I heard a Fianna Fail TD saying on the radio that the decision to tie the household charge and the property tax to the funding of local councils was an attack on local democracy. As central funding through general taxation has been removed a failure to collect adequate amounts of the property tax means that funding of local services will be smaller.
Allowing local authorities to increase that charge puts the negative political feedback, particularly in areas where compliance is less, like Donegal, on to the local councils and protects the central government. It was an odd sensation, shouting at the radio (not unusual) in agreement with someone in Fianna Fail (which very much is).
However, I would add that with a smaller budget because of the problems of collecting the Household Charge and the property tax – and the structure of the property tax is almost exactly the same as the household charge and its associated problems, with good reason – means that it would require additional cuts to services.
This will follow the now established pattern of replacing publicly funded publicly owned services with private operations. Again, as has been well established, the private operation will be less efficient, more costly to the public purse in the medium term and the tendering process will be corrupt or suspect, with small operators losing out to larger conglomerates leading to a monopoly situation for the provision of these services after an initial flurry of ‘competition’. It’s also been well established that Public Private Projects have been seen for over a decade as a growth opportunity for financial institutions in the IFSC, and the present government has recently provided them with a very specific kitty just for this.
The campaign against the household charge, and the concerns about how to extend it to a campaign against the property tax plays right into the hands of those who want to extend the privatisation of public services. As commented by WorldbyStorm on Cedar Lounge Revolution:
“CAHWT seems to have faded somewhat into the background, in part from the sheer pressure of other events that have crowded out the political agenda”.
Well, who saw that coming?
This does not mean that the Household Charge or the Property tax as proposed are just or workable – far from it. But it explains why they are being structured in the way that they are.
The campaign should be based on the idea that the provision of public services by local councils be funded through general taxation, but funding should be given, along with the power to budget and spend it, to the local authorities themselves - general taxation if it is to increase should fall on those who have greater share of the means to generate wealth – not income (although the abilities to adequately tax those with a very high income would be a start). The ability to generate wealth in this way is not a natural right. It is extended by society as a whole. Not paying tax or those who have the greatest power to generate wealth, including corporations, not being charged tax adequately is a breaking of the social contract. By avoiding or ensuring that they are not adequately taxed they may claim not to believe in the existence of such a social contract and thus negate the ability to ensure such a contract is enforced. But whether they acknowledge the existence of such a contract or not is irrelevant because it is only the existence of it that enables them to accumulate that wealth in the first place. Ultimately, it is up to us to make sure that it is enforced. How can we do that at same time as saying specifically targeted taxes for them but not for us?
This is a class issue and the challenge to it should raise awareness of the class dynamics not only of the household charge/property tax but how it’s behind the whole agenda of this and all previous Irish governments – but this one in particular. Now, using the helpful camouflage of the troika they are systematically dismantling the provision of those, modest by European standards but really existing, public services. The nakedness of the class aggression however, seems to have bypassed the consciousness of those who have campaigned against the Household Charge and who by calling for non-compliance are placing the burden of the campaign on to those being charged.
In time it will be transformed into a battle between ordinary householders dealing with massive arrears and a government instigated lengthy legal process, with all the resources of the state in terms of propaganda, the legal system and the police force at its disposal.
Where will be the campaign against the stripping of public assets, the failure to tax wealth adequately, the attack on workers by maintaining high unemployment and putting pressure on those in the public sector in order to reduce wages throughout the economy and the boosterism to the financial sector to enjoy future speculative opportunities be then?
Who will pay for the problems that ordinary householder will face when they are being taxed and undermined financially every which way already? When those faced with these problems go to campaigners asking what they should do, will the campaigners suggest that they form a mass protest? Perhaps they might show them some old video footage of the Poll Tax Riots in UK as part of a general education program given in the upstairs function room of a pub in Balbriggan. Will they need to say we should be more like Greek workers? Or Spanish indignados?
It may seem odd that I started this rant with a comment from someone in Fianna Fail talking on RTE’s Drivetime, sponsored by a Danish bank. Is it possible that Fianna Fail is more radical than the radical left in Ireland? Of course not. Fianna Fail are political opportunists. They are looking to regain that working class support that Sinn Fein have been so capable of attracting, and as they are not in government they have chosen to use the truth as a political crowbar.
Maybe it’s just me, and I could be wrong, but I wish that the left in Ireland could grab that crowbar and begin to lamp the right with it for a change.
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