This blog has been bubbling away in my head for weeks but is now at the point of explosion – fuelled by pictures of incredibly brave firefighters risking their lives at the Grenfell fire in London, three separate documentary TV programmes showing how health professionals are giving their all in a health service that is increasingly undermined and underfunded and the fact that many state schools are now so hard up they can’t afford a full contingent of staff, let alone fund professional development so that teachers can keep learning.
Public servants – teachers, firefighters, police, doctors and nurses, are paid with our taxes – and I was saddened – no I was angry – when British MPs not only voted down an increase in their pay recently but cheered and laughed while doing so. I know from friends in public service that not only are they worse off year by year but also that essential services are now being cut to the bone because of a mantra that says raising taxes is a bad thing.
No, it isn’t – tax is the price we pay to live in a civilised country, where people are treated decently and do not go hungry, where families have a roof over their heads, health care is available to all and every child get a good education. Despite what some would have us believe, people do not always get what they deserve. Falling on hard times is often the result of chance – just as being ‘successful’ can be.
I don’t always agree with how my taxes are spent; the cost of the Iraq war or a billion pounds to keep the government afloat for instance, but I am happy to pay more tax for public services because when they are cut they harm all of us.
And I am not the only one. In June 2017, a British Attitudes survey also found that 48% believe the government should raise taxes and increase spending and only 4% want to see taxes cut. Perhaps people are beginning to understand that wealth is not just what is in our bank account but the overall quality of our lives. Do the richest in society really need more bling, another flash car or the latest and best of everything when others are struggling to make ends meet –especially those who keep us well, safe and educated.
Rather than see tax as theft of our hard-earned cash, can we think of it as our contribution to universal wellbeing. The research is clear that the smaller the difference between the haves and have-nots in a society the more wellbeing there is for everyone, the happier people are, the safer we all feel. I do not want my fellow human beings to be dependent on charity but to have the basic needs of life as a right and one we all pay for – we never know when our own families might find themselves wanting. Our taxes enable us to look after each other.