Adequate Taxation, Higher Expectations




Minister for Finance Michael Noonan at Budget 2015; Anne Marie McNally

As election looms, the kites are flying high but be wary of what’s to follow.

Carrots and knobbly sticks.

Anne Marie McNally writes:

Look up; all around you, from here on in, you will see the colourful wings of the various kites being flown from Leinster House in advance of the upcoming budget and election. Good news stories, danger stories, warning signals – these kites come in many guises but all with the same purpose – to cajole Joe Soap into believing that the status-quo is the only show in town.

At the moment most of those kites have big juicy carrots dangling from them, ripe for the taking. What you can’t see however, is the big knobbly stick hiding behind that carrot, and it is that stick that’s going to be the undoing of you, and the next generation of you and yours, if you fall for the tempting carrot.

The carrot in this case is the promise of an extra fiver or tenner in your wage packet. Lots of ‘look how great we are, we’re now in a position to give you back a few bob’ is already invading the airwaves and the printed word.  And that’s tempting. Believe me; I understand the lure – who doesn’t need a few extra quid these days? But… and it’s a big but… allowing yourself to be bought off by that small amount in the short-term means we are forsaking the long-term.

Our public services are crumbling around us; we have a healthcare system unfit for purpose with a sink-hole in the middle that simply hoovers up funds; we have an education system with the second highest primary class numbers in Europe; and a childcare model that… well actually, we simply don’t have a childcare model.

Now before the naysayers start screaming about increased taxes, etc., let me stop you right there.  ‘High tax’ is not a pre-requisite for quality public services. What is a requisite is an open, transparent, straightforward tax system that does exactly what it says on the tin.

At the moment we have a piecemeal system of ‘charges’ and indirect taxes to accompany our relatively average direct tax rate.  Our ‘free’ education system almost bankrupts the average family every September just on book costs alone and that’s before the ‘voluntary’ contribution request arrives.

Our health service requires the average person to have €50 minimum to see a doctor or €110 to be admitted to an Accident & Emergency unit before you even see a nurse. Those families with young children who have no choice but to have both parents working, or working single parents, are paying out the equivalent of a second mortgage on an inadequate and undervalued early childcare service. That’s before we even get into a conversation about housing or social work services.

Speak to anybody with any experience of living in the northern European countries and they will talk to you about the emphasis on childcare; the value placed on universality in healthcare, the fact that their average life-span is greater because there is such equality of access to a readily available healthcare system with a priority placed on primary healthcare.

They’ll tell you lots of good things but they’ll also tell you that yes, they pay taxes to fund these quality services. What they’ll also tell you is that once they pay those taxes at source, they are rarely requested to put their hand into their pocket again in order to avail of the services. They don’t pay PRSI, and then go along to the hospital to discover they have to pay to set foot in the door. They don’t pay USC, and then discover that it effectively funds nothing but the black hole of Government debt.

We need to recognise that we pay significant amounts of our incomes in order to access basic public services and then, when we need to use those services, they are rarely, if ever, fit for purpose.  So it is dishonest in the extreme to say that quality public services can only result from increased taxes. What is required is  adequate taxation within a redesigned, transparent system whereby you pay your taxes and you get your services and you don’t pay again when you have cause to access those services.

In the upcoming budget the carrot will dangle large but keep in mind the stick. How have giveaway budgets served us in the past? Let’s be brave. Let’s not do the wheel of fortune giveaway with our future. Let’s think about the next generation rather than the next election.

Anne-Marie McNally is a political and media strategist working with Catherine Murphy TD and will be a candidate for the Social Democrats in the next General Election. Follow Anne-Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

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45 thoughts on “Adequate Taxation, Higher Expectations

  1. Owen C

    Will broadsheet be offering equal access to all political parties in the run up to the election, or just, you know, the left wing socialist ones?

    1. irlandesa

      You do realise that BS is not a public service, it is not tax funded, and they can feature whomever they blooming-well like?

    2. Bob

      They nearly always have articles from every party. It’s just that the articles about mainstream parties are usually about how they’re talking utter sh*te and are openly lying to the public.

    3. Medium Sized C

      You can’t be a right-wing socialist.
      Socialism is egalitarian by definition.
      And the social democrats and greens are not all of the left-wing parties in the country.

      And at no point have broadsheet tried to hide their editorial bias, nor indeed do they owe you any editorial objectivity. Broadsheet are quite unapologetically socialistic / social democratic in their outlook.

      You have a choice of what media you consume, whinging about broadsheets bias in broadsheets comment section only makes you look bad.

    4. ahjayzis

      When the Irish Catholic runs a weekly Atheist Ireland newsletter and a column from the Abortion Rights Alliance, then you can whine about a left-wing website promoting leftwing parties/causes, mmmkay?

  2. Medium Sized C

    I agree with most of what she is saying but one thing, in bold really rankles me.

