasing numbers of Britons are heading to food banks to satisfy their hunger. But the Work and Pensions minister claims half-a-million UK people just want to have their bellies filled for free, and denies a link between the rise in food banks and See all stories on this topic »

Portugal disabled by euro straitjacket

Financial Times
Sadly, Portugal’s disappointing economic growth experience with budget austerity and economic reform within a euro straitjacket has been shared by the rest of the European economic periphery. Indeed, even in Ireland, the poster child for the 
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Taxpayers oblivious to the cost of farm subsidies

Globe and Mail
They preach government austerity, then hand out $50,000-plus bonuses to deputy ministers. They talk about openness but practise secrecy. And they tout Senate reform while tolerating entitlement. It also turns out the Conservatives haven’t been 
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Should US take lessons from Germany on fiscal austerity?

Economic Times
Keynesian stimulus proponents argued that temporary tax cuts and additional government spending would bolster hiring. Austerity advocates countered that additional government spending would merely displace private spending and that we already had too 
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11 Signs That Italy Is Descending Into A Full-Blown Economic Depression

Men’s News Daily
Harsh austerity measures are causing the Italian economy to slow down even more than it was previously. And yet even with all of the austerity measures, the Italian government just continues to rack up even more debt. This is the exact same path that 
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Portugal’s crisis shows that our problems haven’t gone away
Irish Independent
A second conclusion is that, while the Irish edifice may not be solid brick, it is of durable construction. Not a lot of people seem to know this, but the Irish austerity programme was less severe than that imposed on Greece and Portugal. In addition 
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Daily Life in Haiti for the Poor

In Haiti, 70% are unemployed after the Earthquake ravaged the island. Some reports suggest it is closer to 80%. There is not a shortage in workforce, just a shortage of suitable jobs for the poor in Haiti.

Some of the employed are part of the rich in Haiti. Still, others are working jobs like street cleaner which is considered one of the good jobs. It pays $2.75 per day. Minimum wage  in Haiti is $1.00.

Most Haitian schools are privately funded. 90% of the students in Haiti are educated from international private schools run by the United States, France, Canada, or another nation. The above school comes from the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Haiti has a literacy rate of just 53%. The poor in Haiti living in rural parts of Haiti do not have access to many of the private schools.

Health Care in Haiti for the Poor

Over one-third of the hospitals in Haiti are not functional since the Earthquake of 2010. The health care system in Haiti wasn’t great to begin with. Haiti only spends about $84 on health care per capita, compared to $7,146 in America.

Haiti has a population of just over 10 million. For every 100,000 people, there are 25 doctors and 11 nurses. Only one-fourth of births are attended by a skilled health professional. Most rural areas have no access to health care, making residents susceptible to otherwise treatable diseases.

Historically, HIV and malaria had been a huge problem in Haiti. Thanks to condom distribution, HIV infection is down to 2.2%. It had been feared before aid that the number would exceed 5%. The malaria rate is below 1% thanks to mosquito net distribution and insecticide.

A cholera outbreak has occurred due directly to the United Nations. 8,000 are dead due to cholera. More than 640,000 are infected.

The International Organization for Migration estimates that following the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti, 347,284 people are still displaced from their homes, living in tents.

Permanent housing like the one above in Croix-des-Bouquets is in the works. 36,500 families will receive subsidies for rent by the end of 2013.

Haiti’s current properly laws prevent the sale of government land. The rentals will reduce the total number of individuals in camps to approximately 50,250 families.

via Poor in Haiti: Daily Life in Haiti for the Poor.

via Poor in Haiti: Daily Life in Haiti for the Poor.

A vicious attack on the poor

Instead of confronting the system that creates poverty and causes environmental degradation, the  population controllers aim to eliminate the poor.

by Richard Mellor

By sheer coincidence, after blogging the other day about the Neo Malthusians or populationists as they are called (they do differ from Malthus on some of the specifics but agree with him in general) I watched a report on Al Jazeera about the efforts in India to limit population growth.

