The tax credit system has delivered three vital improvements: it has increased incentives to work; reduced the tax burden on low to middle income families; and helped to sharply reduce child poverty. Tax credits are benefiting six million families and around 10 million children and reaching far more low and moderate-income families than any previous system of income-related family support.
But the important question is not: are tax credits better than previous systems? It's: are tax credits the most effective possible way of helping the poor? In particular, are they better than a basic income?
It's certain that a basic income would be cheaper and more efficient to administer. And there's no reason in principle why it shouldn't be at least as good at reducing child benefit and the tax burden on poorer families.
So, the only issue is the impact on work incentives. Here, the argument's ambiguous. On the one hand, tax credits are better. This is because a basic income would be paid whether you work or not, so it wouldn't raise the gap between in-work income and out-of-work income. But tax credits do just this.
However, the withdrawal of tax credits as income rises means that millions of families face enormous marginal tax rates - of over 80%. This reduces incentives to work harder or better. A basic income could easily improve on this.
You know my opinion. But that's not the point. The point is that the question of the relative merits of basic income versus tax credits should be raised.
But the MSM, like our politicians, lacks the imagination to do so.