    Anyone who is even suggesting that they can or will do anything about the burden of government/bank debt other than pay it off dutifully, is lying to you. Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail, Social Democrats….anybody who can conceivably get in to government next year, will continue to pay or will be faced with the same embarrassing beatdown that Syriza got. The powers that be only want us to get better if it’s on their terms and we lack the clout to force the issue.

    There is a lot to fix, but you won’t fix that.

  3. J

    Annemarie, how will the Social Democrats address the issue of inefficiency within the public sector or funding. Do away with the married tax credit, cap child benefit, or reduce the high wages and waste within the public sector? You have a platform to discuss your policies, how they will be implemented and how they will be funded. If the SD wish to be elected , they should provide a vision for the future , rather than a dull critique of the present.

  4. Donal

    ah here
    Having Mercille as the only political commentator was unbalanced enough but at least he wasnt looking for a vote.

    Come on broadsheet you cant just give a platform to a single political candidate – dont play their game

  5. Punches Pilot

    The problem with what she suggests (and I agree with it in principle / no “Yes Minister” puns intended) is that the system itself, not the amount of money entering it, is the real problem. Services are awful in this county and free services are in fact not free at all. Solution on paper is to simply leave taxation as it is and as the economy grows the funds will increase and the services will improve right! Eh nope. The pig will just get fat on our money, the services that so desperately require more funding will still be starved as inevitably the unions and the various public sector interests invent new ways to not get pay rises but still sees the funds diverted into their personal coffers just like it did in the boom years. For a good socialist society paradoxically Government need to be removed form it by and large, not increased. Ironic or what.

    1. Lorcan Nagle

      That is the root of the problem really. The Civil Service, HSE, Gardai and so on need massive revision to remove cronyism, inefficiency and corruption, and throwing more money at the current institutions is just going to mean more cash in the pockets of the top level. And they’re so resistant to change any government is going to have a massive uphill struggle trying to

      Say what you will about companies like Accenture and Deliotte, but they are very good at getting processes running efficiently. If you could get them in with a brief to gut everything that wasn’t contributing “value” (to use the ITIL definition of the term), and you had the ability to enact their recommendations we’d be in a much better place.

      1. Bonkers

        ahem Accenture (previously Anderson Consulting) were involved with wasting millions of taxpayers money during the boom. Their so called experts underdelivered and overcharged to upgrade the Gardai IT System. Even to this day Gardai are frustrated with how Pulse works.
        Deloitte Ireland got fined €41,000 only 10 days ago by audit regulators. They pleaded guilty to signing off on audits which were full of dodgy figures.

        So I wouldn’t be holding those two companies up as paragons of excellence in the private sector.

      2. classter

        ‘Say what you will about companies like Accenture and Deliotte, but they are very good at getting processes running efficiently.’

        This is complete & utter bullplop.

        They already hoover up huge amounts in fees from public bodies for very little real, discernible benefit. Administration by management consultancy is not working. It is bad enough when public services are outsourced to genuinely impressive organisations such as McKinsey but another entirely when the mediocrity of Accenture & Deloitte are paid to pretend they have the first idea of what they are talking about.

        1. Lorcan Nagle

          Before I continue, in the interst of discolosure I used to work for Accenture (in IT rather than consulting, but still). And to clarify, I’m not talking about outsourcing – I’m 100% against that.

          With that out of the way, consulting companies do mess up, and when they consult, we’re free to ignore their advice if it’s crap. But in many cases they do provide measurable improvements. If the plan is to remove as much of the top level bureaucracy as possible, to create a chain of accountability and spend budgets better, there are benefits to using third party consultants to get advice on how to put this in place.

  6. J

    Annemarie, will SD look to increase the no of jobs within the public sector as a means of creating employment or improving efficiency? If so, how will you fund this? Ultimately whatever debt you accrue needs to be paid and paid by what ? Only higher taxes. Am open to listening to SD but am unimpressed so far. Have heard no real manifesto apart from the not paying my water charges mantra.

  7. Diddy

    So what does this author suggest is a tax policy that will provide this nirvana of services? Without raising taxes of course. Surely the government would have thought of it??

    1. ahjayzis

      We pay about as much if not more in indirect/direct taxation as countries with proper, world-class services is what I think they’re saying. And that if the economy is improving and that’s giving more revenue to the Gov, then let’s use it to reform our services so their quality reflects what we pay to maintain them, rather than giving you an extra fiver a week, ten weeks of which would cover one visit to your GP?

  8. martco

    the problem is with the system as it exists…if politicians were accountable by review like any line manager would be in a tier 1 firm against set agreed goals then none of this election spin boll0cks would exist. sure look at how the Scots were duped into voting to remain in ze union, just like our last GE absolutely shag all of the promises made are going to executed practically. it’s all lies simple as that. and as long as the system stays as-is you will have unqualified dopes without practical expertise like Kenny or cheats like Burton in play. I know that I will vote indie in the coming GE in the hope that it will add to the effort to break this system and hopefully pave the way for some functional change. but it’s just a hope. it’s up to us and frankly I’m not sure if “us” knows what we want in a baseline general society sense anymore — have to go now as there’s an A6 3.0 tdi SE Quattro sport with leather I need to have –

    1. italia'90

      I’m with you on the CAR! and the vote.

