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Editorial: 'Our politicians must stop promising voters the earth'

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'Taxpayers are happy to be team players – but don’t want to feel like the football'. Stock picture

'Taxpayers are happy to be team players – but don’t want to feel like the football'. Stock picture

'Taxpayers are happy to be team players – but don’t want to feel like the football'. Stock picture

Doing what needs to be done doesn't automatically come with a dividend for a government. But not doing it always comes with a massive downside.

If history is a lie agreed upon, a glaring example might be seen in the lip-service paid to avoiding "boom-to-bust cycles" since the crash.

An equally insidious threat exists not in the interval between boom to bust, but in the giddy spell from election to election.

However adult our politicians aspire to be, they behave like kids at the checkout counter once the campaign kicks off.

A week ago, a straight-faced Government promised higher wages, tax cuts, record levels of investment and a bigger and better-paid public service, while at the same time attacking the "boom-bust" record of Fianna Fáil.

And as the opinion polls appear, the mania to give away more merely intensifies.

Does anyone remember the crash, loss of sovereignty, or visit from the IMF?

Our national debt still stands at a stubborn €200bn. It has taken a tough 10 years for the Government to align spending with revenue.

The famous fiscal space risks being squandered in a dizzying race to the bottom of the national coffers if this impulse is not checked.

Most taxpayers will tell you they are happy to be team players, but they do not want to be made to feel like the football.

With Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin promising massive building plans and grants, Fine Gael produces a plan to increase the maximum tax rebate for first-time buyers to €30,000.

I'll see your grant and raise it...

A sober assessment should tell all leaders that hard-working voters want a health service they can rely on and a roof over their heads. But it should not be necessary to bankrupt the country to meet needs available to every other generation.

People are not content to allow the dream of owning a home fade away, but they will also not be swayed by what sounds too good to be true. Ideally the magic lamps granting everyone's heart's desire would be put away and replaced by party manifestos.

Sadly, bitter experience suggests these too frequently belong to the realm of fiction.

Parties sense the public wants change, but not at any cost. Yes, we are currently enjoying record revenues; but, as has been pointed out elsewhere in these pages, every worker employed in our country is carrying €100,000 of national debt.

At some point the economic headwinds will be less favourable.

Commitments to sweeping tax cuts and billions in extra expenditure have to be weighed against what would happen if the squeeze was on.

Should interest rates rise, as they will, or if Brexit or some other international event strangles growth, we will find ourselves out in the cold once more. The interests of the country must not be trampled in the stampede of political parties to outflank each other.

Irish Independent