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Gold and silver outlook as 23 states move to reclaim precious metals as legal tender

As the international reserve currency for the better part of a century, global trust in the US dollar has been virtually limitless. At any time, in nearly…

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As the international reserve currency for the better part of a century, global trust in the US dollar has been virtually limitless.

At any time, in nearly any country, its role as the ultimate safe-haven currency and the universally accepted standard of economic value has been beyond question.

How the dollar became the one to rule them all

At the turn of the twentieth century, when the dollar was coming into its own, it was blessed by limited currency competition.

The sterling of the British Empire had run its course and during the Great War, Europe’s leading powers razed each other’s economic assets to the ground.     

The US on the other hand, had plenty going for it.

It assumed the role of the global export hub with a state-of-the-art manufacturing infrastructure; the mass inflows of physical gold it received bestowed global reverence upon the Federal Reserve; the newly federalized Internal Revenue Service (IRS) enjoyed access to a deep well of taxpayers maintaining robust dollar demand; and the unmatched depth of its bond markets catapulted the greenback to new heights.

In more recent decades, a much darker element has also come to the forefront.

David Graeber, anthropologist and noted author, wrote in his ‘Debt – The first 5,000 years’,

…U.S. military predominance…No other government has ever had anything remotely like this sort of capability. In fact, a case could well be made that it is this very power that holds the entire world monetary system, organized around the dollar, together.

Global shifts

Despite the dollar’s many strengths, no fiat currency has ever truly stood the test of time.

Without exception, reserve fiat currencies have come, conquered, and then been displaced.

Inevitably, political convenience trumps economic stewardship, resulting in the decline of reserve currency status.

Most commonly, excessive issuance leads to accelerated devaluation and inflates away economic value.

Disciplinary mechanisms that maintained the dollar’s strength were disregarded when it was divorced from silver and gold in 1964 and 1971, respectively.

Yet, for over 50 years, a completely free-floating greenback has held sway over global markets.

However, this may now be changing.

In the decade since the GFC, interest rates hit rock bottom and money printing reached eye-watering levels.

This situation was exacerbated during the global pandemic.

Economic activity ground to a halt, while the seemingly unlimited monetary stimulus was coupled with targeted fiscal policies and payroll protections, which fuelled four-decade highs in inflation.

To make matters worse, the weaponization of the dollar through SWIFT and the imposition of reams of sanctions, forced several of its biggest consumers to desperately search for alternative avenues of exchange.

At the global level, de-dollarization has certainly gathered significant momentum.

The countries spearheading these efforts represent a growing share of global GDP, hold sizeable commodity reserves, are united in their desire to side-step the dollar and shield themselves from Fed policy shocks.

China-Brazil trade has switched away from the dollar; Saudi Arabia offered to trade oil in alternative currencies; and accelerated central bank purchases of bullion are paving the way for a less significant role for the greenback.

Moreover, the BRICS summit in August is expected to birth a non-dollar, non-SWIFT payment mechanism that if successful, could play a key role in the monetary landscape of the twenty-first century.

Each of these countries is concerned by the prospect of sanctions either on themselves or on key partners, raging inflation and the deep erosion in US bonds.

The significance of precious metals

Gold and silver have themselves been money for thousands of years and are the most durable forms of money.

They also do not suffer from counterparty risk, ensuring their value is relatively immune to the risks of the global financial markets.

In a bid to relieve themselves from dollar dependence, central banks have continued to buy physical gold or repatriate the yellow metal from foreign vaults at a record pace.

Mike Maloney, precious metals investor and noted author, stated in his excellent series, Hidden Secrets of Money,

…it is the ultimate money because there is nothing else even in the same league. It’s divisible. It’s permanent. It’s a store of value. It’s a unit of account. It’s got everything you want out of money, but it doesn’t go away and it can’t be increased. That is what makes gold the most beautiful money of all. What more can you ask out of a money?

By being a hedge against inflation, precious metals protect against excesses such as unbridled spending by state authorities and outsized deficits.

The trouble at home

While the dollar’s clout appears to be declining overseas, several bills have also been introduced in nearly half of US states to guard against the potential implosion of the greenback.

