By Thomas G. Clark (Another Angry Voice)
When the government orders workers not to work, it’s beyond obvious that they have a responsibility to protect those furloughed workers from destitution.
The simple logical solution would have been to implement a Basic Income scheme for all workers, of say £1,500 per month for as long as the crisis lasts, then use the tax system to fine tune the details later on.
The Tories didn’t want to implement this quick and simple solution because of their vehement ideological opposition to the whole concept of Basic Income.
They didn’t want to take the easy approach just in case it worked, and became popular. So instead they shambled together an absolute hotchpotch of different measures for different types of workers that have allowed millions to fall through the gaps into desperation and destitution.
Hotchpotch of different measures
Their furlough scheme for PAYE employees simply abandoned huge numbers of workers who were employed on exploitative Zero Hours Contracts, and left millions of others entirely dependent on the whims of their bosses.
Workers who have been abandoned by their employers have been left to deal with the shockingly dysfunctional Universal Credit system, and endure the maliciously applied five week wait between application and first payment.
And the scheme for self-employed people abandoned literally everyone who has turned self-employed in the last 13 months, set ludicrous arbitrary qualification rules, and left millions absolutely destitute until the scheme finally pays out in June (maybe).
The Tories decided not to go with the simpler and more humane solution of providing an emergency Basic Income for two main reasons:
The first is the nonsensical claim that Basic Income disincentivises work, which has been repeatedly disproved by Basic Income trials across the globe. It actually turns out that the majority of workers aren’t purely motivated by the threat of absolute destitution if they stop working, and if you provide for people’s basic needs, they’re actually more inclined to do the kind of productive labour they want to do, in order to increase their disposable income. And when there’s more disposable income in the economy, there’s more economic demand, meaning more jobs, and more hours worked!
But even if the Tories were right about Basic Income disincentivising work (which they’re not), how is that even a problem when it’s the government who ordered people not to work in the first place?
The second Tory objection to the simple solution of Basic Income is that they claim it is unfair that some people might get a bit more than they supposedly deserve, while others get a bit less.
Yes, an arbitrary figure like £1,500 per month to all workers may end up giving a few low income workers more than they usually earn, and it will obviously be less than many high-income workers take home, and some workers will get the payment despite still being in work and collecting their salary too.
It’s possible to iron out the kinks further down the line with changes to the tax system, but no system is ever going to be perfectly fair. Therefore the only reasonable comparison isn’t against a hypothetical perfect-world scenario where everyone gets exactly what they deserve, it’s against the absolute shambles the Tories decided to put in place instead.
Workers are at “the whims of their employers”
The Tory furlough scheme put millions of workers at the whims of their employers, meaning whether they get 80 per cent of their salary, or get thrown on the Universal Credit scrapheap depends on completely arbitrary factors like the financial solvency of the company they work for, and whether their employers are utterly selfish arseholes or not.
Then there’s the contrast between furloughed workers on 80 per cent of their salary and essential workers like medics, carers, emergency services, shop workers, bin men, utilities engineers, delivery drivers, posties … who are essentially being made to work for the 20 per cent of their salary above what they would have been getting on furlough.
Millions sit safely at home on 80 per cent salary, while those in the dangerous front line occupations do all the work that keeps society from totally collapsing for just 20 per cent extra.
How on earth is this fair?
Wouldn’t it actually be fairer if all workers got an unconditional £1,500 per month to see them through the crisis, and those still working could keep it as a gratitude payment, which would do an awful lot more to put food on their tables than feel-good performative gestures like a weekly round of applause?
Then there are all the holes and arbitrary cutoffs in the hopelessly delayed Tory scheme for the self-employed, and the fact that self-employed workers who have carried on working are being economically punished for working.
The Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak has already promised draconian tax-rises for the self-employed using the furlough scheme as his justification, but any self-employed people who managed to keep working through this crisis won’t receive a penny of the payouts that they’re going to be expected to spend the rest of their working lives paying back through increased taxes.
The people who worked all the way through the crisis being forced to pay for the furlough pay of those who didn’t?
How on earth is this fair?
Then for those who are actually on furlough pay, have their rents and mortgages been cut to 80 per cent? Has 20 per cent been slashed from our utility bills and supermarket shop?
No, of course not. The Tories just decided that the workers who they instructed not to work need to take an even bigger economic hit, whilst not forcing similar economic haircuts on the landlords, and the privatised utility profiteers, and the corporate supermarket chains.
How on earth is this fair?
The reality of course is that the Tories only ever came up with their workers’ support measures as a hastily cobbled together afterthought, because their main priority was using the crisis to shovel hundreds of billions of pounds of public cash into private pockets through corporate bailouts, no-bid outsourcing contracts, and underwriting risk-free loans for their financial sector chums.
Then they cobbled together this profoundly unfair farce purely because they feared that the simpler, fairer solution of an emergency Basic Income would succeed, and would prove too popular for them to scrap once the crisis began to recede.
Once again the Tories allowed their political ideology to override what was clearly the simplest, fairest, and most logical economic solution to the immediate problem.
And yet their army of Boris bots and Tory propaganda drones will bitterly accuse us of “politicising the crisis” for daring to criticise the Tory government for this blatant politicisation of the crisis!