12th November 1999
Depending on who you believe the Government is about to give us back £600-£900 million in next month’s budget. By any standards this is a very large wad of cash, amounting to roughly £400-£600 per taxpayer.
This may not seem much but, as it is of course tax free, it amounts to a pay rise of up to a grand. Now, no sane person will want to refuse a cool £1,000 but the question I want to ask is: will it make you happy?
Such a question is normally reserved for philosophers and is not the sort of thing you’d expect to read in a newspaper column. However, I will try to convince you that you would be better off without the money and that we would all be happier if we spent it collectively.
Think of the things that affect your every day quality of life. Take a single day.
Getting to work you are stuck in traffic or sardined into a bus (crap public transport system).
You bring your mother for a check-up at the hospital and the 11am appointment turns into a 1pm appointment (there’s never enough staff).
You lunch at the local deli and take your chances with e-coli, salmonella or mad cow disease (the environmental health budget is static).
On your way back to the office you wade through the litter (no cleaning and no wardens).
Kids are hanging out on the corner (the school attendance regime is non existent).
You trip over the homeless guy lying on the street (no shelters).
And so it goes. I contend that the things we would most like changed are things we can only change collectively. After decades of neglect and penny pinching this country badly needs a serious make over.
We need a national motorway system. We need a coastguard. We need to halve national school sizes. We need a massive investment in poor areas. I could go on.
If you listen to Radio One on any day you will hear a catalogue of inadequacies in all areas of Irish life. For the first time in our history we have the means to do something about it.
What will we do with the money if we get it in the hand? A large proportion will go into savings. Much of this will be invested abroad. We will increase our spending on consumer goods. Again, most consumer spending is on foreign–made goods.
We will upgrade our cars, our fridges, our videos, our holidays.
We will consume more. We will discard more. We will generate more landfills. We will have nothing to show for it.
Mary Harney says it’s ‘payback time’. And so it is. We have a chance to make things better. We can afford to spend a little more on ourselves. We have the option of really tackling the problems in our society or throwing it away on another record Christmas binge.
Regardless of what I (and at least 50% of the electorate) think, we are going to have the binge. Ironically, the reason for this is the so-called Social Partnership.
The Social Partners – the Government, the unions and the employers (dumb and dumber and dumbest) have convinced themselves that this is what we are demanding. They believe that the only way to sate public anger over the tribunals is to buy us off.
They think that they are giving us what we want – we’d be better off if they would give us what we need.