IPPR Still Doesn’t Get It

ipprLeft-wing think tanks the IPPR and the Resolution Foundation have a joint report out advocating higher “living wages” forced on employers by regulatory diktat. Guido doesn’t dispute their claim that low pay increases the welfare bill by billions. Brown’s blizzard of redistributive bureaucracy and welfare transfers effectively left taxpayers subsidising low paying employers. Low paid workers pay taxes which they then get back in benefits…

Apart from the obviously wasteful tax-to-pay-benefits merry-go-round their policy has another fundamental flaw completely ignored by the wonks; it will increase wage costs and reduce corporate competitiveness, further undermining economic growth. Wouldn’t it be better instead to just raise the personal income tax threshold to £12,500 – as advocated by the LibDem’s Danny Alexander – effectively taking minimum wage earners out of income tax. It will have the same outcome – raising take home pay – without undermining competitiveness.

Raising the tax threshold is simple, has popular appeal and will benefit those on low earnings proportionately more than those on higher earnings. It will take some pressure off the “squeezed middle” and won’t increase the welfare trap. It isn’t a perfect policy, prominent Orange-booker Mark Littlewood, a wonk at the rival Institute for Economic Affairs, is wary that it will result in millions of voters being unaffected by the basic rate of income tax who therefore won’t be incentivised to vote for parties and policies that favour lower taxes. He fears that low-earners will have no reason to buy-in to tax cuts if they are taken out of the income tax bracket entirely.

IPPR’s wonkish sophistry may well appeal to Ed Miliband, IPPR’s Will Straw is likely to become a Labour MP at the next election. If in 2015 the coalition parties are both standing on a platform of reducing taxes on the working poor with the Labour Party standing on a platform of taxing the poor and increasing welfare benefits, Miliband will be on the wrong side of the dividing line. “Vote Labour and tax the poor” is a winning campaign slogan – for the coalition parties…



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