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Poverty effectively criminalised in the USA

(20 Posts)
OddBoots Tue 16-Aug-11 09:42:43

I have just read this long but interesting and horrifying article in Salon link

"In what has become a familiar pattern, the government defunds services that might help the poor while ramping up law enforcement. Shut down public housing, then make it a crime to be homeless. Generate no public-sector jobs, then penalize people for falling into debt. The experience of the poor, and especially poor people of color, comes to resemble that of a rat in a cage scrambling to avoid erratically administered electric shocks. And if you should try to escape this nightmare reality into a brief, drug-induced high, it's "gotcha" all over again, because that of course is illegal too.

One result is our staggering level of incarceration, the highest in the world. Today, exactly the same number of Americans -- 2.3 million -- reside in prison as in public housing. And what public housing remains has become ever more prison-like, with random police sweeps and, in a growing number of cities, proposed drug tests for residents. The safety net, or what remains of it, has been transformed into a dragnet."

Given that prison inmates are used as a mass sweatshop-style workforce I can't see this changing soon put I do find it terrifying.

Highlander Tue 16-Aug-11 12:11:09

Oh, it's where we're heading, Mark my words sad

lachesis Tue 16-Aug-11 12:18:03

That's already happened here, it went on for centuries. Debtor's prisons, workhouses and alms houses, anyone?

And yet nothing has been learned. Look at all the threads on here, since the riots - sterilise 'them', kick 'them' out on the street, force 'them' to have long-term contraception implanted at 14 or 15, take 'their' children away from them at birth, etc etc.

We're headed right back there.

FFS.

BonnieLassie Tue 16-Aug-11 12:18:29

"Generate no public-sector jobs, then penalize people for falling into debt. "

What does this mean?

lachesis Tue 16-Aug-11 12:19:01

Just have a Google and the Poor Laws both in England/Wales (also covering then-occupied Ireland) and Scotland.

lachesis Tue 16-Aug-11 12:21:13

It means, lose your job, Bonnie, can't find another one, but can't easily move because of your mortgage. Go into debt keeping up mortgage (whilst house is on sale) whilst you scramble to get a job.

It means get made redundant in your 50s, get £65/week in JSA whilst you scramble to get a job, live in fuel poverty as a result.

Is it that hard to understand?

There's nothing 'bonnie' about meaness.

madrose Tue 16-Aug-11 12:22:28

Those poor people, it's so hard to get out of the poverty trap. And I can see it happening here.

lachesis Tue 16-Aug-11 12:27:06

It already has, madrose. Big time. And it will again.

netherlee Tue 16-Aug-11 12:42:58

If the tories are anything to go by with none of their members having ever experienced genuine poverty, it could well happen here too. At least Labour know what people mean by trapped in poverty with no power to get themaselves out.

BonnieLassie Tue 16-Aug-11 13:31:45

The public sector should not be used as a way to create jobs for people. That's how Labour got us into so much debt in the first place.

BonnieLassie Tue 16-Aug-11 13:33:00

"At least Labour know what people mean by trapped in poverty with no power to get themaselves out."

Utter rubbish. Labour are just as dominated by the middle-classes as the Tories are.

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 16-Aug-11 13:44:51

"Look at all the threads on here, since the riots - sterilise 'them', kick 'them' out on the street....."

And this is why we elect professional politicians to make considered judgements and think of the bigger picture, rather than making laws according to which way the wind is blowing in the general public. The US has nothing like the welfare state tradition that we enjoy in the UK and Western Europe - and with the right-wingers back in the ascendency, a whopping great debt problem and no growth, that's not going to change. We are having to dig deep and endure some tough times but we are 10 x better set up to look after those in hardship. We are not heading back to the Victorian era.

lachesis Tue 16-Aug-11 16:05:14

Oh, yes, these politicians are exercising such good judgement. PMSL. If you think this place can't go the way of the US, where I lived a long time, think again. They're forever stealing leaves out of their book, without realising that the US had a far, far more extensive charitable sector (both religious and secular). It is seen as shameful for the super-rich not to give very generously - their giving statistics are public knowledge. Here, they feck off to Switzerland.

