A few years ago my younger brother, who I respect and like, told me that the Middle Class basically paid all the taxes here yet was being squeezed continuously by successive governments. He said the Middle Class was shrinking and this was bad for New Zealand.
I challenged him on this, and he annoyed me further by saying “Think about it. The Lower Class doesn’t, essentially, pay taxes because it earns too little or is actually costing money through benefits, education programs etcetera. Meanwhile the Upper Class will pay any amount of money to avoid paying taxes. That leaves the Middle Class carrying the tax burden — and the country.”
I was angered at his words, due to my own working class pretensions, I suppose — but over the next couple of weeks, I realised he was essentially right. The Middle Class does carry the country and the tax burden. The Middle Class also produces professionals, artists, academics, educators, writers, managers, small business entrepreneurs … and New Zealand used to be renowned as a Middle Class society.
And it did used to be, maybe up until the 1960s anyway, but over the last few decades the percentage fairly counted here as poor has risen dramatically, while the gap between the very rich and the rest has also widened dramatically. As a result, the Middle Class has not only been under financial pressure (for example, GST), but has been shrinking in size as members drop into the lower categories. This process may be about to accelerate as the debt burden, due to this current economic crisis, effects more people.
Side-stepping the issue that it was really bloody stupid for people to borrow so much money on so little equity just to have stuff they didn’t need, or ever bigger houses, for now, this perhaps-subconscious perception of stress probably added to the grasping at ‘lower tax’ straws that I think was short sighted. As call me old fashioned, but I don’t mind paying taxes as I quite like having roads, water, rail, power, schools — come to that, a defence force tat can help with disaster relief — and I like knowing that if I have an accident I will be cared for. Contrast that with my friend in Europe who had an accident on the motorway and nearly died because his medical care was so poor.
This because, in amongst all the blood and mess, the doctors couldn’t find his medical insurance card so they got him out of the hospital next day, despite gaping wounds and multiple fractures, and he almost died of blood poisoning five days later.
Be proud to be Middle Class. It’s time we fought back.