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July 1, 2015

20 reasons to like a citizens’ income

The reform of the welfare system that Ian Duncan Smith is pursuing is changing much more than just the benefits on offer. Any dignity and self-esteem that a claimant might have been able to retain in the past is being replaced by a fear of being sanctioned and the stigma of being labelled a scrounger. The Citizen Income is an idea that flickers into life every so often before being scotched by the naysayers. A fully costed model needs to be offered up before it will be taken seriously but here’s 20 reasons why it’s worth thinking about.

The Guardian

Citizen Income is the best solution to the injustices of our current tax and benefit system; but as Abba Eban once said, “Men and nations behave wisely when they have exhausted all other resources.” So, it may be some time before we are ready to recognise the folly of our current system and the wickedness of what the current Government is trying to pass off as ‘welfare reform’. However the fact that the Green Party has included the idea of Citizen Income in its 2015 manifesto is certainly a hopeful sign.

In essence the idea is very simple: replace the current mess of benefits, tax credits and allowances with one simple system where each individual receives an unconditional income. It is like getting £200 every time you pass Go.

This idea seems radical to some, impossible to others, but its benefits could be enormous. The Centre for Welfare Reform is committed to promoting Citizen Income and so, in order to encourage debate I thought I’d provide a summary of its main benefits. Here are my top twenty reasons to love Citizen Income.

1. Justice – Each of us has a basic right to exist. Citizen Income gives each of us enough to live on.

2. To Hell with Poverty – Citizen Income directly attacks poverty, by establishing the highest feasible minimum income.

3. Simple – The current benefit system is so complex that about £17 billion goes unclaimed because people don’t know what they are entitled to receive.

4. Affordable – The funding necessary for Citizen income is already being spent on benefits, pensions, tax credits or hidden inside tax allowances.

5. Cheap – The current system is incredibly complex and expensive to administer.

6. Rational – The current system is so complex that even the people running it don’t understand it. The DWP even claimed it was impossible to calculate the impact of their policy changes on disabled people. This makes rational policy-making impossible.

7. Universal – We all need income security and we all need to remember that we are one community – bound together by common rights and duties.

8. Respectful – The current system is shaming for people who need benefits, damaging human dignity and also increasing social division.

9. Liberating – Citizen Income frees people from a whole range of poverty traps that make it harder for people to earn, save, form a family or take risks. Strong foundations enable people to do more for themselves and others.

10. Adaptable – Citizen income can be adjusted to transparently reflect the differences in age or disability that may be relevant to income.

11. Secure – Ultimately the only real securities on earth are the ones we give each other. Citizen Income commits us to work together to ensure everyone has their basic needs secured.

12. Living Wage – Better wages will come when people are not forced by fear and destitution into the labour market.

13. Family – Giving a citizen income to each parent and recognising the work of parents who care for their children or other relatives makes for strong families.

14. Community – Citizen Income makes it easier for people to contribute to their communities in ways that make sense. Volunteering, neighbourliness and community development all become easier.

15. Capacity – In order to win a modest increase in income many disabled people are forced through pointless or harmful hoops – all to prove they ‘cannot work’. This whole inept system could be swept away.

16. Business – Currently Government tries to increase employment by a schemes and incentives which merely increase bureaucracy and reduce efficiency. Citizen Income lets people set up their own business or strike their own deals with employers.

17. Creative – Too many people are not making the most of their skills and gifts for fear of losing a job they hate. Citizen Income could unleash human creativity.

18. Sustainable – The fundamental failure of the current economic system is that it creates and distributes new money via banks through the creation of debt. Citizen Income is democratic Keynesianism – money goes to people, not banks.

19. Global – There is a global movement for Citizen Income which will also help restore global justice and enable the spread of effective human rights around the world.

20. Scrap the DWP – Integrating the tax and benefit system means that we can finally close down the worst Government department in Whitehall – the Department of Work and Pensions.

In time Citizen income will seems as natural and right as the NHS or a free school education. It is an idea whose time has come and anyone interested in making society better must pay it attention.