Polity by Rob Salmond

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Polity: Home-spun non-truths

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  • Hilary Stace,

    Grant Robertson has been very astute in floating this idea. You can be sure he has discussed it with lots of people and groups with varying levels of expertise, and built a lot of respectful relationships on the way. Everyone seems to be talking about it now and mostly in a tentatively positive way. The most negative comments that I have seen (on Facebook etc) have come from current beneficiaries worried that their limited incomes will shrink even further, which is not the intention.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3213 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to BenWilson,

    If I have a company, I pay company rate tax on the retained profits. Those are then available for the companies use, but not mine. If I want to then pull the money out as a dividend, I’d pay the difference in the tax rates.

    At least, that’s my understanding. It all gets rather complicated and most people take their whole profits out and don’t bother retaining anything. And I’m sure that slightly larger companies or very wealthy contractors would engage in all sorts of fiddles involving offshore trusts and the like.

    Incidentally, the effective UK upper marginal tax rate (including employers NI*) rate under Thatcher was 50% (it was 70% for most of her reign and is now 60.3%, even under Cameron).


    * UK tax on earnings comprises income tax, employers and employees NI. The last of those is reverse progressive - e.g. it drops to 2% above about GBP40k. While salaries are normally quoted net of employers NI, this is only a convention, the employer has to pay HMRC all three taxes.

    A similar system operates in most US and Australian states and this should be born in mind when comparing NZ tax rates with overseas.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    I love the idea of a UBI. I love the way, for example, it could change society and the way we thing about work. If no-one wants to clean toilets, no-one HAS to. So toilet-cleaning might get you a good wage. Other jobs might decline in value – because they offer personal satisfaction at a rate that amply compensates. Art might be everywhere. Music might be free (haha, mutter the musicians sardonically. But really – sure, we can come round Tuesday night and play at your party. But you better get some beer in for the bass-player.)
    Tax policy would have to shift markedly, though. Already wealthy folks know there are many ways to minimise your tax. If we put up income and corporate rates, the ridiculousness of having no CGT will jump out. Because it’s such a simple way to avoid tax altogether, with higher income tax no-one will declare money they can shove into a capital asset. It’s already glaringly obvious this is happening.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Grant Robertson has been very astute in floating this idea.

    It would however help if he and Little were on song when media interview them about it.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19705 posts Report Reply

  • tony j ricketts, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    I love the idea of a UBI. I love the way, for example, it could change society and the way we thing about work. If no-one wants to clean toilets, no-one HAS to. So toilet-cleaning might get you a good wage.

    Jenny just showed me a Listener piece about lousy pay for skilled responsible truck drivers leading to a shortage of truck drivers – this could really improve how we think about the value of labour.

    And isn’t National Super a form of UBI for us oldies? It works well!

    wellington • Since Aug 2012 • 41 posts Report Reply

  • Marc C,

    With a fair few of the kind of “media persons” we have on TV, radio and writing in print, a proper, objective, not emotion laden discussion appears near impossible these days.

    I listened in to Duncan Garner on Radio Live this afternoon, and while he said he welcomed a discussion on the UBI, he did not appear all that sincere when then throwing in bizarre comments about people having their free choice to use the money on whatever they like, e.g. booze, drugs and whatever they wish. He called it a “dole” for everyone, rich and poor, and middle class.

    Again, there was too much of stirring up at work, to get listeners call in and share their prejudices, some calling it “communist”, others irresponsible and so forth.

    Paul Henry did of course rubbish the idea on his show this morning, and his “panel” guests seemed just as poorly informed and biased.

    So Farrar may have led the way with all this, but the herd seems to be following his lead, yet again, in rubbishing it all before anybody has done any proper analysis or quoted some research.

    What about getting Prof. Guy Standing from London in to comment on this, he seems to be the expert and strongly in favour of an UBI.

    Instead we get talk back comments and throwaway arguments by so many wannabe experts, the usual bank economists and radio hosts who only have one thing on their mind, to stir up emotive discussions, to get more listeners and higher ratings, no matter how poor the participants are actually informed.

    Like with anything that comes from the opposition, it tends to be discredited and destined to the waste bin by so many in the mainstream media, before it has been carefully considered on its merits.

    So the judgment seems to be out, it is too complex, too many are against it, therefore it must be a "goner", I suppose.

    Akl • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report Reply

  • Marc C, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    The way it has been presented, often only quoted as being about $ 211 a week per person, it will hardly thrill the majority on benefits, as if that is all they would get, it is definitely not enough to pay basic living costs. It would not even cover the rent for a room in many flats in Auckland.

    But there are different models of an UBI, and those that are on benefits for health and disability, and for needing to care for a child or disabled person, they will surely need a good top-up to cover their actual needs.

    It will not completely do away with a kind of “welfare system”, it can save a lot of administrative costs though, and if linked to taxation, it would work quite well, I think, provided the necessary changes to tax rates will be done.

    Akl • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Angela Hart,

    It’s past time that Labour got with the Greens and showed the public a collaboration which could govern capably and with integrity. Labour has no show alone.

    You're damn tooting about that.

    Why, oh why cannot Labour see this?

    Perhaps Labour should get out and about a tad more and speak with the plebs.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1344 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Marc C,

    Guy Standing is speaking in Wellington next week, so will likely comment on it.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3213 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Marc C,

    we get talk back comments and throwaway arguments by so many wannabe experts, the usual bank economists and radio hosts

    Gosh, what political comms experts could possibly have anticipated that? #headdesk

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19705 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Keith Rankin about what UBI is.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19705 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    You’re damn tooting about that.

    Why, oh why cannot Labour see this?