In a conversation with physical precious metals investor, Ronald Branstetter on his Youtube channel Ron’s Basement, Pat Holland of the Missouri Freedom Initiative, a grassroots organization, noted that state governments have three key concerns in this regard.

First, inflation continues to ravage household budgets and threatens access to essentials such as fuel and food.

Secondly, in July this year, the US government is expected to roll out its Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).

Given the programmable nature of this instrument, Robert E. Wright, a Senior Research Fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research warns against excessive centralization of control over purchasing decisions of ordinary citizens.

Wright adds that CBDCs may not qualify as money under the Constitution.

Thirdly, with bonds bleeding over the past two years, an increasing number of states have found their pension funds in dire straits.

Although bond yields have been declining post the SVB crisis, at the time of writing, 10-year yields are up by 64.81 bps in the past 12 months, and approximately 2.7% higher since April 2020.

In this environment, states are being forced to liquidate ever larger amounts of their holdings to cover obligations, while liabilities continue to mount at an alarming rate.

As a result, pension funds are seeing material losses in capital, a decline in income on the sale of bonds, increased credit risks and higher chances of regulatory intervention.

In 2022, according to Equable, an organization dedicated to retirement security, only 7 states and Washington DC had a funding ratio of 1.0 or over for their public pension schemes.

Source: Equable (2022)

To boot, the sudden fragility of the banks and the risk of systemic escalation is driving greater urgency among the states to hedge their exposure to the dollar.

More concerningly, with dollar demand slowing globally, and if the BRICS+ are successful in their endeavour, the excess currency that has been circulating overseas is likely to make its way back to the USA.

Interested readers can access articles at the highlighted links discussing the views of well-known analysts such as Peter Schiff and Andy Schectman who expect that the influx of such a volume of currency could spark a resurgence in inflation.

What are states doing to protect themselves?

With the alarming rise in the risk of dollar-denominated debt and the potential return of much higher inflation, individual states are now taking steps to shield themselves against a future featuring a dwindling dollar.

The truth is that fiat currencies depend on the credibility of the issuer, and their robustness is a function of place and time.

Once this credibility inevitability begins to decline, the currency loses its lustre.

Unlike fiat currencies, the value of gold and silver has never been extinguished, and in times of turmoil, such as during currency transitions, they tend to preserve their value far more effectively than other financial instruments.

Today, grassroots organizations and sitting politicians are drawing upon Constitutional expert Professor William Greene’s 2010 boilerplate draft of the ‘Constitutional Tender Act’, to launch a movement to reclaim the right to recognize physical gold and silver as legal tender.

Writing for the Sound Money Defense League, Stefan Gleason, President of Money Metals Exchange, bucketed state legislative efforts into three key categories.

The first step towards mainstreaming recognition as legal tender is to eliminate sales tax from precious metals, which is now the case in 42 states.

This is crucial because it eliminates needless transaction costs and unnecessary frictions which can hamper freedom of exchange.

Moreover, sales or capital gains tax implies that gold or silver is a commodity and not money.

Secondly, states are looking to establish depositories or precious metals reserves to act as a hedge against runaway inflation and to boost pension funds.

Thirdly, newly introduced bills are arguing for the removal of income tax on the sale of gold or silver.

The legitimacy of such efforts would flow from Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution which notes,  

No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

This may sound like a radical idea, but as mentioned earlier, dollars were backed by silver and gold till not very long ago, and states are focusing on simply reinstating this recognition.

In a widespread movement, local grassroots organizations and state lawmakers have introduced bills to initiate this process in at least 23 states, with legislators of at least 10 states introducing their version of the bill in 2023 alone, including Montana, Missouri, Kansas, Oregon, Kentucky and Wisconsin.

A case study of Missouri’s SB-100

Holland is one of the leading figures advocating for the SB-100, or Missouri’s bill, which was introduced by Sen. William Eigel (R) to give citizens the right to use gold and silver as legal tender.

In his opinion, the foremost concern for state legislators is the pressure placed on public pensions that are threatened by unfunded liabilities.

