Yesterday Labour and National released their responses to COVID-19. Both are clearly out of fresh ideas. 

National is calling for a regulation bonfire, but it isn’t clear what will be different from their failed Rules Reduction Taskforce in 2015. When we are on the brink of a pandemic of a respiratory disease, their regulation bonfire scored an own goal by cutting back on the need to ensure homes are warm and dry. 

Meanwhile Labour are looking at handing wage subsidies to employers. This response appears to overlook growing numbers of contractors. TOP asks why give money to businesses when it is the people that need it? 

“Why not just give the money directly to the people and cut out the middle-man?” asks TOP Leader and economist Geoff Simmons. “This could still be targeted at regions or industries as the Government is exploring, but TOP’s preference would be to give $1,000 to all residents aged 18-65.”

This approach, known internationally as a Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) Stimulus, was used in Australia by the Labor Government as a response to the Global Financial Crisis. Australia avoided recession and the popular stimulus package is credited with achieving that. COVID-19 has precipitated the biggest crisis since then. 

There are many reasons why this is a better solution for the economy than wage subsidies. Giving people money would encourage people to spend, and stimulate local economies. It would allow people to stay home if they need to while ill. And finally a UBI Stimulus is infinitely more flexible than wage subsidies. 

“While COVID-19 is a big threat, we still have a tight labour market. Wage subsidies will simply keep people in jobs where there is nothing to do. Giving people money directly allows them to move around the labour market, and ensure that their skills are used to their best advantage during this crisis. COVID-19 doesn’t mean downing tools and sitting on our hands. There is plenty to do, and people want to be useful.” 

Some worry that giving people money means they will stop working, but this isn’t borne out by the evidence. Unless people need to not work (e.g. they are sick or have loved ones that are sick), a UBI doesn’t impact employment. 

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TOP believes that we should expect more upheavals like COVID-19. With climate change and automation, this sort of disruption to the job market will become the norm and our welfare system won’t be able to cope. “The gig economy is here and growing. We see a permanent UBI as part of the response to that and TOP will be pushing hard for that this election.” 



  1. I put up a comment in the daily gallery on 11 March. But I would have thought that something would have been said here. So this is my last para. It would be good if others could comment too.

    If TOP polished up their policies, and ensured that they would work for bennies, I think that they would get a lot of support from people tired of waiting for the sun to shine on their patch. Some safeguards for contractors to stop the head project organiser doing ponzi schemes with payments so at the end of the day [all] you get [is] the end of the day, first and last. This instead of getting regular wages and reliable work from a sensible system of business organisation. That would bring in a fair few of the real workers in NZ not the bums-on-seats.

    • The revolution is already taking place only this time it is in software and hardware and it is different from any other revolution before it, and it will be fought over very differently than any other revolution.

      Today technology has already surpassed many in the workforce where a lot of supermarket workers and fast food workers have already been displaced and truck drivers seem to be next. Even radiologist, accountants and lawyers are being threatened by AI that can better perform aspects of there jobs.

      The question is what impacts does the loss of hundreds of thousands or even millions of jobs have on society. It’s these risks that make a UBI worth thinking about. The UBI will happen for 2 main reasons 1) the economy can not produce enough payed employment and 2) society has entered a post scarcity economy.

      For the people effected by propositions one and two it’s not a matter of if but when. During the history of humanity from time to time we experienced these shifts how ever these shifts happened over decades or longer allowing workers to get retrained and find new jobs out of new technologies but the current changes though are much, much faster. And aside from finding masses of people new jobs it’s said that historically government funded retraining programs have had success rates of between 0% and 15%.

      So not only would we have to create jobs as quickly as they’re being displaced we would have to find ways of becoming amazing at retraining and that’s not being the case historically. The question is how many jobs will be created and will these new jobs be accessible to unskilled labour? Or will these new jobs require skilled university graduates?

      Early results from UBI trials found that UBI didn’t help unemployed people find employment. Despite that a number of governments will be going ahead with UBI trails around the world despite trials being conducted since the early 60’s there’s still just a lot we don’t know about UBI when it comes to the practical implementations of the idea.

      An argument against a UBI is that it would make people lazy and drive up the price of labour but even these critics admit that in the face of automation something like a UBI would be necessary.

