The poverty stats issued yesterday are obviously not good news but need to be taken with a pinch of salt because what they are actually an indicator of is whether the incomes of the poorest are keeping pace with rapid increases in median income. Obviously its a bad thing if they are not because it creates a more divided society, but what the numbers don't mean is that the poor are getting poorer and actually have less cash than they did the year before - in fact the poor are getting richer, just not as fast as those on average incomes.
I would be more interested to know the stats based on a definition of poverty as being unable to afford a defined basic standard of living - does anyone know if and where these are published? - which seems a more meaningful indicator than the constantly shifting goalpost of a % of national median income. I would have thought it would be relatively easy to define what as a society we think every person should be able to afford - in fact a debate on this would help a lot of better off people get their heads round the impact poverty actually has - and then agree how to guarantee everyone gets that level of income.
However, I disagreed with DWP Minister Jim Murphy (I think this is the first time I've disagreed with Jim Murphy since NOLS Conference 1992) when he said (as reported by
Dave Osler) that benefits (as opposed to work) could never lift everyone out of poverty. I thought the idea was that as democratic socialists we wanted to abolish poverty. Why don't we just define a minimum income that's set above the poverty level - defined in absolute not relative terms - and then set the minimum income provided by benefits at that level, and the minimum wage for working people sufficiently above that to be an incentive to work? Is there a reason not to do this (or at least start getting there in stages)?