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Labour’s Universal Basic Income is nothing but a temporary bridge across a black hole of a problem that none of the Parties understand or are prepared to deal with

November 10, 2019 Leave a comment

89447a1c-d5a9-4158-b167-d12c506c5774The headlines this morning make painful reading to anyone who can see the real costs of The Labour Party’s plans and what they will involve.

Actually, it’s not the suggested figure of £1.2 Trillion over five years spent on public services that the real problem.

It’s the reality that this child-in-a-sweet-shop-with-birthday-money approach to fixing public services involves nothing more original than throwing money at the problems with no investment for the future or genuine long-term returns involved.

All well and good you might say if your only priority is to get a government elected and indefinitely keep that power.

But for the millions of British People who are experiencing the arse end of all that’s wrong in this Country each and every day, any positive impact from Labour’s great giveaway will be short lived once the default causes of all these societal ills have quickly bubbled back up to the surface again through the pile of vaporising money that these cynical left-wing politicians tell us they have in store.

The hollow promise that comes with a Universal Basic Income is the suggestion that poverty can be addressed as simply as giving everyone the same amount of money each month before spending on everything that life demands of us begins.

It’s a nice idea. And for people caught in a poverty trap with little or nothing, the promise of a lump of no-strings-attached cash each month is an electoral vote winner that is likely to go far.

If only life were really that simple.

The biggest problem that people on or below the poverty line in this Country face is not what income they have. It’s keeping control of the cost of everything that is essential to live, get by and to enjoy a basic or acceptable standard of living or quality of life.

Identifying the amount of money, or the combination of a Universal Basic Income payment plus any benefits that might be payable that are involved right now, today, doesn’t address the issue of what they will cost thereafter. Nor does it address the issue of how the real cost of living got to where it is today.

The reason for this is one of the greatest cultural ills of business today.

It is the exploitation of every opportunity to make profit wherever and whenever possible. Not because that’s what makes businesses work and function. But simply becuase the circumstances exist where they choose to because they legally can.

Too many profit hungry business owners, managers, shareholders, agents, financiers and speculators are taking too much money out of a system where there would otherwise be plenty that was affordable for all. They interrupt and place themselves within supply chains, production chains and service chains without adding any value to the process themselves – and this process often happens more than once.

Gandhi once said that ‘Earth provides enough to satisfy every mans need, but not every mans greed’. Our politicians clearly don’t read and if they did, they certainly don’t listen.

Whilst an argument can be made that Labours Election Manifesto includes a plan to re-nationalise essential public industries such as power, water and rail, the reality that they have no plans to address the institutional problems that exist within the Public Sector mean that the profits currently being sucked out of these industries by private shareholders will simply be redistributed to other destinations of a self-serving kind, whilst the service itself and cost to users will progressively get even worse whilst costing us all even more.

Addressing the cost and regulating the freedom of the private interests that you can never realistically remove from all manufacturing and production, services and supply, to charge whatever they want for goods and services that are essential to providing a basic quality of life for us all, should therefore be the primary aim of any political party that really wants to improve life.

It should be a simple task for politicians who genuinely care and intend to lift the poorest in society out of the circumstances that are a vicious circle that condemn them to want, debt and an experience of life that nobody in the 21st Century UK should ever have.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives – in fact none of the Political Parties we have on offer to us as Voters today, really have any idea nor understanding of how the monetary system works. Yet they are obsessed with monetary theory.

They don’t know how business operates. But they believe themselves qualified to regulate or deregulate at will.

They certainly have no appreciation of how technology is not only destroying and dehumanising relationships. But is also making the ability of the unscrupulous to exploit others and the vulnerable easier than it ever has been before.

The people or so-called politicians that we already have and that we are about to elect again in December are not fit to rule over us. They have no idea of what the problems facing this country really are and how they affect people of all demographics and backgrounds. They have no vision of how those problems can be addressed. And they certainly have no idea of what they really need to do to begin solving any of them.

Until we have politicians and leaders in this country who do see, understand and are prepared to do whatever it is that is necessary to deal with the issues that this Country faces, the fuckwits that we have in power will play around only with what they perceive to be the problems that others outside the Westminster bubble face, whilst what amounts to their tinkering makes everything everyone else is experiencing a whole lot worse.

 

Government should be ensuring that people can afford to live on a basic income, not make cheap headlines from a non enforceable wage

October 1, 2019 Leave a comment

Our MPs are so busy getting drunk on their own power and glory, they really have lost sense of reality with the policies that they continue to propose.