      One of the least discussed aspects of UBI is the some economists think that a UBI could collapse the entire global economy. For this to happen we would have to go all the way around the banking system, nationalise and automate finance to cut out the middle man and task directly to peope, that is all coming in the wake of the next recession, or definitely the one after this corona rescission. It’s just not going to happen in New Zealand with out it.

      So since a financial collapse is much worse than a recession either this recession or the next could bring down the whole global economy and with out a World War but if I’m honest no one knows if this will happen and no one knows 100% what the economic consequences will be.

      Another issue is that simply giving people money with out a purpose or obligation would quickly outstrip supply and demand and this may be the biggest issue UBI can not solve.

      In conclusion and to be clear when Freemarket innovation goes so far that nobody has any work then we will have to think about things and do things differently than before. It may become essential to curb inequality with a UBI if companies innovate human labour out of the market as the poor and unskilled will still require the necessities that those companies produce.

      With out some sort of tax or redistributive mechanism like a UBI price inflation from wages being pushed up by cheap automation will make so the human population reduces dramatically then the main reason for a UBI is so no one gets left behind.

      The Free Markets are still free and a UBI is just an idea for a solution when humanity begins to approach Peak-Capitalism. It will be a time when humanity is so efficient at producing goods and services that we won’t need to run economies with huge human workforces.

      Under UBI people will have more time to spend with friends and family but human nature has an inherent desire to contribute something meaningful to the world. Perhaps people who win lotto feel fulfilled short term but a few years down the road having money my just fill life out with no purpose.

      When it comes to UBI people flippantly say well now everyone’s free to pursue there passion but they forget the empathetic angle, everyone isn’t them. There’re also a lot of people who haven’t got passions or hobbies. It can be said that curiosity leads to passion, follow what you’re curious about an then develop that into a passion but some people can’t even do that. So what happens to them?

      If technology does replace huge sections of the workforce and these people are unable or unwilling to retrain then what happens to them and what meaning will they find in life? That’s personal to them and only they can solve that problem.

      So automation is on the way and advances in technology is to great to ignore. The people at the bottom of the workforce are already being replaced. UBI may be able to solve the question of what people will eat in this future but what about the more important question of “purpose?” Now that might be harder to solve.

      • Super reply Sam. Halfway through it I want to throw more stones in the pond.
        Say taking it for granted that at present, definitely and possibly into the near future,
        jobs will be lost to AI. Wisdom from that: Business mentality has swallowed the world, and dispensed with humanity. Capitalism cannibalism. It’s a new cult: in an old one the Aztecs sacrificed young people to the Sun.

        But it was carried out further back to pre-history. We can convince ourselves of anything, and rationalise away good practical, intellectual, and moral thinking. Connect that with how Germany and other countries with advanced cultures and intellectualisation, an understanding of the Enlightenment, could sacrifice Jews, and gypsies, and anyone else who they didn’t want around.

        Now from this period of high culture and supposed civilisation, the leaders are prepared to throw a large majority of people to the scrapheap. Why? It is in our genes to behave in this way. If we aren’t willing to study our own behaviour obectively, then we will repeat the past, but it is in a different location, different actors, though the same closed door on forbearance. NZ leaders have turned away from studying the Humanities as previously because they don’t want what they know taught as truth. Lack of work, a purpose in life and a place to live and a place in society that fits a person’s personality and upbringing, and a choice of good opportunities are all important, even essential to a person’s character formation and life navigation.

        Our leaders don’t want to establish even a basic poverty line. They have got away with being and showing their ignorance, and have allowed the class system to reign and those at the top are ensuring the bottom strata of society is turned away from acquiring self-knowledge, stature and wisdom. What is done is stick band-aids on the broken or confused people, and blame them for what can become destructive behaviours. Equity has been abandoned, and false equality is a flag that is waved, and the main theme is to impress on people that work will provide a way to satisfy wishes though an auld saw says: “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride”.

        People affected by AI are told they have to retrain, often at their own expense, and then may find there are no jobs for them. The problem will be framed as theirs, they don’t look right, fit, have the right attitude, they must be passionate about the job they are applying for. So UBI is absolutely needed, and what would be good is for people to state what they wish for, and be given every help to work towards that, earning money and receiving grants and credits from government to be called on when they want to buy a house, tiny house, caravan and vehicle to get to work, or a transport hub. A person’s determination to make their wish reality will get NZ buzzing, and with government rewarding effort, less money will eventually be going on just living expenses, of those broken and stressed by a future without hope.

