Friday, February 14, 2014

Austerity and the War on the Poor are Global: Did You Know That Food Poverty in the UK is Now a Public Health Emergency?

I have been thinking about "Everything is Awesome", the infectious lie of a song from The Lego Movie. Everything is not awesome...far from it.

The Right-wing's war on the poor and the "useless eaters" through cuts in food assistance programs is not isolated to the United States. American exceptionalism, and the myopia it produces, is a problem across the ideological spectrum. Of course, appeals to nationalism and American exceptionalism do different types of political work for Democrats and Republicans. But, an unwillingness to locate American domestic politics within a global framework is a failing common to both sides.

Food stamps and other anti-poverty programs have faced draconian cuts under the guise of "balancing the budget", "sequestration", and the other types of distracting language which exist only to mask a basic fact: there is a war on the poor in the United States. The Rich have won.

Republicans want to kill more poor and working class people in order to enrich the coffers of the 1 percent and the corporatists by creating political and economic insecurity among those in the (former) middle and working classes who are struggling to maintain a basic and humane standard of living.

Democrats march in the same direction as Republicans in their obsessive need to cut and prune the social safety net. Their defense? We are protecting the interests of the American people by "only" cutting "some" monies as compared to the gross fiscal amputations offered up by the Ayn Rand Tea Party GOP.

To quote the master wordsmith and philosopher Redd Foxx, the Republicans want to kill you with lightning, all at once. The Democrats just want to shock you a little bit at a time. The result is the same either way.

Neoliberalism and Austerity are not new policies. Nor, were they applied in the United States first. The United Kingdom, and countries such as Argentina, were the test cases for reorganizing social and political life not around an expansive view of citizenship, biopolitics, and the state's obligation to the Common Good, but instead by applying market principles to every area of society under the the mantra-umbrella "profits over people".

People are starving in the United States. Food insecurity is killing people both directly and indirectly (stress; worsening health; long-term illness and disease). Austerity and neoliberal policies and policy makers are doing the same thing in the United Kingdom--and have been for decades.

The working, middle classes, and the poor are under attack in a global conflict. Unfortunately, a myopic national politics and media have focused almost exclusively on American elites and policy makers as the sole cause, when in fact they are part of a global reorganization of resources. American exceptionalism is a poisoned chalice that too many drink from while their bellies are increasingly empty.

From the British Medical Journal:

Food poverty in the UK “has all the signs of a public health emergency,” warn experts

David Taylor-Robinson from the University of Liverpool, and colleagues show that the number of malnutrition related admissions to hospital in England has doubled since 2008-09.
Furthermore, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has reported a decrease in calories purchased and substitution with unhealthier foods, especially in families with young children, while data also show an exponential rise in the number of people being issued food bank vouchers by frontline care professionals.
“This has all the signs of a public health emergency that could go unrecognised until it is too late to take preventive action,” warn the authors.
Malnutrition in children is particularly worrying, they add, because exposures during sensitive periods can have lifelong effects, increasing the risk of cardiovascular and other adult chronic diseases.
And they argue that because the government has delayed the publication of research it commissioned into the rise in emergency food aid in the UK, “we can only speculate that the cause is related to the rising cost of living and increasingly austere welfare reforms.”
And they call for urgent monitoring of the effects of these policies on nutritional status in the most vulnerable populations.
“Access to an adequate food supply is the most basic of human needs and rights. We should not allow food poverty in the UK to be the next public health emergency,” they conclude.


Myshkin the Idiot said...

how much do you think the right blames their social problems on immigrants/minorities?

Myshkin the Idiot said...

wait, you've seen the lego movie..

Is the LEGO Movie world literally 99.9% white?

I just watched the trailer and that video again and I only counted Morgan Freeman's character a guy wearing a poncho and sombrero and an Arab in robe and head dress as LEGO POC...

kokanee said...

1) The poor are easier to control and lead than the middle class. They are also less likely to revolt. The PTB are deliberately destroying their greatest threat.

