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Let's Tackle Poverty in the US and UK by Making Sure Policies Don’t Hit Poor in the Pocket

March 30, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

Ask mainstream politicians in the UK or the US what can be done
to alleviate poverty, and the answers will probably be predictable
and unimaginative.

Progressive politicians will talk up the need for more
redistribution, minimum wage hikes, government job schemes and
subsidies for services, with childcare nowadays a favoured
priority. Conservatives will advocate targeted tax cuts and welfare
reform to encourage people to earn their way out of poverty.
So-called moderates will split the difference.

All implicitly agree the primary way to help the low paid is
through raising their incomes, either by government transfers, wage
mandates, shifting service funding responsibility to taxpayers, or
increasing the returns to working. But there’s good reason to think
this “income-based” consensus on poverty alleviation has
had its day.

Income is still extremely important, of course. Money matters to
human well-being. Progressives are correct that giving the poor
money or stuff makes their lives easier, and helps reduce poverty
for a large number of recipients (as are conservatives correct that
means-tested benefits disincentivise earning more money).

But what really matters is what people can afford with their
income. And it’s here where the political focus on income-based
solutions has left a huge blind spot which undermines anti-poverty
efforts — for government policies in other areas raise the
cost of living for poor people by increasing the price of essential
goods and services. This not only makes the poor worse off, but in
itself leads to demands for vast amounts of intervention and

Rather than instinctively
proposing new spending and regulations, our politicians should
instead adopt a “first do no harm” approach that unpicks
interventions that increase prices in the first place.

The poorest 20pc of households in the UK see close to 60pc of
their spending go on housing, food, clothing, transport and
utilities; in the US, on slightly different definitions, it’s 68pc.
Those with children see higher spending on clothing and footwear,
and childcare for those with infants can be hugely expensive too.
Families in inner-successful cities face much higher rents (and
often receive higher housing benefit or subsidies).

In all these sectors, government policies push prices
structurally higher. Land use planning laws in the UK and around
major US cities are a key driver of high house prices and rents.
Childcare regulation such as stringent staff-child ratios and group
size limits have been shown to raise prices, without improving
child outcomes. Significant tariffs are imposed on food imports at
an EU-level, and in the US sugar subsidies, milk marketing orders,
and ethanol mandates make food more expensive.

Highly regressive trade barriers on clothing and footwear
likewise raise the costs of dressing ourselves, and …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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North Carolina Prisons Finally Banned This Barbaric Practice Used on Pregnant Inmates

March 30, 2018 in Blogs

By Brendan Gauthier, AlterNet

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Many states still require women prisoners to be shackled during childbirth.

North Carolina became the 19th state to prohibit or restrict the shackling of pregnant inmates during childbirth this week, after its director of prisons, Kenneth Lassiter, signed legislation banning the practice.

The new policy is an apparent response to pushback from a coalition of advocacy groups, including the Atlanta-based SisterSong, which sent a letter last month to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety on behalf of inmates from the North Carolina Correctional Institute for Women who were shackled while in labor. The coalition said two unnamed women were shackled “in spite of the concerns of medical staff and the fact that it was in violation of NC Department of Public Safety written policies and legal precedent.”

Though further information about the two inmates has yet to surface, the letter prompted an internal review that ultimately led to the change in policy, which further bans the use of handcuffs or other restraints “during the mother's initial bonding with her newborn, including nursing and skin-to-skin contact,” according to the News & Observer.

In 2006, the UN Committee against Torture found the practice of shackling pregnant inmates during childbirth to be in violation of Article 16 of the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The American Medical Association condemned the “barbaric practice that needlessly inflicts excruciating pain and humiliation” at its annual meeting in 2010, urging states to model new anti-shackling legislation on New Mexico’s, which bans “restraints of any kind” unless a pregnant inmate poses a flight risk or an immediate threat to herself or others.

“I am unaware of any cases of women or girls in labor attempting to escape. If I did, I …read more