The bill is currently assigned to the executive session of the House’s Special Committee on Governmental Accountability and will be discussed on the 12th of April.

Interestingly, Missouri is home to two regional Federal Reserve Banks, i.e. St. Louis and Kansas City.

The key pillars of the bill are listed below.

  1. The state should recognize gold and silver as money, both of which can be used for the purchase or repayment of debt.
  2. Precious metals shall be valued by the state at spot plus a market premium.
  3. All taxes should be eliminated on the sale of precious metals.
  4. The treasury must be willing to accept payment of state taxes in gold and silver.
  5. The treasury must maintain a minimum of 1% of operational reserves in precious metals in a special reserve or depository.
  6. Following Roosevelt’s confiscation of gold during the Great Depression, the bill also prohibits any state agency from seizing physical gold holdings.
  7. Lastly, the bill seeks to prevent the imposition of digital currency as a compulsory form of transaction. The supporters of the bill prefer to maintain optionality for the consumer.

In light of the erosion of the dollar, controversial Fed policies and higher-for-longer inflation, Holland remarked,

 …this is literally a defence mechanism that is afforded to us by the US Constitution.

To maximize chances of passage, the bill steers clear of challenging the dollar or commenting on the domain of the Federal Reserve.

The bill also allows for maximum flexibility on part of the treasury.

For instance, authorities would have a wide variety of models to choose from when establishing infrastructure and mechanisms to implement the bill (if it passes), including the use of standard gold and silver coinage, widespread rollout of digital meters to assess weight, acceptance of increasingly popular goldbacks, or partnering with private bullion banks and third parties that can offer accounts denominated in gold and silver.

If successful, the bill would eventually offer an avenue for sound money transactions to preserve purchasing power of individuals and businesses in the event of severe budgetary imbalances, excessive money printing at the Federal level or unbridled spending by state authorities.

Crucially, the acceptance of precious metals by the state government, coupled with advances in technology such as gold-backed credit and debit cards could mainstream the exchange of metal ownership as a basis for transactions.

States with active legislative processes

US states are wary of the possibility of the loss of the dollar’s reserve currency status and the effect this may have on pension systems.

The rout in treasuries, risk-free instruments that form the bedrock of the global economic system, and the prospect of higher inflation have fuelled urgency across legislatures.

In a rare show of unity, several legislators have independently filed such bills to at least start the process of recognition of precious metals as legal tender.

In some cases, these have been met with virtually no opposition, such as in Tennessee where the House voted 98-0 in favour.  

As of April 3rd 2023, the following states have pending bills that are on the pathway to recognizing gold and silver as legal tender.

MontanaMissouriKansasOregonKentucky
WisconsinTennesseeIowaMississippiWest Virginia
MinnesotaVermontAlaskaSouth CarolinaIdaho
ArkansasMaineNew JerseyArizonaTexas
Source: Ron’s Basement; Tenth Amendment Center

According to the Tenth Amendment Center, Utah Legal Tender Act (2011) and Wyoming Legal Tender Act (2018) already recognize gold and silver as legal tender.

Legislators from Wyoming attempted to amend and strengthen the existing act but this failed in the House in March 2023.

Oklahoma also eliminated the tax on sales of precious metals in 2014, categorizing it as legal tender.

In 2023, the state moved to mandate the establishment of a state-backed gold depository in the offices of the treasury via SB816, introduced by Sen. Nathan Dahm (R).

A new source of demand

For gold investors, provisions that would mandate minimum precious metals holdings in the state treasury could significantly boost demand for physical metals.

For instance, Ron’s Basement estimates that Missouri alone would need to purchase $9 million worth of bullion to meet the 1% criteria laid out in the bill.

With drives to establish state-backed precious metal depositories throughout the country, this could spur fresh momentum in the bull market for gold and silver.  

For states, this could also bring in revenues by providing state-protected vault services and allocated accounts for a fee, particularly to wealthy individuals.

However, as always, the devil is in the details.

If these bills were to become law and drive genuine demand, they would have to be passed with an emphasis on physical holdings, and restrict dilution into paper gold.

