“I didn’t cause this problem and I refuse to pay for it”
I’ve heard this a lot recently. The whole mess was caused by evil bankers, speculators and Fianna Failers, and you’ll be damned if you’re going to be the one to clean it up. Fair enough, whether you’re in the public sector, the private sector, unemployed, a student, a pensioner, or pretty much anyone other than Bertie Ahern or Patrick Neary, you’re probably not directly responsible for the massive property bubble which crippled our government’s finances when it burst.
Of course, being a clued in individual who saw this coming a mile off, I’m sure you knew where the money for your big public service pay increases was coming from for the past decade. And for those middle-earners in the private sector, I’m sure you were well aware of where else the government was taking in revenue to be able to afford to lower your income tax bill to the lowest in the developed world. Those who weren’t so well off were of course keeping full track of how welfare payments could be increased at above the rate of inflation year after year during all this.
As a student, I’m sure you knew where the government got the money to pay your tuition fees and those of all your friends. You elderly folks in the back were also right on top of how the government could make such big increases to the state pension without increasing the retirement age. And, not to forget, that all of you in any of those groups or none are well aware of how spending could be increased massively on policing, health and local services without you having to contribute to it.
At the height of the bubble, the construction and finance sectors were contributing tens of billions of euros, directly and indirectly, to the public purse. They were paying for my degree, they were paying for your pension, and they were paying for another guy’s tax break. They were paying for all these things we’ve been taking for granted over the past decade, and they aren’t any more.
So no, you probably didn’t cause the bubble that’s landed us where we are, but you did benefit from it. So did I, and so did everyone else in Ireland. We were all quite happy to take this money that was pouring in from our glorified national ponzi scheme and pretend it would last for ever. Well, of course it didn’t; the money simply isn’t there anymore, and every one of us is going to have to accept the simple reality that we can no longer pay for things with money we don’t have.