Budget Day rolled around and it has become tradition that we all had a fair idea beforehand what was coming. The old familiars of wine and cigarettes were hit and some new ones too with the hike in DIRT. As the prospect of our economic sovereignty returns (lost under Fianna Fáil), what is more important than discussing who won and lost in this year’s budget (the under 5s won and everyone else lost), we need to decide what sort of economy we want.
Every year regardless of which parties are in power, the government cuts spending and increases taxes and the opposition replies by saying that we can get the adjustment with tax cuts and spending increases.
Its time that we rejected this populism and realised that the economic policy of the celtic tiger, that of having a low tax economy while at the same time increasing government spending, will only have us return to the cyclical boom and bust that all of us want to see ended.
I favour higher taxation and it is a policy area we should be discussing more. In Commissioner v. Algue, the United States Supreme Court said that taxes are the lifeblood of the government. There are so many areas I believe the state should be playing a leading role in: building better public schools; giving real universal healthcare to citizens (free at the point of access); and providing a floor beneath which no citizen of this republic should ever fall.
But we have to realise that the social protection programmes we all love so much will mean higher government spending. We can have big government that provides for these things where taxation is seen as a civic duty or we can have a low tax economy where the private sector is responsible for much of these services. We can have Wall Street or the NHS, but we can’t have both.
I want to live in a country that has a public sector that is the envy of the world; with schools that never leave any student behind; where any student who wants to can avail of third-level education free at the point of access; and with hospitals that provide some of the best care to patients regardless of their means.
We must realise that it is the spending cuts, not the tax increases, that are the enemy. I’m prepared to pay more for the benefit of all this. Are you?
Sean Rooney is the National Vice-Chairperson of Labour Youth.