24 Jun 2013

Negative income tax

In economics, a negative income tax (NIT) is a progressive income tax system where people earning below a certain amount receive an income supplement from the government instead of paying taxes to the government. It was advocated by United States economist Milton Friedman.

In a negative income tax system, people earning a certain income level would owe no taxes, those earning more than that would income tax and those below would receive an income payment.

Negative income tax is intended to create a single system that would pay for government and make sure that there was a minimum level of income for all. In theory NIT eliminates the need for a minimum wage, food stamps, social security and other government assistance, thus reducing administration costs as well as poverty traps, for example when a minimum wage worker earns a little more and has less income because he is newly ineligible for aid.

One model (based on Milton Friedman’s) is to set the individual income level at £6,000 a year and the tax rate at 40%. In this example, which is only for example’s sake, an individual’s earnings, tax and overall income would look like this:
£ earnings per year
tax at 40%
net earnings
universal benefit
total income
net tax rate
This looks fine for single individuals, but it all depends on where you set the poverty line and whether the £6000 a year in this case would apply to a family of four, which would be £24000 a year in all.

Friedman feared that high NIT rates would lessen the incentive to take employment. He opposed introducing the negative income tax as an addition to existing benefits as this would only worsen the problem of bureaucracy and waste. He preferred to have no income tax at all, but did not think it was politically feasible to eliminate it, so he suggested NIT as a less harmful income tax scheme.

Green Party Policy on Welfare and Pensions

  • living wage
  • citizen's income
  • unconditional citizen’s pension (linked to average earnings)

and to
  • increase carer’s allowance
  • link housing and disability support to earnings
  • double child benefit

The Green Party Manifesto 2010 on Welfare states: … fundamental reform is needed, where most of the complicated benefits, means tests and qualifying contributions are swept away, and all citizens receive as of right a basic income – a Citizen’s Income. The cost of this would be recovered through a more progressive income tax system. 
We recognise that with the public finances in their present state this is not the time to introduce such a scheme. However, we can make a start … with a decent Citizen’s Pension scheme and a major increase in Child Benefit. 
The Citizen’s Pension would be paid unconditionally to all pensioners in the UK (independent of contribution record) at the rate of the official poverty line (currently £170pw for someone living alone, and the rate would be £300pw for couples), and would be linked to average earnings. 
[On child poverty] Rather than add further to the complex and means tested Child Tax Credits system, we would simply more than double the existing and universal Child Benefit payment, by paying an extra £20pw, which would be taxable, for each child. This would cost a further £14bn per year, much of which would be recovered by increased taxation on the most wealthy. 
A more generous Carer’s Allowance, increased by 50% to £80pw. 
In terms of public expenditure … the overall increase in public expenditure … for 2013 is £80bn.

Here also is Haringey Green Party blogger mike.shaughnessy@btinternet.com on 9 July 2012
 As their economic policies continue to fail, the ConDem coalition governments demonising rhetoric against welfare claimants grows ever louder. Sanctions (removing Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)) are up sharply (almost doubled) when measured against the last Labour administration. Under Labour, it was far from the free for all as painted by the current government, with sanctions regularly applied to Jobseeker’s, and the harassment and transferral of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claimants to JSA commonplace.
 I worked as a Jobcentre adviser over the period covering the end of the Labour administration and beginning of the ConDem one, and I can tell you that all the tools we had to help people back into work were systematically removed (not that they were that great anyway), and replaced with only a negative approach of applying sanctions.
 The ConDem’s though have taken this to new level now, presumably encouraged by focus group feedback about ‘the something for nothing society’, it is probably the only popular policy they have introduced. The fact it is inhumane, unfair and doesn’t really save much money is no deterrent to this most odious of governments.
 The Green party takes a very different view of welfare matters, which is embodied in our policy of a Citizen’s Income (CI). It is a progressive policy whereby all adults in the UK would receive a non-means tested payment set at no less than the current JSA, although I would argue that it needs to set at a considerably higher level, because JSA currently at £71.00 per week is not enough to live on, and needs to be over £100.00 per week, at least.
 This would allow people to work part-time if they so wish, to supplement their income, with no reduction in CI, or do voluntary work with no hassle from the Jobcentre, have confidence to start up as self- employed or take up family caring responsibilities.

PS 5/8/13 - Here is motion CΩ12 on An alternative Citizens Income / Basic Income Scheme on page 40 of the Agenda for Autumn Conference 2013 of the Green Party of England and Wales

Synopsis: Guarantees every citizen a decent basic income, without means-testing and to pensioners and those unable to work without further condition. Workers guaranteed a wage rate (equivalent to national mean work-age income per hour worked), for enough hours to equal that payment. Option to complete these hours in decent Government-funded jobs.

Motion:  Delete existing EC730-EC733 and replace with: EC730 A Citizen's Income sufficient to cover an individual's basic needs will be introduced, which will replace tax-free allowances and most social security benefits (see EC711).