Interested readers can find more information on the dynamics between physical gold, physical silver and their paper variants in the highlighted links.  

Secondly, it is unclear if the mandated quantum of gold would be readily available, and severe shortages may end up forcing precious metals back towards investment status, rather than as tools for purchase as intended by these bills.

One thing is certain. The dollar is beginning to see challenges both abroad and at home.

The post Gold and silver outlook as 23 states move to reclaim precious metals as legal tender appeared first on Invezz.

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International

Illegal Immigrants Leave US Hospitals With Billions In Unpaid Bills

Illegal Immigrants Leave US Hospitals With Billions In Unpaid Bills

By Autumn Spredemann of The Epoch Times

Tens of thousands of illegal…

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Illegal Immigrants Leave US Hospitals With Billions In Unpaid Bills

By Autumn Spredemann of The Epoch Times

Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants are flooding into U.S. hospitals for treatment and leaving billions in uncompensated health care costs in their wake.

The House Committee on Homeland Security recently released a report illustrating that from the estimated $451 billion in annual costs stemming from the U.S. border crisis, a significant portion is going to health care for illegal immigrants.

With the majority of the illegal immigrant population lacking any kind of medical insurance, hospitals and government welfare programs such as Medicaid are feeling the weight of these unanticipated costs.

Apprehensions of illegal immigrants at the U.S. border have jumped 48 percent since the record in fiscal year 2021 and nearly tripled since fiscal year 2019, according to Customs and Border Protection data.

Last year broke a new record high for illegal border crossings, surpassing more than 3.2 million apprehensions.

And with that sea of humanity comes the need for health care and, in most cases, the inability to pay for it.

In January, CEO of Denver Health Donna Lynne told reporters that 8,000 illegal immigrants made roughly 20,000 visits to the city’s health system in 2023.

The total bill for uncompensated care costs last year to the system totaled $140 million, said Dane Roper, public information officer for Denver Health. More than $10 million of it was attributed to “care for new immigrants,” he told The Epoch Times.

Though the amount of debt assigned to illegal immigrants is a fraction of the total, uncompensated care costs in the Denver Health system have risen dramatically over the past few years.

The total uncompensated costs in 2020 came to $60 million, Mr. Roper said. In 2022, the number doubled, hitting $120 million.

He also said their city hospitals are treating issues such as “respiratory illnesses, GI [gastro-intenstinal] illnesses, dental disease, and some common chronic illnesses such as asthma and diabetes.”

“The perspective we’ve been trying to emphasize all along is that providing healthcare services for an influx of new immigrants who are unable to pay for their care is adding additional strain to an already significant uncompensated care burden,” Mr. Roper said.

He added this is why a local, state, and federal response to the needs of the new illegal immigrant population is “so important.”

Colorado is far from the only state struggling with a trail of unpaid hospital bills.

EMS medics with the Houston Fire Department transport a Mexican woman the hospital in Houston on Aug. 12, 2020. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Dr. Robert Trenschel, CEO of the Yuma Regional Medical Center situated on the Arizona–Mexico border, said on average, illegal immigrants cost up to three times more in human resources to resolve their cases and provide a safe discharge.

“Some [illegal] migrants come with minor ailments, but many of them come in with significant disease,” Dr. Trenschel said during a congressional hearing last year.

“We’ve had migrant patients on dialysis, cardiac catheterization, and in need of heart surgery. Many are very sick.”

He said many illegal immigrants who enter the country and need medical assistance end up staying in the ICU ward for 60 days or more.

A large portion of the patients are pregnant women who’ve had little to no prenatal treatment. This has resulted in an increase in babies being born that require neonatal care for 30 days or longer.

Dr. Trenschel told The Epoch Times last year that illegal immigrants were overrunning healthcare services in his town, leaving the hospital with $26 million in unpaid medical bills in just 12 months.

ER Duty to Care

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act of 1986 requires that public hospitals participating in Medicare “must medically screen all persons seeking emergency care … regardless of payment method or insurance status.”

The numbers are difficult to gauge as the policy position of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is that it “will not require hospital staff to ask patients directly about their citizenship or immigration status.”

