Since the release of the Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil manifestos, much has been made of the array of giveaway policies each appear to have adopted, writes Ben Quigley.
The manifestos would appear to be slipping seamlessly into the mistakes of the past – but in the words of Pat Rabbitte “isn’t that what you tend to do during an election?”
Fine Gael has said that they will increase the entry point at which the higher rate of tax is paid from €35,300 to €50,000 as well as promising an increase in the USC exemption threshold from €13,500 to €20,000.
Fianna Fáil, meanwhile, vows to increase the threshold for entering the higher rate by €3,000 for a single person and to cut the USC rate which applies on earnings between around €20,000 and €70,000 from 4.5% to 3.5%. In addition to this, both parties have gone “all out” on spending pledges in the areas of housing, health and public pensions.
Promises of there being ‘one for everyone in the audience’ may have appealed to past generations, but young people today have a greater ability to see through the fickleness of fiscal imprudence.
While most voters claim to finding auction politics repellent, the mere fact that Fianna Fáil seem set to become the largest party in the 33rd Dáil would suggest otherwise. Having left a period of painful recovery behind, the middle-aged or older voter seems to have fallen back into the trap of being enthralled by renewed Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael promises of an unattainable utopia. Young people, however, are becoming ever more astute to the emptiness of endless promises election cycle after election cycle.
Auction politics relies upon an obsession with semantics – the one-upping each other in the details - something which simply does not appeal as much to the younger voter.
While a middle-aged voter is more likely to support those who prioritise income tax reductions and promises of local investment, thinking with their pockets and what’s close to home, younger voters want to see capital investment in our future and discussion on the biggest issues of our time.
A fixed pothole is not of much value to a voting constituency whose very existence is threatened by climate inaction and tax breaks don’t mean as much to us as economic sustainability.
Most recent polling confirms young people’s shift away from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael’s auction and seem to have settled upon arguably the greatest auctioneers of them all – Sinn Féin.
With the party running a mere 42 candidates, however, far short of that required for a majority (and that’s assuming they all win), there is little expectation amongst young people of an incoming Sinn Féin government.
In truth, it seems as though young people have decided to lend Sinn Féin their vote in protest, partly as a way of expressing their utter frustration with the Fianna Fáil /Fine Gael brand of auctioneering, rather than an enthusiasm for Pearse Doherty’s own agenda.
Auction politics, however, is populist at its core and a balance must be struck between often well-meaning demagoguery and a contrarian approach to finances.
Ben Quigley is the co-founder of The Progressive Brief and is studying at University College Cork. See www.progressivebrief.com or follow @progressbrief on Twitter.