        UBI has a part to play in this.    Also a study of economics from the point of view of flow of money being kept at a good level to ensure that the economy doesn’t do a nose dive.   Let’s have Treasury turn thrir expensive and extensive minds to thinking about micro-economics;  about M1 and M2 money flow and its role in helping consumers keep the economy afloat and do themselves some good at the same time.     And adjusting the flow of immigration to the availability of basic needs that everyone has.    And adjusting education and health budgets so they are adequate.    We can also raise the inflation band from where it is, we can afford to let out the belt a little.    Get everyone studying something that is helpful to the economy in some way, and then let them choose where they would like to get some work experience to utilise what they have learned.    If they do that with a will, then let them choose a way, either more study, or find work where they will stay for at least a year.     Start seeing the individual again, as a potential asset not a burden.

      • That would assume that their (unemployed) goal is to make a UBI work to improve the economy, rather than to just punish people for sins like being rich, or out of the ideological conviction that the government helping people is wrong. If your goal is to hurt people or slight then a UBI isn’t the tool for you

        While at least some people seem to understand that the government slowed spending growth to a degree from 2008-2017 unprecedented in over half a century, fewer know that state and local government have outright cut spending. The net result is that the paltry stimulus since this government took over has been counteracted by the previous governments drop in government spending the worst since WWII demobilization.

        And people are surprised that the corona recession has dragged on like it has? We’re honestly very lucky to not be in the UKs boat with a double dip recession, and if some serious austerity had gotten through our government then New Zealand would have entered earlier into a corona recession or the stimulus doesn’t touch the sides, we will definitely be in the same boat if not worse by next year. IF! The stimulus does not touch the sides.

        So we have small to medium sized businesses who are getting beaten up (no sales) and large companies selling like crazy and in this environment there’s nothing to buy and I know Professor Steve Keen raised the idea of issuing corona virus bonds earlier on RTs Renegade Economists show but screw everyone I can use that idea because I can come up with ideas independently so screw yall.

        Okay so Professor Keen says the government has to issue corona bonds to fund research into test kits that is as easy to use as a drug test kit at the boarder and can produce a result in no more than 4hrs (instant would be best) and that peoples income isn’t enough to self quarantine let alone for the 2+ months if tested positive.

        The Corona Virus has shown up capitalism for all its fragility in fact I’ll link the episode:

        So the financial sector is always the first leg up and followed closely behind are your small and medium sized businesses who hit it big to fill the zone in manufacturing.

        Okay so in this example If your concern is after tax income then you can have a regressive tax system, but you’d still be saving those taxpayers money because if;-

        (X= taxpayers current tax burden)

        (Y= there current living standards)

        (Z= raised tax burden under some plan to privately finance a UBI)

        Then just comparing X to Z and saying look that second number is larger than the first, there fore raise corona bonds, that’s a little mathematically dishonest.

        What we need to do is compare (X+Y) to Z and (X+Y) is definitely more than Z.

        Okay so now I’v made a logical fallacy. My example may look sound but if we were to dismantle welfare then it would mean going back to what ever we had before welfare I mean sure WINZ/MSD/OT/Health are disasters and are not super effective but it is intended as a package of regulations intended to curve the worst excesses capitalism and if we stray from the main BUT when we say issuing corona bonds will bring about a trial UBI we mean almost exactly the opposite.

        What that would mean (and I’m just coming up with this on the fly) a UBI will replace the regulated welfare system with the government just giving everyone a weekly stipend. Maybe TOP means it but they do have a tendency towards radical solutions.

        NOW. Granted that is a very mild reaction compared to the right wings reaction to a UBI which is to express astonishment at the stupidity that a UBI is economic illiterate patch work of left wing lunacy and unicorn farts and go wing people money! Yknow? What would even poses us lefties to even suggest such left wing insanity…

        So now a UBI has been a long standing debate Australia has implemented a trial by simply giving people money, parts of state governments in the USA is trailing a UBI, Africa, lots of countries are doing UBI trials and this amounts to the debate between a Universal Basic Income vs a Universal Jobs guarantee, neither of which abolishes capitalism which is one long term goal but either one or both would change the balance of power between labour & capital in different ways. The sick won’t self isolate while being in desperate need for food and medicine because either way they’ll still be able to take care of there basic needs.

