Monday, December 13, 2010

Poverty makes us sick, and even kills us...(Brazil at full employment!)

By Joe Fiorito, Toronto Star,December 13, 2010
Dennis Raphael spoke first. He is the one I’d come to hear. He is a health policy guy from York University. He pinned health and wealth together, or rather he pinned illness directly on poverty:

The death rate of the poorest people has risen from 17 to 25 people per 100,000, since the mid-1980s.
He said social injustice is killing us on a grand scale, and it wasn’t just him saying this, it was the World Health Organization.
He did a diabetes study a while back, and found a relationship between Type 2 diabetes and income:
If you make less than $30,000 a year, your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes are double those of people making $80,000 a year.
My neighbour nodded in agreement.
But — and this is an outrage — the people in Raphael’s study who developed the disease said they could not afford the diet they were supposed to follow.
He said our rate of poverty is double that of the Scandinavian countries, but poor people have better benefits, and better health, there.
His observation?
“Our economy is greater than it was in the 1970s, but the distribution of income is worse.”
His answer?
“We have to up the benefit levels, up the minimum wage, develop a national housing strategy, and close the gap between rich and poor.”
(Go to for more from Dennis Raphael at York University)
Finally, a respected Health Policy Researcher from York University has told us what are the real implications of the growing gap between the rich and the poor. If you are poor, you are more likely to be sick, (with diabetes, for starters) and also more likely to die.
So, is the failure to improve the social benefits available to Canadians, on at least a par with Scandanavia, a designed omission to kill off the poor, as an indirect approach to social engineering?
We all know that the rich never talk to the poor; we also know that the rich look down their collective noses at the poor, with a snide,"pick yourself up by the bootstraps" so you won't embarrass me as I drive by in my Mercedes (or BMW, or Lexus, or Lincoln or Cadillac, or even Maserati or Rolls Royce).
Dennis Raphael's observations need to be shouted at every political meeting in every town and city in the country for the next ten years, if their meaning is to have the kind of clout they deserve.
Are we now so numb, and also so disempowered, as to remain silent in the face of the politicians' statements that we "cannot afford" to enhance our social programs, but we can afford $16 billion for 65 F35 Fighter Jets to fight unknown and unnamed enemies?
Last night, I caught a piece on Brazil on CBS' 60 minutes, where a country's turn-around, including the rise of several millions of people out of poverty included the government provision of $100-plus dollars for everyone each month. With that money, those people were able to feed and clothe themselves, and enhance their lifestyle with nearly full employment, and, while their country is rich with natural resources, they also have a vibrant manufacturing sector.
Brazil will also host both the FIFA Soccer Tournament and the Olympics in the next few years, both as signs of an emerging world power, where the oil-executives now have to import metal workers from America, in order to construct their oil rigs, because there are not enough workers from Brazil. (According to the piece on 60 minutes, it is very likely that the necessary accommodations for both world sporting events will be "late" since Brazilians would rather go to the beach, or watch a soccer game, or have a few beers in a bar, than finish "on time".)
Am I living in a bubble that is so different from the world of the Canadian politician? Why are these stories, like the one Joe Fiorito found about the link between diabetes and poverty, and the Brazil recovery (which included the shortest period of the recent recession in the world), not available to Canadian leaders, who are virtually paralysed or perhaps a better metaphor would be blind to their responsibility, for the poor in our country.
It is depressing to realize that together the Liberals and the NDP are not either able or willing to forge an alliance on poverty. They would both raise the specter of their own parties in the eyes of the elecorate, if they were to merge their forces, and take action on this file, in a concerted, meaningful, comprehensive and long-term fact, such an initiative could conceivably render them both recipients of sufficient seats to jointly form a minority government, after the next election.
It is no longer an either/or proposition: either spend on tax reductions for the corporations and the rich or create effective programs to raise the boats of everyone...we can do both. We can have a healthy employment picture, with virtually 0% unemployment, and a vibrant manufacturing and resource-based economy. And Canadians deserve to move in the direction of enhancing both the health of our people, and the long-term health of our economy.
And, if Brazil is any indication, the models are not from ancient history.
By Laurie Monsebraten, Toronto Star, December 13, 2010
Welfare incomes in Canada*

• The highest welfare income for an employable single person was $9,593 in Newfoundland.
• The lowest was $3,773 in New Brunswick.
• In Ontario it was $7,501.
• The highest welfare income for a single disabled person was $12,905 in Ontario.
• The lowest was $8,665 in New Brunswick.
• The highest welfare income for a lone parent with one child was $19,297 in Newfoundland.
• The lowest was $14,829 in Manitoba.
• In Ontario it was$17,372
* Annual incomes in 2009, including child and tax benefits

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