The problem is that without looking at the detail more deeply – as the people we have trusted to run this Country really should – the soundbites that they keep pumping out in isolation sound all so very good.

In quick succession, we have had the Liberal Democrats. the Labour Party and now the Conservatives throwing out policies from their Conference platforms that have been designed as nothing more than cheap tricks to buy voters off.

Promising the earth and then failing to deliver has very little cost for the unscrupulous politicians involved.

But policies like simply cancelling Brexit, reducing the working week for everyone to 32 hours and raising the ideal hourly rate for the Living Wage has a real impact that will not deliver the beneficial experience that these politicians are suggesting they can control.

Pretending that Brexit and the vote that led to it can simply be cancelled as if it never happened would be beyond stupid and would have very serious consequences for everyone – no matter what fairytales those obsessed with Remaining in the EU would like us to be told.

But what we earn and how we earn it not only has an everyday effect on how we live our lives, it is also all about what we can afford.

Politicians on all sides are completely out of touch with what it actually costs us to live. The reality is that even on a 40-hour-week paid at £10.50 per hour in 5 years time, thats only £420 per week or £21,840 per annum. It’s not enough today for a single adult without children to be self sufficient, let alone tread water or basically survive.

The cost of living in this Country is stupidly out of control.

The way that we measure the health and success of our economy should not be wage rates and rises, GDP or statistics in any other form. But whether the poorest amongst us can look after and completely fend for themselves on the basic minimum wage without going into debt, claiming benefits or having to look to charities to someway get involved.

The way that a more enlightened government or MPs who actually know and have respect for what they are doing would achieve this is to actually use the power and responsibility that they have been given to make changes the the framework that business and finance operates within. Not to tinker on the edges by applying sticking plasters that will have already lost their ability to heal anything by the time that they come into use.

Too many businesses, financiers and property owners are taking too much value out of every product and every service that is provided in this Country, without putting like-for-like benefits back in.

The system is complex and complicated and few of us really understands how finance, markets and supply chains work. But the benefit is all going one way right now and continuing to take the most from the people who can least afford it. All so the people at the top of the chain can keep adding to a cash pile they have no genuine need to use, whilst looking at the ease with which they can work the system and concluding that they can take even more.

Politicians should not only know, but be acting proactively to address this. Not to eliminate the financiers, business people and economists like Labour might like to do so. But to introduce a considered set of ethics and regulation in every aspect of business in this Country, so that end users are only ever paying whats fair for the basic products and services that are essential to live and survive. But above all, is no more than what they can actually afford.

Until we have politicians prepared to take the steps necessary to address the real cause of the cost of living problem, the way that economics work means that the people who are now having to go into debt, look to the government or charities just to get by and stay alive will continue to see life as something that they simply cannot afford.

 

 

The Welfare covenant is broken and Universal Credit is not the answer when it already creates victims

October 12, 2018 Leave a comment

Basic Standard of Living Q

It is regrettably all too easy for some to overlook the realities of life for others when  everything is going well and there is no need to look to anyone else for help.

Sadly, this is not the case for many. At one time or another during our lifetimes, there is every chance that we will need a safety net in place for when plans don’t work out quite as we thought they might, and we find ourselves in need of money, food, clothing, transport, warmth and maybe even a home.

State provision of such a safety net within a civilised society is not only right. It is also necessary when government is convened, managed and operated with the greater good, benefits and consequences for all are firmly in mind.

However, our Welfare and Benefits system has and is being continually abused.

It is being misused by those seeking help. But it is also being mis-purposed by those who have been given the responsibility in Government for providing that help on behalf of us all.

The Welfare covenant between those helping and those seeking help has been broken. And for the benefits system to work beneficially again for all, there must now be a new way of thinking.

No form of Government provision can truly be beneficial to all if victims have been created of any kind.

Universal Credit has therefore proven itself flawed before it has even began operating fully.

With many struggling recipients identified already, we should all be asking questions about the many more who are yet to come and the consequences that will surely follow.

This doesn’t mean that the system we have had until now is good. That it is working. Or that we should just stay tied to the same old thing.

We shouldn’t, because the current DWP Benefits regime really isn’t working for anybody, and we are all in desperate need of a solution which really can be seen and experienced as a ‘win-win’.

