Why Anti-austerity needs the Basic Income: SNP, Jeremy Corbyn?

Without the Basic Income, anti-austerity demos will have little effect. I have been trying unsuccessfully to point out to the Green Party not only how serious a problem means testing is, but that it is the reason why Iain Duncan Smith’s scrounger demonization is so successful. If all an anti-austerity campaign can say is “Restore the benefit cuts since 2010″, the message is “Keep means testing”. The majority who are not caught in the poverty trap created by means testing will ignore it. They have been told, and believe that people on benefits are workshy. It is almost completely untrue, but what is true is that if people were rational, then far more people on benefits ought to avoid work if they want to be better off. IDS has persuaded the public that this theoretical possibility is a fact, so his erosion of the welfare state has the approval of nearly everyone not hurt by it.

The Green Party, the SNP and Jeremy Corbyn should  all be shouting the Basic Income from the housetops as central to the anti-austerity campaign. If the Green Party will not look at Dynamic Benefits: towards Welfare that works, which provides the ammunition to destroy the last shreds of credibility of the now mythical Universal Credit, which was supposed to correct this work disincentive, there are two other avowed anti-austerity allies, the SNP, and Jeremy Corbyn. Natalie McGarry, the SNP MP who has been given the Social Welfare & Disability brief has not yet replied to me. I am not holding my breath. If neither Caroline Lucas nor Natalie Bennett can see any point in reading a publication produced for one of our worst enemies, why should she? The SNP have never mentioned the Basic income. Perhaps I need to seek an audience with Nicola Sturgeon. I guess Ms McGarry would feel unable to use the Basic Income until she had persuaded the rest of her Party.

Why should I be any more hopeful with Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leadership contender, and standard bearer of the rebellion against blair/thatcherism? He has not, to my knowledge ever mentioned the Basic Income. However, John McDonnell MP, who has launched a movement within the Labour party intended to counter the prevailing pro-austerity consensus, is at least aware of the Basic Income. He even hosted a well attended debate on it by the ’People’s Parliament’, held in a House of Commons committee room last summer.

What needs to happen now is a succession of speeches at the demo on 20th June highlighting the Basic income, using the case made for the Universal Credit in Dynamic Benefits. There needs to be a forest of placards saying “Basic Income, not Universal Credit”.

Just suppose the entire Labour Party were to read Dynamic Benefits, along with  the SNP, Caroline L, and the Lib Dems. It dawns on them all that means testing is wrong, but that Iain Duncan Smith’s way of getting rid of it is even wronger. It would only need the conscience of Zac Goldsmith to stir, and for him to lead a few other Conservative MPs to do the same. . .

Is all this too much to hope for? Until something along these lines starts to happen, anti-austerity demos are futile.

Post script.

In the course of his campaign to become Labour leader, I am informed that Jeremy Corbyn has been asked to comment on the Basic Income, and simply ignored the question.

Post post script 9.8.2015

See today’s blog post for a turn up for the book!

Post post post script 14.9.15

John McDonnell as Shadow Chancellor! That should bring the Basic Income a step nearer.




4 responses to “Why Anti-austerity needs the Basic Income: SNP, Jeremy Corbyn?

    • I remember it well. They were wrong then, but there was more excuse than now. We have ‘Dynamic Benefits’ giving details of the poverty trap/work disincentive, and Iain Duncan Smith’s diametrically wrong way of dealing with that. On the other hand, it will always be easier to introduce a C or BI when it doesn’t seem urgent, than when austerity makes it a must.

  1. Pingback: UNITED KINGDOM: Jeremy Corbyn, candidate for Labour Party leader, recruits Basic Income advocate to draft economic plan | BIEN·

    • This is certainly a potential sea change. Paradoxically, although I insist that anti-austerity MUST take the Basic income on board, Now that it might become a reality I fear the run up to the vote is too short a time. Corbyn and Murphy have to make a difficult tactical choice: risk losing ground because the idea will put off more than it attracts in the time available, or keep quiet about it and hope that the anti-austerity wave is enough on its own, and then have to somehow sell the idea to the Labour Party not having featured it.
      I have one slight puzzle re Murphy. He does an excellent piece showing how the poor pay more in tax, mainly though indirect taxes, but he does not use ‘Dynamic Benefits’, which includes a series of graphs showing the tax-equivalent effect of the withdrawal of means tested benefits. If I have been wrong in seeing them as a powerful part of the case for the basic Income, I wish somebody had told me why instead of letting me rant on. I think Richard Murphy is aware of me via Twitter, and hasn’t criticised my stance.
      But the big long term question is can Corbyn personally stomach the crucial ‘market forces’ implications of the BI – zero hours OK, minimum wage, let alone Living wage short term expedients at most?

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