      No more scratches for the Labour candidate as I always did.
      I gave SF my European vote last time and wasn’t wasted.
      I might give them a high preference next time out, regardless of their past.
      They can’t be any worse than the incompetents that have gone before them.

  9. Frilly Keane

    You are now promoting a candidate
    Who, in the mean time is employed (AFAIK) by a professional politician

    That makes ye no different than the RTE bookers that only call up friends with diet books for sale

    Arguing about transparency and ethics
    And transparency
    Only works
    When you play by the same rules yerselves

      1. Frilly Keane

        Ah Mick
        No need to go full Clampers on me

        Just merely pointing out that it was behind the scenes back scratching and blaggarding that Ms McNally’s boss and party colleague railed against, and made yerself a household name out’ve, likewise Broadsheet.

        So to be presenting a taste for the same carryon is worth pointing out.

        And nothing Ms McNally says above is new to this place.
        Lets hear some new ideas

  10. Joxer

    Right wingers have their own press to spout their nonsense which goes unchallenged by the other right wing actors in the media.

    having McNally , Mercilles and yes even Boyle on here is a start to getting a different opinion out there in however limited a form. if you dont like it then piddle off somewhere else and be cosseted by your friends in their right wing smug colisters

    1. ABM's Bloodied Underwear

      I’d consider myself left wing and always skip over the Mercille and Boyle posts.
      I really don’t get Broadsheet’s infatuation with Mercille. It is utter dross and badly written. The less said about Boyle’s contributions, the better.

        1. Punches Pilot

          God I just listened to it. He thought this was fine! He really does believe his own sh**e.

          ( The sadness of replying to your own comment)

    2. J

      ….which only works if the narrative of the left is coherent, logical , thought provoking and cost effective. Corbyn is a fine example of why the intellectually light do not provide an effective opposition.

  11. Clampers Outside!

    Any TD of any party who does not say they are going to tackle the age minimum of their pensions yet talks of people having to endure the harsh times is a hypocritical cnut.

    It’s plain and simple. Getting full pensions at age 50 for a pension you didn’t pay for and will continue to pay out to you until you are dead is IMMORAL and any TD NOT talking about this is wholly and completely disingenuous and lacking in any integrity when they speak of the harsh times.

    Make sure to ask all canvassers WHEN they will be increasing their pensionable age to the state age.
    Bite down and hold that question until they answer.

    I’m sick of these pricks swanning about in ALL parties when they know they’re going to be sweetly looked after from age 50 by a govt pension not tied to performance of any kind but to the whims of their colleagues. It’s wholly immoral and hypocritical of all TDs who do not tackle this issue.

  12. Jake38

    Good lord. Just the kind of juvenile analysis you would expect. The core reason why public services in Ireland are crap is because no one is responsible/accountable for their performance. Can someone tell me the last time a teacher was fired for incompetence? Until this is accepted no systemic reform or improvement is possible.

    1. Clampers Outside!

      “no one is responsible/accountable for their performance” – precisely.

      Also, the head of a civil service department and the Minister for that department have no chain of responsibility between them, which means that when something goes wrong they just bat the problem back and forth until people have moved on. It’d be funny if it weren’t that reality. It’s wholly and utterly disgusting in this day and age. The most recent example of it being, Phil Hogan and the set up of IW, with Phil saying it has nothing to do with him. Fupping joke!

      1. Bonkers

        The problem is the senior civil servants aka ‘the permanent governent’ are virtually untouchable. They know the minister they work for has a typical lifecycle of 3-5 years in ‘their’ department. During their career many politicians will come and go but they will remain in situ, Nothing will ever change until this small cabal of higher civil servants can be held accountable for waste of taxpayers money.

    2. classter

      The first question to ask is whether public services in Ireland really are crap – what are our outcomes relative to other western countries?

      The second is whether we fund them sufficiently – what are our outcomes relative to what we pay relative to other countries.

      One of the things you’ll find is that we typically perform as well or better than other English-speaking countries & that countries which do better typically pay more and have a different (non ‘Anglo-Saxon’/neo-liberal culture). The probability then is that measuring performance & firing the weak is probably not the best way to improve performance – however good it feels to imagine that you’d get in there & fire all the bozos.

        1. classter

          You are missing the point.

          Your bluster about the system is exactly what is wrong with our attempts to reform the system.

          We keep reaching for failed English & American models of reforming such systems – even though we currently outperform them.

    3. Andy

      Eh, was there not a big media & opposition party hoopla, furor & hullabaloo the last time a senior public servant was “effectively” sacked? Fennelly Report

      As for the SD news release above, meh, they’re no different from any other party. lots of complaints but no detailed solutions. Efficiency without sacking people??

      Show us the details McNally!!

      This emperor is wearing clothes!

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