Controversial entry time – I like free stuff. In fact, I’m going to pitch myself and assume you like free stuff, too. After all, who doesn’t?
But when it comes to government and government generosity, there’s just no such thing as “free,” despite politicians’ best efforts to convince everyone that they’re giving gifts to the rest of us out of the sheer goodness of their hearts.
I spoke to reporters yesterday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar wanted to calm everyone’s nerves ahead of next month’s introduction of the dreaded carbon tax, the first step in a long-term plan that, depending on your ideological view, will either achieve zero carbon or simply plunge us all into freezing cold, abject poverty.
According to Varadkar, next month’s new tax will be “more than offset” by a series of measures they plan to push through Cabinet today.
These new measures include a proposal to reduce VAT on electricity and gas (but not heating oil) from 13.5 percent to 9 percent, scrapping the public levy that accompanies utility bills and granting some additional fuel allowances.
As the Tánaiste put it: “The carbon tax will cost the average household between €1.50 and €3 per month. We’ve put together a package that makes up for that – even more. It will be both individual and purposeful. Everyone benefits from the package. But there will also be a targeted measure so that low-income families get a little more.”
The statement of support for low-income families is certainly to be welcomed. After all, the working class is always the hardest hit by ideological taxes imposed by middle-class activists – from price hikes on cigarettes to the carbon tax to other sin taxes on processed foods and fizzy drinks.
But most of what he said just seemed like a vaguely contradictory jumble of words designed to lull the bettor into a false sense of security.
So on the one hand “everyone would benefit from the package”, on the other hand he admitted: “We cannot fully compensate for the increase in the cost of living, but we can do a lot and can TU more.”
Well, if they really wanted to do something, they could have postponed the introduction of the carbon tax indefinitely, which will bring further hardship and strain for so many people, especially in the trucking and transport industry.
To these admittedly economically naïve eyes, the whole tangle makes absolutely no sense.
They’re introducing a carbon tax to limit fossil fuel use, while expanding fuel allowance credits so we can burn more of the fossil fuels we’re now being taxed on.
Varadkar certainly hit the nail on the head when he said the VAT situation was “incredibly complicated”, but that ambiguity is not limited to VAT. It seems to be the order of the day.
As part of his unveiling of the so-called “Easter aid package”, which will be announced in full after today’s cabinet meeting, he also pointed out that the government is currently spending £2bn on housing – an increase enough to make your eyes water.
The Tánaiste also had a point when he said that cost of living increases are “driven by international factors and are beyond our control”.
Let’s face it, between the quick double whammy combination of Brexit and then Covid, the global economy has now taken a veritable knockout blow with the crisis Ukraine.
There was a time when events on the other side of the European continent seemed relatively distant, but those days are long gone, and apart from the rather inspiring willingness of so many Irish people to open their homes to fleeing Ukrainian refugees, we seem all more than ever attuned to the international energy markets.
So the government no doubt thinks they’re placating people by giving them an extra little allowance here and a little bit of sales tax reduction there.
But people – well, most of us anyway – are not stupid and we know there is no such thing as a magic money tree.
It’s all well and good to brag about having €2 billion on the back of the couch as some rainy-day money, but we’re long past a rainy day and are now approaching monsoon season. How long will this money last?
And when the money is gone, what then? Lending on the international markets is currently relatively cheap thanks to low interest rates. But they won’t stay this low forever and if we’re not careful we could easily be headed for another recession and to be honest I’ve seen two already (1980s, 2008-10) and I really would rather not make a hat trick out of it.
Yet, in its desperate desire to steal some of Sinn Féin’s populist thunder, this administration has made some truly bizarre decisions in the current, grim conditions.
For example, last week the basic income for art was introduced, which will give 2,000 randomly selected artists 325 euros per week for the next three years.
Seriously? I know that the program in its current form costs “only” 350 million euros, but it will be extended and become more expensive.
The artists are understandably excited, but the rest of us have been scratching our heads – is this really a major priority or just another populist political stunt?
I think we all know the answer to that.
Just remember, sad as it may seem, there is no magic money tree and that money will eventually have to be repaid.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/taking-with-one-hand-and-giving-with-the-other-confusion-reigns-in-government-41548330.html Taking with one hand and giving with the other – there is confusion in the government