Wednesday 11 October 2017

Look at What's Waiting in the Wings

While the Tories indulge themselves with petty policy-making and fratricidal follies (of which more anon), just look at what is stirring in the swamp.
"UK state should pay for housing, food, transport and internet, says report. ‘Universal basic services’ costing about £42bn could be funded through higher taxes, say academics. Free housing, food, transport and access to the internet should be given to British citizens in a massive expansion of the welfare state ... a raft of new 'universal basic services' using the same principles as the NHS."
Yup, these people have never gone away - just biding their time.  And they see that time a-comin', just as soon as McDonnell gets his hands on the economy. 

PS, the Graun does see fit to comment that "Voters may balk at the higher taxes required".  But which voters?  If the promise of free university education won the student vote, why shouldn't free food win the bariatric ballot?  The 'academics' writing this crap may be on to something ...



Anonymous said...

Wasn't Jonathan Portes the Blair adviser who wanted to rub the right's noses in diversity?

It's a strange sort of immigration policy when an Aussie vet can only work in the UK for two years but my local Lidl is full of French-speaking Africans. Maybe they're all doctors and nurses.

Steven_L said...

Makes me want to have a nervous breakdown, literally, so I can quit working and have all that free stuff.

hovis said...

Hmmm Government approved food - bet it is Soylent Green.

hovis said...

Had a quick skim read - interesting this in response to Universal Basic Income which is of course bad enough, but Universal Basic Services allow more control and compliance - both are slavery by any other name

andrew said...

of course

no bread for you - only 2200 calories of tofu, pulses, kale and raw seeds

otoh, I think it is time we banned food that is cheap and sugary and fatty

some boundaries are good (no guns, no KFC adverts aimed at children)

the battle is over where they lie.

E-K said...

The problem is lack of homeownership=Labour voters as Mrs T knew well.

Gee fanks you btl grabbers.

1 Con voting landlord = a portfolio of Corbyn votes.

Demetrius said...

The Soviet Union and the East Germany beloved of Corbyn and McDonnell had much of this kind of thing. The trouble was to get your bread you often had to queue for hours for a standard rough loaf with a lot of other stuff in it. As for housing, a good many died of old age while still on the waiting list.

Raedwald said...

Don't forget they're also asking for free heat and power - whoopee! So we can all whack the thermostate up to max, leave all the lights on 24/7 and someone else will pay for it all - fantastic!

I'm sure there's a flaw there somewhere, just can't spot it at the moment ...

CityUnslicker said...

It is certainly a new definition of the old phrase "it's a free country"

dustybloke said...

Well, if ever you wanted an illustration of the difference between being intelligent and being wise, the 21st Century is providing endless examples...

Just a shame that being intelligent is seen as Mecca and being wise is a pile of poo.

Nick Drew said...

anon @ 9:23 - I believe you are right about Portes

the man is a serious plonker and in 'normal' times stuff like this would merely attract derision

unfortunately, ...

James Higham said...

Difficult to know what to do with these people and their verbal diarr...

Anonymous said...

I see the rationale, but not the rationality.

Realistically jobs are going to disappear, and are either not going to be replaced or, if they are, it'll take time and a new generation to train up. Not many unemployed coal miners writing Mobile Apps, teaching Yoga or painting nails.

The article makes it pretty obvious that it's a way of avoiding a UBI - e.g. *less* government - by replacing it with state funded goodies, along with a raft of new departments, new staff, new Union members - so *more* government.

So yes, fuck that. It's protecting cushy public jobs whilst throwing the private sector to the wolves.

Something's going to have to appear though. Automation promises improved productivity with less need for people to work, the sort of things we used to see as the future.

The current system can't survive that, and surely it's not beyond our wits to manage something that does that and also isn't a socialist hovel?

Anonymoose said...

Automation means that everyone needs to work less. At the moment, only the manufacturing sector has been truly impacted, but the phenomenon will move up the skills chain more quickly than most people realise. Sometime in the near future, we will not need professional drivers. Electric vehicle owners will have noticed that their car needs much less maintenance than a vehicle with an ICE. That's about 3/4 of mechanics out of a job. In my field, software development, new productivity tools mean you need roughly half the people you needed ten years ago to deliver a given project. Roles are being combined and hybridised, because the tools are getting better. This will be a shock to relatively well-paid, well-educated types. Their jobs are next.

