Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn on the recently published results of a two year UBI experiment in the United States,
Indeed, and it’s heartening to see this outcome.
A comment in Open Mike by Ed1 asked,
I wondered how such a scheme could work in New Zealand. We have different laws relating to social welfare assistance – would any payments from a charity to trial a guaranteed minimum income just result in abatement of any state welfare payments, whether Working for Families or other? With a three year election cycle, can we count on getting 5 years experience without any trial being closed down for not wanting answers?
There are different kinds of UBIs depending on who designs them and their intentions. I’ve written in the past about UBI: what is it good for? outlining the different reasons across the spectrum for wanting a UBI. The gist is that the right like the idea too, and any UBI in New Zealand needs to have welfare bolted on, and needs to be tory-proofed.
Gareth Morgan’s original UBI model for instance is liberal right wing. He had some good intentions but wanted a low UBI rate to replace welfare and for the supplementary benefit system that most long term beneficiaries depend on to be removed, including accommodation supplement and disability allowance. This would force solo mums and such to stand on their own two feet.
TOP’s Youth UBI policy in 2017, based on Morgan’s work, actively discriminated against disabled and other youth who were unable to work. A twenty something barista earning $30,000/year would get the $10,000/year YUBI on top of their wages, a disabled youth on Supported Living Payment would get their benefit of $13,000/year and no more.
This discrepancy was how TOP (and Morgan) intended to pay for the UBI. Robbing Peter to pay Paul. Imagine Peter and Paul being flatmates.
Those are neoliberal models, and we need to be extremely wary of them. They’re designed by economists intent on keeping the workforce corralled into supporting their neoliberal economic goals. It’s not primarily about the wellbeing of New Zealanders. National would love nothing more than to dismantle welfare, imagine Paula Bennett in charge of a UBI.
A UBI with welfare bolted on experiment needs to give the UBI to all people in the scheme on top of their other income irregardless of where that income comes from. That’s the point of a UBI demonstrated in the US experiment, to create the buffer that allows people to get ahead. Key in that trial is that there were no conditions on how the UBI was spent.
I can’t see any reason why WINZ couldn’t pay a UBI in the same way as the supplementary benefits, on top of the base benefits. They’re effectively a grant, in that they’re not taxed. There are some complicated formulas used to calculate benefits, but Labour managed to give the winter heating payment without any of that kicking in and lowering the in hand cash.
The Greens’ 2020 Guaranteed Minimum Income is another model that attempts to incorporate a UBI into welfare so that people get supported instead of penalised for being on welfare. This is the kind of model you get when you design with people’s wellbeing in mind and then figure out how to pay for it, rather than starting with the country’s economic wellbeing in mind.
The sticking point here is political culture. It would require Labour shifting away from the punitive-light, work is god model they currently support.