The Government received a historic defeat this week when Labour’s Opposition Day motion was passed with an incapacitating 299 votes to 0. The motion aimed at stopping the Government’s disastrous welfare policy Universal Credit being rolled out after it was found claiants were being charged a staggering 55p per minute to access the helpline.
There’s been some bad policy decisions over the decades- Employment Tribunal Fees, Poll Tax, more money for Help to Buy schemes- but not a lot comes close to the Tory Government’s flagship welfare policy of Universal Credit.
The policy has left people starving in await of payments, desperately trying to prove they’re legible. It’s forced working families who are below the ‘just about managing line’ to saddle themselves with even more debt and to undergo desperate measures in order to feed themselves, protect their children and make sure they have a roof over their head.
But sadly, its rather summative of the Tory’s callous, cold and calculating attitude to welfare.
The legacy of 2010’s ‘Broken Britain’ combined with 2017’s system of welfare- a system devised by people who have never experienced being on welfare and largely don’t have constituents on welfare- shows us how politics is increasingly becoming a middle class conversation about what to do with ‘those poor folk’.
But what it shows is that we do need change. More people are going to be pushed onto welfare as jobs are being lost to automation at an alarming rate, people in developed countries are forced into food banks awaiting payments and people with debilitating conditions are being told they’re ‘fit for work’.
It’s time we developed a welfare system that fixes these problems and solves any future ones- that system is Universal Basic Income (UBI).
Under UBI, each and every citizen would receive a certain amount of income from the state. This would probably be decreased for dependent children and increased for pensioners and those receiving disability benefit. What this means is that absolute poverty would abolished outright, no one would fall below the breadline- the true goal of the welfare state.
It also ensures that work always pays- there would be no possible situation in which you could earn more on welfare than you could in work, as you would either have your income on top of the UBI payment, or just your UBI payment- meaning the right wing demagogues who love to demonise the working class would have one more arrow removed from their quiver.
The world is about to undergo another Industrial Revolution- increasing automation (the use of machinery for jobs) is the biggest cause of unemployment in the US today- it’ll hit Britain as well. We can either allow capitalism to create more and more bullshit jobs that are insecure and don’t pay enough, or we can use UBI in order to provide a safety net for those seeking skilled training, meaning we can engage with other countries with the highest skilled workforce in the world, a stark contrast to the low skilled force we have now.
UBI has its flaws, it would largely lead to an increase in inflation, meaning it would have to be introduced alongside radical social housing programs, rent controls and other economic incentives like free trade in order to keep prices up and inflation down.
It would also not solve inequality, but it would be a massive step towards abolishing poverty.
Any problems could be solved through a trial run like they are being in the dozens of countries that are currently or have previously trialed it.
UBI would eliminate poverty, limit bureaucracy, protect the nation and provide the biggest investment this country has ever seen. If we are to stay on top for the rest of the century we need to start implementing it now.
Time is running out and we are already slipping.