Last Sunday, Iain Duncan Smith launched the long awaited Universal Credit. Not according to Johnny Void he didn’t. But where was the Green Party? Another opportunity to showcase the Basic Income was frittered away. The bishops pontificate yet again about poverty, and a BBC QuestionTime (19th Feb) gives the benefits issues a thorough airing, and still no mention of what we have now decided to call the Basic Income, despite recent prime publicity slots.
Overall I am well impressed by Natalie Bennett, and the Green Party is beginning to edge upwards in the voting intention polls. But that is hardly a good reason to let opportunities slip. If Natalie had used a quarter of the material I have tried to brief her with over the past few months that interview the other Sunday could have been a real game changer. But the Guardian salvo during the following week discredited the Basic Income anyway didn’t it?
No it bloody didn’t. The Citizens’ Income Trust swiftly issued a correction on their website that their quotes had been twisted, and the problems exaggerated. Did the Green Party issue a statement, using this as further publicity? No it bloody didn’t.
You may have gathered by now that I am losing patience. A last straw moment occurred this afternoon as I read my Independent (21st Feb) on the way back from leafleting for Gillian Creasy in Sheffield Central, where there are the makings of a shock. The front page heading is:
Low income families pay price of outsourcing fiasco
Families are receiving letters from Concentrix, an American firm to whom HM Revenue & Customs have outsourced fraud and error detection. These letters will read to many like a ‘phishing’ scam due to the flimsy basis for many cases, but failure to reply at all could result in loss of Tax Credits, which will of course look as though Concentrix is getting results.
The gist of the Guardian attack was that Euromod, a computer at Essex University with access to demographic details revealed that the Green Party’s Citizens’, or Basic Income scheme would make many low income families worse off. That was a lie for a start. The Green Party’s scheme is still not published. It is the CIT scheme, which is the template for the Green Party’s scheme, which is vulnerable. Tax Credits do remove some of the worst effect of the benefits trap for some low earners, but the benefits trap, or work disincentive (choose according to which papers you read) remains a serious problem. Iain Duncan smith has been allowed to successfully peddle myths about benefit claimants which are true only of a tiny minority who don’t benefit from Tax Credits, and even they are only reacting rationally to the work disincentive.
The Independent gives more details, but the important point is that at best, Tax Credits were an inadequate step in the right direction. They are better than the UC because they do alleviate the benefits trap/work disincentive. But in the current culture of privatization of everything they are suddenly toxic, and this undermines the Guardian criticisms. Tax Credits must be phased out pdq. A statement from the Green Party perhaps?
I shouldn’t need to repeat that the document which first mentioned the Universal Credit is unwittingly an excellent statement of the case for a Universal, Basic Income. This is because the Basic Income has as one of its purposes what the Universal Credit was supposed to achieve: make work pay. Many of my blog posts reiterate this, but for now just read the link to Johnny Void.
There are two groups the Green Party could be recruiting, at least as voters, using the Basic Income principle. One is the 1.3 million who were supposed to be on the Universal Credit by April 2014, but very few of whom are ever likely to be. The other is small businessmen, or budding entrepreneurs. I could accept the frequent references to the Living Wage, if they were followed by “Until the Basic Income is in operation”. Once everyone has the wherewithal for a civilized life, and would be employees have equal bargaining power with employers, wage rates can be left to the market. This will allow businesses – employers – to exist which would not be practical with a Living Wage. This is just one example of something which is oppressive at present which will make sense with a Basic Income.
Johnny Void reacted sharply to Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit announcement. Did the Green Party put anything out on something so highly relevant to the Basic Income?
No it . . . didn’t.