As I pointed out in that earlier blog, I have always been against this view (in my conscious political life anyway) that the crisis of society, both social and environmental, is women having too many children.

I recall as a young kid in Catholic school in Britain and the “too many kids” argument being used to explain why Irish people were so poor.  Too many children, too stupid, dirty, ignorant etc.  That the country was one of the first colonies of the rising British capitalist class which meant the ownership of the land was in foreign hands so Ireland was but a source of cheap Labor and cheap food for export by British concerns was never brought up.  Hundreds of years of occupation, plunder and a racist war by British capitalism is why Ireland remained an impoverished country way in to the 20th century. 

The problem is not that the need for food is greater than human society and the planet’s ability to provide it. The problem is in the way food production is organized; there’s plenty of food but it is not for those that need it.  Capitalist food production is inefficient and wasteful. Food is a commodity just like a car or a refrigerator.  The reason whole societies in the third world are incapable of providing basic health care or of eliminating diseases that were eliminated long ago in the advanced capitalist countries is because there is no profit in investing in such things. As one author points out, ”Food goes to those who have money to buy it.” [1]

But even in the US, capitalism cannot provide these things.

Not everyone espousing the populationist argument is a racist or hates the poor.  Some may well believe that they are helping the poor in the long run.  But when I was watching the video above it confirmed in me the need to take these ideas up very strongly because, as we wrote earlier, the too many babies argument blames the victims.

India does not have mass hunger or mass poverty because women are having too many children. India is poor for the same reason the Congo, a resource rich country is poor, because of a couple centuries of colonialism and the continued existence of an economic system where production is set in to motion for the sake of profit.

The solution to the population problem is always an attack on the rights of the poor and a racist one as it is not in the US or Rotterdam (a high density area) where women are being offered fridges, mobile phones or TV’s  but India or Bangladesh.  It is always the uneducated and “impoverished” as the woman in the video says. It is also inevitably women.  The young woman says it will improve her life.  But her having children is not the cause of her impoverishment, capitalism is. The so-called free market is the cause.

Think of this tragedy, one woman in another video says good fortune has come to her as she is ”Lucky enough to have her name picked” so she could win a car for her sterilization.  Attacks on women in India like these have a sordid past as the video points out.  In the 1970′s forced sterilizations caused many deaths and disfigurement.  In Uttar Pradesh, the people from the lowest  caste represented 29% of the population but were 41% of those sterilized.[2]

Poor women, often women of color in these United States, have been sterilized also but no matter what the public explanation, the main reason is the fear the rich have of the poor and as a means of obscuring the real problem.

“Blaming such socially generated scarcity and ecological degradation on ‘overpopulation’ or ‘underproduction’ has long provided the more powerful with an explanation for human misery that does not indict themselves and that legitimizes various ideologies of exclusion.”[3]

The strategies for dealing with population control so that we can supposedly save the planet are always designed in the universities and populationist think tanks in the advanced capitalist countries. The UN, a capitalist club dominated by the western industrial nations exports these methods in to the former colonial world.  Aid or political favors are often denied if these policies are not adopted.  ”I’m not going to piss away foreign aid in nations where they refuse to deal with their own population problems.” said US President Lyndon Johnson.  And as Angus/Butler point out, Indira Gandi was awarded the UN Fund for Population Affairs’ World Population Prize in 1983.

The capitalist class is concerned that as market induced poverty increases the more chance of social unrest and animosity toward the market and capital as we are seeing around the world including in the US.  As this occurs, people become more critical of the system and more open to socialist ideas.  The way to deal with poverty is eliminate the poor, not the economic system of production that creates the scarcity or causes the environmental degradation. This idea only makes sense if you are one of the 1%.

The other aspect of this is that where I live, one family of two probably has a more damaging carbon footprint that 100 Ethiopians.  We consume more lumber and therefore forests.  We consume more steel, more rubber,  and more energy.  The US with 5% of the world’s population consumes some 25% of the world’s energy. Then there is the meat, as we pointed out yesterday, 40% of the world’s grain harvest goes to feed cattle to feed beef to western populations.

