In a country such as ours, with comparatively few competitive advantages over our neighbours and competitors further away, education is vitally important. As the Minister is fond of saying, ours is a knowledge based economy. Well, knowledge and Common Agricultural Policy based. Despite this, the government have consistently underfunded the driving force in this knowledge based economy – the universities. Even before the current economic downturn reared its Putin-like head, Trinity was facing a massive funding shortfall. This was due to a switch in the government mechanism for calculating financial support – taking teaching quality out of the equation and shafting Trinity in the process.
With the balls up in the markets, the government has turned to underwriting – essentially nationalizing – the Irish banking sector at huge risk to the taxpayer. To make up the shortfall, they are again undercutting the education funding, and health and so Cowen acolyte and Minister for Education Batt O’Keefe starts to trot out the same old spurious arguments in favour of third level fees: Students will earn more and therefore ought to pay. Never mind that if they do become high earners they will end up paying more anyway within our (rightly) progressive tax regime. Never mind that many many students do not in the end make fuck tons of cash, many go into teaching, or VSO’s or heroin. Even the assumption that it is third level degrees that lead to greater earnings is spurious, it could be that those who achieve in the education domain often have the drive to earn fuck tons of money in the business world.
So – what to do? We here in Marshmallow take our responsibilities as the petri dish of government and college policy very seriously (see next page for list of suggested cuts). On a national level we need to look at taxation. Don’t spend millions bailing out big institutions. The whole reasons they pay giant wages is that they take on massive risk. The government’s strategy has simply been to remove that risk. If a pensions fund manager balls up the retirement of thousands of people then there should be some strong legal mechanism for slapping the shit out of him.
Ireland’s one major advantage globally is a incredibly low rate of corporate taxation. It’s currently, at 12%, well below the European average, and is the reason companies like Google have their European HQ here. This could rise somewhat – justifiably should rise – and although the the multinationals will squeal Ireland will still be very competitive in this respect. There is still an argument for adding a new higher tax bracket for those earning over a couple of million a year and closing the tax loop holes – around farming and property in particular – that allow millions to be hidden away from the tax man. Spending on social housing, health and yes, education is not flushing money down the drain. To use an old cliche, it’s an investment in the future. We will all be richer and better off in the long run. Fuck fees.