Defining Poverty

Over the last few weeks, I have read so many articles about poverty in the UK, especially in relation to the government’s proposed benefits cap. It has occurred to me more and more that poverty is discussed and theorised by often middle class liberals who have little personal experience as they see ‘the poor’ as a dinner table discussion that does not really affect them.

It must be said that being ‘poor’ in this country in this year of 2012, is not the same as being poor in Africa or even America, or being poor in 1962, 1912 or 1862. Being poor to me means having no money at all, wearing dirty clothes with holes, and living in cold damp unheated run down homes. However, in this country, we have a welfare system with simply does not allow 99% of people to reach that state. 

In fact, due to the consumer bubbles of the 80s and 90s, we have a generation of long term unemployed people who believe it is their right to have all the consumer items of those who work, like mobile phones and playstations. When the middle class liberals cry foul at the government forcing people to struggle, we are talking in reality about them having to give up items which would not result in them dying or falling ill.

In the words of Maggie Thatcher, like everyone else, the government is asking those who are dependent on the taxes paid by their peers to do a bit of good housekeeping and be respectful of the privilege living in a civilised society which supports their situation by showing the same restraint as we all face. These who are unemployed are now called Jobseekers because that is the job they have a responsibility to do until they are in a position not to claim benefit.

The system is not perfect but who said life must always be kind. We need many new policies to actively increase people’s contribution and income potential, rather than simply leaving people dependent as the poor slowly get richer.