As a student on his study abroad there a lot of new things that make an impact on you. One of the first things I noticed was the high number of homeless people on the streets in London. I had read before that poverty in the United Kingdom was quite high, but I never thought and never have seen so many people in the cold with nothing more than a blanket. It made a huge impact on me.
According to Oxfam, “The UK is the world’s sixth largest economy, yet 1 in 5 of the UK population live below our official poverty line”. 1 in 5 equates to roughly 13 million people living below this poverty line. How can such an economic powerhouse as the United Kingdom, which is also seen as one of the leading countries of the world, lack the resources and job possibilities that 1 in 5 of their citizens endure struggle daily?
A few other facts extracted from the Oxfam site show that poverty numbers have doubled over the last 30 years, whilst the economy has doubled, too. Somewhere this doesn’t equate up.
Thatcher’s decision to cut the tax paid by the wealthy (top rate) from 83% to 40% is believed to be one of the contributing factors to the poverty levels seen today. (Mudie and Jones, 2015) But shouldn’t people that benefited the most in our society, at least from a moral standpoint, pay back the most to this same society?
The percentage of total income paid in tax in 2011 shows that the richest 20% of society pay nearly the same (35.5%) as the poorest 20% pay (36.6%). (Mudie and Jones, 2015) And doesn’t this show that the richest have such a surplus of wealth that they can afford to contribute more? Yet in total they seem to receive the same tax breaks as the poorest of this country.
The trickle-down effect that Mrs Thatcher believed in showed in great numbers that it failed miserably. The theory that economic stimulation and growth, increased spending by the rich should boost the economy, and more jobs would trickle down the wealth on the poorer is not what the reality is now, in fact, there is greater inequality than before, more debt, and increasing financial crises. (Chu, 2015) I hope the scales will be balanced soon enough, as no one should live in poverty in this world.
Mario van der Meer
Word count: 400
Chu, B. (2015). “The wealth that failed to trickle down: The rich do get richer while poor stay poor, report suggests”. Independent, 19 January.
Mudie, K and Jones, H. (2015). “Breadline Britain: 20MILLION now living in poverty as landmark study reveals how tax system creates inequality”. Mirror, 8 February.
Poverty in the UK. (2015). Available from: http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/our-work/poverty-in-the-uk.