Saturday 16 December 2017

Proposed cut to USC will comfort coping classes but will it win votes?

AFTER years of punitive budgets it is deeply welcome to hear our Government seriously considering a break for the workers who have paid dearly for this country's survival in recent years.

Enda, Michael, Joan - thanks for thinking so kindly about us at what must be a very difficult time in your leadership of the country ahead of an election that could see you back on the other side of the house.

If introduced, the proposal to cut the hated Universal Social Charge (USC) by two per cent will come as some comfort to the 'coping classes' - the low to middle-income earners who've been keeping Ireland's head above water ever since the great crash of 2008.

Fine Gael and Labour will try to take credit for the little bit of economic confidence now being felt. But they had little to do with it, other than oversee the kind of prudent management measures that quite simply should have been in place for decades to avert the continual boom and bust.

No, it's the ordinary Irish workers who have brought the country back from the brink through sheer hard graft in the face of all that doom.

It is only now that their efforts appear to find some reward in terms of Government budget recognition and this speaks volumes about the kind of system we had. To date, those of us burdened with paying back the banks' Gargantuan mistakes and keeping a tax base in place to pay for the public services got no reward at all for it - just more punishment.

The USC was one of the principal punitive tools rolled out by the Government and it was accepted without the kind of instability witnessed in other jurisdictions as Irish workers knew damn well just how far up the Swanee the great ship was. So many of us took it all on the chin, along with everything else, as it was in the best interests of the economy and our futures.

The general public is no fool when it comes to politics and any cut to the USC will be seen exactly for what it will be - a late, election-buying measure in an ongoing process of brutal austerity.

It might well work for Fine Gael at least, whose newly-positive soundings have recently seen them enjoying a three-point jump in the latest opinion polls.

If it pays off for them in the forthcoming election - now expected to be in 2016 - it will only be down to the Irish electorate's increasingly pragmatic approach to politics in a landscape utterly changed by the crash and no longer as beholden to the grip of the Civil War conflict.

Welcome as USC cuts would be, it's sadly more evidence of the kind of system that left us in such a mess in the first place with major economic decisions being made on the whim of political parties.

That the move would cost the State coffers dear, impacting other departments like Health massively, is clearly a worthwhile sacrifice for those who would retain power.

Wexford People

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