Regression Roundup

DTV (digital television) is here; just at a time when people are giving up on watching TV in favour of YouTube. Or so we might have thought. There’s also going to be a switchover in America. What if you’re poor and can’t afford a new television? US Congress has thought of this: two $40 vouchers are to be made available to every US household, on application; redeemable at your local Best Buy. Precedent: the Plebeian Games of Emperor Commodus.

A senior British police forensic scientist wants to put the DNA of children aged 7-12 on the British national DNA database (NDNAD). If they show signs of becoming troublemakers, that is. Precedent: criminological phrenology.

In the UK, unemployment benefit is taxable. (News to me, if not to anyone else.) Precedent: the Poor Law Amendment Act, 1834.

This is the first in a series of posts monitoring regressive trends in our supposedly modern globalised economy. If you have any stories to share, let me know and I’ll include them in next month’s roundup.

6 thoughts on “Regression Roundup

  1. In what way is making unemployment benefit taxable “regressive”? Since you only pay tax on it if your overall income is above a certain threshold, the tax system is still progressive rather than regressive (in the positive sense that you may a greater share of your income in tax the more you earn). And from a normative point of view, if someone is out of work, but has a large income from property, what’s ‘regressive’ about making them pay tax on all their income? It’s just means testing – which you can argue the toss about, but is not obviously regressive.

  2. Those TV converter boxes are necessary only for receiving over-the-air broadcasts. Existing, unconverted televisions will work just fine with cable or satellite. Something like 95% of households have cable or satellite service.

  3. I can think of at least three reasons why it’s a bastard thing to do, if not technically regressive.

    1. Unemployment benefit (“Jobseekers Allowance”) in the UK is granted either through entitlement (because you’ve paid National Insurance for a set period) or through means testing. The entitlement route strongly suggests that the benefit is an insurance payout for loss of earnings and should be tax exempt just as a privately contracted loss-of-earnings payout would be.

    2. If you lose your job, your drop in income is immediate. Not everyone has sufficient savings to meet their monthly commitments should they lose their job. Taxation is assessed on an annual basis. Maybe you’ve lost your home by then, though.

    3. The taxation of unemployment benefit, even if it could be judged fair, sends a powerful message to the unemployed person. That message is: give up now.

  4. I’d like to agree with poster #1, since England has never progressed beyond the late middle ages such tendencies can’t possibly be labeled as ‘regressive’.

    Shame on you.

  5. 1. If you buy a private insurance, you do it with income already taxed.
    2. And if you immediately get a job with less pay? Should you be rewarded for being jobless?

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