The ‘Evil Poor’


2:58 pm - April 26th 2009

by Laurie Penny    


      Share on Tumblr

Dave Osler has addressed the question of the class-war-that-isn’t; what we need to talk about urgently is when, precisely, it became good form to treat people on low incomes as if they were an entirely different, morally deficient species of person. When did it become alright to call the poor ‘evil’?

No, really. Let’s not forget that this week the Orwell prize for blogs was awarded to NightJack, a blogger who claims to be a white, middle-aged police officer posting about his experiences in the force, passing over, amongst others, the esteemed Alix Mortimer. One of his winning entries is entitled ‘The Evil Poor’. Initially I assumed that the title was ironic. It isn’t.

‘This phenomenon of the evil poor has spread so that not a town in England does not have it’s unfair share of Kappa clad, drugged up, workshy, wasters swaggering through the town centre streets with a can of lager in the one hand and a bull mastiff on a string in the other. They aren’t out looking for a job or a chance in life let alone a wash.….They just want to get high, shag your 14 year old daughter until she is pregnant and nick your stuff. Sorry if that’s a bit bleak but it’s a lot true.’

I understand why we need to at least entertain the barely-literate frothings of the paranoid authorities, but must we give them a special prize too? Or shall we just all form a line to do a massive poo on Orwell’s grave?

As John Scalzi eloquently explains, being poor is not a moral judgement. Poverty is something that the rich can choose to ignore, relying instead on lazy stereotypes churned out by a press that hates the disadvantaged. Poverty is not an identity. Poverty destroys identity, stripping you down to a struggle for life’s essentials, consuming you with anxiety. Poverty is not an exclusive, alien community: poverty divides communities and fosters social alienation, aided by a government propaganda machine which encourages people of all classes to mistrust and spy on their fellow citizens. Have you seen those DWP ‘we’re closing in’ adverts? Those ones with the voiceover by the actual Mysterons? You’d have to laugh if they weren’t so deadly serious about stamping down on the 1% of benefits claimants estimated to be genuinely fraudulent – despite the fact that legal tax evasion by the top 1% of earners costs the country seventeen times as much as benefit fraud.

Poverty in this country exists. To claim otherwise is crassly ignorant and stinks of privilege. Absolute poverty exists. Nearly four million British children are growing up below the breadline, and some of them go hungry, or their parents go hungry so that they don’t have to, on a very regular basis indeed. In winter, grandparents surviving on the state pension have to decide between food and heating. There are also 400,000 homeless households in this country. Four. Hundred. Thousand. That includes plenty of kids. These homeless people are either sleeping rough, leaving themselves at real daily risk of death by exposure or violence, or precariously housed in hostels and shelters, usually with little or no money for food, clothing and basic necessities. But relative poverty exists, too, and relative poverty has been shown to be equally damaging in terms of destroying social cohesion, damaging mental health and holding back progress. The real hurt of being poor goes beyond mere cold and hunger, although both are never far away in modern Britain. Stein Ringen says, in What Democracy is For (2007): ‘It is about dignity, the ability to make choices and live one’s own life, the risk to children, the feeling of exclusion.’

If you’re wondering what a spoilt little rich kid like me is doing sounding off about what poverty is and isn’t, you’re right to do so. It’s not done to talk about money in this country, for some reason, especially if we have it. There’s an obscene fashion for whinging about how skint we are whilst conspicuously consuming. Well, I think that’s crap. I think that until we can admit our own privilege, we have no business even *talking* about social justice. So I’ll start with myself.

At the moment, I regularly find that I have a good deal of month left over at the end of the money, and I do not yet earn enough to pay tax. I am a twenty-something trying to make it in the big, bad world of journalism, I’m supporting a disabled partner and housemates on benefits; things I can’t afford include meat to stop me getting anaemic, bedsheets without holes, a place to keep my clothes that isn’t the floor, and any sort of holiday. In the years when I was really messed up, I was briefly homeless, and living on £10 a week after bus fares. I’ve slept in warehouses and on coaches. I’ve lived on porridge for weeks. However, I come from money. My parents became wealthy towards the end of my teenage years, and although I’m on a tight budget, if I ever got in real trouble I wouldn’t, for example, have to sign my right kidney away to a loan shark. I could call my dad, and, yknow, he would stop it all. That’s privilege. I live in a nice warm houseshare with only a few mice. That’s privilege.

