Wednesday 28 June 2017

It is time to worry when employers and unions start voicing the same concerns

Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan
Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan

A meme (pronounced 'meem') is an idea that spreads from person to person within a culture. Memes are all over the place, and often hard evidence can't displace a meme when it takes hold. Memes don't need to be true, and they don't need to be real, either. Think of the baseless anti-emigrant sentiment sweeping the UK at the moment: not a shred of evidence backs up the meme that foreigners are "taking our jobs" or overrunning social services, but polls show a majority of Britons believe the meme to be true. Three quarters of people polled in July 2014 in Britain favoured reducing immigration.

A meme is forming in Ireland that austerity has 'worked', the job is done, and it is time for the government, at the next budget, to share out the surplus of sweeties generated by the economy. The government itself created this meme on the eve of the last budget, when Minister for Finance Michael Noonan told Miriam O'Callaghan on Prime Time that the plan was to cut income taxes at the next budget if the money was available to do so.

Minister Noonan's qualifier - "if I have the money" - really doesn't mean anything to the electorate. The moment the expectation of tax cuts got lodged in the public mind, electoral timing meant Noonan needed to deliver that income tax cut.

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