The industrial revolution ushered in a shorter working week. The computer revolution *should* have done the same thing, but instead, most people in e.g. an office spend half their time pretending to work. The automation revolution means we'll have to work even less. There are some huge questions to be answered, but the pols are already late and clueless.

Any capitalists fancy signing up to a mandatory maximum 16 hour working week? Then we can all claim tax credits...

Wildgoose said...

Just wanted to add my agreement to the comment above - a Citizen's Basic Income empowers the people.

A massive State bureaucracy dispensing goodies to favoured groups is a recipe for a new Soviet Socialist Republic.

Y Ddraig Goch said...

RE: Wildgoose @ 7:22 pm

"a Citizen's Basic Income empowers the people."

Could you give us an outline of how that would work? Whenever I've asked this question in the past (not here, admittedly) the answers range from shifty changing the subject to "it will all be in our manifesto" - which of course it then isn't. I mean things like

- How much?

Much more than £10,000 per year and it's taxable. Much less and it's just another income supplement - alongside all the others.

- Who receives it?

All British citizens? (Even the ones in Tuscany and California?) Everyone legally in this country? (So currently that's any EU citizen who cares to make the trip?)

- What is the incremental cost? And where will you get that money?

Nick Drew said...

YDG - go take a look at the link in the post for a summary of how these head-cases propose to finance their UBS scheme

(but clear your desk of hot drinks beforehand)

Electro-Kevin said...

Anonymoose: "Automation means that everyone needs to work less."

The Japanese are already onto this and are treading water waiting for the upswing - which will come through the March of the Robots, high productivity, low population levels, high average education and a common, unified culture.

We are doing the exact opposite.

Importing - for example - Uber drivers en masse and subsidising their families whilst the very same Uber develops the driverless car and avoids paying tax here.

Driverless transport is still a long way off. In any case most drivers don't want it. What is the 'P' in S,D & P on your insurance document ? Why are cars sold on 'the drive of your life' ?

The issue is not driving but parking, and congestion.

What is needed is what Japan are going for. Less need to work and less need to keep moving.

Anonymous said...

@Y Ddraig Goch

Cannot speak for Wildgoose, but I've always envisaged a UBI/CBI (CBI is probably a better description) as being set out for UK citizens, resident in the UK and engaged in something socially useful - employment, training, x hours of voluntary work a week, education... Anything other than being a licence to meld with the sofa whilst playing games really.

It would also replace the minimum wage and individual allowance. So the CBI doesn't get taxed, whilst any earnings do. Wages can find a level according to supply/demand, and there'll be no artificial floor supporting cheap imported labour.

As for the amount? I don't know. Maybe 10k inflation linked?

And paying for it... This is the problem. Given we could reduce the various Benefits' departments staffing considerably, bin off all the Job Centres (maybe turn them into housing), remove the State Pension, remove unemployment benefits, child benefits... A real bonfire of benefits, leaving just housing and disability, and the corresponding reduction in salaries and liabilities, I'd be curious as to what size a hole would remain.

I'd expect that hole to be in the 100-200 billion region, given we'd save around 250 billion by removing pensions and most welfare. Not a pretty number.

But the question is, do you bite that particular bullet or have areas of high unemployment throughout the UK? Areas that will vote Labour, whose kids will vote Labour, and pretty much increasingly paint the UK a foul shade of Corbyn Red?

Todays employment figures are flattered by the gig economy, that fig leaf can only survive automation for so long. Another decade and things will look rather differently.

Wildgoose said...

I've downloaded Government Spending Data in the past and tried to make the numbers work for a Basic Citizen's Income.

Short answer: We can do it.

However it really would be a BASIC (barely liveable) amount.

I attempted to come up with the same amount as the Basic State Pension, (which then also goes into the pot of scrapped benefits). Can't make those numbers work without tax rises though.

And there really would have to be a bonfire of benefits to make it workable. But this is the point - we already have a system which pays out enough money that we don't have people starving on the streets. So we can afford it. But it does mean major alterations, and to make the numbers work for a UNIVERSAL Basic Citizen's Income it also has to be taxable - so some of it is clawed back from those with other incomes.

There is one exception. Retail Prices (e.g. supermarket or Amazon) or largely the same throughout the whole country. The two exceptions to this rule are Transport and Housing. Housing Benefit is the biggie. It can't be scrapped and added in to the Basic Income and so would have to continue to be administered separately, but that just can't be helped.

But there is no reason why we can't introduce such a Universal Citizens's Income at a low level as soon as possible, reducing benefit payments by the same amount. Iron out the inevitable issues and then start to raise it slowly whilst scrapping other benefits at the same time.

