For its own sake, it’s time the government put the unloved puppy that is the household charge to sleep.
It was a bad idea. It is unjust. It is badly thought-out and could well end up costing more than it brings in.
In short, it’s an accountant’s solution to a politician’s problem.
The level of stupidity accompanying most of the statements being made by ministers to boost the number of registrations is embarrassing. Because of the elephantine bank debt, none of them stand up.
The money will be used to keep streets clean and libraries open? Use the bank debt.
It will fund the fire services and other local services? Use the bank debt.
It will be used to maitain parks and other open spaces? Use the bank debt.
It’s only two euros a week? Take it out of the bank debt.
That is before we get on to the idea of asking people to pay something without sending them an invoice specifying what it is they are paying for, the period covered, the amount.
Add to that that those who don’t own their own homes aren’t liable and it becomes clear that this isn’t badly thought-out.
It wasn’t thought out at all.
In some ways, living in Sweden drives me mad; it is a society based on consensus, and nothing happens until the vast majority agree on the best way forward.
In Ireland, we do the opposite. We leap to conclusions and bull our way through them – the bank guarantee and the household charge were both forced through in haste, leaving but the government and the citizenry to repent at their leisure.
There will be no positive outcome from all these threats and scaremongering. The negatives, however, will be huge.
The government would do well to remember that this is not the last of the austerity budgets – heads still firmly stuck in the sand, our politicians have plenty of taxation time-bombs planted and waiting down the tracks, and not for local services or the public service either. ALL of this austerity is because Brian Lenihan chose to guarantee the banks, without asking his cabinet colleagues, let alone those of us who would be landed with the bill.
The promised property tax that will replace the household charge will be universally reviled, and what the government is doing is creating a dangerous anti-taxation snowball that will further affect the poorest in Irish society.
Until recently, Irish people were beginning to come around to the idea that taxes were a necessary evil that in fact could do a lot of good, and that sharing the burden wasn’t such a bad idea.
But in their boundless stupidity, this government is prepared to sacrifice that – the wellbeing of a just society in Ireland – to get another gold star from the troika.
Because what matters is no longer the pages in the lives of Irish people, but the number in the bottom-right corner of the troika balance sheet.