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The Coronavirus Economy NEEDS a Guaranteed Basic Income NOW!

by John Brian Shannon

Well, it appears that Coronavirus returned with a vengeance this week, just as I predicted.

The reasons for it’s return are both simple and complicated, and those reasons are; ONE: In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic Western governments sat around waiting for someone to tell them what to do, and when someone didn’t, they sat some more, allowing the Novel Coronavirus to spread to thousands of people, who then infected many more thousands of people.

Mind you, once medical professionals told Western governments that Coronavirus represented an existential threat to their countries, they moved quickly to direct citizens towards healthier choices such as ‘social distancing’ and the wearing of PPE’s whenever they left their homes and only essential service workers were permitted to travel to and from work. Both modalities were surprisingly effective in reducing further airborne transmission of the disease.

TWO: A good example of the complete lack of personal responsibility shown by some is represented in the photo below, taken only days ago when the COVID-19 alert threshold was lowered (slightly) and thousands of people (who obviously AREN’T healthcare professionals) mobbed the beaches, disregarding the recently relaxed Coronavirus social distancing rules.

Bournemouth beaches, Coronavirus, UK

Bournemouth beaches under slightly relaxed lockdown rules. Image courtesy of SkyNews.

Consequently, the huge sacrifice made by millions of Britons staying home under lockdown for two months may be in vain!

And many may now catch the disease and perhaps die because a number of Britons lacked the personal discipline to adhere to the (recently relaxed) Coronavirus social distancing requirements!

Let’s hope it turns out that by sheer dumb luck only small numbers of Britons will subsequently catch the disease and suffer or even die on account of the irresponsible actions of those beach going Britons.


Why the UK Needs a Guaranteed Basic Income for the Coronavirus Economy

Due to initially slow response by Western governments (but see the effective response to COVID-19 mounted by South Korea here) and due to the lack of discipline shown by some Britons, it looks like Coronavirus is here to stay for the next two years. At least.

Not only that, but there WILL BE another COVID variant arising this year or next that may prove deadlier than the present Coronavirus pathogen. It’s typical of respiratory viruses that they mutate and those mutations often become more effective at terminating the lives they infect. ‘Nature of the beast’ as they say in virology labs around the world.

So, the economy can’t continue to be locked down and survive Coronavirus indefinitely. It needs real money to be earned, spent, taxed, and reinvested in the whole economy every day of the year.

Consequently, when large numbers of people aren’t working during the COVID-19 lockdown, money stops flowing and businesses begin to die. And that’s terrible for the economy. And it’s even more terrible for individuals who live from paycheque to paycheque as their cash and ‘fridge contents dwindle for as long as the crisis continues.

That’s why it’s no surprise that many headed to the beach over the past few days to gain respite from the living hell they experienced over the past weeks.

See how things are so connected? Demographers see it everyday.



To stabilize the economy and to prevent irreparable harm to persons during this and future Coronavirus lockdowns, the UK needs to institute a Guaranteed Basic Income

Handing huge amounts of taxpayer money to corporations isn’t the answer, as 50% will always and automatically be skimmed-off to add to annual profits and be thence distributed to shareholders — many of whom AREN’T UK citizens, don’t pay taxes in the UK, and may never live in the UK. Which isn’t any kind of pathway forward for the UK economy. So forget that plan.

Putting real money in the hands of Britons is the way forward, especially during times of lockdown, high unemployment, war, or natural disaster. By simply paying adults a minimum income, they can afford to eat, keep the lights on, and keep hope alive for their families for the duration of any crisis or emergency.

Many such facilities already exist in the UK, including all social welfare and Universal Credit spending, food banks, homeless shelters, substance abuse organizations, local charities, domestic NGO’s and foreign NGO’s operating in the UK during the pandemic.

What a GBI means to the UK economy is that all social welfare and charity gets rolled into one payments system — thereby eliminating the many parallel and overlapping programmes that were designed with the best of intentions to, (1) mitigate the effects of poverty on Britons, and (2) alleviate the sudden and unexpected poverty caused by local crises or national emergency.

