Tag Archives: tampon poverty

UN on poverty

A United Nations  ‘rapporteur’ spent 12 days investigating the impact of ‘austerity  in the UK. The  Huff Post reported that he said

“During my visit I have spoken with people who depend on foodbanks  and charities for  their next meal, who are sleeping on friends’ couches because they are homeless and don’t have a safe place for their children to sleep. Who have sold sex for money or shelter, [and] children who are growing up in poverty unsure of their future” 

Since he clearly couldn’t have found these people on a random interaction with the populace at large, it is likely that he was shepherded from one scenario to another by people with an ‘agenda’, presumably selected carefully as being the worst examples they could find. Worse, the targets to whom he spoke have naturally every incentive to stick one  to the government and exaggerate their situation when being asked about their plight. This is what statisticians call ‘selection bias’; if you do a survey in the Sahara desert  for evidence of global lack of water, it’s likely that you conclude it’s critical. The shepherds in this case included  the Poverty Alliance and the Child Poverty Action Group, who are presumably not neutral in their views on the effect of austerity.

The rapporteur in question was Philip Alston, holder of both academic and UN (doubtless well paid)  sinecures.

Grumpy has issues with the type of exaggerated language  used by Alston, because, in spite of his being an academic it is (a) imprecise  and (b) as reported, is designed to confuse. As the Resolution Foundation acknowledges, being in relative poverty does not mean being poor by some absolute definition. Alston uses the tired but common trick of conflating these two things to inflate his message.

However, the main issue is that Alston’s apparent title is  “UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights”. Now, measured in quantitative terms of the percentage of a population living with an income of less than USD 5.50 per day on a purchasing power parity basis, there are 147 countries worse than the UK. Grumpy doesn’t know how many of these Alston has covered, but (even in Europe) if he has not reported on Macedonia (25% below this level) but has selected the UK (0.7% below this level) one starts to sense the reek of a political agenda with a strongly socialist bias. Presumably, he doesn’t get the same self seeking publicity from trashing the Macedonian government as he does from the UK, which just may have something to do with his choice of country if he hadn’t completed the other 147.

Compared with the billions of people round thew world living in utter abject poverty and with desperately short life expectancy, a very small percentage in the UK reach the limit implied by Alston’s title, and he could have better served his title by addressing himself more to their  plight.

Food banks ‘Fake News’

Not anorexic …

Grumpy has opined before on how certain institutions with otherwise entirely laudable objectives (and which do contribute to society)  nevertheless resort to hyperbole,  and intentionally misleading and often disingenuous  statements to promote their political messages.   ( http://grumpy.eastover.org.uk/numbers-that-dont-add-up/ ) One of the common ways this is done is to conflate topics (often easily done with the ‘flexibility’ of the English language) to deliberately leave an impression with the reader which is removed from reality.

Grumpy’s eye was caught by a headline  on the website of US based CNN, ‘holiday hunger is haunting British Families’, driven by the statement  that ‘31% of children in Coventry live in poverty’ from a UK Community Trust. It goes on to say that ‘millions of parents … face stress over whether they will be able to provide food for their families’.  One can forgive a US reader getting the impression that that vast swathes of UK citizens are on the point of starvation. Poverty = poor; the authors know exactly what they are doing in this conflation.

The data stems from data issued in a leaflet by the ‘Coventry Partnership’, which also stated that 18.5% of residents of the City are living in circumstances of multiple deprivation. Oddly, it also says that over 24% of Coventry children are obese, and that this is increasing – giving the image of a third of the population being  anorexic whilst one quarter are wobbling about as flesh mountains. [Incidentally, the picture at the top of the page is of a family who use a food bank because they are unable to otherwise feed themselves. However, at the risk of being  cruel (but Grumpy at least deleted the word ‘porky’ from this post),  neither of the two women depicted have any obvious signs of food deprivation, so the food bank clearly provides copious calories.]

This piece of lexical sleight of hand comes from a favourite trick of the many agencies vying for more government monies, which is to conflate relative poverty (which is what the 31% was based on) with being poor; it is not. One can construct a scenario where people ‘living in poverty’ by this definition all drive BMW 520 cars.

The same article has links to another current bandwagon on which Grumpy has previously written (http://grumpy.eastover.org.uk/news-round-up-july-2018/ ) is about ‘period poverty’ i.e the cost of feminine sanitary products.  The Salvation  Army food bank stated that with Tampons costing £3.14 for 20 at Tesco, and women using 11,000 tampons in their lifetime, they would have to work 38 days to afford this.

This is using a 1950’s advertising trick of quoting usage by lifetime to maximise a quoted cost and by the hour / day if it is wished to minimise it (“only 50p per day”). However, setting aside that tired cliche, it is  clear that based on reputable figures (e.g. from the Office of National Statistics) this is more inflation. Do the math.

No-one can doubt that a considerable number of people have a relatively miserable life from a material perspective (which doesn’t mean that they do not find value and happiness in life nevertheless). However, Grumpy is of the view that the constant inflation  of statistics and disingenuous conflation of topics by various agencies to deliberately obfuscate reality and promulgate false impressions to gain political and general visibility is not necessary;  if the truth were known, it probably hardens the heart of the more fortunate towards charity.