Tax and Education. It’s the fundamentals, stupid? ..er…actually, no, not according to the Irish people it’s not… May 14, 2007Posted by WorldbyStorm in Education, Irish Election 2007, Irish Politics, Taxation Policy.
Three articles caught my eye over the last day or two.
Firstly the results of the Irish TImes/TNS mrbi poll last week which was reported in a rather thin piece by Stephen Collins on Saturday. It described how the findings demonstrated that the majority of voters were “not prepared to pay more taxes to fund public services, but they believe the Government already has enough money to fund those services, according to the Irish Times /TNS mrbi opinion poll. Stephen Collins , Political Editor, reports.”
72 percent were unwilling to pay more taxes to fund public services with a fairly derisory 23 per cent saying they would. Now, I’m no psephologist, but that 23 per cent looks fairly close to me to the core ‘left vote’ in this state. Not that if we examine self-described voters that we of the left should be too sanguine about just how great solidarity is amongst them either. According to the report: The hostility to paying more taxes was equal among supporters of all political parties, with the exception of Labour, where significantly more people said they would be prepared to pay more.
The response from Labour supporters was quite different to the rest, with 60 per cent opposed to higher taxes but 35 per cent saying they would be willing to pay more to fund public services.
Which leads to perhaps, at best, one cheer for those Labour supporters, which is considerably more than any of the other left parties deserve. Now, all polls are suspect, and perhaps this sort of poll more than most. But…all polls are also straws in the wind.
And as has been noted by others, here and here this is an unsurprising development in a political context where even the Labour Party has decided that it’s a virtuous act to cut taxation even further.
But even more fascinating is the age profile of those who are willing to see higher taxes for services. Unsurprisingly: Across age groups the youngest voters were most hostile to the notion of paying more taxes to fund services, with just 17 per cent in favour, while most support for the prospect was expressed by those in the 50-64 age group.
Seems to me there’s a lot of work to be done out there in our society to point out that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, that if people truly want better services they will cost money and that the current economic situation is unlikely to be a permanent feature of this society. It also appears that this broad opinion on taxation is not the result of any particular consideration of the matter on ideological grounds, but is instead the result of a hegemonic approach by the political establishment to this matter. In that respect neither Labour nor Sinn Féin have done the left many favours over the past couple of months where tax is concerned. But then again, nor have Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil who have pushed the line that management of expenditure is the real issue as if the good times will continue indefinitely.
The second article was perhaps a little bit more comforting. It dealt with Sinn Féin education policy, in particular their opposition to state subvention for fee paying schools. I have always found it odd that the state would allocate resources to that tranche of the private sector. I’m in complete agreement with Sean Crowe who said “parents were entitled to opt for private fee-paying schools if they wished, but the taxpayer should not be asked to provide any subsidy. He said any change in the arrangements for fee-paying schools could include special provision for a small number controlled by religious minorities.”
When one considers that €80 million is distributed to fee-paying schools in what is a fabulous example of government largesse to the middle classes the silence about this aspect of the education from the other left parties is notable. SF is also agin league tables – which again I’d be broadly agree with, and interestingly doesn’t look for the return of fees at third level. I’ve already noted previously that the removal of those fees distorted the education system by freeing up monies for middle class parents to send their children to fee paying second level schools thereby strengthening their effective opportunity. I’ve also noted previously how back in the dim dark 1950s luminaries such as Richard Crossland (hardly a man of the extreme left) recognised that only wholesale change, such as the imposition of allocated places for students from disadvantaged backgrounds would alter the nature of the private (or in the British case public) school system. I find it telling that a half century or so later the left in Ireland seems essentially uninterested in that issue. It’s a debate well worth having, just how we ensure that at the education level we can achieve the best levels of opportunity, access and – as best as is possible – outcome. It’s very possible that the answers to such a debate might not be to my liking, but that’s no reason not to engage on the topic.
Finally, a pointed little comment from John Gormley as reported in the Irish Times. He questioned Fine Gael’s decision to back away from favouring a ban on all corporate donations to political parties.
“They want to continue with the present system that goes to the very heart of planning. This goes to the root of Irish society: the relationship between developers and political parties. We are very uncomfortable with that.”
Good to see someone looking at the big picture.