2) The dismantling of the social safety net was wholly predicated on racism. They called it individualism and personal responsibility but they didn't hide what they really meant: black welfare queens with 8 kids by 8 different fathers were disportionate abusing the welfare system. Similarly, they claimed that young black males were drug dealing slackers with their pants sagging down. It was all lies. Well, except for the saggy pants. ;)

3) In one sense, white America is going to pay dearly for their racism. Just desserts?

4) What we really need now is a guaranteed income. I noticed this is part of the Black Panther's platform. To be able to try and fail and get caught by the social safety net is what makes the American dream possible. Also, a guaranteed income is freedom to pursue one's dreams as opposed to indentured servitude.

4) Pinochet's Chile is probably the best example of neoliberalism or unfettered capitalism. The west hailed the "miracle of Chile." Back in Chile, the neoliberal policies were so unpopular, it required a police state to enforce them. If you want to predict what will happen in the US, best study Chile.

5) The MSM obsession with the stock market irks me. The only thing the the stock market measures is how well rich folks are doing.

6) The lego movie again, huh? If you watch The Lorax, I'll go see The Lego Movie.

7) I don't think Alternet will pick this one up. Right now the Democrats have to preserve the "good" reputation of the party. If they have to throw Pres. Obama under the bus, they will.

Veri1138 said...

The destruction of the social safety net is partly based upon racism. More specifically, it is against the poor. Other "races" as a percentage of their specific population, are poor.

One could view the war on the poor also as a eugenics movement. The rich in society are afraid of the middle-class as the middle-class is the revolutionary class that wants what the rich has. The poor are the generally the foot-soldiers, most destined to remain poor even as they die for the revolution.

One flaw in the above paragraph is that of religion, which advocates unrestrained breeding. One way to keep the poor from breeding? Don't feed them. It does not stop the rich from co-opting religion to serve their needs.

Last time anyone looked, the majority of the poor are white people, by sheer numbers. Not by percentage of population as defined by "race".

Wealthy people do not want poor people around. They want enough to serve their needs.

chauncey devega said...

Religion is part of that glue for the Right-wing in the U.S. In the UK there are other social sentiments that are being manipulated. There is the Left-Right divide there, anti-immigrant sentiment, racism, etc. But I don't know enough about the religion angle. Perhaps someone else will chime in.

chauncey devega said...

Got Lego on my brain.

Pinochet is the future along w. Argentina and the U.K.

Herman Cain's mentioning of Argentina was no mistake. I too support a GMI.

I am working on 2 longer pieces for next week and after that try to connect the dots. I have some other thoughts on pop culture and of course the passing of Stuart Hall.

I am trying to balance what I want to talk about with the obligation to talk about events in the news cycle. Thus, going forward this year you will see more short pieces, sharing links, and of course longer pieces too.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

damn. just wow. one of the best comments I have ever read.

Veri1138 said...

Oh, and I am a White Dude. It is more accurately to say that White RACISTS are going to pay dearly. As they should. I am treated poorly in some instances due to "guilt by association".

It is like being an American overseas and being treated poorly. Until they get to know you. And then the party never stops.

Be careful with the statement of "White America". That tends to alienate those of us who support you. Though, I am sure you did not mean it that way.

It is also the language of war and divisiveness. One way people of all color are kept at odds with each other.

Divide et Impera.

Veri1138 said...

Easy... look at their attacks and who they castigate. More accurately to say how the leaders of The Right use minorities and the poor to place blame on, for their own RW policies.

kokanee said...

The way I understand it, the state uses a minority group to chip away at the Constitution. Thus the Constitution still applies except for said minority group whether it be Japanese, African-Americans, Arabs or Muslims. Once the government gets a foot in the door, then it begins to expand the groups that no longer have those Constitutional protections. The state plays off of cultural racism and institutionalizes it.

If we Americans don't stand up for the disenfranchised groups then pretty soon all non-elite groups are disenfranchised.

So *some* white Americans allowed the disenfranchisement of African-Americans and now we're all going down with the ship. For whities like you and me who are now saying, "I'm sorry," it just doesn't cut it with the black community. It's too fucking little too fucking late.

It is quite time to stop playing by their rules and forcing them to play by ours.

As soon as people realize the above, we will begin to win.

I like that. It reminds me of Margaret Mead's quote:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

kokanee said...