    Seconded, or is that thirded? While Labour may envision a future where they govern alone, the impression they gave before the last election when they announced no deal with the Greens was that they couldn't play nicely with others.

    An FPP mindset looks increasingly dated in an MMP world.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1427 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Alfie,

    An FPP mindset looks increasingly dated in an MMP world.

    Exactly.

    One of the Offspring (who does the Facebook thing) tells me that the intention of some of the younger set (who are not as politically detached as some might think) is to split their votes between Labour and the Greens....party vote to one and candidate vote to the other.

    Anything to get this current mob out.

    Labour refusing to willingly share the sandpit is NOT helping.

    Whoever is advising Labour to persist in the 'we can do it by ourselves' attitude really seriously needs to wake up and smell the coffee.

    Hint. Hint.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1344 posts Report Reply

  • llew40, in reply to RuralJohnny,

    Hmmmm, not sure if I necessarily agree with the approach as a hard-nosed political strategy though.

    Floating policy balloons is a tried and trusted political tactic thats been around for hundreds of years, I get that. But floating balloons that gives aggressive political opponents (and their proxies) opportunities to frame the debate negatively? I thought the idea was to float balloons that give you the opportunity to put your opposition on the back-foot. Politics is a blood-sport, I wish Labour remembered that more often.

    Since Nov 2012 • 140 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    the 'we can do it by ourselves' attitude

    They have been regualrly meeting Greens leaders, according to some stories. Does need to be reflected in some actual joint public work this year though.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19705 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Sacha,

    Keith Rankin about what UBI is.

    "Nothing for anyone to fear. No robbing Peter to pay Paul. No licence to laze. It ensures that precariously employed people – and students and mothers and others – will always have $175 of publicly-sourced income each week from which they may pay their most important bills. If properly explained, this simple unobtrusive mechanism can win over those today on modest incomes who often work long hours, and who may have been told that a universal basic income will mean them paying higher taxes to support people who do not wish to work."

    While ostensibly addressing the concerns of the precariat, surely that reads like a reassuring dog-whistle to those higher up the food chain that a UBI is really about a solid subsidy to entrench low wages.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4592 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    Other jobs might decline in value – because they offer personal satisfaction at a rate that amply compensates.

    I think that already has happened. Many professions are not as well paid as they were because people like being professionals more than they like cleaning toilets. Not just because of the pay, but also because of the work itself.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Marc C,

    It will not completely do away with a kind of “welfare system”

    Absolutely not. The welfare needs of some people are way higher than others. But it could do away with some kinds of welfare specifically. Like the unemployment benefit and superannuation. Super basically is already a UBI, it's just an ageist version, and the unemployment benefit (or is "Jobseeker" now? I lose track) has much the same purpose as the UBI, albeit with a much higher level of humiliation and compliance delay added on.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to llew40,

    But floating balloons that gives aggressive political opponents (and their proxies) opportunities to frame the debate negatively? I thought the idea was to float balloons that give you the opportunity to put your opposition on the back-foot.

    I don’t know, this looks like a balloon loaded with candy. Is the Government not likely to shoot itself in the foot when it shoots the balloon down?

    ETA: OK that was a bad mixed metaphor, since a bullet that shoots a balloon down is very unlikely to hit the shooter in the foot. Can I revise to "Is the Government not likely to get crushed by the ballon when it shoots it down"?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    surely that reads like a reassuring dog-whistle to those higher up the food chain that a UBI is really about a solid subsidy to entrench low wages.

    Yup. Probably. And it might even do that. But low wages are hardly unlikely to disappear any time soon. They're a fact of life for a massive chunk of the population. Instead of waiting for the revolution this could make a real difference to the precariat right now.

    For students, and young jobseekers, for instance, this is finally a reason to vote at all.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Part of what I've always liked about the UBI is that it's not really an anti capitalist idea. It could actually make capitalism work better. It could stimulate internal demand, creating jobs where there were none, and yet it doesn't require unrealistically demanding class warfare as the solution to all ills. A class system could continue forever, and yet it could do a lot to alleviate what that actually means, increasing mobility for all those that class really matters to. Maybe, over time, it might simply come to mean less, if being the lowest class doesn't automatically mean sleeping in a box on the street and begging for crumbs, and getting kicked by the doorman, one step higher up the ladder.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to BenWilson,

    Part of what I've always liked about the UBI is that it's not really an anti capitalist idea. It could actually make capitalism work better. It could stimulate internal demand, creating jobs where there were none, and yet it doesn't require unrealistically demanding class warfare as the solution to all ills.

    Not to mention going some way towards addressing the inequality gap, and, uh, saving the environment. Presumably Grant Robertson is advancing this as part of a genuine reformist strategy, rather than taking one-off pot shots at Chinese surnames or roof-painting beneficiaries. As you say, a reason to vote, hopefully.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4592 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    and, uh, saving the environment

    Not entirely sure I see how that works. I know it's a claim sometimes made by proponents of UBI - but I don't see the chain of reasoning. Something to do with transforming capitalism so that it doesn't squeeze the last drops of goodness (and then some) out of everything it touches?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    Money is "Their" idea... works for "them"
    I say... If you want us to play the "Game" then divide the cards equally and we will play a fair game. Problem is that we don't all equate money to success... The greedy will always win the game of greed.
    I am all in favour of inventors getting fair recompense but when you invent something that makes people redundant and wish to retain a fair and just society then there is a price to pay...

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to BenWilson,

    Not entirely sure I see how that works.

    If it comes to specifics neither do I, though the kind of reformist thinking that advocates genuine discussion of a UBI offers some hope that wider desperately pressing issues might be addressed.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4592 posts Report Reply

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