Being rich isn’t all about disposable income, either. I am currently in recovery from a serious and life-threatening illness, anorexia nervosa. Because I was lucky enough to have parents who could pay for private healthcare insurance, when my illness led to physical collapse in 2004 I was able to be treated in a really decent mental institution, and that probably saved my life. If you’re dying of anorexia and you have to go to the NHS, it’s a very different story. All of the famous lady writers who did their time in loony bins – from Susanna Kaysen to Elizabeth Wurtzel to Sylvia Plath – they all went to private institutions, too. You don’t hear back from the state-mental-healthcare graduates quite so often. In my recovery, too, money means a lot. In times when I really have been poor, not being able to afford proper food really took my mental health back down to zero. Now, I’m able to ensure that I have enough food that I’m comfortable eating in the house. I firmly believe that if I was from a less wealthy family, and if I had been less fortunate in my choices after university, I may not have survived to my twenties. That’s significant privilege. Having the chance at a second chance is privilege. My capacity to be shocked by how much privilege I enjoy is also a privilege.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sitting here every day beating myself daintily up over how terribly privileged I am. That sort of thing is self-indulgent, doesn’t solve anything and is a very bad habit to get into. An even worse habit, though, is ignoring the fact altogether, and that’s something that quite a lot of my middle-class friends, even the bleeding-heart liberals, have occasionally been guilty of. Refusing to believe in poverty, inequality and social injustice doesn’t make it go away. Inventing some plausible reason why everyone poorer than you deserves to be poorer than you will not make it go away. Persuading yourself and anyone who cares to listen that even some poor people are ‘evil’ is disgusting, disingenuous and frankly cowardly, and it sickens me.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
Laurie Penny is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. She is a journalist, blogger and feminist activist. She is Features Assistant at the Morning Star, and blogs at Penny Red and for Red Pepper magazine.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Crime ,Equality ,Media

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


An interesting article. Somewhat light on suggestions for the future, but a number of useful insights.

“Absolute poverty exists. Nearly four million British children are growing up below the breadline.” As mentioned in the linked Guardian piece, the ‘4 million’ statistic refers to relative poverty (being 60%+ below median income), not absolute poverty. That is not to justify the situation, but merely to point out the rather strange arrangement of the paragraph.

What a splendid fellow he sounds; I must read him in future.

3. Silent Hunter

Surely this is too simplistic?

The “evil poor” is a misnomer.

There are ‘the poor’ (some of whom might well be evil) and there are ‘evil people’ (some of whom might well be rich)

Perhaps a better phrase would be the “feckless underclass” – this phrase doesn’t acknowledge the financial worth of a person; just their moral worth.

To paraphrase the late, great, Martin Luther King – “judge by the content of the character” rather than the colour of skin, choice of religion or indeed – financial circumstances.

As posted on Laurie’s own blog Penny Red when she first posted her entry (with a bit more)

Partial quotes do make for a more impactive sort of post. I expect the first few lines passed you by in the rush to judgement. “Firstly apologies for the blatantly sensationalist and sweeping title of the post. It’s just that I could think of no better way to put it.”

So The Evil Poor and it does seem to be phrase that worries / appalls / sickens people….it’s a phrase. that seems to have been read in some places as The Poor Are Evil.

There are not many of them, they are generally not poor by any material standard but I deal with them every week as do many of my colleagues and they are a real problem in the real world.

In every town there are lifestyle criminals who are not victims of social injustice but rather perpetrators of social injustice on those unfortunate enough to live within their hunting ranges. If you have lived any sort of street life rather than some ersatz bohemian alternative you have probably met them. I did 30 years ago when I was living in squats around Vauxhall and Hamersmith as an economic vegetarian.

Clearly being poor doesn’t mean that you are evil. Equally, being evil doesn’t indicate that you are poor.I could have written a piece on The Evil Rich with plenty of good examples but in that particular post, that’s not what I wanted to talk about.