It means keeping people alive until the crisis has passed (yes, it’s that dire in many cases) so that Britons can then pick up and carry on with their lives after the crisis and once again contribute to the wider economy.


Who Should Get It?

Every adult UK citizen (including senior citizens) who live in the bottom economic quintile and (a) thereby earn less than the annual official national poverty line (about £20,000/yr in the UK) or (b) any adult UK citizen temporarily affected by local crises such as flooding, or national crises such as pandemic, war, or other emergency situations that cause them real hardship; e.g. no money to buy food or find shelter, should automatically be eligible to receive GBI payments.

Non-citizens shouldn’t be eligible for a UK GBI, but should be able to (easily) access enough funds from the UK government to safely transport them back to their country of origin, allowing them to return to their home country until the crisis is over. E.g. A one-time payment of £1250.


How to Pay GBI to Citizens

The best way to pay a Guaranteed Basic Income to UK citizens is, of course, the easiest way. And that is via a reverse income tax, which simply means the UK government issues a monthly credit to individuals via their personal HM Revenue and Customs account to top-up their income to £1250/mo. for as long as they earn less than the official annual poverty line amount in the UK.

As HMRC knows exactly how much you earn due to your most recent income tax form, it’s a simple matter for them to credit your HMRC account to top you up to £1250 for that month and transfer it to your bank account via online banking. Some people may choose to allow HMRC to do this automatically, while others may wish to manually log in to their HMRC account to choose the date they want their GBI deposited into their bank account.

Some may wish to have their GBI payment deposited to their PayPal account. That should be OK too.


UK GBI: Reducing Government Overhead Costs, Supporting Low Income Britons, and Supporting Britons Hit by Natural Disasters/Pandemic, Etc.

Instead of today’s many overlapping and expensive government programmes, some with HUGE overhead costs, a single-payer system would put more actual money in the hands of Britons living below the official poverty line at a lower cost to taxpayers, and to more easily assist Britons during emergencies, again, at a lower cost to taxpayers.

How could it cost less when even more people are likely to receive a GBI, than presently receive Universal Credit?

By eliminating the many costly and overlapping anti-poverty programmes using the single-payer system (HMRC’s payments system) and by dramatically reducing homelessness, drug abuse, property crimes, policing costs, court costs, incarceration costs, mental health costs, and reducing NHS cost of (repeatedly) caring for homeless people or (repeatedly) caring for those injured while engaging in property crimes offences, or who (repeatedly) engage in confrontations with law enforcement, due to the nature of the poverty-stricken life they lead.

Read: Canada’s forgotten universal basic income experiment — BBC Worklife


A UK GBI Improves the UK’s ‘Velocity of Money’ and Therefore, the Whole Economy!

Economists call the speed of the transfer of money from one person to another, the ‘velocity of money’ and it’s a fascinating thing to examine. But to explain it properly, a short video is required to demonstrate how relatively small amounts of money can revolutionize a village, town, city, or rural area…

Now, for a more detailed look at the velocity of money, see Doug Andrew’s excellent example on the topic of how money really works, which refers directly to the ‘velocity of money’ — also known as MV = Py to economists.

FYI – All these examples are sans tax as they’re simple examples designed to demonstrate how velocity of money works.

But in the case of government stimulus — whether government stimulus paid to corporations (a corporate subsidy, or corporate welfare) or paid to individuals as part of a GBI (a personal subsidy, or personal welfare) every dollar or pound sterling of that stimulus (subsidy) returns to the government via taxation within 11-years — and the government is only ‘out’ by the amount of interest paid on the money they injected into the economy 11-years prior. And that’s why you pay taxes…

By the way, your taxes don’t pay for the full amount that the government lends to the economy, you’re paying tax to cover the interest on the money the government lends to the economy. If it wasn’t done this way (so-called ‘Cost of Use’ of money) your taxes would be much higher.

