Farage Calls for Temporary Universal Basic Income During Coronavirus Crisis

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 04: Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage speaks ahead of Brexit Par
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Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has called for “helicopter money” payments of £1,000 into the bank accounts of every adult in the country for the next three months during the coronavirus crisis, fearing that the 11 million people who do not have a fixed income will suffer otherwise.

Last week, the government announced that it would reimburse employers 80 per cent of their workforces’ wages, meaning that businesses affected by the pandemic could go into temporary shutdown without having to lay off staff which would result in millions of people unemployed.

However, noting that a third of Britain’s workforce does not earn a regular wage, Mr Farage warned that the government’s current coronavirus economic measures will leave those workers at a severe disadvantage. Around a third of Britain’s workforce operates limited companies, are self-employed, seasonal workers, or are on zero-hours contracts.

Mr Farage raised the possibility of introducing a Universal Basic Income (UBI) for a short-term period, writing in The Telegraph: “In the middle of a national emergency, something has to be done to make us believe that we really are all in this together.

“The only solution that I can see that could be implemented quickly to help the 11 million people who do not have a fixed income would be the introduction of helicopter money, the policy which results in cash being distributed to individuals directly.

“If £1,000 was paid every month for the next three months into the bank and building society accounts of the adult population, the cost to the country would be £120 billion. This is a vast sum but it could, in fact, be a small price to pay if it maintains national unity in our troubled nation.

“The Irish government is already implementing such plans. It won’t be long before Donald Trump does the same in America. [Chancellor of the Exchequer] Rishi Sunak must follow suit.”

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced the coronavirus economic rescue legislative on Thursday, whereby Americans would receive every month up to $1,200 as individuals and up to $2,400 as a couple with an additional $500 per child. There is a declining scale of payment proportionate to the increase of historic salaries of individuals, with a cap at those who earned $200,000 in 2018. There is also provision for small businesses and other sectors affected by the pandemic.

The proposal is similar to former Democratic presidential contender Andrew Yang’s $1,000 Universal Basic Income policy which he had said would mitigate against the effects of automation in the workforce in the future. Mr Yang has been in touch with the White House to offer assistance to the administration’s proposed rescue package in what appears to be the first offer of explicit support to President Donald Trump from a Democratic presidential candidate.

In the United Kingdom, Labour Party candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey called for temporary UBI during the pandemic, writing a piece for The Guardian last week, where she said: “Given the current five-week delay in universal credit payments, and the very low levels of statutory sick pay that are nowhere near the living wage, let me float an obvious and potentially streamlined policy suggestion: universal basic income for all.”

Ms Long-Bailey suggested that the government should introduce a “fixed payment made to all, providing everyone with a basic minimum income of at least the real living wage, for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic”.

Helicopter money is so-called by economists because the impact of the policy is similar to emptying duffel-bags of high-value cash notes out of the window of a helicopter while flying at high altitude over a city. While it is theorised to have short-term positive effects when attempting to counter an economic emergency, it is also not sustainable long-term, explaining why many fiscal conservatives are supporting the idea now, but in ordinary times would be strongly opposed.


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