In southern California, again close to the border with Mexico, some hospitals are struggling with an influx of illegal immigrants.

American patients are enduring longer wait times for doctor appointments due to a nursing shortage in the state, two health care professionals told The Epoch Times in January.

A health care worker at a hospital in Southern California, who asked not to be named for fear of losing her job, told The Epoch Times that “the entire health care system is just being bombarded” by a steady stream of illegal immigrants.

“Our healthcare system is so overwhelmed, and then add on top of that tuberculosis, COVID-19, and other diseases from all over the world,” she said.

A Salvadorian man is aided by medical workers after cutting his leg while trying to jump on a truck in Matias Romero, Mexico, on Nov. 2, 2018. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A newly-enacted law in California provides free healthcare for all illegal immigrants residing in the state. The law could cost taxpayers between $3 billion and $6 billion per year, according to recent estimates by state and federal lawmakers.

In New York, where the illegal immigration crisis has manifested most notably beyond the southern border, city and state officials have long been accommodating of illegal immigrants’ healthcare costs.

Since June 2014, when then-mayor Bill de Blasio set up The Task Force on Immigrant Health Care Access, New York City has worked to expand avenues for illegal immigrants to get free health care.

“New York City has a moral duty to ensure that all its residents have meaningful access to needed health care, regardless of their immigration status or ability to pay,” Mr. de Blasio stated in a 2015 report.

The report notes that in 2013, nearly 64 percent of illegal immigrants were uninsured. Since then, tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have settled in the city.

“The uninsured rate for undocumented immigrants is more than three times that of other noncitizens in New York City (20 percent) and more than six times greater than the uninsured rate for the rest of the city (10 percent),” the report states.

The report states that because healthcare providers don’t ask patients about documentation status, the task force lacks “data specific to undocumented patients.”

Some health care providers say a big part of the issue is that without a clear path to insurance or payment for non-emergency services, illegal immigrants are going to the hospital due to a lack of options.

“It’s insane, and it has been for years at this point,” Dana, a Texas emergency room nurse who asked to have her full name omitted, told The Epoch Times.

Working for a major hospital system in the greater Houston area, Dana has seen “a zillion” migrants pass through under her watch with “no end in sight.” She said many who are illegal immigrants arrive with treatable illnesses that require simple antibiotics. “Not a lot of GPs [general practitioners] will see you if you can’t pay and don’t have insurance.”

She said the “undocumented crowd” tends to arrive with a lot of the same conditions. Many find their way to Houston not long after crossing the southern border. Some of the common health issues Dana encounters include dehydration, unhealed fractures, respiratory illnesses, stomach ailments, and pregnancy-related concerns.

“This isn’t a new problem, it’s just worse now,” Dana said.

Emergency room nurses and EMTs tend to patients in hallways at the Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital in Houston on Aug. 18, 2021. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Medicaid Factor

One of the main government healthcare resources illegal immigrants use is Medicaid.

All those who don’t qualify for regular Medicaid are eligible for Emergency Medicaid, regardless of immigration status. By doing this, the program helps pay for the cost of uncompensated care bills at qualifying hospitals.

However, some loopholes allow access to the regular Medicaid benefits. “Qualified noncitizens” who haven’t been granted legal status within five years still qualify if they’re listed as a refugee, an asylum seeker, or a Cuban or Haitian national.

Yet the lion’s share of Medicaid usage by illegal immigrants still comes through state-level benefits and emergency medical treatment.

A Congressional report highlighted data from the CMS, which showed total Medicaid costs for “emergency services for undocumented aliens” in fiscal year 2021 surpassed $7 billion, and totaled more than $5 billion in fiscal 2022.

Both years represent a significant spike from the $3 billion in fiscal 2020.

An employee working with Medicaid who asked to be referred to only as Jennifer out of concern for her job, told The Epoch Times that at a state level, it’s easy for an illegal immigrant to access the program benefits.

Jennifer said that when exceptions are sent from states to CMS for approval, “denial is actually super rare. It’s usually always approved.”

