Poor Is Just A Four Letter Word in Britain

photo from pixabay.com

A quick comparison of the USA and the UK. Both countries are a democracy, although have structured their government differently (us Americans learned from the British mistakes). Both countries are considered first world nations. The UK has a monarchy, USA doesn’t. The UK has national health care, the USA doesn’t. The UK has a lot of government sponsored housing (it’s called council housing) that drastically cuts the cost for UK residents. The USA does not, we have some (but not much) Section 8 housing (mostly in city areas). The UK has paid sick leave, the USA does not (you get sick in America, and you can miss work, but you won’t get paid for that day unless you count it as part of your holiday). The UK also has a system that can permanently remove people from work, and provide them living expenses if they have a severe illness (even mental illness) that prevents them from working. In America, if you can’t work, you are out of luck.

To summarize, if you are a British citizen, you are much better off than if you are American.

Now, there are multiple reasons for this, many of which I will be discussing in later blog posts. But, just to get things started, I would like to make a point. Even the poorest of the poor, the unemployed who have no money for rent, can get free housing and support in the UK. Children in England are entitled to their own child benefits that their parents can use to support them, so children never starve. A single mom will always have a place at a hostel or woman’s home if she is kicked out of her house. A man with a broken leg will get funds to help pay his bills until he can walk again.

 In England, the poor aren’t really poor. They might not have much in their bank accounts. But in a majority of cases, the UK government will help them. They offer them housing at discounts, free medical care, some free childcare, job training, and money for living expenses. The poor don’t need cars because the transportation system in England is outstanding compared to America. It is an extreme statement, but I think that the poorest of the poor in England are much better off than they would be in America. (Obviously I know there are exceptions to this, and there are homeless people in the UK)

photo from pixabay.com

In America, our government doesn’t provide us nearly as much support. We don’t get paid sick leave. We don’t get free childcare so our kids don’t fall behind by not attending pre-school. We can’t get free housing. In America, you are on your own. It really is the land of the free, free from support.

If you are poor, like I was, you don’t have anything to fall back on. If I couldn’t pay my rent, I didn’t have the safety of knowing that it can take landlords months to evict me like in the UK. In America, the landlords can remove a tenant at a moments notice. Don’t pay your water bill? No water, there is no alternative. No car? Well, you probably can’t get to work. My vehicle broke down and I lost days of pay because I simply couldn’t get there (my town literally didn’t have a bus system). No healthcare? Currently, you can get fined under Obamacare for not having health insurance.

People paint America in a multitude of ways. A giant that interfere’s in conflicts it shouldn’t (Afghanistan and Vietnam). A pioneer in innovation. The monster that made Trump president. America has many faces, especially in the eyes of British people. But one thing people rarely consider, is how bad off the lower income are in America. The poor have no safety net. I had no safety net. My car broke and I had to wait weeks to fix it until I got paid. Miss the bus for school? Sometimes I couldn’t go because I had no way to get there. Occasionally, I had to choose between buying my dog food, or myself. I choose my dog because she was my only protection when I lived alone in the ghetto. I severely cut myself and needed stitches, but I had no health insurance, so I had to wrap it as best I could and deal with the pain.

This might sound like a sob story. It isn’t meant to be. I merely want to highlight how lucky British people are, and how difficult it can be for Americans. It creates a gulf between our countries. The poor people I know in the UK, are significantly better off financially and socially than I was in the USA. No matter how hard I try to explain that to British people, it is something they can’t grasp. In Britain, poor is just a four letter word.

One thought on “Poor Is Just A Four Letter Word in Britain

  1. Good post. I'd agree with it all, and it's one of the reasons that I relocated my family to the UK. I could see the crash coming in 2004. It was just a question of when. And I knew we'd be much better insulated from it in the UK than in the US. We were. That doesn't mean we didn't go through a terrible period of hardship, but we didn't lose our house the way I think we would have in the US when the crash came. We knew we had Council housing to fall back on if we did (although there are issues with Council housing, as the recent Grenfell Tower disaster illustrates), and we always had free health care (critical in my family where we have a Type I diabetic).
    The UK has suffered since 2008, and has recovered slower than the US, but it has been a safer, saner place to weather the storm.


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