Claiming every benefit going whilst pursuing a violent and criminal life avoiding any declared employment is being evil poor. They are not really poor in anything but humanity. Benefits are a top up not a safety net. I find them to be steeped in evil. It is not nastiness, not being a bit anti-social, not being hard to reach or hard to hear. No, it is really stamp on the head when they are down – mug grannies – abandon children – torture animals – destroy amenities – live selfish- hurt people for fun evil. They are not overly bothered about prison and they laugh openly in court at non-custodial interventions. Take a day out in any Magistrates Court anywhere if you want to observe some of them in a safe environment. Denying them by conflating them with the actual “no safety net” poor won’t wash.

When David Blunkett wrote and talked about the repeat victims of crime effectively held as fearful prisoners in their own houses on the council estates of Sheffield, they were not cowering from a cabal of capitalist bastards and politicians rampaging through the shuttered streets,albeit the said crew might bear some responsibility for the underlying conditions. They were scared of and intimidated by the Evil Poor to the point where they would continue to be victims rather than resort to the Criminal Justice System. They still are.

5. Alisdair Cameron

There are evil poor folk, just as there are evil rich folk. What the poor evil folk lack are the resources (and sometimes the nous) to employ others to cover their tracks or make it harder to prosecute.
P.S. Strange assertion that mental health care in the private sector is better. A plusher environment perhaps, but not necessarily ‘better’ and it’s worth noting that the more complex the case, the more likely the individual is to be referred back to the NHS. Gaining access to NHS specialist ED units is hard, but the service within them is good: the problem lies with the availability, not the quality. The three “famous lady writers who did their time in loony bins” you cite as proof are/were all American, and wealthy to boot, which possibly accounts for their greater fame. There are notable creative talents, female and male who’ve experienced NHS MH services from Spike Milligan to Paul Merton to Clare Allan to Nicola Pagett and contemporary UK poets Suzanne Batty, Sarah Wardle etc .

That John Scalzi article is amazing.

7. Luis Enrique

Laurie, for crying out loud, did you really read that post and think it was asserting that poor people are evil?

I can only echo Luis Enrique. This post seems to be a critique of NightJack’s headline, not his article.

Hmm. This does seem to be a bit unfair and doesn’t really engage with much that the NightJack said. Instead you just use his article as an introduction to the really important business of talking about yourself, before ending the post on a note of standard PennyRed outrage. *yawn*

Sure, there are evil poor folks, and evil rich folks. Similarly there are evil white folks and evil black folks, right? I’m hoping Nightjack or someone will be lining up their next post: The Evil Blacks.

I have sympathy for what Night Jack says (congrats by the way!), but I think Laurie’s point is that this feeds into the demonisation of the poor that they’re all mostly benefit scroungers.

“despite the fact that legal tax evasion by the top 1% of earners costs the country seventeen times as much as benefit fraud.”

Repeat after me. The country is not the same as the State. And the country is certainly not synonymous with HM Treasury (or HMRC as it is now).

People who dodge taxes do not destroy that money. It gets saved or spent in the economy just as any other money does. Tax dodging costs the State money, yes, costs the Treasury, but not the country (using “dodging” to avoid the usual tedious evade/avoid thing).

Yes, the 4 million is relative poverty, not absolute. Just to be clear, there are official definitions of both. Relative poverty is less than 60% of median income, adjusted for household size, adjusted each year to reflect changes in median income. Absolute poverty is less than 1999 (think that’s the right year) 50% of median income adjusted for household size. Yes, the latter is very much smaller than the former.

The important difference between the two is that relative shows changes in inequality while absolute shows changes in actual living standards, not just relative ones. As an aside, if y’all were arguing for the abolition of absolute poverty by this definition I’d be right there with you.

That official definition of absolute poverty is, of course, very different from what most of us really mean by absolute poverty, that African peasantry sort.

“There are also 400,000 homeless households in this country.”

Average household size is 2.4…..so you’re saying there are a million people sleeping rough? Sorry, this is bollocks.

I’m just about willing to believe that there are some number like that living in sub standard housing, inadequate housing (although I’d very much want to see what the definitions were) or housing without much security of occupation. But a million “without housing”? Please, you’re getting into the exaggeration for comic effect area here.

