The Universal Credit was meant to be the jewel in the crown of the government’s welfare reform strategy. Johnny Void’s blogs reveal just how far the reality falls short of the claimed intention:
The UC should have started with four pilot schemes. Only one materialized last Monday – in Ashton-under-Lyne. Whilst drafting this post, I have just listened to ‘Any Questions’ on Radio 4. The depth of ignorance on this whole subject was demonstrated by one question: Should some benefits be taxed? Needless to say that ignorance was underlined even more by the panellists answers. Means testing did get mentioned, but no one saw its central relevance.
The counter-attack on the most outrageous oppression of the most vulnerable members of society since 1834 should have started long ago, but last Monday should have been a key moment. It could still happen, as the events foreseen by Johnny Void unfold. Instead, Labour, with a few honourable exceptions abstained on a contemptuous reversal by Iain Duncan Smith of a court decision in favour of claimants. Miliband remains on the back foot, apparently accepting the government’s view on ‘strivers and skivers’, and several MP’s who would presumably claim to be in favour of social justice have made ‘anti-scrounger’ statements. This appalling response where there should be anti-government fury at oppression of the low paid, on the pretext of a debt crisis caused by the highly paid, is due to the universal failure to grasp the malign effect of MEANS TESTING.
To recap. Dynamic Benefits (2009)
exposed this problem in detail. Until it is – universally – recognized, this strange paralysis will persist. Yet this recognition is not new. Lady Rhys Williams proposed a minority dissenting report to the Beveridge commission in 1944, proposing even then a Basic (i.e.Citizens’) Income, because she foresaw exactly what Dynamic Benefits discovered. It has been Green Party policy for 40 years, and there has been a world wide movement for at least 30. The opening passages of Dynamic Benefits are as coherent a statement in favour of a Citizens, or Basic Income as can be found in the literature explicitly arguing the case.
But Dynamic Benefits was the work of a think tank set up by IDS. Having made an excellent case for the CI, it was imperative that this conclusion should be avoided at all costs, hence the Universal Credit. Actually the proposal in Dynamic Benefits was that claimants should retain 45% of their benefits on finding other income, but the government scheme is 35%. If that was all there was to it, a 45% or even35% retention would be a reduction in means testing, and although inadequate, it would be a step in the direction of a CI. But because it is NOT universal, it has to be hedged in by means testing and work sanctions, even at a time of high unemployment. The main way in which IDs is removing means testing is by removing benefits
I still cling to the hope that Caroline Lucas and Natalie Bennett will take the lead in using IDS’s own material against him. Caroline insists on figures before she will do so, but the reality as it emerges in Ashton-under-Lyne will render that unnecessary. The logic will drive inexorably to the conclusion that Lady Rhys Williams reached without the need for evidence, or figures. As I write, post council and by-elections, in the absence of new ideas UKIP are stealing a march reminiscent of Germany prior to 1933. their key – successful – selling point is that immigrants are depressing wage rates. I shall use a future blog to explain how the CI would relate to this issue, but an opportunity to introduce a vital new idea is being squandered.