Supposing you were to poll Irish voters about how much they are taxed. I would wager that most would tell a pollster that that they are overtaxed. But I would also wager that most of those people who say they are overtaxed also overestimate the proportion of their income they pay in taxes. It’s the same with public spending: I wonder what proportion of voters believe that the cutbacks are caused primarily by us having to spend all our money bailing out banks, and that there would be no cuts if we had not bailed out the banks?
Or what about TD salaries and expenses: what proportion of voters wrongly believe that cutting them would alleviate the cuts in a significant way? I once met a guy, for example, who genuinely believed that 50% of our national budget went on TD salaries.
I ask about this, and about the need for more in-depth polling because government needs consent to make decisions, and that means knowing what the public actually know, and actively correcting the myths, something this government has been shockingly ineffectual at. One of the biggest surprises of the last 18 months has been the revelation that Fine Gael and Labour, as proven by the litany of broken commitments, were almost completely unprepared for the task of leadership once the election campaign was over. The fact that no one in Eamonn Gilmore’s office, for example, questioned the viability of the “Labour’s way or Frankfurt’s way” line must surely pose a question: how incompetent are these guys?