Tell the truth and shame the troika

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Spin is the crack cocaine of Irish politics – once you start, you can’t stop.

No matter how stupid it makes you sound, or what the long-term damage to our already-battered democracy is.

Recent examples are Fianna Fáil’s attempts to convince us that there are “50,000 ordinary, genuine” party members who aren’t corrupt. As if that’s some sort of badge of honour.

Well done- as comedian Chris Rock once said, there is little merit in seeking praise for refraining from things you aren’t supposed to do in the first place.

– “I ain’t never been to jail”

– “You ain’t supposed to go to jail!”

Then there was the threatening litany about the household charge- the local services, the libraries, the potholes that wouldn’t be filled.

The government threatened and cajoled, and still it only managed to get less than 50% of those liable to register.

Of course, what they should have done is tell the truth, but – like Fianna Fáil before them – they do not think that the Irish electorate is capable of understanding what it is they are trying to do.

So they try to play a three-card trick, and end up upsetting the taxation table.

The household charge is nothing to do with local services, and the €100 – even if paid by everyone – is less than useless in the face of an €85 billion debt. It’s about effectively targeting the next round of taxes demanded by the troika to service the debt foisted upon us by Fianna Fáil.

What the government was trying to do was find out who actually lives in our country, and what they can be hit for next time around.

We’ve heard a lot from Big Phil about how every country in Europe has what has variously been described as a property and/or wealth tax. What they also have, in most cases -and what we lack in Ireland – is a system of registration for the population.

(They also don’t have a country broken by the ineptitude of a single greedy party, who miraculously managed to wreck the place, despite 50,000 genuine souls ostensibly keeping guard.)

In other words, they know where you live.

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Big Phil doesn’t.

And if he doesn’t know that, he can’t tax you to the extent that the troika would like.

What most likely occurred was that, in discussions about how much Ireland’s middle and working classes would be forced to pony up and how quickly, Olli and the boys spotted this anomaly.

Instead of whacking on a wealth tax immediately, the government was given time to get its act together and find out a few basic nuggets of info about who lives in Ireland, and where.

But that kind of project costs money, so what did our esteemed political leaders do? They began spinning like a top.

No doubt there was a latte-bearing “advisor” or twelve (most likely being paid over the two hundred grand they’re forced to scrape by on) involved.

“OK yah, so, loike, we have to register all the peeps roysh, but we haven’t got the spons, so, yah, we’ll, loike, make up this charge of, loike, a hundred yoyos and make them register and, loike, BANG! We’ve covered the cost of the exercise, and we’ve, loike, managed to get everyone to tell us they’re there. How do you like them apples, Big Phil?”

Big Phil liked those apples alright. He liked them a lot.

It’s this kind of genius that stops us ever being a proper democratic state.

But the general public didn’t like them apples at all.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m fully in favour of the state knowing where you are and what you can contribute. Without that, it cannot function properly.

Not only that, but how much easier would life be if we had ID cards and a system whereby tax and welfare information were all harmonised to ensure everyone paid in – and got the benefits they deserved too.

Fraud (for the most part) would become a thing of the past, and tax evasion (as practiced on a massive scale by many, even the 50,000 decent people in Fianna Fail) would be made all the harder.

Forced into a corner by the troika, this government had a chance to start a national conversation about tax and spending and the future of our state. But instead of doing that, it reached for the stick.

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