Trickledown is one of the most hated phrases in the progressive lexicon. It is based on the premise that to improve the plight of everyone all that we need to do is give the already wealthy more and the benefits will trickle down to everyone else.
It is a theory whose validity the proponents have tried to prove for a long time. We are now at the obscene stage where the richest 85 humans on the planet have as much accumulated wealth as the poorest 3,500,000,000. Despite there being no evidence to back its validity some still claim that the current system is best for everyone and the rewarding of risk taking and some ephemeral concept of worth and talent will make things better for all of us.
The concept still persuades a section of the population to vote against their interests. The thought that they may become obscenely wealthy themselves is sufficient to persuade them to support an economic system which realistically presents little chance of them ascending to the heights they think they can.
The system has significant societal support. Every time you turn the TV on or open a paper or magazine chances are you will be inundated with words and pictures suggesting that a resource rich consumptive life is best and that people who lives those sorts of lives are somehow better.
Well it is time that all good lefties challenged this assumption and presented an alternative concept which, in my humble opinion, is much more likely to achieve an improvement to the collective good. My working title for the concept is trickleup, if we give resources to the poorest amongst us then we can significantly improve the communities that we live in.
Unlike trickledown this concept has strong empirical evidence suggesting that it will work. For instance it has been shown that giving cash grants to homeless people has done wonders for their reintegration into society. Why shouldn’t we bail out the poor instead of the rich? And giving cash to young people improves dramatically their future prospects. The evidence is that they perform better academically, their mental health is better and they develop fewer problems.
If you need any proof then the spirit level provides all the proof that you could want. Karol and Bunji have both posted about Wilkinson’s work on various occasions. More equal societies perform better in a number of ways. KJT’s series of posts on the benefit of a universal basic income has obviously struck a chord with the Standard’s readers and the discussions on two of the posts in particular were intensive and passionate.
So the evidence and the concept are there but how is the left going to persuade ordinary people that ?
IMHO they could describe the alternative as “trickleup”, which is the opposite of what we have been doing for the past few decades. If wealth is given to the poorest amongst us then there are community wide benefits. We all will be better off.
What would trickleup policies look like?
Well examples include:
1. Increased support for students. Most students used to have their course fees paid for and back in the 1980s were also paid a living allowance which went some way to paying for living expenses. The current student loan scheme is merely loading our young with debt and amongst other things is driving them overseas. Some relief, for instance at least the payment of course fees is long overdue.
2. A living wage. David Cunliffe has already committed to an increase in the minimum wage and the introduction of a living wage as circumstances permit.
3. School breakfasts and lunches in decile one and two schools. For a hundred million a year or so kids in the poorest 20% of schools would be guaranteed breakfast and lunch.
4. A change in the tax system. A Capital gains tax is vital and why shouldn’t the top tax rate increase? The already wealthy have had the benefit of paying reduced taxes under Key’s regime and this has not incentivised them to work harder one bit. All that it has done is make them travel overseas more and buy imported electronic goods, neither of which are good for our economy.
5. And the most contentious … working for families for beneficiaries. Or at least an increase so that their income allows them to feed themselves and their children properly.
For the avoidance of doubt all posts are my personal ramblings and bear no relationship to Labour party policy or the thinking of anyone else.