Now before we get lost completely with how Politicians are getting Benefits and Welfare wrong, there must also be an acceptance on the part of us all of what it is fair to expect to receive, how we receive it, and under what circumstances that help will actually come from the State if we should ever find ourselves in the position where we genuinely need it.

As we look at what is really wrong with the system as it is, we must also understand and accept that if the Law allows certain types of behaviours to exist, it is inevitable that there will be people who will employ them.

It doesn’t make their behaviour right. Their actions are not inevitable. Everyone has free will and can choose how to behave, even when a rule covering that action or behaviour may appear to be absent.

If the system doesn’t accommodate for the misuse of Beneficiaries and those affected, it is the people who are responsible for its design and implementation who are equally responsible for identifying what is wrong, putting it right and ensuring that either good or bad, nobody who should be receiving help gets missed or is able to slip in between.

Why the benefits system isn’t working, isn’t simply about something structural, the technology used or the people who administer or receive Benefits of any kind.

Like most policy failures today, it is a combination of factors which are not being considered. Many of them overlooked for the cause of political expediency, or because their place and influences sit outside of the specific or central theme – in this case the Benefits regime.

The real cost of a Basic Standard of Living is not understood by Government

The greatest injustice visited upon the unemployed, is the Government and DWP assertion that in 2018, one person can live on a basic income of £73.10 per week.

They can’t.

And when the Government itself has set the Minimum Wage at £7.83 per hour, which at a 40 hour week would be the same as £313.20, who exactly do they think is going to step in and replace what for some will be the destitution-busting £240.10 per week which sits so ominously in between?

Yes, there are many other Benefits other than and beyond the scope of Jobseekers Allowance.

But Universal Credit is being sold as a method of simplification by rolling everything into one, when the true aim of saving money will not stop a similar way of allocating money to the very same things from then existing, just under the umbrella of being just one application.

Government must provide a Basic Standard of Living income to those who qualify and need it.

If it is too expensive to do so, those in Government would do well by beginning to ask themselves the question ‘why?’

Government has surrendered responsibility for setting the prices of goods and services essential to a Basic Standard of Living to the private sector

Sadly, little attention is paid to the elephant in the Benefits room. That being the escalating prices of goods and services which provide for everyone’s basic needs in life.

That’s food, clothing, accommodation, transport and utilities.

Not First Class or on the upper side of ‘Taste the Difference’.

Just the stuff that anyone would need to be kept fed, clothed, warm, able to get themselves to a job and home again, and knowing that at night they will have a roof over their head.

Control of all of these goods and services is now completely under the infuence of commercial interests which have money as their one and only god.

Free Marketeers and Neo-Liberals will tell you that the Markets will look after everything when they are completely free to do as they choose. They don’t, they won’t and they will continue to do everything to make profit from every opportunity, for as long as they are gifted with the freedom to choose by gutless Government. Government filled with Politicians who see ethical intervention in the Markets and Financial Sector as a problem because they believe that they have too much to lose by doing so.

No service which is essential to the public good should be placed in private hands or under the undue influence of any self-serving cause.

No food supply essential to basic, healthy survival should be subject to the whimsy of the Markets where multiple traders, agents and handlers are seeking to add one profit margin on top of another, just on one item supplied within any one producer-to-plate supply chain alone.

If the Government genuinely wants the Benefits system to work, it has to find an effective way of controlling these two essential areas of daily life so that once a system that does work has been identified and implemented, it is then not rendered useless by private interest, based on nothing but profit.

We are culturally conditioned to assume that all Benefits Claimants are in some way bad

Mud sticks, as anyone who spends any time on social media or reading the news will know.

But the phenomenon of people assuming the worst of others based on the first story they are told is nothing new. And when it comes to the unemployed, being work shy is basically the accepted view.

The truth is not as straightforward and anyone at any stage of their career can find themselves out of work and having to ‘sign on’ in order to get help.

The problem with the ‘accepted truth’, is that the system itself, both mechanically and culturally treats everyone who comes through the Jobcentre door as if they don’t want to work, cannot be trusted in any way and that they all fit into the same mould as each other.

This approach overlooks the fact that people find themselves knocking on the door of the Jobcentre and the administrative centres of the DWP for very different reasons.

Some are poorly educated. Others have grown up in conditions that reinforce a world view that this is all they are worth. But there are others too who have landed themselves with significant debt to gain degrees that have proven to be of no use. People suffering illness and mental health problems which restrict the work that they can do. And even highly experienced and very well-educated professionals who cannot provide anything like as simple an explanation for what life has put them through.

