Three years ago, in a cold cold July, I wrote this piece. Our house when D was a baby was freezing. It cost so much to heat it. When I was pregnant, we tried to save as much of my salary as possible, to fund the year out of paid work. We definitely needed the fund for winter power bills that year. Whenever we dipped into the savings we felt glad we had them, but worried that we were eroding our house deposit. The following winter I wrote this piece, on a friend’s blog. Childcare costs and the salary reduction of part-time work was a shock when we went back on two incomes, and while I knew we were going to be comfortable and financially secure a few years down the track, it felt like a long track yet. We were still in that icebox of a rented house.
Just six months later, we bought a house! And I was pregnant again. We were anxious about paying a mortgage and rates and insurance while on one income – babies are hard enough without extra outgoings and reduced income. But we were enormously relieved to be moving somewhere cosier before the baby came.
And now, we’ve been back on two incomes for six months and I’ve just paid off my student loan. I PAID OFF MY STUDENT LOAN! It’s the biggest financial milestone of all!
Pretty much overnight, we feel an entrenched part of that comfortable class. I couldn’t have known two years ago how close we were! I got a big pay rise when I started my current job last December, and the sense of security from owning our home is huge. The largest contributor is being on two incomes – our individual salaries are fine, but combined, it’s a salary very few individuals could earn. Creche fees are huge, but in another two years D will be at school and B will be eligible for the 20 ECE hours, so it doesn’t have that heavy burden feeling it had when I returned to paid work from parental leave the first time.
The instant my student loan was gone and my pay packet expanded, the tax portion started to seem shamefully low. In the piece I wrote after we bought a house, I said “In theory I support a universal student allowance, but in practice paying $320 a week for childcare while still paying off my own student loan makes me not super keen to pay more tax just right now… Maybe later… Definitely later…” Later has come, and contrary to what people like to tell left-leaning young people, I feel this even more strongly now. How can our taxes be this low, when there is such an enormous social deficit – more and more homeless people every week it feels like. The gulf between the lives our kids lead and the life of some of their peers is getting wider and wider. How can anyone on top 10% incomes, owning a home, and without a student loan, begrudge paying more tax to mend the holes in the fabric of the social welfare state? It’s unconscionable.
If people on lower incomes knew how nice the lives of the top income earners were, they’d be rioting in the streets.
And it’s not just the comfortable lifestyle, it’s that we have money leftover. We could still have all the nice stuff, while paying A LOT more tax. The real kicker is that I checked just now, and we’re not the top 1% or 5% or even 10% of households with two adults and two kids. We’re the top 15%. What the hell? There’s a HUGE group of people swanning about with hundreds of spare dollars a week and they have the gall to criticise policies to raise taxes?! Where do those people even begin to get such a monumental sense of entitlement despite already having more than they need?!
I can understand the people in the lower-middle of the income curve wanting to hold on to everything they have. They’re doing ok but they don’t have a whole lot extra and we all want nice lives and tend to prioritise ourselves before others, whatever, I get that. And a single income earner supporting a whole family would rarely feel well-off. These issues could partly be addressed through a universal child benefit paid to the main caregiver, and funded by a more equitable tax system.
Because the upper-middle and the top income earners, we’re a big minority of taxpayers and we’re shirking our fair load. Our only justification is selfishness. There are literally kids living in cars in this country and parents lining up at foodbanks to put food on the table, then being criticised for their financial choices – while at the other end of the spectrum, you can spend money on buying lunch in town every day, and having a cleaner come every week to make your house nice and tidy, and going on holidays every year, and still pay all your bills, because you have so damn much to begin with. And no-one criticises you even a tiny bit for how you spend your money. It’s an obscene double standard.
Raise our taxes. Build a society where the standard of living for the kids in the council flats just around the corner is about the same as my kids. Don’t you dare try and cut my taxes when there are kids in the hospital down the road with rheumatic fever.