“The comfortable story of poverty allows the
majority of people to live in comfort and security,
largely unaware of the difficulties that many
others face. It neutralises our response to people
who struggle – not with criminality and anti-social
behaviour, but to cover the essentials of feeding
a family, clothing growing children and heating
homes. The comfortable myths about poverty
allow us to believe that people in poverty are
deserving of their poverty, and that it is neither
our fault nor our problem.”
The massive, destructive austerity experiment in Britain has provoked its churches to fight back against lies about poverty. A major group of British churches has come together to fight back against six myths about poverty. They aim to change the lies told about poverty and hope to upend the indifference and inaction based upon those lies.
The six lies.
- They are lazy and don’t want to work. Child poverty has been attributed to parents who do not want to work, yet evidence shows that inwork parents who are poor outnumber out of work families. The myth of multiple, successive generations who have been unemployed is disproved by statistics showing that such families never existed.
- “They” are addicted to drink and drugs. A very small fraction of benefit claimants report problems with addiction (4%). The vast majority of impoverished families spend their income on life’s necessities.
- They are not really poor; they just don’t manage their money properly. 60% surveyed agreed to this belief. Despite evidence that impoverished families concentrate on food and shelter, and lack adequate financial resources to sometimes pay for heat and electricity.
- They are falsely claiming benefits. 80% surveyed thought poor families claimed benefits fraudulently. The actual statistics show .9% for fraud. Ironically, some avoid claiming benefits which they are eligible for: 18 billion pounds of benefits go unclaimed. If only tax fraud was at .9%!
- They have an easy life. Churchgoers believed that the poor chose poverty as an easy lifestyle. Yet benefits provide less than half of what is needed to survive. When interviewed, impoverished families reported less happiness and less life satisfaction when compared to non impoverished families.
- They are responsible for the deficit. Striking, how many people believed that social welfare claimants’ benefits caused the deficit. In reality, the proportion of benefits to tax receipts has not changed over a long period of time, so no excess demand has been demonstrated. Yet because the politicians promote this idea, the public continues to believe this myth.
What are the lies which Americans tell about poor Americans? How have Americans come to be ‘comfortable’ amidst a sea of unhappy, poor Americans?
[It is a fact that the number of unemployed Americans far outstrips the number of job openings. In some industries, there is a greater than 10 to one ratio of jobseekers to job openings. Unaffordable housing has added fuel to crisis levels of homelessness. In a deeply cynical act, the Sequester is set up to remove 984 billion dollars over ten years, from the American economy in planned austerity. Apparently, elites plan to use the pain of the Sequester cuts to demand further cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs. This is a poverty-creating-ball which is set with momentum to keep rolling.]
I live in a rural area. Poverty is not so much hidden here as it is masked by low-wage jobs and prejudice. In the face of repeated rejection outcasts separate themselves out.
Are the comfortable myths American’s tell themselves about poverty any different from church goers in Britain?
A final quote from their study:
If our society misrepresents those who are at its margins,
blaming them for their poverty and ignoring the massive
injustices at work, then we are all set to fail. We will see
greater depths of poverty; greater suffering as children are
entrenched in circumstances which are damaging to body,
mind and soul. We will see a society which is unsustainable
and divided, where those with power or privilege are wilfully
blind to those without.