Thursday, February 23, 2017

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Frances Ryan discusses the precarity facing far too many UK residents who are a single missed bill payment away from financial disaster:
There are now 19 million people in this country living below the minimum income standard (an income required for what the wider public view as “socially acceptable” living standards), according to figures released by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) this month. Around 8 million of them could be classed as Theresa May’s “just about managing” families: those who can, say, afford to put food on the table and clothe their children but are plagued by financial insecurity. The other 11 million live far below the minimum income standard and are, the JRF warns, “at high risk of falling into severe poverty”.

We are entering a period not simply of growing hardship in this country but of what I would call precarious poverty: the sort that isn’t characterised by the traditional image of lifelong, deep-seated deprivation, but which can hit in a matter of days: a broken washing machine, a late child tax credit payment, an injury that leads to time off work.

In an economic climate that is normalising low-income families having to live hand to mouth, increasingly, for a whole economic class, one small unexpected cost can trigger a spiral into debt.
The average UK household now owes a record £12,887, even before mortgages are taken into account, according to the TUC. Around 1.6m households are in what is termed extreme debt: that means paying out 40% or more of their entire income to creditors.

This is not a problem that’s going away, as wages stagnate, benefits are cut and prices rise. This is a sign of what’s to come. As we enter a five-year squeeze on living standards that’s set to be worse than the aftermath of the global crash, there is a real risk that millions of families will not be able to keep their heads above water. Precarious poverty will soon be hard to ignore.
- And Sarah O'Connor reports that contrary to conventional wisdom, younger workers are actually more likely than their predecessors to cling to the jobs they have (and likely missing out on higher wages as a result) - with high debt loads and poor prospects elsewhere looming as obvious explanations.

- Nicholas Carnes and Noam Lupu examine the financial background of politicians, and note that the disproportionate number of wealthy people in positions of power looks to have everything to do with inequality of political opportunity rather than voter preferences.

- Emilie Taman questions the Libs' choice to sign away Canadian sovereignty and individuals' privacy by empowering U.S. border guards to limit our freedom. And Kelsey Johnsen reports that the Libs are also endangering refugees by ignoring the Trump administration's clear declarations that they won't receive any fair opportunity to claim asylum in the U.S.

- Finally, Barry Saxifrage discusses Canada's highly risky bet on dying dirty fuels at a time when they're becoming obsolete due to both environmental factors and cheaper alternatives.

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