More realistic numbers of homeless are a few hundred to a few thousand possibly on any given night in the metropolis of London. And the number of those who are without shelter for reasons other than either alcohol or mental illness problems is smaller again. You are more likely referring to those in temporary accomodation (67,000 households in London from one Mayor of London report). It’s statistical manipulation of the highest order to equate “having been provided with not very good housing by the State” with “homeless”.

As to the “evil poor”. Why not just call them the lumpenproletariat and be done with it?

“I think Laurie’s point is that this feeds into the demonisation of the poor that they’re all mostly benefit scroungers.”

I can’t say I was thrilled by NJ’s title either, and his description of people demanding ‘respect’ wasn’t that far removed from the attitude of many policemen.

But Laurie might at least do him the courtesy of engaging with what he wrote – the problem of low-level lifestyle criminality (for want of a better term) that takes up much of your average copper’s time – instead of pretending it was some all-purpose rant against anyone who’s ever received welfare.

I love the way the Right always frames the class war as the poor against the rich. But that is crap. The class war has always been the other way round, the Rich shitting on the poor. It is just that the rich don’t like it when the poor fight back.

Troll “Repeat after me. The country is not the same as the State. And the country is certainly not synonymous with HM Treasury (or HMRC as it is now).”

That is such tripe. Try using that bullshit in a court of law that the state is not the country. The very idiots who peddle this horse shit are the first to play on the love of counrty when they want the poor to go and fight in some war.

“Try using that bullshit in a court of law that the state is not the country.”

People do that all the time. Or have you missed the part where people, say, sue the government for breach of their human rights? That the State is something different from the country seems to me entirely uncontroversial.

Alisdair – thanks for making the point about writers who’ve been in NHS institutions (I heart Clare Allan so hard). However, for anorexia specifically, the NHS treatment guidelines are very different from the treatment guidelines in private places, apart from in the Maudsley, which is the flagship as always. I wrote an article about this for the Guardian recently: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/mar/11/anorexia-mental-health.

I repeat, try using that argument in a court that you don’t have to pay taxes because you are a member of a some strange place called a country and not a state.

Funny, I don’t remember The Right being shy of using the term Country when Thatcher was the state.

18. Matt Munro

“Poverty is not an identity. Poverty destroys identity, stripping you down to a struggle for life’s essentials, consuming you with anxiety.”

Oh come on – how many people are struggling for food, water or shelter in this country ??

Poverty is measured realatively and now includes not having satellite TV or home internet acess, how “essential” are they ? and how do you know that people aren’t just spending their money on other things that they see as more important ?

19. Alisdair Cameron

@ Lauirie (16), there may, just may, be a case for some private institutions providing good ED services (though I work into a very good regional NHS unit, and other such examples exist beyond the Maudsley, just not enough of ’em) but I’d still maintain that’s down to availability, rather than the private sector being ‘better’. I’d also mention the advantages of NHS ED units in terms of better integration with physical health medical services (most,regional ED units are sited on general hospital sites, because of the higher level of phys health intervention, .eg. NG drips etc that are needed). Too many (general) MH private sector providers simply cherry-pick to preserve profits, and pass over the costly complex cases.

Thank you for this post. Though I’m American, I think we have very similar lives.

(Among many, many things about my country –) I am constantly amazed at the level of entitlement my countrymen feel toward their lifestyles whilst simultaneously complaining about the minute fraction of those who defraud the welfare system.

Thanks for the re-affirmation. You’ve been added to my RSS feed.

“It is just that the rich don’t like it when the poor fight back.”

You think

“Kappa clad, drugged up, workshy, wasters swaggering through the town centre streets with a can of lager in the one hand and a bull mastiff on a string in the other. They aren’t out looking for a job or a chance in life let alone a wash.….They just want to get high, shag your 14 year old daughter until she is pregnant and nick your stuff.”

is “the poor” fighting back? You odd person.

I generally like what Laurie Penny says but a lot of this post seems to show a pretty disengenuous attitude towards the issue that Night Jack tries to highlight. I also notice there is quite a few clever ellisions of statistics to make it seem that social problems are much greater than they are. On homelessness for example, see: http://winstonsmith33.blogspot.com/2009/02/living-arrangements.html

The basic point is that Laurie’s focus just isn’t on the same people that NJ is talking about which I think is, unintentionally, quite dismissive and patronising of those on lower incomes, as it essentially treats them as one group with one set of interests. In fact, people are poor at many different points in their lives and for very different reasons. Some of them, that NJ happens to focus on as a police officer, deserve very little sympathy. Others certainly need and deserve more support.