Sit in a Jobcentre for long enough and you will hear claimants complain about having to wait for the money they are entitled to. You will see others lose their rag because they have not conformed to the regulations that they are supposed to. You will also witness the presence of so many security guards, it clearly suggests that behaviour of this kind is not only possible, but actually the expected constantly and all of the time.

But not all Benefits Claimants are a burden. Many want to work. But they are branded as ‘no-hopers’, instead of gaining the help and support which reflects them individually.

It is little wonder that those outside of the expereince of having a ‘down period’ in their lives take what they have for granted. Then look on and see all these people as being worthless and occupants of society’s bin.

Taking this approach is little more than deliberately setting up Benefit Claimants to fail.

It is not the action of a Government which respects and fully fulfils its role as the representative body of a civilised society. Nor is it illustrative of a Civil Service which is fully considerate of its role.

We can hardly expect the general population to think differently when the system so demeans.

A significant element of Claimants consider themselves entitled to what they receive

Because the system has been so poorly thought through and has not evolved positively in a way that sees its role strategically and as a way to raise expectation from the ground level upwards, it encourages the belief that it can be used as a substitute for real life. For not taking part. For resenting the success of others and as such seeing Benefits as an entitlement or a worthy redistribution of wealth from others.

The Benefits system only works for those who surrender themselves completely to it, leaving no incentive to escape and provide us all with that so far mythical ‘win-win’

Because the Benefits system has been so poorly thought through and has not evolved positively in a way that sees its role strategically as a way to raise expectation from the ground level upwards, it encourages the belief that it can be used as a substitute for real life. For not taking part. For resenting the success of others and as such seeing Benefits as an entitlement or a worthy redistribution of wealth from others.

The Benefits system only works for those who surrender themselves completely to it. It  leaves no incentive for Beneficiaries to escape and benefit anyone but themselves.

With restrictions placed upon how many hours a Claimant can work without losing Benefits, and the process of reinstatement being long and arduous – even before Universal Credit begins, there is zero in terms of incentive for people to take on more hours and work towards self-sufficiency.

Because the 6 Benefits together are so very complicated for one person to qualify for already, the further any Claimant journeys into this portfolio of direct and indirect income streams the less and less likely they are then to leave.

We can only ask ourselves the question if we were to find ourselves in the very same position. When everything is taken care of already, what serious advantage is there to be gained by going out and working for a wage which might never come to anything near the total that becoming subservient to the system and therefore being a Benefits slave can achieve?

Again, we cannot blame people for responding this way when the system itself not only allows but facilitates behaviour of this kind.

Help should always be given to those that need it.

For those who currently choose to be beholden to the system, there must be a process of incentives which doesn’t leave them without all the basic essentials.

It must also encourage them and accept and appreciate that they have responsibility for themselves as well as the wider community. A community which is ready to help, but is itself entitled to see those who voluntarily choose a life on Benefits as a drain on resources that we desperately need focused to provide other Public Services and that they are as such disadvantaging others on little more than a whim.

As taxpayers, we are effectively subsidising the employers of low paid workers by providing the in work benefits which allow them to survive

I have already mentioned what it costs to live and the need for a basic standard of living above.

Yet the conversation and discussion needs to go even further than the power of commercial interests over the essential goods and services for life.

The debate and the action that follows also needs to recognise the role which our Government is playing in keeping wages low and propagating a system where profit margins for large companies are exploding, whilst the millions of people on low incomes are now being farmed for the debt they have to carry, just to survive.

The money that lower income workers receive is in many cases too much to allow them to be on additional Benefits, yet not enough to allow them to be self sufficient. It keeps them ‘functioning’ at the behest of others, somewhere within the ‘in between’.

If we could freeze the prices of goods and services right now, so that they no longer rise, and we could focus in on what it actually costs a normal person on their own to live, self sufficiently, to feed, clothe and take care of themselves, put something by, have a holiday, a realistic pension and have a life which reason would tell us would make a normal person happy, we can soon begin to see the disparity between where wages sit and where right now, in these ‘static’ circumstances they would need to be.

At £10.20 per hour in London and £8.75 per hour outside, without the help of Government with Housing Benefit and Tax Credits too, even the Living Wage Foundations advisory level for a basic income doesn’t come close to what self sufficiency – that’s what complete independence from Government support –  would actually require.