Therefore, British taxpayers don’t pay the full cost of social welfare programmes via taxation, they only pay the interest on the amount loaned to the economy by the government over that 11-year period.

Now, here’s a secret: Since I took my economics education (U.S.A. circa 1991) that 11-year repayment statistic has decreased to 4.3-years (U.S.A. stat roughly similar to the UK statistic) because the velocity of money has increased so dramatically since then. Ask any economist.

Therefore, the huge cost of homelessness, property crimes, policing costs, court costs, incarceration costs, property and vehicle insurance costs, medical costs, etc., to the economy will always be many times more… than the cost of 4.3-years worth of interest payments on money loaned to the economy by the government to solve those problems! Which means, that after 4.3-years (or thereabouts) the British taxpayer should be in for a tax break — courtesy of the GBI and a much better velocity of money factor. All of which equals a booming economy.

Conclusion: It’s cheaper to pay citizens a GBI than it is to pay for the huge costs of poverty on individuals and on the whole economy!

I love economics. Have a great day everyone!

Austerity Has Changed How the World Views the UK

by John Brian Shannon

Why, for the love of God, don’t governments utilize the most obvious solutions to solve their budgetary challenges whenever a global financial crisis hits, instead of defaulting to budget cuts that can appear either inept or mean-spirited?

Finance Ministers don’t set out to craft inept or mean-spirited policies during times of economic crisis, but that’s how it plays out in the media and in living rooms across the country or wherever people gather to discuss the economy.

In the UK, this manifests itself in the names that people call their political parties.

If government austerity cuts don’t affect you, you continue to call the Conservative Party by its rightful name. But if austerity hits you hard, then you’re one of those who’ve taken to calling the Conservatives ‘The Nasty Party’ — and they’ll never get your vote ever again, etc., etc. (Yes, I do empathize, BTW. But that’s not what this blog post is about)

It just depends upon which side austerity hits you.

And budget cuts (at least budget cuts perceived as unfair by a significant percentage of the population) almost always result in either a lost election or loss of parliamentary majority at the next election. Check out those stats! (You’ll see how true that statement is)

Theresa May’s ‘hung Parliament’ election result in June 2017 is 100% attributable to the UK austerity budgets that have been in effect since 2010, and hers is just one example out of many majority governments around the world that have suffered as a result of their austerity policies.


There IS a Better Way!

Due to market conditions, about every 25-years a recession comes along in the capitalist countries. You can almost set your clock by it. It’s the ‘nature of the beast — carry on’ is how recessions are described by economists, and nobody tries to prevent recessions, as such ‘resets’ help to prevent even worse economic crashes in the future.

Still, there’s a way for countries to survive economic downturns WITHOUT shooting themselves in the foot every day of the recession. (A novel idea!)

The public knows an economic downturn when they see it. In fact, they have enough experience in their own lives balancing family finances when times are good, let alone when domestic financial challenges appear such as a job loss or (suddenly) another mouth to feed. Therefore, they know the government must compensate whenever the country faces a financial challenge.

The question for governments is how to do it and not lose the next election. Or the one after that.

And the answer is; To do it fairly.

That is; Apply cuts that will be perceived as ‘fair’ by a majority of the public  — instead of deep cuts to some departments while other departments see no cuts at all, or worse, are able to increase their spending.

Does it seem fair to you while in recession that Health or Education should receive deep cuts, while spending on the military or the environment is unaffected? (I’m just using hypotheticals here for an example. Every Briton knows their military is chronically underfunded and few begrudge the UK military being exempted from budget cuts)

Back to the subject at hand; Every department in practically any organization on the planet has 5% ‘fat’ built-in to it. It’s just the way of organizations.

Budgets tend to be tightly managed in the first few years, then, over time, surpluses accrue or unused properties aren’t sold off as quickly as they could be, or in other ways there’s potential for either budget savings or revenue increases. Or, depending on the department, perhaps a combination of selling off unused assets and departmental savings could meet the new budget targets set by the government.