FreebornJohn also has a fairly moving post from a little while back that tried to delineate these different ways of living too: http://freebornjohn.blogspot.com/2006/11/unconscionable-cruelty-of-polly-t.html

Hi Nick,

Not really convinced by FBJ’s post for two reasons:

1) There is plenty of evidence to illustrate that low income and a lack of opportunities (perpetuated by low income) keeps people in poverty. Have you read the book ‘Gang Leader for a Day’ – really good. It’s about how this Indian kid ends up spending a lot of time with a black gang in Chicago in a high-rise urban ghetto. The problem there wasn’t self-reliance (in fact even the gangs preached that) but a cycle of poverty that drained people out of all ambition and opportunity to better themselves.

2) The analysis is too simplistic. Of course there are poor people who live on welfare benefits and don’t bother achieving anything. But there are also people who rely on welfare benefits to get back on their feet and go on to live very productive lives. Of course a system has to be able to help those who can’t help themselves – but it seems FBJ is fitting his experiences to a political ideology – without looking at what it means in aggregate. Anyone can use personal anecdotes to furnish their political convictions. Not a very scientific way to make policy though, is it?

Sunny, I take your point and I don’t think our views are that far away. We both agree that welfare benefits have different effects on different people. And I think you may, at a stretch, agree that when the state is in the way of allowing people to improve themselves, the best thing for the state to do is indeed to get out the way. We will, of course, disagree on the exact mix of causes. Which is one of the reasons why we need to understand the nature of the problem too. And I don’t think Laurie’s post really contributed to this due to the funny use of stats.

NightJack @4:

Claiming every benefit going whilst pursuing a violent and criminal life avoiding any declared employment is being evil poor. They are not really poor in anything but humanity.

In general, I agree with your assessment, in that this behaviour pattern can be defined as ‘evil’ and to get the benefits the people need to at least look poor. It’s also not many people at all: the total amount of benefit fraud is less than 1% iirc, and I suspect that not all fraudsters are in the category you’re describing.

Benefits are a top up not a safety net. I find them to be steeped in evil.

Here, however, you lose me. For a start, benefits are quite precisely supposed to be a safety net. They’re meant to be what you get when you have nothing to top up; when you are out of work through there being no work, or when you are chronically ill. I’ve been in both situations at once (unemployed and chronically ill) and yet didn’t get a penny out of the benefits system because apparently I was the wrong type of ill, and because my previous employer never filed a P45 so according to the system I was still employed.

Also; you find benefits to be steeped in evil? Are you honestly calling for the total dismantling of the Welfare State followed by a return to workhouses? You have until now seemed more rational than that.

I read that sentence as being Nightjack describing the attitude of the people concerned – that they see benefits as a top up, not a safety net, and NJ disapproves of this, believing as you do that benefits should be a safety net.

“You odd person.”

says the troll who hangs around on a site day after day whose views he does not agree with.

There has always been an attempt by the rich to link the word poor to words like feckless, Lazy , so it is no surprise that the word evil is now being used. This is just another example of the very class war that the rich always whine about ,and yet are constantly fighting.

You want to talk about defrauding the system, no body does it better than big business. Computer contracts, military contracts , you name it. Welfare for WASPS

29. WhatNext?!

A troll writes:

“You odd person.”

says the troll who hangs around on a site day after day whose views he does not agree with.

Sally, this, surely, is a site dedicated to debating various issues of topical interest. If, as you constantly claim, you already know all of the answers, why do you bother? Perhaps you might set up a separate site with set “opinions-to-hold”, and then you and your fellows can dedicate yourselves to ad hominem attacks ad infinitum.

John Q.
It is like Alix said, apologies, poorly constructed proposition. Two finger typing faster than I can form sentences again. Should have read

(For them) benefits are a top up not a safety net. I find their behaviour to be steeped in evil.

Benefits are great. They are necessary and they are in no way evil. Only an idiot would think that benefits are evil. As every society we have tried since the year dot has resulted in an unequal distribution of resources, opportunity and wealth, benefits are one of the things that a society can and should provide. We all, consciously or not, collude in organising a society that must be unequal and unfair to some extent. The least we can do is try and compensate some of the real losers. Same goes for providing quality and free healthcare, law enforcement and education.