        Whether the government becomes the employer of last resort as in a Basic Jobs Guarantee or a UBI. Now a believe in this governments corona stimulus packed there are elements of a jobs guarantee but even these progressives will have to admit that one weeks work isn’t enough to cover self quarantine of up to 2 months or more so what the stimulus package need to provide is a little bit of money and income for peope who’re unable to work and since communicable disease effects people’s disproportionately it’s got to be rolled out nation wide for everyone.

        But what I care about is the right wings reaction to “unwilling to work” they just think it’s so vile it confirms there every suspicion of us lefties. Yknow that these vile unwashed woman are trying to get good honest tax payers to pay for there unwanted children with a UBI to people who are unwilling to work!!! Because to them they should all starve. (Please ignore the typos I honestly can’t find the energy for spell check)

  2. Well – first para.
    UBI presumably would be faded out as you became ‘rich’ ie had enough and a bit extra to live on. So it wouldn’t punish anyone for getting ‘comfortable’. And it could be a way of starting a small service business, cafe on wheels, whatever that you could work at to make a reasonable income combined with the UBI. I am interested in people finding work, getting some satisfaction from it, being part of the great heart of society busying itself in all directions with the social contacts that result. Having enough money to live and love on, and you get started in life; this dastardly economic system that Douglas and his Merry Men guided by Treasury wonks dropped on us, has stripped the country of its work opportunities. I suggest they need to be restarted in every town of certain size, and people can move around, finding work, and being active and seeing the country. We have the ideas of islands of native bush that birds can fly within; corridors for them, and we need something similar in work for our young people, and those who have had their lives disrupted from some problem. It could be that there would be a central on-line agency announcing that a project was to be started and there was a need for x number of semi-skilled people for so many weeks, a hostel to live in etc. and after giving locals first offer, there would be an opportunity for others to join. Especially good would be a star system; and repeat workers would work their way up the star system, and then they would be ensured of being accepted for work most of the year. With a UBI to fall back on, without any of the WINZ sanctions and stand-downs and beat-ups, people could be helped to organise themselves and be capable self-organising individuals. It would not be a project to be tried as a pilot and then thrown out by some new government too contrary, mean and mind-twisted to continue funding successful agencies. I think that people who vote National actually are holding this country back; they have got what they want and are happy to run down anybody who wants to live differently and hasn’t got wealth to smooth life for themselves.

    At present it seems the idea is a blunt ‘Work will make you free and good’,; it seems that mindset which was a sneering Nazi joke actually has been adopted by the congenitally judgmental anti-welfare people in the ‘helping’ professions, encouraged by their executives. Any sort of work can do, and the Government have reduced the opportunity to get additional skills at polytechnic. There is no reason why a person can’t do a course, stick at jobs for six months doing their best even if they don’t like the work, and then choose to do another course. The work in between would be a way of preventing a sort of institutionalisation. Eventually thre would be a career interview and an in depth matching of personality and occupation that would be long lasting.

    At present the bureaucrats handling the people are not of course employed by politicians but the tranche of apparently right-wing bureaucrats. It seems that they buy into ready-made policy packages that match their budgets, set targets and costings and then let some people in the door to tell their familiar story, basically the same with variations of name etc. Their whole idea is to get people off their books and into work of some sort, for a young growing 18 year old male it might be security work and he gets killed the second night of it.

    You mention the paltry stimulus from this government, and the problem is that a whole set of new vibrant policies have to be introduced but the MPs are not keen to get off the couch themselves, not just Shane Jones nevvies, and start doing the hard yards with policies tailored by practical NZs for the country. No foreign policies bought off the shelf please. We all have experience of kitset purchases of furniture etc, and it is like that with generic policies or even custom-made ones regarded as suitable for other countries’ requirements. It would be faster to devise our own, implement them, watch and tweak them to suit us.

    • Inevitably when there’s to much cash in the system and a UBI would flood the place full of cash quicker than supply could meet demand, they’ll always be a period of adjustments, inflation, deflation and so on ect. In these circumstances you need a way of pulling money out of the system, it could be a tax, it could be bankruptcies/redundancies, it could just purely be paying down debt which can withdraw credit from the system. The thing is you couldn’t really take these kinds of tax cuts or tax hikes or rate cuts or what ever, you couldn’t really take it to an election these mechanisms are as natural occurring as summer or winter. Like we couldn’t get all political about it and start complaining about welfare queens or some bullshit, taxes move as a function of society.