Such a reality where Government support for the growth of small business is concerned alone would probably make the whole thing more palatable.

But the real beneficiaries of this State-sponsored in-work poverty are the big Companies making significant levels of profit that would in reality only dip slightly if they were to pay wages to front-line staff which would allow those employees to function within the overpriced society which their Employers have helped to create.

That this situation has been allowed to exist is beyond questionable.

That successive Governments of all kinds have allowed a situation to exist where the Taxpayer is paying over the odds for products in services in their face value alone is simply wrong.

That customers are then paying again to subsidise the wages of the staff serving them would be funny, if its implications and the reality which surrounds it not so very serious indeed.

This whole process has only been possible because Government has either borrowed incredible amounts of money, or has cut other and arguably more essential Public Services in order to allow them to provide this massive giveaway. A free-for-all that has broken the Country financially and is one of the key reasons why unfettered immigration of low skilled workers from Europe has been possible. Itself an issue which is seen by many Remainers as key to the majority vote for the UK to leave the European Union and the one which they are still obsessively attempting to resolve.

There would be some sweet irony in this if this financial mismanagement had really been helping people and UK communities, rather than being overtly beneficial to commercial interests, private profit and yes, the EU all along.

But there hasn’t, and in terms of management of expectation, this and previous Governments would appear to have hamstrung any future Government which wants to take a stand and do the right thing.

Be that as it may. Doing the right thing, is the only way that all of this is going to end up working right for everyone involved.

The solution

Like almost everything that Government and Politics touches, the key to delivering change in the Benefits and Welfare system is thinking differently.

And it’s the thinking and ideas at the top of British Politics which needs to change first before it can change anywhere else.

The responsibility of Government

Before the Benefits problem can be fixed, the understanding of what the problem actually is, must be broadened to include the wide range of factors which feed and influence the issues which those claiming Benefits experience.

Right now, there is an obsession on the part of decision makers. One which leads them only to attempt to address the effects of any problem, rather than to tackle each and every one of the causes.

Until all of the causes of problems are addressed, the Benefits system will only ever work temporarily at best, until those factors which are outside of the scope of that consideration inevitably change and then exert their negative influence once again.

A Basic Standard of Living level or the real Living Wage will only be achieved and maintained when all contributing factors fall within the reasoned influence of non-idealistic Government that considers the consequences of policy making upon ALL.

Politicians simply do not understand the power they have to change things. They do not see the scope of their roles and they have no appreciation of the influence that they could really have if they were to put the interests of ALL the people who have elected them first, rather than themselves, their Political Parties and whatever ideas or interests sit around that self-serving mix.

It will not matter how simple or complicated existing of new systems like Universal Credit might be. If they fail to consider and be considered as part of the bigger picture, they will always fail – and our Politicians have both the ability and responsibility to ensure that this is no longer the case.

It is their choice to now decide and it is their choice which must come first.

The responsibility – and acceptance of Claimants and Beneficiaries

For any solution to gain traction, it is also vital that ‘being down in your luck’ is accepted as a normal part of life, rather than being a condition which renders any of us as being sub-standard to it – the position under which Benefit Claimants are often perceived.

Those claiming Benefits fall into two predominant groups. Those who are or should be  temporary claimants and are able and willing to work. And those who are longer-term or permanent claimants who are unable or unlikely to be able to consider working again because of disability, illness, or other genuine debilitating circumstances.

All of us as beneficiaries must accept that there is and never has been a magic money tree of any kind. That the support that is given can only be provided through the act of others contributing through taxation on earnings, whether they themselves earn little or some extraordinary figure that might blow our minds.

Whilst it may currently behave as if it is, and some Politicians continue to seek election on the basis of perpetuating this myth, Government and the Public Sector is not a separate and ‘benevolent’ entity which doles out cash to Welfare recipients on the basis of being kind.

Government exists to represent the best interests of ALL British people. Government is there to help us all to succeed in whatever way that might be possible for us as individuals. And on  behalf of us all, it is there to help and provide support to those of us who cannot do so, in such ways that we may never feel like an after thought or something that others have in some way been left behind.

Government is the formal community power which represents and is therefore ‘for all of us’.

Those of us receiving help should therefore be mindful that the help we receive comes from the people next door, up the street and across our Cities and Towns.

As recipients, we are not ‘entitled’ to anything. It is simply that looking after those in genuine need is the basis upon which our civilised society can be found.

 

 

 

 

 

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