This video made me angry in that it is reported in a very matter-of-fact manner.  These population control measures are a vicious attack on the poor by the wealthy and are racist and sexist.  Most important of all, they let the real culprit off the hook.

[1] Nicholas Hildyard,  quoted in Ian Angus and Simon Butler, Too Many People? (Haymarket Books 2011), 76.

[2] Too Many People?, 92

[3] Hildyard in Too Many People? 76

via A vicious attack on the poor : Climate & Capitalism.

via A vicious attack on the poor : Climate & Capitalism.

Profitable Poverty in Extremadura: Bailing Out Banks, Evicting Poor People

This is a translation of a piece written by Manuel Cañada, a militant in Trastienda, a social rights collective. It was originally published in Rebelión on 30th June last year. A friend from #AcampadaMérida (manifesto here) suggested I translate it as it helps provide the context to the situation in Extremadura. However it has universal resonance, particularly so in countries living in the wake of burst property bubbles.

The discourse of social Darwinism and the ‘the kingdom of the plasma screen TVs’ cited in this translated text on evictions in Extremadura ought to be particularly relevant to Irish readers. This morning, the head of the Department of Finance has declared that it ‘is not necessarily appropriate that banks should be using taxpayers’ money to subsidise people living in accommodation, even if it is a family home, that is beyond their means’, citing an ‘unnaturally low’ level of repossessions (as if there were anything ‘natural’ about a neo-liberal state that protects the financial sector at all costs!). Meanwhile, Michael Noonan the Minister for Finance has cited, on the public broadcaster, the problem of satellite TV subscriptions taking priority over mortgage repayments.

Bailing out banks, evicting poor people

by Manuel Cañada

I ask of the political economists, of the moralists, whether they have calculated the number of individuals it is necessary to condemn to misery, to undue labour, to demoralisation, to infancy, to crapulous ignorance, to unconquerable misfortune, to absolute penury, so as to produce a rich person.

– Almeida Garret

12th of June 2012, in Mérida’s Juan Canet neighbourhood. It is not yet nine in the morning and a group of riot police, armed with plastic bullet rifles, oversee the rapid removal of furniture from a council house. It is one of 16 such evictions carried out in Extremadura in the last month and a half. Expectant rifle sights scan the doors and cots scattered in the middle of the street. A woman, until now a resident of the flat, begs unsuccessfully to be allowed in to her home to pick up the bottle so she can feed her son. No, these neighbourhoods are not reached by the psalms that speak of the greater interest of the child, nor is there room in the suburbs for affectations of compassion. “They treat us like terrorists”, says an older woman, consumed by rage. For some time now we have ceased to be surprised by the presence of riot police and special operations teams in these slums of misery. It is the silent war, the war of the rich against the poor, the coming social war.

One eviction every three days. The Extremaduran regional government (in Spanish, la Junta de Extremadura), a weatherproof homeowner and judge, has let eviction be the guide of its housing policy. 764 eviction cases are open, and of these, we are told, 90 are to be carried out imminently. This is happening in a region with near 150,000 people who are unemployed, with more than 60,000 in receipt of no benefits whatsoever, and when the number of people seeking assistance from Cáritas food programmes keeps multiplying. A tsunami of marginalisation and misery is advancing with its mouth wide open and, while this is going on, the Extremaduran government starts spinning the roulette wheel of eviction. “I only get €436 euro in unemployment benefit and I have to pay €143 in rent. How do they expect me to pay another late payment bill”, says one of the women threatened with expulsion. “They don’t want to apply the rent reductions to me because they say I have previous debts”, another neighbour complains. “Can you believe they have the right to threaten you with getting thrown out on the street for a debt of €800?”. The stories of uncertainty and fear pile up. The regional government, the property owner, mobilises police and judges to frighten poor people, but it does not seem to show the same diligence or energy in fulfilling its obligations as landlord. The lifts stopped working a long time ago in many blocks and the neighbourhoods are filling up with cockroaches, but the exemplary government of Extremadura can only think about making money, and, especially, in that most profitable of investments: fear. The vineyard of the powers that be, always sprinkled with fear.

