Universal Basic Income, a neoliberal scam: discussion

A: Some of you know that the idea of a Guaranteed Basic Income is being mooted.

When I say I don’t support ‘it’, I have to be careful what I said. There are plenty of Marxists and others (Kathi Weeks, David Frayne, David Graeber, Thomas Piketty etc) who support a ‘wealth tax’ based Basic Income, that is a response to increasing automation replacing people’s work, and part of the move to have a decent wages (better than we have now), less hours, better employment rights etc. That is fine. This has my support, especially in ADDITION to the welfare state
But we are not being sold this. What we are being offered is a negative tax (Milton Friedmannesque) based Basic Income (not that dissimilar to Tax Credits, and bear in mind Universal Credit will be a similar version – don’t forget when the Tories backtracked on reducing Tax Credits it was because it was already passed in the House of commons as being cut in the introduction of Universal Credit). It will be less and cover for less accidental contingencies than the welfare state, it won’t be much more than JSA.
So in many ways the travesty that is being sold as Basic Income today is the equivalent of the Tories undermining Labour’s Living Wage pledge by renaming the Minimum Wage as a Living wage after keeping it low for five years and returning it to what it would have been had it risen with inflation, and called it a generous increase. It’s a pup!

One argument that I am looking at is the Job seeker’s Allowance thing. I know a fair few disabled people who fear losing their income due to this, but truth be told their ‘top up’ would most likely be replaced by a personalised agenda, like direct Payments, sounds good in theory, but actually is more focused and controlling and has greater possibility of sanction for not meeting audited outcomes and procrustean criteria.

But the one those who swallow the ‘hard working families’ propaganda agenda may find harder to swallow is the socialised unemployment insurance thing. Basically ‘waged’ and ‘salaried’ worker’s pay their NI because they have very little control over the eventualities of losing their jobs. A Basic Income would be in-work. Many families (at least) get tax credits already to top up their low wages, should they lose their job if BI replaces JSA they would be in the equivalent position of being without work just on tax credits, without JSA, that they pay NI for such an eventuality.

So it’s a way of explaining that people lose the ‘unemployment’ contingency aspect of NI, given that wages will adjust around whatever figure BI would be.

B: So it’s perhaps not surprising that a section of the super wealthy elite favour reducing the problem created by the escalating wealth divide, as Dugger says “It’s a reason most of them give money to good causes”. This future is the warehousing strategy of introducing a Universal Basic Income (UBI) for those lucky enough to be born in the already industrialised zones where most of the super rich live. When the need for our labour ends rather than leaving us to starve (and perhaps rob them if not revolt) the elite want to give us enough of an income to survive on. UBI would involve every citizen or resident (and that distinction is important) being given a regular unconditional sum of money in addition to any income received from elsewhere. In most forms of UBI this is enough money to look after essential needs including housing and healthcare.

This warehousing may appear more attractive to some of us but it also moves us inside the borders of fear. It inevitably involves escalating the slamming of the door on those trapped outside because of where they happened to be born. Thousands of people have died trying to cross the EU borders this year without the magic of the right passport. Even as I type this I’ve received a new notification that dozens of bodies of the drowned have just been found along the coast of Libya, another ship must have gone down.

UBI would also do little against the other looming disasters related to growth and pollution, in particular climate change. It would have some impact as the super wealthy would be slightly less powerful so environmental protection laws would be stronger but capitalism and its need for incessant growth would survive and continue to deepen that crisis. UBI has also become a cover in many countries for the final abolition of the welfare state as parties say they will fund it by abolishing entitlement to services which people will then have to buy.

In countries like Ireland where a welfare system exists mainstream parties have started to talk about UBI as a way of eliminating bureaucracy and introducing market competition. In practise that translated into eliminating yet more jobs – in the public sector – and replacing only some of them with what would be much more insecure private sector jobs. UBI was even favourably put forward – as ‘negative taxation’ – by Milton Friedman, the chief economist promoting neoliberalism who also advised Pinochet on the post-coup destruction of workers’ gains in Chile.


C: I’m always suspicious now when things are mooted as ways to reduce or eliminate bureaucracy. Personal budgets/direct payments/UC were all trumpeted as reducing bureaucracy, simplifying the process, giving service users more choice and more control over their lives. More like a sneaky way to strengthen the independence is everything narrative while simultaneously cutting costs and therefore the necessary funding for everyone to be able to live independently.

UBI references:














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