      We can see the direction the government is taking with its 12 billion Wuhan virus recovery package. Grant Robertson will be releasing $3 billion in government bonds (that the government has to repay) to fund parts of the recovery package so we have already got the beginnings of Modern Monetary Theory which simply means the government can create its own money.

      So whether we like it or not taxes are going to have to rise because the arse is falling out of business and you can’t cut taxes for a workforce that doesn’t exist. At least To remain competitive in a negative interest rate environment (I don’t even want to think about how negative interest would work) so we pay banks and creditors to lend money. In this environment business will have to cut energy prices, energy consumption, wages, working capital or a combination of, and that means automation. So we are likely to see more businesses with only one employee, contractors. So there just won’t be any demand for low skilled workers at all.

      So taxes on everything above seventy two thousand dollars are going to have to go up by about $3 billion dollars (I just pulled that number out my ass, and I’d probably ram a Financial Transaction Tax through before those 3 billion in bonds gets snapped up) the bulk of which will have to come out of the very wealthy because there’s just to much money in the system and it needs to be rebalanced.

      The purpose of Modern Monetary Theory must be made clear. The people of New Zealand are suffering from gentrification and rapidly rising prices, homes, rents and the government is pledged to make New Zealand a liveable and adorable nation to live in for the vast majority of people who are now being priced out. And that’s expensive and this will take a time to rebalance the economy and we must deem it appropriate to tax those at the top (the ones who benefit most from gentrification) to pay for it.

      So the government must be moved away from what is the norm and tax the wealthy and taxing the wealthy is coming.

      • Yes I think you are thinking it all through thoroughly and the old saying ‘for every action there is a reaction’ will apply for sure. That’s one of the absolutes in rules that one can be sure of isn’t it? It’s good to know some absolutes in this changing world. The Financial Transaction Tax – would that replace GST and so spread the payments to government for maintaining a certain business system with rules for all to follow allowing all to participate.

        Business takes the legal and administration framework for granted, and especially so now with the fulsome claims of being able to start a business in NZ quicker and easier than anywhere else (that matters anyway). Let them support the structure that enables them, and they could afford this. If all pay, then there is such a level playing field, for hardly any cost to the individual business transaction or company.

        I am fascinated by the way that business minds work. Do you look at Alex in the Telegraph. Peattie and Taylor have such a capacity of understanding that they can see the $ or advantage in every happening. They are clued, almost screwed into the system.
        The one for March 10 has two of the financiers/bankers clinking glasses at the bar, celebrating that they aren’t going to get found out and lynched about something, because it will now be blamed on coronavirus and the oil crisis. Oh! Cheers.
        I can’t see the full sketch of a cartoon possibly because I have Adblocker on. But they are outstanding satire.

        And they have so much to satirise. The latest from Boorish:

      • A financial transaction tax or any new tax has one purpose, to finance new spending requirements. Any GST reform package would presumably attempt to change behaviour.

        I am not a businessman even though I do business. I’m not a philosopher even though I do, I’m not a psychologist, I’m not a PH.D. All I am is a father and all I ever wanted was to not screw that up as my father did. So if people read me in isolation then they probably won’t get me.

        The wives tale about my “success is my own and taxing is theft mentality,” I have no idea where this comes from. It’s like neoliberal business people can magically erect invisibility blankets so they can magically hop in and out of society to privatize all the gains and socialize the pains.

        The success of business can be correlated to government borrowing and we can look to our own government as an example. The government borrows 12 billion and bang business confidence does a miracle 3 year about fucking face (the gutless pricks) so the success of an individual business person can be directly correlated to government borrowing and when government borrowing goes down business confidence goes flat to falling. Any kiwi entrepreneur who says it’s the governments fault is no entrepreneur at all.

        When my Uncle was managing the Skotel resort during the 1995 Mt Ruapehu eruption that caused a localised downturn for years he didn’t have to cut staff or beg the government for money because he knew how to make adjustments to the business model. So instead of marketing as a ski resort he marketed the business to European trampers (or domestic holiday travellers as the case may be) So you have to be able to make money even when times are bad. Like you can’t go oh sorry kids no work this week, starve. For any one who is responsible for the livelihood of there employees and there families you will know that feeling you get when your abilities as a business person is so tested you have to let staff go. That’s just your own abilities walking out the door.

        So do I think we will get a UBI and yes I do think we will get one in about 15 years give or take 3 years because it will happen because of the failure of the capitalists system to protect its own people.

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