Oh and one final point. I keep stressing CITIZEN'S Income. It would NOT apply to non-Citizens, so would allow our people to better compete in the work environment against migrants from elsewhere.

Wildgoose said...

Eek. Should have previewed, e.g. "or largely" => "are largely".

Y Ddraig Goch said...

ND @ 7:41

Fortunately, I took your advice about my desk.

The thing that genuinely amazed me was that these people are proposing to
finance their idiot scheme by reducing tax allowances. Are they insane?
(Sorry - rhetorical question.)

Normally, Labour presents tax rises as applying to "the rich", or "greedy
corporations", but never to anyone who might plausibly vote Labour. But this
plan openly targets tax rises on working people with modest
incomes. Anyone whose income is at the low end of the 20% tax bracket will be
hit particularly hard. Apparently Labour have completely written off the
"people with jobs" demographic.

Y Ddraig Goch said...

Wildgoose @ 12:14

Thank you, that's the most lucid response I've seen so far. So I feel bad
disagreeing with you, however, I'm dubious about a few of your points.

"I attempted to come up with the same amount as the Basic State Pension,"

So, on the order of £6,500 per year, presumably indexing up over time. That's
definitely at the bottom end of what might qualify as "barely livable".

"And there really would have to be a bonfire of benefits to make it workable."

Fair point, but you need to address which ones. What about disability benefit?
There's no way the BBC/Guardian would allow that to be scrapped. You
ring-fenced housing benefit yourself. And since you specified "Basic" state
pension, I assume the various SERPS/additional state pension schemes would
also remain? How about child benefit? Another fun one to get past the
left-wing media. Jobseekers allowance seems a plausible one to cut, since the
value is well below even the basic state pension, but of course that just
means that the unemployed get a big pay-rise, further increasing the burden on
the tax payer.

"there is no reason why we can't introduce such a Universal Citizens's Income
at a low level as soon as possible, reducing benefit payments by the same
amount. "

I think there might be a reason. When you increase the UCI, then obviously
everyone gets that increase, but the money you save is only from the
small subset that no longer get the benefit that you cut. So this mechanism
will nearly always raise the total benefit bill.

"It would NOT apply to non-Citizens, so would allow our people to better
compete in the work environment against migrants from elsewhere."

I completely sympathise, that sounds a good plan. The problem is that we are
in the EU, and even if we eventually "leave", we may still end up subject to
some or all EU law, and the EU has been very, very insistent that absolutely
any EU citizen that fetches up in the UK is entitled as a right to
access all the benefits that the locals get. I'm doubtful that you could get
what you describe without the hardest of hard Brexits and, whatever the merits
of that, the fact is we might not get it. There are about 500 million people
in the EU, and every time the UCI increases (see above), more of them will
have reason to come here.

And we haven't even touched the issue of incentives to work yet ...

Wildgoose said...

@Y Ddraig Goch

I understand your concerns.

Yes, the Basic State Pension is indeed "barely liveable" - but people do indeed live on it.

And Yes, raising the UCI does raise the total bill even after clawing some of it back through the tax system - which is why it has to be set low. And the whole point of making it a Citizen's Income is that non-Citizen's don't receive it by definition, no matter what the EU (or anybody else) might think.

You mention Job-seekers allowance - that is £73.10 for the over 25s. Less than half the State Pension. That amount is doable, scrapping Job-seekers allowance and reducing the Basic State Pension by the same amount at the same time, plus clawing some back through the tax system from those in work.

Still expensive.

But it's a start.

And massive Automation is coming.

It was in the News earlier about Amazon opening a new Depot in Bolton; partially staffed by robots. Add in self-driving delivery trucks and you are losing a whole swathe of manual jobs. Add in Expert Systems and a whole bunch of non-manual labour goes as well.

Technological Unemployment is going to happen.

This is a solution that allows us to retain the "Capitalist" system that has served us so well.

Those who object to this idea are entitled to do so - but they should also provide alternate suggestions for the very real problems that we will shortly be facing and which we are trying to solve.

Electro-Kevin said...

Soylent Green and euthanasia.

That's my solution. And having seen how the old boy went I'm only half joking. I think it could well come the twists and turns the zeitgeist is taking. There are things being normalised today which have caused many WTF moments.

Steven_L said...

And if the robots do the 'euthanasia' this might go some way to solving any moral dilemma?