Ir is good to hear Tory Ian Duncan Smith speak so passionately about the absurdity of the employment trap, by which unemployed people can face marginal tax rates of "70%, 80% and 90%"(Guardian 27/05/10) through loss of benefits when they take jobs. Unfortunately his proposed solutions do not include the obvious - the Citizens' Income as proposed by the Green Party.
Briefly, under this proposal every adult citizen receives as of right from the state an income of around the present level of the Jobseekers' Allowance, with a higher rate for pensioners (to replace state pensions) and a lower rate for children. Personal tax free allowances would be abolished so that, on taking up work, even the first tranche of income would be taxed at the standard rate. Thus every individual would be assured of a minimum standard of living as a right of citizenship, and everybody who wanted more, the overwhelming majority, would benefit by taking a job.
According to the Greens the abolition of personal tax allowances would pay for the scheme. I have no means of checking this but it is certainly something the government should explore. At a stroke, to quote Ted heath, it would abolish the demeaning benefits procedures and take away some of the heat out of the anger felt by many of the employed towards those they regard as "spongers" and possibly "benefits cheats" because they are unemployed.
A fuller outline of the Citizens' Income scheme and its advantages is given at the Young Greens website.
For a while the Liberal Democrats too adopted this splendid policy, but through lack of courage or imagination it seems to have been quietly dropped. Now we are in government, with the resources of the civil service available to us, we should at least demand its serious consideration.