This institutional abomination of eviction as a political tool occurs in a country that has more than 4 million empty dwellings and, nearly a million of them in hands of banks as a consequence of the mortgage shakedown. Spain, European champion of people without homes and, at the same time, homes without people. The same country where, whilst sharks like Rodrigo Rato or Miguel Ángel Fernández Ordóñez get off scot-free after leaving behind swindles of €23bn euro (Bankia) or financial black holes of more than €100bn (Spanish banking sector), families are turfed onto the street for the serious crime of having ‘illegally occupied’ the dwelling that was in the name of the grandmother of one of the co-habitants. In the autonomous region in which the biggest businessman, Alfonso Gallardo, has still not given back the €10 million he was advanced for the failed monster refinery and where each passenger through the phantom airport of Badajoz costs public funds 37 euro, they still extort people who have nothing so that they pay  insignificant arrears, or they cut off the water supply to families with small children.

“No-one is going to sleep in the street”, say the civil servant-politicians from the Extremadura government. And it’s true. In spite of them, beyond the logic of bureaucracy, there exists the humanity of the families who will take them in even though, to do so, 15 people might have to cram in to a dwelling of 90 square metres, as has happened in one of the cases in the Bellavista slum.

“We are not going to stop the evictions, in any shape or form. Furthermore we are being congratulated for it”, says a jubilant Víctor del Moral, the Housing Manager for the Extremaduran government. It is here, in this disturbing argument, where the key to this wave of evictions is to be found. An entire populist discourse which speaks of the most downtrodden slums as the kingdom of the plasma screen TVs and designer furniture, and which grindingly repeats terms such as anti-social behaviour, ending up presenting as a problem of public order what is instead a radical expression of social injustice. Here also, behind the absurdity of collective evictions we can locate the “ancient conflict between rich and poor over the right to the city” (Mike Davis).

In 2005, the revolt of the Parisian banlieues was exploding and Sarkozy was resuscitating the old classist-hygienist argument: “we need a big hose to power blast the scum”. The scum, the trash, the dregs, the lazy and the malingerers, yesterday’s gypos and today’s chavs, the fear of the dark suburb, summoned time and again. And joining the ancient criminalisation of poverty is social Darwinism, imported from the United States and administered by injection during recent decades. There are no longer any poor people, only failures. The marginalised disappeared: in the language of the capitalist jungle only losers and social misfits remain.

A thick complicit silence accompanies the evictions. And the comment threads of newspapers suppurate with hatred for the poor. “It’s the only good thing that the PP has done since it came to power in Extremadura”, says an anonymous dispenser of justice. “Come on, hurry up and kick out the scum, they’ll still be around come winter at this rate”, adds another brave mystery figure. They are the lumpen and anything goes. Those in power are well aware of the fear of proletarianisation among the middle classes and they feed off the anxiety of those who sense the end of the great fantasy ride of consumerism and property-owning individualism. Enríque de Castro, the parish priest of Entrevías, has been speaking for years of a new concept, that of profitable poverty. Since the 90s, many people began to live off poverty in the powerful “industry of the social”. Today it is even more obvious to see the usefulness that power accords poverty as an instrument for cohesion and disciplining citizens.