CDV has lego on the brain —ha ha! I almost bought the bootleg DVD sitting in Wendy's this evening with the kids. I make a point not to buy those shitty DVDs. I resisted temptation.

I'm learning about Stuart Hall. Look forward to next week. Growing up in Canada, we were taught that Canada was a multicultural society and that the US was a melting-pot society. Turns out that the US has two pots: one blackish and one whitish. It seems so arbitrary to be absurd.

Connecting the dots —that's what it's all about!

kokanee said...

You know, the rich love the poor. The poor aren't a threat to anyone. They are so busy just trying to survive. Pretty soon, manufacturing jobs will start coming back to the US as neoliberalism drives down the labor wage in the US to almost nothing.

kokanee said...

I agree with Myshkin —great comment!

Daniel Goldberg said...

This is great, Chaunce, and right in my academic wheelhouse (at least the public health ethics part. There's a film coming out soon from California Newsreel, a company that specializes in documentary films centering on social justice and racism in particular.

The title of the film, a rough cut of which was screened at the last APHA meeting, is The Raising of America, and is all about the epidemiology of early childhood development. Truth be told, there is nothing -- NOTHING -- that makes me more professionally angry than our country's neglect of ECD, which of course is highly stratified across all the usual social fault lines (race, gender, class, etc.)

Basically, the evidence base on ECD is just freaking spectacular. There's a shocking -- for academics, that is -- absence of dispute on just how powerful a determinant of health across the life span is ECD. Virtually everyone believes in the quality of the evidence here. We can robustly link a person's health late in life with the social and economic conditions (which definitely include racism and discrimination) they experience from prenatal-2 years of age. We can also find strong links btw the conditions in which parents grew up and the late-life health of their progeny.

In other words, that stuff is so powerful it predicts health intergenerationally. There are even some Brits who are documenting significant correlations between freaking grandparents and late-life health of the grandchildren. We have good causal models for the correlations, too.

The economic argument doesn't help any naysayers either; many ECD programs prove stunningly cost-effective over the life span. Thus, in terms of reducing human suffering, it's obvious: intensive, intensive investment in ECD.

And yet, as a country, we do not do this. Instead, as you note, we move to dilute the social safety net even further, disproportionately but intentionally stripping resources away from the most vulnerable and most disadvantaged.

What kind of people do we want to be?

I fear I know the answer, and I despair.

Southernfink said...

Re, The Poor aren't a threat to anyone, but wait until you walk around in the slum's of Delhi or Bangkok, it's an entirely new experience, in fact there should be nothing scarier than a poor man with a gun and a hungry family to feed.

chauncey devega said...

Great resources!

Do you have any cites to share for this?

"WAAAY back when I had to ride dinosaurs uphill in the snow both ways to my undergrad classes, we were taught to look at societal systems which deliberately shift food away from children as indicative of genocidal policies or intended on securing a permanent underclass labor force. Generally sort of both, really"

chauncey devega said...

Great comment. We have some great folks here at WARN. I hope that all the other wonderful commenters I chat w. off board chime in too. Good things happening pat us all on the back.

chauncey devega said...

Maybe this is bad advice but buy the bootleg, watch it online, and get a few drinks and watch it w.o. the kids. I am curious about your thoughts on it.

chauncey devega said...


chauncey devega said...

I hear you. Our friends know who we are. Our enemies know who we are. Those in the middle will have to meditate and follow their hearts, history, and how black and brown folks have been on the right side of history and have never sought revenge.

chauncey devega said...

You know I love our conversations. I am going to get you for season 2.5 of the podcast which is going to start soon.

If you are so inclined and have the time, do post some links or resources that we should all check out on the topic. You have much to share. This article scared me because once you start seeing such work publicly, in the literature, and allowing for the lag, what horrors are really going on?

kokanee said...


purveyor1 said...

Knifnrehtous was recently discovered in an Egyptian tomb, otherwise know as a 'sarcophaguy(s)

purveyor1 said...

I once read a piece on "bi-camerality." The God gene it is argued has been written into our genetic code to help mankind cope with the inexplicable quirks of the natural world. (Is such still there? Is such diminishing or growing?)