31. Shatterface

This is a straw man argument. Nobody outside the lunatic front is calling people on benefits ‘evil’, leastwise while they could very easily end up on benefits themselves.

Benefits are a safety net for those who can’t work for one reason or another; to support those in work but on low income; or to support those capable of working and actively seeking.

Its on this latter point where Laurie and I disagree since she seems to see a life on benefits as a valid lifestyle choice (see her earlier comments on lone parents, who, under her crackpot theories have produced the next generation of patriarchal capitalist drones and have therefore done their bit). This simply entrenches poverty, passing it in from generation to generation. If the state is serious about ending poverty then it has a role in both creating jobs and ensuring that people are looking.

I spent 8 years on benefits as a carer for a family member and its a thoroughly miserable existance. However, what I needed when these responsibilities were over – by which time I was mentally ill myself – was help back into work and off benefits.

By that time I’d adjusted to a low income, I’d given up any ambitions I may have had as a student, I was suffering from depression on top of the OCD I’d had since childhood and I had given up applying for work as each rejection – or more often a complete lack of response – drove me deeper into despair. I was almost 30 and appart from 3 months work I’d had as a temp in my early 20’s I had no work experience at all.

Eventually I was forced onto New Deal and caseloaded by an ND Advisor who was a complete pain in the arse. I had to apply for work in order to keep him off my back. And guess what? Eventually I got a job. Okay, a shit job, but a job nonetheless.

So yes, an element of coersion in the benefit system is necessary. Left to my own devices I’d probably have sunk further into depression and my drinking and occasional drug use would probably have something more than merely recreational.

Rights and responsibilities go hand in hand.

Did any of you see the Cutting Edge documentary 15 – 10 years on last Thursday?

Please don’t get at Sally – she brightens my day anyway!

Laurie should be a candidate for the Orwell prize – her writing is always beautifuuly crafted.

But on this occasion she and Night Jack seem to be talking at completely cross purposes.

Perhaps worth pointing out that the victims of the “evil” poor are the “good” poor who are their neighbours.
The rich can simply avoid them altogether.

“Please don’t get at Sally – she brightens my day anyway!”

I must confess I am developing a soft spot for her.

“Laurie should be a candidate for the Orwell prize – her writing is always beautifuuly crafted.”

I’d second that, even though I usually disagree with her.

Tim W @ 12 – “so you’re saying there are a million people sleeping rough? Sorry, this is bollocks.”

The 400,000 ‘homeless households’ will (Laurie can correct me if wrong) have come from Crisis’ research. They estimate about 700 rough sleepers, but define homelessness not just as those sleeping rough but also those people who:

*meet the legal definition of homelessness : either there is no accommodation they are entitled to occupy or it is not reasonable for people to continue to occupy their accommodation; and

*have not been provided with accommodation by their local authority, either because they have not applied to be classified as homeless or because they have applied and been judged to be ‘not in priority’ need.

The largest group are people who are living in overcrowded accommodation in places which they neither rent nor own (e.g. are sleeping on a friend’s sofa and therefore at risk of being evicted at any time).

http://www.crisis.org.uk/policywatch/pages/hidden_homeless.html

The fact that Laurie writes beautifully is undisputed but what she writes is simply not true.

There are plenty prizes given out for that style of literature but they are for fiction and advertising not journalism.

I look forward to buying her novels.

Aw, thanks guys! *blushes*

Don:

“The 400,000 ‘homeless households’ will (Laurie can correct me if wrong) have come from Crisis’ research. They estimate about 700 rough sleepers, but define homelessness not just as those sleeping rough but also those people who:

*meet the legal definition of homelessness : either there is no accommodation they are entitled to occupy or it is not reasonable for people to continue to occupy their accommodation; and

*have not been provided with accommodation by their local authority, either because they have not applied to be classified as homeless or because they have applied and been judged to be ‘not in priority’ need.

The largest group are people who are living in overcrowded accommodation in places which they neither rent nor own (e.g. are sleeping on a friend’s sofa and therefore at risk of being evicted at any time).”

