News Charlie Weston

Friday 28 October 2016

Middle earners are long overdue something back

Published 14/10/2015 | 02:30

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin on the steps of Government Buildings yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin on the steps of Government Buildings yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Feeling stitched up by the system, middle Ireland wants something back. Finance Minister Michael Noonan and his colleagues know that the centre feels crushed by the weight of seven years of savage austerity.

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That is why the focus of the Budget is on giving something back to the put-upon middle earners.

The pent-up anger among ordinary people is not to be dismissed.

These people feel they are shouldering an unfair burden in terms of higher income taxes, and the introduction of the triple whammy of the Universal Social Charge, property taxes and water charges.

Then there are job losses, wage cuts, higher duty on petrol and diesel, pensions levies, PRSI changes, cuts to child benefit, higher college fees, and more and more.

The aspirational generation that likes to provide for itself has been pummelled at every turn.

Add to this the fact that the middle-income, middle-aged cohort has been saddled with massive debts, along with having to pay for the folly of the bankers, developers, politicians and regulators.

And what really galls them is that those who made the key decisions are not paying for their hubris, greed and willful bending of the rules.

The crushed middle sees that developers are back in business, after we socialised their losses.

Politicians who made all the wrong moves that led to the bubble and bust have been paid off with handsome retirement gratuities.

Regulators are rewarded with big pay-offs and millionaire-style pensions; and a group of high-earning professionals have gone on to capitalise from the mess they helped to create, rather than having their professions reformed and being forced to accept more reasonable fees.

Yes, the economic tide is rising, but many middle-income people have yet to feel the uplift when it comes to household finances.

So not unreasonably, ordinary people want something back.

They don't want an irresponsible giveaway Budget, but instead some financial recognition that with more money flowing into Government coffers, a chunk of that is due to them.

Call it a down-payment in return for the taxpayer-funded bailout of the banks. Call it recognition that the mammies and daddies, the pensioners, and the single workers all contributed to saving this country from financial ruin.

Call it patriotism.

As we approach the 100th anniversary of when our forefathers took up arms against the British in 1916, it is worth remembering that it was ordinary people who have defended the Republic from its biggest financial threat.

That is why no member of any of the groups who will benefit from of the Budget 2016 giveaways should feel any guilt. And few groups have been left out, as the Government is firmly focused on the upcoming election.

We got reductions in the detested Universal Social Charge, no change to property tax until 2019, more child benefit, an extension of the early childcare and education scheme, promises of GP care for under 12s, changes to inheritance tax and more.

'Everyone's a winner' could sum up the situation. But it would be more accurate to say every ordinary Joe and Mary is a winner this time, and it is long overdue.

Irish Independent

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