There is more to it than that but the evidence presented was fascinating.


kokanee said...

Okay, I'm on the job.

IrishUp said...

This is a little tough. I went to a public university in the 80s, on the cusp of the age of the internet, just ahead of the dismantling of the US social safety net. The professors in the Anthropology and Pschology were your typical leftie-commie-pinko social justice types. Their established work was published on good old tree-ware, so it's hard to find full-access electronic sources.

The academic papers described the anthropological / psychological examinations of their subjects. It was in lectures where we were encouraged to connect the dots and understand the implications. My professors were unanimous in their hatred for what Reagan was about, and lectures reflected that. The emphasis was always centered on how the system affects individuals, and how to tease out and evaluate who is benefited and who is exploited, excluded or disenfranchised. Yet publications professional journals rarely conclude with "And this is yet another way The Man is keeping us down!", yanno?

The papers linked below may have hella abelist language, and are problematic as cited above.

Dr. Lawrence Greene studied how nutritional disparities in Ecuadorian Andes populations upheld the remnants of the Colonial haciendas economy. In brief, mountainous and very inland soils are bereft of iodine. Lack of iodine causes hypothyroidism, which in extreme forms causes severe mental and physical developmental problems. A local diet was therefore iodine deficient if one could not afford outside foods. The paper doesn't tell the tale we heard in class of how the Blanco - haciendas wealthy (largely successfully) resisted and blocked attempts to bring in iodized salt products which would solve much of the problem there, as it had in the US.

This is a summary of resources (not all web linked) that gives more detail on Greene's work as well as others:

The WHO Report on "Social Determinants of Health: Solid Facts" is a decent multifactoral analysis. Except you're not going to see the words "racism" or "genocide" anywhere. You just gotta read between the lines:

Nancy Krieger and associates seem to be doing some of the best work in this area overall. But again, the language is careful to avoid scaring the horses. We should never forget that formal academia is a part of The System, even if many of the people so engaged wish to dismantle inequalities.

kokanee said...

Wow, great stuff! Maybe this should be a top priority for social justice advocates. It should be impossible for anyone to object to caring for our children.

From The Raising of America> website:
It’s often said a society can be measured by how well it attends to its
children – their health and safety, their material security, their
education and socialization, and their sense of being loved and valued
by their families and communities.

Preview The Raising of America documentary Series:

Are We Crazy About Our Kids?

kokanee said...

This article scared me because once you start seeing such work publicly,
in the literature, and allowing for the lag, what horrors are really
going on?
Connect the dots!

Right now there is a debate in NYC/NYS about expanding universal pre-k and who is going to fund it:

Southernfink said...

Merci mom ami !

Veri1138 said...

Driving down wages has always been part of the plan.

kokanee said...

Saw the movie on the big screen. I had a different take. Spoilers below.

1) The movie can't help be a big advertisement for Lego. The movie doesn't try to sell Lego. It doesn't have to. I can't hold that against the movie.

2) The movie is neither anti-business nor pro-business. Yes, the villain is Mr. Business (or Lord Business) but that's about it. For a villain who wants to take over the world, a CEO is a pretty good choice.

There are two main themes:

3) The first is chaos and creativity versus order (follow the instructions) and authoritarianism. In the end, chaos and creativity win out.

4) The other main theme is that everyone is special and can achieve anything they want to achieve. To the movie's credit, the hero doesn't "evolve" but the notion that anyone can achieve anything they put their mind to is pure propaganda bunk. To paraphrase from the The Incredibles, "If everyone is special, then no one is."

There were a couple of sub-themes:

5) The movie debunks magic and prophesy.

6) Individuality is good but working together is important too.


7) There was some LGBT humor but otherwise the movie sorely lacked in diversity. This is my main criticism of the movie.


The Lorax remake was way worse. The main theme of that movie was that if you destroy an ecosystem then all you have to do is replant some trees and all will be well.

Veri1138 said...

Who said I was saying, "sorry"?

I don't. What is important is to recognize that Whitey - I love that term - has historically been a purveyor of discrimination in America. And the world.

That is history. Recognize the historical roots of racism. Learn from history. And do try not to repeat it.