She also said it comes as no surprise that many of the states with the highest amount of Medicaid spending are sanctuary states, which tend to have policies and laws that shield illegal immigrants from federal immigration authorities.

Moreover, Jennifer said there are ways for states to get around CMS guidelines. “It’s not easy, but it can and has been done.”

The first generation of illegal immigrants who arrive to the United States tend to be healthy enough to pass any pre-screenings, but Jennifer has observed that the subsequent generations tend to be sicker and require more access to care. If a family is illegally present, they tend to use Emergency Medicaid or nothing at all.

The Epoch Times asked Medicaid Services to provide the most recent data for the total uncompensated care that hospitals have reported. The agency didn’t respond.

Continue reading over at The Epoch Times

Tyler Durden Fri, 03/15/2024 - 09:45

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International

Fuel poverty in England is probably 2.5 times higher than government statistics show

The top 40% most energy efficient homes aren’t counted as being in fuel poverty, no matter what their bills or income are.

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Julian Hochgesang|Unsplash

The cap set on how much UK energy suppliers can charge for domestic gas and electricity is set to fall by 15% from April 1 2024. Despite this, prices remain shockingly high. The average household energy bill in 2023 was £2,592 a year, dwarfing the pre-pandemic average of £1,308 in 2019.

The term “fuel poverty” refers to a household’s ability to afford the energy required to maintain adequate warmth and the use of other essential appliances. Quite how it is measured varies from country to country. In England, the government uses what is known as the low income low energy efficiency (Lilee) indicator.

Since energy costs started rising sharply in 2021, UK households’ spending powers have plummeted. It would be reasonable to assume that these increasingly hostile economic conditions have caused fuel poverty rates to rise.

However, according to the Lilee fuel poverty metric, in England there have only been modest changes in fuel poverty incidence year on year. In fact, government statistics show a slight decrease in the nationwide rate, from 13.2% in 2020 to 13.0% in 2023.

Our recent study suggests that these figures are incorrect. We estimate the rate of fuel poverty in England to be around 2.5 times higher than what the government’s statistics show, because the criteria underpinning the Lilee estimation process leaves out a large number of financially vulnerable households which, in reality, are unable to afford and maintain adequate warmth.

Blocks of flats in London.
Household fuel poverty in England is calculated on the basis of the energy efficiency of the home. Igor Sporynin|Unsplash

Energy security

In 2022, we undertook an in-depth analysis of Lilee fuel poverty in Greater London. First, we combined fuel poverty, housing and employment data to provide an estimate of vulnerable homes which are omitted from Lilee statistics.

We also surveyed 2,886 residents of Greater London about their experiences of fuel poverty during the winter of 2022. We wanted to gauge energy security, which refers to a type of self-reported fuel poverty. Both parts of the study aimed to demonstrate the potential flaws of the Lilee definition.

Introduced in 2019, the Lilee metric considers a household to be “fuel poor” if it meets two criteria. First, after accounting for energy expenses, its income must fall below the poverty line (which is 60% of median income).

Second, the property must have an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of D–G (the lowest four ratings). The government’s apparent logic for the Lilee metric is to quicken the net-zero transition of the housing sector.

In Sustainable Warmth, the policy paper that defined the Lilee approach, the government says that EPC A–C-rated homes “will not significantly benefit from energy-efficiency measures”. Hence, the focus on fuel poverty in D–G-rated properties.

Generally speaking, EPC A–C-rated homes (those with the highest three ratings) are considered energy efficient, while D–G-rated homes are deemed inefficient. The problem with how Lilee fuel poverty is measured is that the process assumes that EPC A–C-rated homes are too “energy efficient” to be considered fuel poor: the main focus of the fuel poverty assessment is a characteristic of the property, not the occupant’s financial situation.

In other words, by this metric, anyone living in an energy-efficient home cannot be considered to be in fuel poverty, no matter their financial situation. There is an obvious flaw here.

Around 40% of homes in England have an EPC rating of A–C. According to the Lilee definition, none of these homes can or ever will be classed as fuel poor. Even though energy prices are going through the roof, a single-parent household with dependent children whose only income is universal credit (or some other form of benefits) will still not be considered to be living in fuel poverty if their home is rated A-C.