Disputandum Tue 16-Aug-11 16:28:17

Lachesis - I wouldn't say that the US has a significantly more generous charitable sector; World Giving Index from CAF places the US in fifth place globally while the UK is eighth.

Disputandum Tue 16-Aug-11 16:30:28

Sorry, 'has a significantly more generous culture of charitable donation'.

MorallyBankrupt Tue 16-Aug-11 16:35:44

'labour know' about poverty! What tripe. Google Blairs alma mater and have a look at the prices.

Do you think all labour MP's start off in a coal mine first?!

lachesis Tue 16-Aug-11 16:42:59

I'm glad that online stat is living there, to put together all the time and effort that goes into soup kitchens, canned food drives, office supplies donated to schools, etc.

If you lived there any length of time, you'd see that. It's common enough, for example, for working poor to visit food banks for groceries. I know, I used to go to them. The tax structure and law in the two states I lived in was set up, too, so supermarkets and restaurants could donate unwanted, but still in date, food to food banks with no fear of lawsuit.

Many food banks were religious in foundation, that is how they got funding, but staffed by volunteers of many denominations, or none at all. Or you were welcome to visit any religious food bank with no questions asked.

It's evident, too, even in the way they get people to donate blood often. A 'blood drive' is held, usually at a shopping mall, on a Saturday. It is open very late, till 10PM or so, so people who work can access it. Sponsors such as radio stations have the space donated to them, the phlebotomists and nurses donate their time (often in return for a day off in lieu), the radio DJs or TV anchors donate their time, prizes, some of them quite significant, are donated by local businesses (who get a tax write-off) and given by a raffle that you can only enter by giving blood.

It's very far from perfect, but it's far more prevalent than here, largely because of the nature and geography of both places. It's not a fault, it just is what it is because it is a different place.

They are different, that is why US-based policies, which the Tories seem to love, won't work here.

They have a much larger population and are very adverse to high taxes, which they see as unwanted government interference, and so their cuts will need to be different.

It's comparing apples and oranges and it's lazy thinking, too, to base policy on its model, rather than conceiving of ones that better suit Britain and its populace.

sakura Thu 18-Aug-11 15:35:40

that was a fascinating post lachesis, thank you!

Triggles Fri 19-Aug-11 22:23:45

I saw a friend of mine (and a number of her friends) from the states discussing what a great idea that all welfare and food stamp recipients get drug tested. Refuse to take the test or fail the test and no benefits at all. They were rhapsodising about what a great idea it was. Because of course they're not on benefits, so have no clue how it feels to have people assume you're a scrounger or a druggie or something simply because you're down on your luck financially. But then, the states have always been a place where they are big on your "rights"... if you're not poor or minority.... (and I lived in the states for years, so this is not a "uninformed - making judgements whilst on holiday" opinion)

mathanxiety Tue 23-Aug-11 19:36:58

Lachesis, you are absolutely spot on wrt the extent of American volunteerism and charity both corporate and private.

To see the hamfisted, wholesale adoption of American policies without anything like the same culture in the UK or any appreciation of the American context is sad in the extreme. It is as if the ConDems found Republican/Tea party sound bites so attractive that they adopted them as actual policy, not bothering to check how the American system actually works (not that it works too well either but American volunteering and giving is far better set up and well-practiced than its British counterpart)

One thing about the US that found echoes in Britain very noticeably just recently is the idea of the deserving poor vs. the spongers who are taking the mickey. In the US this is expressed in terms of living a godly life and having the favour of the Lord therefore smile on you (because middleclassliness is next to godliness) so the converse, that you are unworthy of god's favour if you are poor, is also held to be true.

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