Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Polly Toynbee writes that the coronavirus has highlighted how poverty kills - and how a concerted fight against inequality is a precondition to a healthier society:
This time the coronavirus epidemic touches everyone, as all can see who is harmed most. This time, double the death rate for the low-paid, their coffins soon piling up twice as fast in Blackpool or Middlesbrough as in the richest parts of the country, may deliver a shock on the political Richter scale rarely registered before.

Years of research show the social gradient of death is not a poverty cliff-edge but that it runs in a straight line from bottom to top: on the graph people get gradually healthier as they get richer...
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What kills is inequality itself. Beyond the struggle to get by, it’s the stigma of disrespect, the lack of choice or agency. Disempowerment makes people ill and die young.

Marmot’s report in February measured the steep deterioration in health inequality in England since 2010: the rise in child poverty, insecure work, food banks, worsened living conditions “with insufficient money to lead a healthy life”, and the loss of children’s centres. “Austerity,” he warned, “will cast a long shadow over the lives of the children born and growing up under its effects.”

Is he surprised that Covid-19 is not a leveller, but has double the death rate in deprived districts? “It’s exactly what I expected,” he told me this week. “Most diseases follow the social gradient. The poor are most likely to suffer hypertension, COPD [a lung condition], obesity – all carrying a greater risk of fatal infection. The poor are older biologically, ageing faster.”
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...Inequality is responsible for the longevity decline, and this government has no chance of reversing it without radically transforming life chances. Five more years of healthy life? We must hold the government’s feet to the fire on that promise. The virus has shone a light on the facts of British life and death.
- Meanwhile, both John Harris and Max Fawcett write that the need for a public income backstop in the wake of COVID-19 should help to make the case for a basic income more generally.

- Kim Stanley Robinson discusses both the ongoing risks arising from the disruption of the status quo ante, and the opportunity to plan out the society we want to build. And Ryan Meili points out the importance of ensuring that any reopening plan prioritizes people over corporate interests, while Katrina Miller sets out a test to determine whether any bailout proposal fits that bill. 

- Aaron Wherry writes about fundamental unfairness of the risks of COVID-19 being borne disproportionately by people already facing the challenges of low incomes and insecure work - particularly when conservative politicians are eager to push more and more people into that type of precarity. David Macdonald finds that over half a million low-income workers are effectively being threatened with the loss of their current income supports if they refuse unsafe work. Sujatha Gidla discusses how the workers continuing to provide services in the course of a pandemic are being treated as sacrificial rather than essential. And David Fairey makes the case for paid sick leave as one necessary boost to the security available to workers, while PressProgress calls out Cargill for instead creating deliberate incentives for workers to stay on the job while sick and contagious.

- Finally, David Sheppard argues that the collapse in demand and prices in the wake of the coronavirus is only a preview of what the future holds for the fossil fuel sector. And Mike Moffatt and John McNally discuss how to rebuild our economy while also ensuring that we do our utmost to avoid a climate calamity.

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