Saturday 16 December 2017

Insiders against the rest of us in 'civil war'

Ministers, senators and mandarins will ruthlessly protect their high pay and pensions, writes Marc Coleman

On Wednesday, just before interviewing Brian Gallagher about his book on the Civil War, Taking Sides, one of my radio panellists quipped: "Which civil war is that, the one in 1922 or the one we're about to have?" Taking sides is right. It may not come to flying columns and reprisals but a divide in Ireland is looming and the words of the Billy Bragg song, "Whose side are you on boys, whose side are you on?" will soon ring in our ears.

There are two narratives about which "side" to take; the "haves" versus "have nots" and "public" versus "private". But if you ask me, the "haves" are not those with money, but those with power. And instead of the public sector we should be focusing on those -- public or private sector -- who to an undue degree are net beneficiaries of the tax system. The real divide is between "insiders" and "outsiders".

A Twitter debate with think-tank TASC last week started me thinking about all this. TASC believes our income taxes aren't "progressive" enough. High-earning public servants are -- in its words -- "taxpayers too". So instead of benchmarking their pay, raising tax on all "high" incomes is fairer. Joan Burton chimed in with this line last Friday.

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