A Citizen's Income is an income payable to each individual as a right of citizenship. It will not be subject to means testing. The level for an adult should be set at about £175pw as at Nov 2012, equivalent to the average personal JSA+housing benefit+council tax benefit package. The only condition which a recipient citizen shall be required to meet is: that if they are of working age and capable to work, they shall be required to work for a total of 43 hours in a 4-week cycle
a . This can be for any legitimate employer, self-employment, or a socially or environmentally useful government guaranteed scheme
b  -or a mix of these
c . Those unable to work, in legitimate full-time education (term-time), or beyond retirement age, will receive CI without conditions. Those in prison would be eligible for CI but would be required to pay a proportion as ‘keep’ to the prison -at least as much as an average citizen did in basic rented housing. Workers would not be expected to do work that they had a moral objection to, although there should be plenty of non-controversial possibilities in the government-sponsored schemes. Those with a medical exemption would in no way be penalised for work they did manage to do (unless it was clearly impossible with the condition they'd declared)...and an exemption declaration should be able to specify 'this person may not be capable of reaching hours required for full CI, in which case they should be considered exempt from the time requirement' See d  for job-sharing.
a) This based on a wage-rate equivalent to that of the national mean income for a working person, currently ~£16.25ph. This is called the CI-wage rate (CIWR). The 43hrs/4-weeks are referred to as CI-time requirement (CITR). Where CIWR is greater than the contracted hourly rate, the difference is called the ‘top-up rate’, and is applicable for hours worked up to the CITR. Hours worked as self-employed would be assumed to be at minimum wage rate, and thus be eligible for the maximum top up rate.
b) Govt. provided jobs would include valuable social and environmental jobs that aren’t currently being done. They could be recommended and awarded via local councils or central Govt.*c. The Govt would pay CI to the citizen...this is to ensure everyone gets their CI, guaranteed and without delay. (exception: those fully self-employed would not make a CI contribution, but the Govt would only pay them the top-up part of CI.) Employers would pay the Govt for the employee’s contracted hourly rate up to the CITR –for a total up to the full CI.Employers would pay the employee direct for any hours worked above the CITR. E.g : You are contracted for £8ph for 30hrs/week with employer ‘X’. X pays the Govt £8x 10.75= £86 towards your CI. The Govt pays you £175 CI, effectively ‘topping you up’ by £89. You would receive a further £154 from your employer (as hours beyond your CITR, at your contracted £8ph). Total weekly income =£175(CI, non-taxable)+ £154(taxable). If you got a pay rise to £20ph, X would pay the Govt the full £175pw, which would be passed on to you as CI, with no Govt top-up. By offering higher weekly wages, however, they should be benefitting from attracting high-calibre employees.
d) For employers with only one employee (includes self-employment), that job is considered as an entire job. So if they only work 15hrs/week, a Govt ‘top-up’ would apply for all but 4.25hrs of that. For employers with more than one employee: There should be an incentive for employers to allow job-sharing, but not to splinter into uselessly small jobs in order to gain maximum govt subsidy. Thus an employer of more than one person (at below the CIWR) would have to contribute more than the contracted wage rate towards employees’ CI in certain circumstances: Taking a full-time job equivalent (FTJE) to be 40hrs/week...an employer providing 80 hours’ weekly work in total would be deemed to provide 2 FTJEs -so the Govt ‘top-up’ is allowed on 2 full CI
An employer employing extra persons in the same job (ie job-sharing) would have to pay half the CI ‘top-up’ for the second employee, and three-quarters of the top-up for 3rd or 4th employees on the same job-share.
EC731 The Citizens' Income will eliminate the unemployment and poverty traps, as well as acting as a safety net to enable people to choose their own types and patterns of work (See EC400). The Citizens' Income scheme will thus enable people to engage in personally satisfying and socially useful work.
EC732 When the Citizens' Income is introduced it is intended that very few will be in a position that they will receive less through the scheme than they were entitled to under the previous benefits system. Children will be entitled to a reduced amount which will be payable to a parent or legal guardian. People with disabilities or special needs which require special provisions will receive a supplement according to need in their special circumstance. Single parents will be eligible for subsidised child care whilst working.
EC733 Housing (and council tax) benefit payments will cease. A vigorously enforced system of fair renting and decent housing standards will ensure that excessive rents are not charged (say something like equivalent to 16hrs of minimum wage as a current baseline for decent basic provision for 1 adult, to include council tax). There will be period when this could make landlords letting in very ‘expensive’ areas have to cut rents significantly. Some transitional relief could be given to such landlords who can demonstrate where they have invested significantly in order to provide such properties.

14 Jun 2013

Welfare reform – heading towards the rocks?

