Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Noah Smith writes that for all the recognition of poverty and precarity in the U.S., it may be home to even more material insecurity than normally presumed:
Imagine a 55-year-old single woman with diabetes working a part-time job making close to minimum wage. Thanks to government assistance, her total income is $15,000 a year. But if she loses her job or has a medical emergency — both of which, as Matthew Desmond’s book “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” illustrates, are sadly common — she will probably become homeless. That in turn will make it very hard to get a new job, or to pay for her future health-care needs. In short, her situation is very precarious.

As Maslow would predict, this kind of insecurity causes extreme stress. And this precariousness exists along several dimensions — housing, health care, income, the risk of violence — which makes it hard to capture in a single measure. Still, there are some existing measures that could be used to help create a composite picture of security-based poverty.

For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture tracks food insecurity, a survey-based measure of how worried people are that their food will run out. Economists track income volatility, which measures swings in earnings from year to year. This kind of risk has been on the rise in the U.S...

A reasonable, common-sense definition of poverty should include not just an absolute measure of material deprivation and a relative gauge of a person’s situation compared to the rest of society. It should also strive to measure how secure people feel — in their homes, their health, and their jobs.

This new measure might well show that poverty in the U.S. is worse than the current statistics say. But an accurate view of a problem is the first step toward addressing it. And eliminating poverty should be a priority of any wealthy society.
- Meanwhile, Molly Moss notes that austerity in the UK has disproportionately withdrawn public funding from the struggling northern region.

- In the wake of failed charges in British Columbia, Barrie McKenna points out how Canada continues to be used as a money-laundering haven.

- Bronwen Tucker makes the case for Alberta's oil production cuts to serve as a first step toward our needed transition to clean energy. And Dennis Gruending reviews Tony Clarke's new book offering a road map to get there.

- Finally, Matthew D'Ancona discusses how the UK's Brexit fiasco is the result of bigotry. And Keith Kahn-Harris writes that the essence of white supremacy is a belief in an entitlement to treat others without respect or moral constraints.

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