In Novecento, the beautiful Bertolucci film that narrates the history of the 20th century in Italy, we see the story of the eviction of Orestes, a peasant whom the padrones kick out of his home disregarding the contract. On the arrival of the ‘devils on horseback’, the name given by workers to the police of the era, the peasant men and women take up sticks and spread themselves across the ground to support their comrade and resist the expulsion. “They want to throw us out, come down quick, we need you”, plead the most conscious peasants. From the river, one of the small landholders, out hunting ducks, urges the police to intervene against the protesters: “Get out of here, villains. Boys, you have to teach them that property is untouchable, property is inviolable”. The story of the eviction in the film serves to explain the origin of fascism in Italy. Observing the brutality and inhumanity of the mass evictions happening today and the systematic liquidation of social rights, it seems the belly that bore that bestial thing is still fertile.

via Irish Left Review | Profitable Poverty in Extremadura: Bailing Out Banks, Evicting Poor People.

via Irish Left Review | Profitable Poverty in Extremadura: Bailing Out Banks, Evicting Poor People.


Some figures of misery and poverty in the world…

” If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin. ”

Charles Darwin

– 1.3 billion people live with less than 1 dollar per day.

South Asia has 45% poor, 40% in Africa.

– The current consumption of an average African household is down 20% over the last twenty-five years.

– 20% of the poorest share 1.1% of global income.

– In more than half of the cities in developing countries, more than 40% of the population lives in slums.

– Nearly 12 million children die each year in the developing world from preventable diseases.

– Development aid represents only 0.19% of the GDP of the G7 countries, instead of the 0.7% target adopted by the UN.

– With 16.5% of the poor, the United States accumulate the highest world per capita income and the highest poverty rate in the industrialized countries.

– The European Union has at least 57 million poor people (11.8% of the population in France, 15% in UK, 6.8% in Sweden).

– 800 million people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water.

via Vincent Desrus’s Blog.

via Vincent Desrus’s Blog.

Ten percent of Ireland’s population cannot afford to eat properly

Up to 10 percent of the population experienced food poverty in Ireland in 2010

Almost half a million people in Ireland cannot afford to sustain a healthy diet, according to new research commissioned by the Department of Social Protection.

Up to 10 percent of the population experienced food poverty in Ireland in 2010, which represents a three percent increase from the previous year. The study ‘Constructing a Food Poverty Indicator for Ireland’ shows that families with children are three times as likely as those without to struggle with food poverty.

The research showed that some 450,000 people do not have the financial means to afford a meal with meat every second day or cook a roast dinner once a week. People in this category also missed at least one substantial meal over a two-week period due to lack of money.

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, director of human health and nutrition at Safefood, said the effects are both short and long term.

“The immediate effects of food poverty range from difficulties in concentration and poor energy levels in children, to wellbeing issues in everyday life for adults,” she said.

“The longer-term, public health consequences for those households living in food poverty are ill-health and higher rates of diet-related chronic diseases such as osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, obesity and certain cancers.”

Jerry Buttimer, chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, described the report as valuable advice.

“Whether in rural towns or urban cities, the experience of food poverty is very real and damaging to the health of children and adults and also impacts on their future prospects,” he said.

“By identifying those most at risk, we can begin to work towards helping those most at need in what is a key health issue.”

Despite the high numbers, food poverty was lower in Ireland than in many European countries, including Germany, Britain, and Italy

via Ten percent of Ireland’s population cannot afford to eat properly | Irish News and Politics spanning the US, Ireland and the World | IrishCentral.

via Ten percent of Ireland’s population cannot afford to eat properly | Irish News and Politics spanning the US, Ireland and the World | IrishCentral.

Report recommends child benefit reductions –

Child benefit payments could be cut to around €100 per child each month according to a report compiled by an advisory group to the Social Protection Minister.

The proposal could save up to €200m a year

The report seen by RTÉ‘s The Week in Politics programme recommends what it calls a two-tier child benefit system.

It would see a cut to the universal payment with top up payments then made available to low income families.

The report says this proposal could save up to €200m a year.

Currently, child benefit is paid at €140 per child for the first two children, the third child receives €148, while €160 is paid for the fourth and subsequent children.

In last year’s budget, the Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin said the rates would be standardised to €140 for all children over the next two years.

via Report recommends child benefit reductions – RTÉ News.

via Report recommends child benefit reductions – RTÉ News.

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