Clive Betts MP blog- Wed, 12 June 2013 ...The Treasury has been consistently sceptical about IDS’s welfare reform programme.  ...
•DWP has already been forced to ditch three of the four proposed Universal Credit pathfinders because the IT systems – even for this limited application – are nowhere near ready.
•Insiders are now confirming that there is no chance of 1 million people receiving universal credit by April 2014, as IDS promised in November 2011.
•Applications for discretionary housing payments (DHP) in April, as a consequence of the bedroom tax, leapt from 5,700 last year to more than 25,000 this year and many more will claim when they find out about them. The budget for DHPs will shortly be exhausted, or so constrained that arrears will take a further leap.
•As the DHP budget runs out, there will be thousands of bad news stories about the impact on adults with disabilities and on children who are no longer able to stay with one parent, after relationship breakdown.
•The costs of collecting the bedroom tax, including managing arrears, could well take up most of the extra income.
•A housing association at the heart of the first direct payment pathfinder experienced a 29 per cent rise in people contacting its financial support team in the last year, and a 19% rise in the total amount of debt referred.
•Rent arrears in these pathfinders are already increasing dramatically. The reality is that ‘direct by default’ is already being carefully ditched. ...
Of course, if the government had really been serious about subsidising under-occupation, they would not have excluded pensioners from the scope of the bedroom tax. Not that I am advocating an expansion of the bedroom tax, rather the opposite.

Postscript 5/8/13 see also http://www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog/2013/08/everyone-including-dwp-staff-think-ids-universal-credit-is-a-disaster-heres-why/

8 Jun 2013

the asymmetrical war on terror

"Our" leaders call it asymmetrical warfare. One thing that is definitely asymmetrical is what "we" do to "them" compared to what "they" do to "us". A quick couple of examples. 

In March 2012 US soldier Robert Bales massacred 16 Afghan civilians including nine children during a night-time attack on two Kandahar province villages.

According to Jeremy Scahill's Dirty Wars, in February 2010 US special forces, acting on information about an alleged Taliban compound in Gardez in Afghanistan, raided the compound in the middle of the night, killing a number of men and two pregnant women. But they weren’t Taliban. In fact they were doing a most anti-Taliban thing, which was having a party with live music to celebrate the naming of a child. Furthermore the man of the house was a senior Afghan police commander who had been trained by the US forces. When the US commandos realised what they had done, they dug the bullets out of the women’s bodies, told their commanders that there had been a Taliban ambush and that they were essentially heroes that had gone in and saved everyone else. But then the family contacted reporters and Jerome Starkey of The Times reported that this was a botched Nato raid and that Nato had tried to cover it up. Nato first accused him of lying but, with media attention focused on the village and the family, they changed tack and admitted that their forces had killed these pregnant women and that the men were not Taliban commanders.

And has any of that been in the front-page news alongside the murder of Lee Rigby? 

7 Jun 2013

murder of drummer Lee Rigby - anyone remember Baha Mousa?

As Peter Cranie says, when someone is brutally murdered in the way that drummer Lee Rigby was, it’s important to think first and foremost of the family and friends and their grief and pain: the shock, the horror, the anger and sadness of bereavement.

Once people have dried their tears, it’s important to be clear-eyed about the way our media and discourse treats the killing of Black people as less important than the killing of White people and see events like this in their social and political context. My prediction is that the name of drummer Lee Rigby will go down in history along with others in a long-running discourse of White Martyrs Murdered by Crazy Black People: for example WPC Yvonne Fletcher, shot by Libyans outside their Embassy in London in 1984 and PC Keith Blakelock, hacked to death by a mainly Black mob in the Broadwater Farm riot in Tottenham, north London, in 1985.

How many people remember the name, Baha Mousa?  In September 2003 British soldiers arrested the Iraqi hotel receptionist in Basra and beat him to death and a year-long inquiry found the Ministry of Defence responsible. How many people remember the name, Cynthia Jarrett? It was her death in a police raid that triggered the Broadwater Farm riot. Or Mark Duggan? He was the unarmed black man shot by police, whose death triggered the riots of August 2012 (which also started in Tottenham).

There are many unpeople – unnamed and unremembered and unwhite –  like the wedding parties killed by drones, the boys gathering firewood on a hillside in Afghanistan shot and killed by US helicopter gunships, and the Reuters journalists and the carload of children seen in the wikileaks “collateral murder” video.

For every brutal murder of a white person in a western country there are, I'm sure, many more killings of people of colour in non-western countries dating back to the Vietnamese villagers massacred at My Lai in 1968 and beyond. 

PS. I also liked this By Tony Jaques at Othona
As I write this the media – and many people’s conversations – are full of the murder of drummer Lee Rigby and its repercussions. You may have heard about the mosque in York where the Muslim worshippers responded to an ugly demonstration by the English Defence League by inviting EDL members in for a cup of tea and a chat. What better way to show the revulsion of most Muslims at what happened in Woolwich? But elsewhere, of course, somebody persuaded the men who killed Lee that they were serving their religion.