Crisis does use those figures. But others use much lower ones even with that wide definition. However, as I said:

“More realistic numbers of homeless are a few hundred to a few thousand possibly on any given night in the metropolis of London. And the number of those who are without shelter for reasons other than either alcohol or mental illness problems is smaller again. You are more likely referring to those in temporary accomodation (67,000 households in London from one Mayor of London report). It’s statistical manipulation of the highest order to equate “having been provided with not very good housing by the State” with “homeless”.”

Even if it is indeed the legal definition that those living in not very good housing are “homeless” that’s still a shameful statistical manipulation. It’s waving the bloody shirt of those martyrs sleeping rough to gain support for teenage children not to have to share a bedroom (which I believe is one of the tests that leads to housing being described as inadequate and thus being defined as “homeless”).

I don’t like it when people describe “poverty” as “less than 60% of median income”, even if it is a legal definition for the same reason.

News at One: Worstall in moving-the-goalposts shock.

40. david brough

This just in concerning Tim Worstall:
http://tinyurl.com/2cytla

Worstall @ 12:

> Tax dodging costs the State money, yes, costs the Treasury, but not the country

OK, “the country” is not directly synonymous with the state. But you appear to imagine they are completely separate. What do you mean by “the country” in context? If you don’t define it, your statement is meaningless. Do you mean the people? The majority of them pay tax. When the Treasury loses out because of tax dodging, the shortfall is made up by taking more from those who do pay. So, yes, tax dodging costs the country.

I’m supporting a disabled partner and housemates on benefits

No Laurie, you’ve already said you do not earn enough to pay tax therefore I, and others who do pay tax, are the ones supporting your housemates on benefits.

It is just that the rich don’t like it when the poor fight back.

Brilliant, Sally, but both you and I know you’re a Tory troll and one of thee days I’m going to prove it.

My parents became wealthy towards the end of my teenage years

In all of this debate, I haven’t noticed anyone stupid enough to float the notion that, if someone is poor, they might consider the possibility of trying to change their circumstances in some way to become a little less poor?

Get a job perhaps?

Or get a better job?

Just a thought………..

“No Laurie, you’ve already said you do not earn enough to pay tax therefore I, and others who do pay tax, are the ones supporting your housemates on benefits.”

I’m guessing that Laurie does, in fact, pay tax in that she probably goes to the shops and buys stuff.

It’s also pretty depressing to read a comment from someone who appears to believe the only kind of support that one person can offer another is financial.

Marcus – it is *just possible* that the money not paid in tax is put to more productive use you know!

pagar – you might not have heard, but getting a job isn’t so easy these days…

“Marcus – it is *just possible* that the money not paid in tax is put to more productive use you know!”

Would you use that same argument to excuse benefit fraud? The money gets paid back into the economy one way or another after all.

Put me in the defending PC Night against allegations of common rhetorical assault group.

Anyway, since I’m reading D&O in paris & london, it strikes me that Orwell might have agreed that some of those guys were pretty evil (though i can’t see the much evidence there of the moral decline caused by benefits…)

Also, the working class smell, as any fule Orwell scholar kno.

“Marcus – it is *just possible* that the money not paid in tax is put to more productive use you know!”

It is? Now I feel guilty – all that money spunked on records, clothes, booze and drugs when I could’ve been building hospitals and schools.

I think Laurie’s credentials as a poor person herself (which she isn’t, despite her present circumstances, because she got the kind of education from Oxford that means she never really has to be poor again, and because of her dad – true poor people are those that have NO choice in the matter, and no real safety net outside of the government) are irrelevant.

What she is saying is, let’s not demonise the poor, or even some of them, it doesn’t stop them being poor, it doesn’t stop crime, it doesn’t actually achieve anything and might in fact make it worse.

What PC Jackboots is saying, some poor people are evil. Yes. So what? Does pointing it out achieve anything in stopping those people from being evil? Does it improve the conditions that led to they’re being evil? Does it stop them from hurting the rest of us?

“I think Laurie’s credentials as a poor person herself (which she isn’t, despite her present circumstances, because she got the kind of education from Oxford that means she never really has to be poor again,”

Eh? This statistical drivel is from an Oxford graduate? You mean the real one, not Oxford Brookes?

