Friday, 13 April 2018

Universal Basic Income must not be a tool for the right to make further cuts

Universe newspaper editor Joseph Kelly makes some interesting points in his piece on Universal Basic Income, some though I do not recognise, such as that  the left has given the idea a cold reception. Former Labour leader, Ed Milliband, has been a supporter, whilst John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, was one of the first to seriously address the idea in terms of the programme for a future Labour government. A number of trade unions are also on board.
The challenge over UBI is as to whether it can be used as a means to liberate individuals (the left view) or is simply a mask to cut the benefits support net further (the right view).
The attraction for the right is that it would see UBI as replacing all welfare support - including health. The question of what would happen about pensions is an interesting one that no one seems to have addressed.  
The elephant in the room that Mr Kelly does not address is automation and the loss of jobs. It is estimated that 50% of jobs will go over the next 10 to 20 years. This offers challenges to world economies and the Catholic Social Teaching construct of the relationship between work and human welfare. The UK certainly has not recognised this development, with schools teaching skills that will be redundant over the next few years.
A major driver for the UBI is the need for people to have the money to buy stuff to keep the wheels of capitalism turning. The antecedents of UBI can be seen by the embrace of ideas like the living wage by Conservative governments. All see the need to get money into ordinary people's pockets so that they can spend. If the jobs aren't there and the wealth continues to accrue to a small minority then the system simply does not work.
So yes, the UBI is an idea, whose time is coming - driven on partly by the lack of jobs. The struggle is to ensure that the level of UBI is set sufficiently high to enable people  to live and prosper in the future. What must not happen is for the right to use UBI as a way to further undercut the basic state supports that underpin all our lives.
published - Universe - 13/4/2018

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