Every time a government goes out of its way to avoid adequate public funding of something vital, it becomes a policy of regression where tiers of access develop that lead to a set of easily foreseeable crises. The deepest impact is always on those already least able to compensate for the absence of or dilution in service. This weakened group then becomes desperate and beholden to organised contempt, pity and guilt. Such policies always end up costing more than they might have because of the subsequent or exacerbation of the physical, emotional and mental deterioration that takes its worst toll on the most vulnerable. And what happens? The taxpayers have to pay the bill anyway, not just for the Government’s make-do-and-mend, second best service provision but also for the ensuing clean-up and salvage operations it led to. Does that hinder a healthy economy or has an unhealthy economy hindered general well-being..? It’s circular, now, isn’t it?
Why don’t we just stop faffing, get real and go straight to the taxpayer bit? We might as well… Ah, but we have assumed a convoluted yet immature attitude to general taxation and what it could and should do for us, haven’t we?
Commonly, a typical objection to raising tax revenue is something like because they waste it on… What the ‘on’ is, of course, is variable and subjective. However, the cowardly or ideologically managerial politics of administrations – that we vote in – shouldn’t be unduly conflated with the principle and purpose of collecting tax, should they?
In these times, when taking back collective ownership and control of transport and energy is a commonly held wish and when the NHS has never been in such danger from ideological fragmentation and when the effect of an education is increasingly a lottery of accumulative socio-economic factors: politicians should surely make the argument for general taxation as a part of the economics of common interest.
They should tell us that some things are simpler, more equitable, readily standardised, more transparent, better regulated and ultimately cheaper when people club together to pay for them. That when those things are essential services and utilities, there is an obvious overlap of personal and common good. That this needn’t preclude other public or private capital injections or investments for, for example, research and development because it’s not actually about shutting out the private sector at all costs nor imagining that we can just depend utterly on taxable revenue. That it’s about a narrative supporting we, the People’s collective investment in, ownership of and control over the services from which we all benefit and on which we all depend. I find it tragic that such an argument is beyond Mainstream’s gaze.
For example, Health and Education are rightly considered as bedrocks of community and progress and yet politicians are terribly fond of saying we can’t afford this and that for one reason or another. While, to be sure, there are enormous modern-world challenges which can produce incredible strains on infrastructure, they cannot be addressed by simply tinkering with what are usually symptoms as though they were isolated or anomalous when their real causes are, in fact, complex and interconnected. So, if we are not to fall further into hit-and-miss lives of fortune and distress and, because we know, deep down, that oversimplified blame or ideological zeal used as justification for curbing costs is not just morally authoritarian but a false economy that divides society by ignorance and arbitrary outrage: how can we possibly afford to not afford them?
We should be concerning ourselves with how to create an economy that works for the society we wish to be but, instead, we have socio-economic dysmorphia and it now seems like forever that we’ve been distorting ourselves to squeeze into an economy that is tethered to stale ideas and blind reliance on the inadequate models and systems they gave rise to.
Any decent government or other political leadership would be trying its utmost to ensure that all its populace lived comfortably, securely and with dignity. It would be reinforcing the merit of tax revenue as an honourable, common sense principle of collective responsibility. It would be creating reforms and policies that enabled and encouraged the tax burden to be spread fairly throughout society, from shifty corporations to those who should be on a living wage that facilitates a contribution. It would not keep setting about creating divisions between regions, institutions, economic classes or generations, merely to tinker so as to avoid the all too willing hysteria of our superficial Media and to save an entropic economic climate that undermines our well-being, even as it dies.
The prevailing mainstream view loves to say that we can’t have good healthcare without a strong economy and this is true – even if ‘strong’ is not a word I’d use – but, actually, it’s not the only, or even best way to frame things, is it, because we can equally state that we can’t have a strong economy without the population that contributes to it and is served by it, being healthy and well-educated. It’s a co-dependency. Always was.