If you’re a large organization like the UK government and you expect your revenue to fall by 7% (for example) here’s the way to do it fairly!

Simply inform your departments of the 7% budget exigency, and instead of arranging deep cuts for some departments and zero cuts to others which sets the seeds for future electoral defeat, inform all departments to cut their budget by 7% — or alternatively — tell them to find ways to increase their revenue by the shortfall amount.

Let me be clear, if former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne had simply told every government department in 2010, “We’re facing a 7% (or whatever percentage) cut in revenue, therefore, each government department must cut 7% from their annual budget until further notice,” each department would’ve done exactly that and hardly anyone would’ve noticed. (Remember, every organization/department already has 5% ‘fat’ in their system, so only a 2% budget challenge remains in this hypothetical example. At that point, accounting for the final 2% equates to selling off surplus real estate assets until that amount is obtained)

On the other hand, some departments might be real estate ‘heavy’ and could counter their entire 7% budget challenge by simply unloading their surplus real estate, thereby meeting the government’s directives to cut costs by 7% or increase revenues by 7% (or any combination thereof) to hit their departmental budget targets.

Wouldn’t that have been much better than the pain inflicted on the bottom-two economic quintile people in Britain (and which cost Theresa May a parliamentary majority) all of which has conspired to cheapen the ‘British brand’ around the world?

Read here, in the New York Times just how ‘fairly’ or ‘unfairly’ (depending on your worldview) the United Kingdom’s austerity plan has been portrayed around the world.

A country’s fortunes (fairly or unfairly) can rise or fall based on the perceptions of large numbers of people. Let’s hope that future UK budget cuts will not only be fair, but be seen to be fair by large numbers of Britons and by people around the world.

UK Leads G7 in the Combined Metric of Economic Growth + Carbon Cuts

by John Brian Shannon

A new Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit report confirms that Britain has been the most successful G7 nation over the last 25 years on the combined metric of growing its economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In the 25-years since 1992 when clean air and the corresponding lowering of healthcare spending became an important policy for the United Kingdom, the country grew its per capita GDP by 130% while lowering GHG emissions 33% — proving that a country can simultaneously grow their economy AND lower greenhouse gas emissions.

In the same timeframe, Japan grew its per-capita GDP by 83% while increasing its per-capita emissions by 10.5% — making it the worst performer of all the G7 nations. (Not to pick on Japan which has the most difficult population pyramid demographic problem of any nation on the planet)

“It’s really time to slay once and for all the old canard that cutting carbon emissions means economic harm.

As this report shows, if you have consistent policymaking and cross-party consensus, it’s perfectly possible to get richer and cleaner at the same time. Britain isn’t the only country that’s done it – it’s true for most of the G7 – but we’ve clearly been the best of the bunch.

There are signs that these successes are now transferring to the rest of the world. Globally, emissions have been flat for three years while world GDP has grown by 8%. But science indicates this isn’t enough to fulfil the objective of the UN Convention and prevent ‘dangerous’ climate change – for that, emissions need to start falling soon. This study should give confidence that with good policies, it’s achievable.” — Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit

And in the United Kingdom, Scotland has led the way on the switch from coal to renewable energy and it rightly deserves much of the praise handed to the UK over the ongoing clean air success story, while England and Wales deserve much of the credit for growing the UK economy. As usual, Northern Ireland is ‘holding its own’ and although it is presently caught in the middle of an election cycle it seems that it might ramp-up to follow Scotland’s environmental success, post-election.

Scotland sets 50% renewable energy target (BBC)

Pre-Brexit, UK Leads G7 In ‘Conscious Decoupling’ Of Economic Growth & Carbon Cuts (CleanTechnica)

The Road to Decoupling: 21 Countries Are Reducing Carbon Emissions While Growing GDP (World Resources Institute)


By far, the biggest reason UK emissions have dropped in every decade since WWII is a HUGE shift away from coal. At one time almost 100% of Britain’s electricity was sourced by brown or black coal. Some of which was replaced by hydro-power, and later, by nuclear. Eventually, even more coal-fired capacity was replaced by natural gas, and most recently, by renewables.

