If you are poor or on the brink of financial hardship right now in Britain and the US, these are ominous times. After six brutal years of austerity in the UK, where the collective spectres of further cuts, pay squeezes and Brexit are set to leave households even worse off, there’s an atmosphere of profound insecurity for many. In the US, progressive policies and government programmes aimed at alleviating poverty have been under sustained ideological attack for decades – even when the evidence shows they work.
But now, in the wake of Donald Trump’s election and a Republican-dominated Congress, anti-poverty advocates in the US are preparing for the fight of their lives. The new Congress has not even convened yet and already it looks as if one of President Obama’s most popular measures, an initiative intended to grant millions of workers more rights to overtime pay, could be an early victim. This comes only a few months after anti-poverty campaigners were celebrating encouraging figures on poverty reduction and the roll-out by numerous cities and states of higher local minimum wages.