- Paul Mason weighs in on how income and wealth inequality spill over into every corner of a person's life:
It is very possible to be poor in the 21st-century welfare state. One in five children lives in poverty, and this decade will see the first rise in absolute poverty in a generation. For decade after decade, post-war governments have chipped away at the principle of social insurance: you pay your stamps, you get your cash benefits as of right. The result is a world-class health system struggling to deal with large-scale, growing ill health determined by poverty. Even if we all live longer, the poor live shorter lives and will spend decades in disability.- And Paul Buchheit duly challenges the spin that poverty has any meaningful connection to laziness, rather than being primarily the result of systematic disadvantages which often can't be overcome by any amount of hard work.
So what would a modern Beveridge write? I think he would reiterate that “want” – or poverty – is the basic evil that, if you don’t abolish, drags down all your attempts at making people healthier or better educated. It’s very obvious – to anybody who has been near a food bank, or a women’s refuge, or a probation office – that “want, ignorance, squalor, disease and idleness” still exist, at disgraceful levels, and in highly concentrated pockets. A 16-year gap in healthy life expectancy between Blackpool and Wokingham – towns a three-hour journey apart – would shock us into action if we really cared about it.
And here’s why we should care: health inequality follows a clear gradient path. If you break down the population into 5% chunks according to income, every one of these chunks is healthier than the one below them. The editor, on average, dies of heart attack later than the deputy editor. This is one of the clearest findings of Marmot’s and other epidemiological research.
So inequality is not just about rich and poor – it’s about the tilted playing field of life, and how to stop it getting steeper.
- Ashley Csanady reports on one long-overdue improvement in working conditions in Ontario, as employers are finally being restricted from taking a cut of workers' tips. But Martin Regg Cohn highlights how employers are still trying to wriggle out of their obligations, with the province's new pension plan serving as the latest example.
- Joby Warrick discusses the connection between corporate-funded denialism and the U.S.' polarization on climate change. But Bruce Cheadle reports that the Libs are throwing all of their promised climate research dollars into a corporate-led pool.
- Meanwhile, Lauren McCauley reports on the activists defying a ban to be heard around the Paris climate change conference. And Naomi Klein reminds us of the lives at stake as we decide whether our planet is worth saving.
- Finally, Carol Goar writes about the dangers of a bandwagon effect toward war in the absence of any accurate information as to what we're getting into.