The inexorable march away from coal-fired generation in the UK has resulted in cleaner air. It is by far the biggest factor in Britain’s ongoing clean air success story.

Still, it’s not enough progress. Scotland has set the standard that the rest of the UK should follow — which will take strong leadership in the House of Commons.


The Way Forward for Clean Air, Lower Healthcare Spending, and a Thriving Economy for Britain

There are many ways to accomplish those goals and everything has its own particular cost. But two pathways jump out as the most beneficial per pound sterling.

ONE: Continue to replace coal-fired power generation with any other power generator. Yes, everything else burns cleaner than coal! Burning home heating fuel is cleaner than coal. Natural gas-fired power generation can be up to 1-million times cleaner than burning some grades of brown coal. Even upgrading coal-fired power generation from brown coal ‘lignite’ fuel to black coal ‘anthracite’ fuel results in astonishing improvements in air quality.

Fortunately, this is the (unevenly applied) default in the United Kingdom, which, when combined with the solid and thoughtful policies of Scotland and Wales, results in cleaner air, lower healthcare costs, and boosts economic growth via lower energy prices.

Record UK wind generation lowers electricity prices (Power Engineering)

TWO: In addition to everything mentioned above, the other low-hanging fruit leading towards cleaner air, to lower healthcare spending, and to boost economic output (by lowering energy costs) is via energy-efficiency.

Prime Minister Theresa May should recognize that no matter how cleanly we can generate one GigaWatt of electricity — energy-efficiency savings (demand reduction) that are equal to one GigaWatt are many times cleaner — and energy-efficiency improvements are typically simple and cost-effective.

Imagine a UK government policy that lowers primary energy consumption (demand) by 30% across-the-board over the next 5-years.

That’s possible with the right policy, and infinitely cheaper than adding the exact same amount of energy production capacity to the grid.

Cheaper, by orders of magnitude. In fact, the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant construction could be cancelled AND other proposed power plant projects could be shelved for at least a decade with that much efficiency added to the grid.

Simple programmes get the best results

If the UK government added an energy-efficiency programme shared between three government entities, costs and (importantly) accolades would be shared.

The Department of Energy & Climate Change, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Department for Communities and Local Government, would gain support from voters and expats by supporting a national energy-efficiency programme consisting of a £100 per capita credit on energy-saving electronics and materials.

For a business that employs 5 people, that’s a one-time credit of (up to) £500 towards energy-efficiency at that business, which will buy A TON of efficiency and thereby lower energy consumption/energy bills for that company.

All else being equal; Are those business owners more likely to vote Conservative in the next election? I would have to say, Yes.

Obviously, those 5 employees also live near their workplace and use electricity at home. Therefore, they too should receive a one-time (up to) £100 per capita credit at the hardware store for the purchase of LED or other energy-saving lights, smart thermostats, weather-stripping, insulation, receptacle gaskets and other energy-saving electronics or materials.

Each of those 5 people will now save significant amounts on their monthly electricity bill.

Again, all else being equal; Are those homeowners or tenants more likely to vote Conservative in the next election? The answer is likely to be affirmative if the present government decides to save each one of them, tens or hundreds of pounds per year on their annual electricity bill.

It sounds expensive until you consider the cost of adding 30 GigaWatts to the UK grid to cover wasted energy vs. spending a much smaller amount to conserve the same amount of energy.

There is simply no comparison. Energy-efficiency wins every time, and is dirt cheap in relation to the costs of building new power generation capacity.

A £100 per capita energy-efficiency credit is the way forward for clean air, lower healthcare spending, and a thriving economy for Britain (via lower energy costs) and pound for pound, nothing else comes close to accomplishing those goals at such a comparatively low spend.