Saturday 29 November 2014

The squeezed middle can't take any more, Mr Noonan

Published 04/05/2014 | 02:30

MINISTER FOR HARDSHIP: Michael Noonan rubs his hands. Photo: Frank McGrath
MINISTER FOR HARDSHIP: Michael Noonan rubs his hands. Photo: Frank McGrath

IF you thought we were nearing the end of austerity, then think again. Talk from ministers of tax cuts in the next Budget may have fooled some into thinking that the State's assault on household incomes is easing.

But the revelations this week that the cost of coal and peat briquettes has gone up due to a second rise in carbon tax should disabuse consumers of the notion that the squeeze on incomes is tapering off.

And that is even before we get billed for water. That new charge will apply from October, with bills due to be paid by January.

In what seems like a never-ending picking of our pockets, the cost of a standard bag of coal shot up by €1.20, with a bale of peat briquettes going up by 26c, from the start of this month.

This is on top of the same-sized rises for these fuels last year.

It is getting difficult to remember just how many tax hikes, charges, levies and cuts in benefits have now been borne by ordinary people.

Since the downturn in 2008, our income tax has shot up due to the reduction in tax bands and credits.

The crude universal social charge has been brought in.

VAT at the standard rate is now 23 per cent, Dirt tax is a disgraceful 41 per cent, we have property tax, pensions levies in both the public and private sectors, and levies on home and motor insurance.

We have suffered the loss of the PRSI (pay related social insurance) ceiling, had the tax relief for medical costs halved, seen child benefit slashed, and third-level fees have shot up.

Numerous government decisions lie behind many of the hikes in private health insurance, including the chopping down of the tax reliefs and rises in the levy on each policy.

Carbon taxes on oil and gas, and reductions in a whole range of social welfare benefits have also hit hard.

And that is only some of it.

Then there is the new public service broadcasting charge, which will replace the TV licence, to look forward to.

Middle-income earners have been saddled with the burden of sorting out the Exchequer mess.

But there is now a real sense that householders have had enough and will not take any more.

Politicians think themselves clever by privately concluding that the public is dumb. But middle Ireland is not so stupid that it has not noticed a relentless, excessive and one-sided attack on its earnings.

Time for politicians to realise that we can take the crushing of our incomes no more. The well is dry.

Twitter: CWeston_Indo

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