I was born White. Nothing I can do about. I am not sorry I was born White. And I am not going to apologize for being born into a society that historically treats Whites as privileged. Nothing anyone can do to change history. Least of all, apologixze for circumstances of birth.

What I am going to do and have done, is speak up about it. I am going to, and have done so, is judge people on who they are as a human being. To recognize the people, regardless of color, who deserve to be recognized and promoted. To speak up when a person is denigrated because of the color of their skin.

I am not sorry about the above. And never will be. I will not be sorry to see racism go extinct, by force or otherwise.

Sorry is for cowards. Action is for the strong. And I am not a coward. Sorry is cheap and I am not cheap.

The people that should be sorry are the cowards and cheap ass bastards who are racists. And it is my pleasure to make them say it, if they are man or woman enough.

No one should be sorry for who they are, for the circumstances of their birth; when they are good human beings.

We don't control the past. Neither should we live in it. We only learn from history. We can be sorry when we control circumstances and for our own behaviour. Until I act in a racist manner, I am not sorry.

Anyone who acts ill towards others should be sorry.

kokanee said...

I just mean that we're sorry for their suffrage --not that we were personally responsible for it.

At the same time, we are afforded a certain "white privilege" whether we want it or not.

P.S. Michael Dunn was convicted of 3 counts of 2nd degree attempted murder and one count of shooting at a vehicle regarding the slaying of Jordan Davis. Hung jury on the first degree murder charge of Jordan Davis. It's bad enough that the state doesn't get it right but juries too?

Veri1138 said...

Any opinion on Robocop? I am debating going to see it.

Ah, product placement in movies. The Reeses Pieces Effect from E.T. days. Except that Legos movies are all product placement ads in a movie theater. Even cartoons have been created as brand advertisement.

In the 80s with the advent of consumer mass market computer games, a dog food company made a game to advertise their product.

chauncey devega said...

Point 5 is very important. I enjoy talking w. smart folks about the politics of popular culture. One thing to consider though--what happens at the end w. father and son, consumer and big business and how there is a union of the two. Moreover, how does humanizing the corporation as a human but misguided figure that can be rehabilitated do the work of the corporateocracy--especially when the Corporateocracy is psychopathic?

chauncey devega said...

I almost saw it today but the Jordan Dunn injustice distracted me and got me in a bad mood. I had to go to Macy's to get candy and then some chicken schwarma. I will see it next week.

chauncey devega said...

Dunn was guilty of shooting at Davis and not hitting him with all of the shots as some folks have pointed out. Sickening decision. Black life is cheap again.

kokanee said...

Very sickening. I can't think of a more open and shut case. But on the bright side, the hung jury is better than a second degree murder conviction. It's not like a juror thought Dunn was innocent.

kokanee said...

I want to see Robocop. I'm a fan of the original and didn't want to see ithe remake at first but it looks like it's been tweaked for our times: surveillance, drones, etc.

Veri1138 said...

The rich love the poor only so far as Master and Servant. It would behoove the rich to throw some bones to their dogs, the poor or this happens....

The above is in the context of slavery, yet is illustrative of extreme response.

Veri1138 said...

The State does not act. The State is not a person. The foundation of The State, America, is The Constitution which espouses ideals.

The State is composed of Agents acting at behest of The State. Politicians, bureaucrats, etc. with their attendant prejudices and beliefs.

It is not the State that acts. It is the evolving views of those who act as Agents of the State 0, acting as the State.

The Constitution is important in one aspect. It exists as a written ideal to guide development. And quite frankly, those who oppose the full application of those ideals are hard at work.

It always a struggle. And once achieved, in the future, must be safeguarded against those minority groups who would seek to usurp power for their own means.

Currently, Wall Street and Global Finance reign Supreme.

kokanee said...

re: "Moreover, how does humanizing the corporation as a human but misguided
figure that can be rehabilitated do the work of the
corporateocracy--especially when the Corporateocracy is psychopathic?"

There was nothing in the movie about money other than buying a coffee for $37. No profit motive, no grow the company to increase power, no mention of company really, no take-over the world. Just impose order on the world. I take the CEO and the company (did it have a name?) as allegory for order/authoritarianism. But that's just me.