The lack of protection afforded to these households against an extremely volatile energy market is highly concerning.

In our study, we estimate that 4.4% of London’s homes are rated A-C and also financially vulnerable. That is around 171,091 households, which are currently omitted by the Lilee metric but remain highly likely to be unable to afford adequate energy.

In most other European nations, what is known as the 10% indicator is used to gauge fuel poverty. This metric, which was also used in England from the 1990s until the mid 2010s, considers a home to be fuel poor if more than 10% of income is spent on energy. Here, the main focus of the fuel poverty assessment is the occupant’s financial situation, not the property.

Were such alternative fuel poverty metrics to be employed, a significant portion of those 171,091 households in London would almost certainly qualify as fuel poor.

This is confirmed by the findings of our survey. Our data shows that 28.2% of the 2,886 people who responded were “energy insecure”. This includes being unable to afford energy, making involuntary spending trade-offs between food and energy, and falling behind on energy payments.

Worryingly, we found that the rate of energy insecurity in the survey sample is around 2.5 times higher than the official rate of fuel poverty in London (11.5%), as assessed according to the Lilee metric.

It is likely that this figure can be extrapolated for the rest of England. If anything, energy insecurity may be even higher in other regions, given that Londoners tend to have higher-than-average household income.

The UK government is wrongly omitting hundreds of thousands of English households from fuel poverty statistics. Without a more accurate measure, vulnerable households will continue to be overlooked and not get the assistance they desperately need to stay warm.

Torran Semple receives funding from Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) grant EP/S023305/1.

John Harvey does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Looking Back At COVID’s Authoritarian Regimes

After having moved from Canada to the United States, partly to be wealthier and partly to be freer (those two are connected, by the way), I was shocked,…

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After having moved from Canada to the United States, partly to be wealthier and partly to be freer (those two are connected, by the way), I was shocked, in March 2020, when President Trump and most US governors imposed heavy restrictions on people’s freedom. The purpose, said Trump and his COVID-19 advisers, was to “flatten the curve”: shut down people’s mobility for two weeks so that hospitals could catch up with the expected demand from COVID patients. In her book Silent Invasion, Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, admitted that she was scrambling during those two weeks to come up with a reason to extend the lockdowns for much longer. As she put it, “I didn’t have the numbers in front of me yet to make the case for extending it longer, but I had two weeks to get them.” In short, she chose the goal and then tried to find the data to justify the goal. This, by the way, was from someone who, along with her task force colleague Dr. Anthony Fauci, kept talking about the importance of the scientific method. By the end of April 2020, the term “flatten the curve” had all but disappeared from public discussion.

Now that we are four years past that awful time, it makes sense to look back and see whether those heavy restrictions on the lives of people of all ages made sense. I’ll save you the suspense. They didn’t. The damage to the economy was huge. Remember that “the economy” is not a term used to describe a big machine; it’s a shorthand for the trillions of interactions among hundreds of millions of people. The lockdowns and the subsequent federal spending ballooned the budget deficit and consequent federal debt. The effect on children’s learning, not just in school but outside of school, was huge. These effects will be with us for a long time. It’s not as if there wasn’t another way to go. The people who came up with the idea of lockdowns did so on the basis of abstract models that had not been tested. They ignored a model of human behavior, which I’ll call Hayekian, that is tested every day.

These are the opening two paragraphs of my latest Defining Ideas article, “Looking Back at COVID’s Authoritarian Regimes,” Defining Ideas, March 14, 2024.

Another excerpt:

That wasn’t the only uncertainty. My daughter Karen lived in San Francisco and made her living teaching Pilates. San Francisco mayor London Breed shut down all the gyms, and so there went my daughter’s business. (The good news was that she quickly got online and shifted many of her clients to virtual Pilates. But that’s another story.) We tried to see her every six weeks or so, whether that meant our driving up to San Fran or her driving down to Monterey. But were we allowed to drive to see her? In that first month and a half, we simply didn’t know.

Read the whole thing, which is longer than usual.

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