A universal basic income would reduce people’s ambitions to succeed in the workplace – and reinforce the idea the State can “pick up the tab no matter what happens”.
That’s according to Newstalk Breakfast presenter Jonathan Healy who labelled the idea a “disaster”, insisting, “I literally can’t get my head around it”.
Fellow presenter Ciara Kelly, meanwhile, defended the idea – noting that it could actually encourage people who are currently on social welfare to take up lower-paid or part-time jobs.
The plan, put forward by Basic Income Ireland, would see everyone in Ireland getting a weekly payment of around €220.
People would be entitled to work and earn money while also receiving the payment.
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Ciara said the plan would mean people who are currently on social welfare but do not want to take a low-paid job because they would be no better off will now be encouraged to do so.
“Now they might take a low pay job because if they were doing a minimum wage job and say, getting €300 odd a week, that's now €500 odd a week and so therefore, people on low pay would have more money or more ability to make money and maybe get out of the poverty trap,” she said.
She noted that the payment would be funded by an increase in taxes for people earning the highest wages.
That would mean that, while high earners are also receiving the universal payment, they are also paying higher taxes to cancel it out.
Jonathan said he views universal payments as a “disaster” – and said the plan was an attempt to “give money to everybody”.
“There is a culture emerging here that the State will pick up the tab no matter what happens,” he said.
“No government can commit to that going forward into the future – that if something goes horribly wrong, the State will come in and support you.
“Secondly, the basic human instinct we have from when we were cavemen is to sustain ourselves; to do something that will get us out of the position we are in, into a position where we are more comfortable – whether that is hunting with a sharpened stick or indeed going out and getting the best job that you can in the circumstances that are available.
“If we were to give out the message that you're going to get money anyway, surely that suppresses that instinct.”
He said the State would not be in a position to keep up the payment should the economy fall into recession.