Second, trade. There has been much debate among economists and anti-poverty campaigners on the economic consequences of free trade deals and the difficulty in striking them. For some, the Brexit vote itself indicates a repudiation of the kind of open trade associated with EU membership, and with the broader globalism of the last few decades. For others, Britain’s likely withdrawal from the single market, and the trade possibilities that it guarantees, presage a potential severe dislocation for the British economy, likely to cause difficulties at least in the medium term for British workers and consumers in general, and especially for those struggling in the hardest parts of the labour market. Others still see Brexit as an opportunity to reorient trade away from the stalling EU economy towards emerging powers. Again, the manifestos are strikingly largely silent on this question. Each makes a commitment to seeking to maintain benefits akin to single market membership, while making little effort to explain either how such benefits are to be secured through negotiation or how such benefits could be maintained while the UK opens up to potentially contradictory rival trade deals with other major economic powers.
First, immigration. There is little doubt either that immigration played a major part in shaping the outcome of the referendum or that it continues to matter to a large number of voters. Reducing immigration from the EU is likely to be an extremely complex undertaking, especially if it is to be achieved without potentially severe consequences for the British economy or for the provision of basic public services, and thus potentially severe consequences for poverty and economic inequality. Yet the parties choose to reveal remarkably little about their strategies. Labour and the Conservatives note that freedom of movement as established by EU membership will end with Britain’s departure from the Union, but neither sketch even the vaguest proposal for what will follow. The Conservatives do specify a target – reducing net migration to the tens of thousands – but identify neither a process for achieving it nor for calculating the cost either to specific sectors of the British economy or to the economy overall. The Lib Dems promise to maintain freedom of movement within the single market.
Though the official census data gives seniors a 2015 poverty rate of only 8.8%, the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which accounts for expenses such as the rising costs of health care, raises the senior poverty rate to 13.7%.
Poverty thresholds are determined by the US government, and vary according to the size of a family, and ages of the members. In 2015, the poverty threshold—known more commonly as the poverty line—for an individual was $12,000. For two people, the weighted average threshold was $15,000.
For more details about poverty thresholds, visit the . Poverty thresholds are intended for use as a statistical yardstick, not a complete description of what people and/or families actually need to live.
It is not clear whether economic hard times will finally force us to break the mad cycle of poverty and punishment. With even the official level of poverty increasing – to over 14% in 2010 – some states are beginning to ease up on the criminalisation of poverty, using alternative sentencing methods, shortening probation, and reducing the number of people locked up for technical violations like missing court appointments. But others, diabolically enough, are tightening the screws: not only increasing the number of "crimes", but charging prisoners for their room and board, guaranteeing they'll be released with potentially criminalising levels of debt.
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 penalise people for falling into debt. The experience of the poor, and especially poor people of colour, 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.
So what is the solution to the poverty of so many of America's working people? Ten years ago, when Nickel and Dimed first came out, I often responded with the standard liberal wish list – a higher minimum wage, universal health care, affordable housing, good schools, reliable public transportation, and all the other things we, uniquely among the developed nations, have neglected to do.
Labour will give mental health the same priority as physical health, and start constructing a National Care Service. Labour and the Lib Dems would ring-fence mental health budgets and focus on needs of children and young people. The Lib Dems would “transform mental health support for pregnant women, new mothers and those who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth”, and look to introduce a health and social care convention.
The second – and by far the most reliable – way to be criminalised by poverty is to have the wrong colour skin. Indignation runs high when a celebrity professor succumbs to racial profiling, but whole communities are effectively "profiled" for the suspicious combination of being both dark-skinned and poor. Flick a cigarette and you're "littering"; wear the wrong colour T-shirt and you're displaying gang allegiance. Just strolling around in a dodgy neighbourhood can mark you as a potential suspect. And don't get grumpy about it or you could be "resisting arrest".
The Conservatives explicitly see employment as a route out of poverty, but when the rhetorical soundbites are set aside, the concrete strategy for taking people out of poverty is largely reliant on achieving higher wages through mechanisms such as the development of higher level skills. This fails to take account of the fact that this will not be achievable for all lower-paid workers and that poverty is a multi-dimensional concept of which income levels are only one part.
The aim of housing policy should be to provide decent quality homes, at affordable costs, with sufficient choice to meet the increasing diversity of household circumstances, sufficient security to enable life planning, and without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Parts of the UK are currently experiencing severe housing shortages, which disproportionately affect the poorest in society.