You really must rent The Lorax if you want to see disgusting. It's on Netflix.

kokanee said...

"Currently, Wall Street and Global Finance reign Supreme."

Pretty much. Second the oil companies. Third the defense contractors.

With that said, Apple is the biggest company by market capitalization and Google is second. The tech companies are taking over. And yet the tech companies defer to the NSA.

Oh what a tangled web we weave!

Daniel Goldberg said...

As usual, man, you do me far too much honor. You do such an awesome job here at WARN; most of the time I just read and gape, feeling like you've said what there is to say so well. Plus, centering the voice of a white man on WARN is like the last thing I want to do. But of course I'd be beyond honored to participate in a podcast -- you ask, I do!

In terms of links and resources, I'd start by googling "Clyde Hertzman," a Canadian primary care doc who has helped compile some of the best evidence there is on the power of ECD. Dr. Hertzman died at the age of 59 almost exactly one year ago, and we are poorer off for it.

Hertzman was the lead commissioner charged with preparing the section on ECD in the WHO's Commission on SDOH, and the fruits of his labor can be downloaded here:

It's also worth checking out Jack Shonkoff's Center on the Developing Child at Harvard:

Finally, RWJF has some nice resources as well:

Hope this helps some!

Veri1138 said...

I might go see it today. My friend's nephew saw it and he prefered the original and he is 14 years old. I will let you know.

Veri1138 said...

Oh, and Max Headroom.

Veri1138 said...

Saw the verdict. Wonder if the prosecutor bothered to have the jury instructed to consider a lessor charge of 2nd degree on te fourth count. My understanding is that 1st degree requires far mor premeditation than shown.

Hope for consecutive sentencing instead of concurrent

Veri1138 said...

Ah... Some consider that condescending so I don't bother, after a few too many remarks about, "What do you know, Whitey?" or "We don't need your help, Whitey."

Paraphrasing, of course.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

" the movie sorely lacked in diversity."

I won't get a chance to see it any time soon. was I right? is it 99% white?

kokanee said...

I'll bet. I love your choice of words.

kokanee said...

99.9% yellow lego. The Lego TV shows use a variety of colors to match skin tones. The movie went almost exclusively with yellow. Make of it what you will.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

the white imagination is segregated, there is no room for people of color that cannot be used to serve the global white narrative in some manner.

kokanee said...

One more point here. If the system is inherently racist and we do nothing about it then we condone it. We have to collectively pull our heads out of the sand and change the world.

P. S. How was Robocop?

Veri1138 said...

Just got back. Lackluster is the word for the movie. Too long on the story of how Robocop became, and short on the back end. Wait for DVD or Netflix. Overall, a choppy story that once again tries for depth and fails, not too miserably, but miserably enough.

The Judge Dredd remake was far more enjoyable. Loved it.

chauncey devega said...

Small world. I just saw it a few hours ago too. Some big ideas not followed through on. The director has a good pedigree. But, the original is so great this film was just not needed. Sam Jackson was great as O'Reilly though.

Veri1138 said...

I did not like Jackson's performance. It seemed forced, wooden.

IrishUp said...

A. L. Hinton is a cultural anthropologist at Rutgers. I recently ran across his critique of the Geneva Convention's definition of genocide, and found it compelling. I have decided I need to track this book down.

"Annihilating Difference: The Anthropology of Genocide". AL Hinton, Ed. U Cal Press, 2002

While trying to find that, I found this monograph by Dr. Ahmed, that covers a lot of the territory under discussion here:

"... The UN definition of genocide imposes unwarranted politicized constraints on Lemkin’s wider original sociological conceptualization of genocide as a colonial form. For Lemkin, perpetrators of genocide could be states as well as decentralizedand dispersed groups such as settler-colonists. [snip] ... genocide can best be understood as an extreme form of colonization.A strong case has now been made by several scholars that while this does not mean that all colonialism is genocidal, it is unequivocally clear that genocides are comprised of distinctively colonial dynamics. These colonial dynamics emerge due to the radicalisation of identity politics in the context of historically-specifc socio-political contestations leading to major social crises, which drive the construction of new bifurcated “inside” and “outside” group identities. "

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