From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar; Bryan Wall
One day later on St. Stephen’s Day, the Irish Examiner reported Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as saying that property taxes would now go back into the areas from which they were collected.
According to the article, this means “wealthy locations will keep their money while poorer communities will see a drop-off in funds.” Such a move is likely to be welcomed by those living in more wealthy areas of the country.
Two days later, The Irish Times reported on the Taoiseach’s defence of vulture funds, a term he finds derogatory given that “it is a political term” and apparently not in keeping with the reality of the situation. He also commented that vulture funds come under the same regulations as banks and that therefore consumers are protected.
Like his comments regarding hospital staff not taking time off work over the holidays, these are not gaffes by a politician who blurts out things that are inexcusable.
These are the comments of a man who believes what he says.
The Taoiseach believes what he says when he defends vulture funds as having a better business model than the nationalised banks here. Similarly, property taxes should not be pooled together out of which every area draws what it needs.
Instead, it should only go to those who pay into it and those who pay more should benefit more.
Given the current structure of societies in terms of class stratification, the outcome of the mooted plan is well-known by all in advance, including the Taoiseach. The context within which these comments are made is also important.
To say that we are in the midst of a housing and homelessness crisis would be an understatement. It would also not entirely capture the whole situation. Both issues are encompassed by the larger crisis of late capitalism. Intent on making profit no matter the cost, the human toll continues to mount.
Defenders of the status quo remain indifferent to the casualties of their preferred worldview or, being aware of said casualties of the ideology to which they ascribe, justify it on the basis of market discipline working itself out without the need for superfluous state intervention.
Many people have internalised this ideology. If you end up homeless it is you that has done something wrong not the system.This gains even more credence in the minds of the defenders of the faith given the supposed economic recovery that has taken a hold of the country.
Writing this past Friday, one Irish economist was at pains to understand why “so many people are worried there may be a recession around the corner” given “the otherwise rosy economic picture.”
Pointing to statistics which show that the country has nearly reached full employment and that wages have increased, the author reinforces the view that if all is well, then how can anything be wrong?
The economist – a former economic consultant to Joan Burton and the World Bank – failed to mention that the increase in rental prices negates any apparent increase in wages.
According to a rental price report published by Daft in November, rents nationwide are now thirty per cent higher than they were during their peak in the Celtic Tiger years. Year on year, the rents have risen by over eleven per cent.
Internalising of ideology is one of the core elements of how any ideology functions in the first place. It is no different when it comes to capitalism and its adherents.
When Leo Varadkar’s comments regarding the property tax was reported on, the authors of the article wrote “the move is likely to be welcomed by people living in wealthier areas who want to benefit form their own taxes.”
This is written without need for further comment. It is taken as a given that the wealthy elite simply do pay more and therefore are more deserving of help, be it in whatever form their friends in the government decide. Tax is a burden placed upon them. You would be at pains to find a more impressive level of internalising of ideology in another setting.
Mr Varadkar’s comments are welcome then, as he will rectify this obviously unfair situation. The poor, unable to pull themselves out of their self-inflicted misery, will get what they deserve: nothing.
Meanwhile, the burden of caring if the person down the road lives or dies by contributing to the national pool of tax will be removed from the wealthy and elite. They already have to live with the burden of the masses asking for more crumbs from the table.
We have a Taoiseach who accepts this worldview as the one true answer to the problems of society and the world at large. Is it any wonder that housing and homelessness have been ignored by the government?
We are undergoing a variation of the shock doctrine, albeit in slow motion.
A country in Western Europe in the 21st century that is unable to provide basic services, such as healthcare and housing, to its population is not a failed state according to capitalist doctrine. It is functioning precisely how it should.
Those who can afford to pay exorbitant amounts for housing or expedited medical care are the ones who matter. If masses of people are unable to afford either housing or medical care so be it.
Market doctrine must reign. Everyone can either get on board with the system or fall by the wayside. It is they that are the problem, not the system itself. Leo Varadkar’s statements are emblematic of this.
Vulture funds are called that for a reason. David Hall, CEO of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, has said that the Taoiseach simply “does not understand that the ‘protections’ he refers to are meaningless.” Furthermore, Mr Hall told me that “Vultures are parasites and will destroy many more families”.
It is unlikely that Varadkar does not understand what he says regarding vulture funds. It is just that most people who have a moral centre find it difficult to understand how an obviously intelligent man can say something so ludicrous. However, intelligence is not a measure of one’s moral rectitude.
The leader of our country was more concerned with a mercenary force being attacked in retaliation to a violent attack that was carried out by them than with their initial violence in the first place. When this is the case, you can be assured that any concern for the average person is no longer a key policy issue in the halls of power.
Housing and medical care will be provided but only if it can be done at a profit. If it cannot, then market doctrine declares that other more profitable ventures must be undertaken, such as full-scale privatisation.
The power of the certainty of one’s beliefs is a potent force. Leo Varadkar’s belief in the holy doctrine of the free market is powerfully dangerous especially given his leadership of the country. His convictions will ensure that housing will be left to the whims of private entities.
Homelessness will increase and our health system will continue to lurch towards its inevitable collapse. In this equation people are expendable. Why shouldn’t they be? People, especially those organised against injustice, have an annoying tendency to get in the way of the pursuit of unbridled profit.
If injustice is to be defeated, that means confronting the forces of exploitation head-on whether they come in the form of a private corporation or the government itself. Securing a decent future requires us to fight injustice regardless of the facade it wears.