That’s actuallymaking meangry. I thought the whole point of the place was to enable you to think, to evaluate evidence. Rather than emoting over vaguely misreported statistics.

What the hell is the point of providing one of the finest educations known to man or woman if the recipients won’t use it?

Again, her background is irrelevant. Play the ball, not the woman. Going to Oxford doesn’t teach you anything you can’t learn at any other university – except perhaps to internalise upper-middle-class guilt rather than to realise it’s totally unproductive – and perhaps Laurie’s decision (because that’s what it was, and that is what separates her from the ACTUAL poor, as Cath Elliott said earlier) to slum it in a bohemian housefest was motivated by the awful stench of privilege that hung around Oxford.

Still, regardless of her reasons for saying it, she is right: demonising the bad elements of the poor doesn’t help. Let’s not romanticise them: you wouldn’t want the people Night Jack talks about on your street. But lets work out what we can do to solve the underlying issues. Someone like Night Jack always has to deal with the shit at the end of the process: not the beginning. Politicians first, then social workers, then police: that is the order of things.

What PC Jackboots is saying, some poor people are evil. Yes. So what? Does pointing it out achieve anything in stopping those people from being evil? Does it improve the conditions that led to they’re being evil? Does it stop them from hurting the rest of us?

Well, admitting that a problem exists is normally considered a good first step towards finding a solution.

And they generally don’t hurt the “rest of us”.
Not even slumming Oxford graduates.
They hurt other poor people.

Does it improve the conditions that led to they’re being evil?

Of course it’s not their fault. We force them into their bad behaviour.

53. Cheesy Monkey

@marcus

OK, “the country” is not directly synonymous with the state. But you appear to imagine they are completely separate. What do you mean by “the country” in context? If you don’t define it, your statement is meaningless. Do you mean the people? The majority of them pay tax. When the Treasury loses out because of tax dodging, the shortfall is made up by taking more from those who do pay. So, yes, tax dodging costs the country

Absolutely. “The country” is what you live in if you consider yourself rich enough not to live in “the state”. Or in other words, more worthless libertarians crying tears from their arses…

54. bluepillnation

@47
Most tax avoidance money is stashed offshore, never to trouble our economy again. Having said that, it’s doing tremendous good to some oligarch’s bank balance, but maybe that’s what you were getting at…


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    New post: The ‘Evil Poor’. http://www.liberalconspiracy.org/2009/04/26/the-evil-poor/

  2. Tim Ness

    Liberal Conspiracy » The ‘Evil Poor’ | creating a new liberal-left … http://bit.ly/1q9f9

  3. Chris Ties

    Liberal Conspiracy » The ‘Evil Poor' | creating a new liberal-left … http://bit.ly/Hc214

  4. Liberal Conspiracy

    New post: The ‘Evil Poor’. http://www.liberalconspiracy.org/2009/04/26/the-evil-poor/

  5. Tim Ness

    Liberal Conspiracy » The ‘Evil Poor’ | creating a new liberal-left … http://bit.ly/1q9f9

  6. Chris Ties

    Liberal Conspiracy » The ‘Evil Poor’ | creating a new liberal-left … http://bit.ly/Hc214

  7. The visible poor « The Bleeding Heart Show

    […] politics, the naming of things is always a sensitive topic and Laurie Penny took great offense when she saw such a grim adjective used to describe some of society’s most […]

  8. On Notice: Laurie Penny at Charlotte Gore

    […] Penny seems to be a well respected blogger in the Red blogosphere, yet this piece in Liberal Conspiracy slapped me so hard I decided to respond […]

  9. Misunderstanding the Articles They Almost Read | Sharpe's Opinion

    […] Misunderstanding the Articles They Almost Read […]

  10. Crime can’t crack itself… « Media Studies is Shit

    […] Orwell prize winning blogger Night Jack has come in for criticism here and on another blog for his generic and stereotypical evocation of the ‘evil poor’. Night Jack is a […]

  11. JackofKent.com

    Fascinating post by @PennyRed and comments by Jack Night in view of now #OrwellPrize longlister and judge http://tinyurl.com/ycyrgcm

  12. Stephen

    RT @libcon: The 'Evil Poor' http://bit.ly/gUSFYR





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.