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Monday 10 December 2018

Comment: Call me a whinging snowflake, but I'm paying more taxes and yet our public services remain pathetic

Lorraine Courtney Photo: Mark Condren.
Lorraine Courtney Photo: Mark Condren.
REAL CRISIS: Homeless people sleeping in tents
Lorraine Courtney

Lorraine Courtney

I’M NOW paying 3pc more tax than in 2008 but I haven’t seen a 3pc increase in public services in that time. Taxes seem to be poured into some Revenue black hole.

The net pay of single-income earners on €35,000 is down 3pc, or €964, compared to 2008, as we move closer to Scandi-style high taxes without the Scandinavians’ lovely social benefits.

It’s the same story across salary levels. A single worker on €75,000 is down 5pc, or €2,800, and one on €120,000 takes home 9pc less than they did a decade ago, that’s just over €6,600.

I know. This is how the Government pays for public services: it taxes people and then it spends the money. And I’ve always thought that high taxes equal better public services.

But in Ireland, they don’t. Far too many of us are seeing increasing proportions of our incomes creamed off by the taxman, without any corresponding improvements in the services the taxes are supposed to pay for. In fact, these services seem to be just getting worse.

There are now 9,891 people living in hotels, B&Bs and family hubs.

There are protests on Dublin’s streets because of the housing crisis, and people squatting in abandoned buildings.

Our health service is in crisis. This summer, the total number of people on waiting lists to be treated, or seen by a doctor, stood at over 707,000, the highest number ever recorded. There were 520 sick people on trolleys last month – an increase of 228 patients, or 78pc, since July 9 and 119 more than on the same day 12 months ago.

Young doctors and nurses are emigrating, and established GPs are shutting down their practices because they can’t afford to keep running them.

Meanwhile, very ill people are now relying on crowdfunding to finance their own medical care and a survey last month found our crazy childcare costs are keeping Irish mothers at home instead of in the workplace.

A survey by Taxback.com during the summer found 94pc of respondents believe more could be done to improve public services with the current €51bn collected in all forms of taxes and levies.

Seven out of 10 people are unwilling to pay more taxes to get better public services. I’m not surprised. Why would they when we’ve only seen our housing and health services slowly fall apart?

As former US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr put it, taxes are the price paid “for civilised society”.

But our social services are not civilised.

It might be hard to believe it but we are among the highest spenders on health per person in the OECD – we spend €4,706 per head on healthcare. Our taxes are not being effectively or efficiently used.

The Scandinavians can justify their tax rates. In Sweden, there is access to excellent free health care, generous amounts of fully paid sick leave, liberal unemployment benefits, and readily available and affordable childcare. Unemployed workers in Denmark get 90pc of previous earnings for up to 104 weeks, the most generous benefits in the EU.

It’s plain that the tax burden on young people, already struggling to match the living standards of older generations, has to ease. I’m angry. I’m angry that my best childbearing years will take place under a Government that taxes its measly maternity pay and does not seem to think affordable housing for young people is of any real importance.

I’m angry that when I retire my State pension pot will be empty. You can even call me a whingeing snowflake, if that is what it means to be angry that I won’t be able to afford life’s usual milestones and will spend my twilight years in penury.

The Government can’t keep justifying high taxes on middle-income earners when we aren’t seeing proper social services in return for them.

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