The horrors of buying votes at election time!

Silvio Berlusconi was on Wednesday accused of trying to buy votes just days before Italy\’s general election after sending a letter to millions of households promising to refund a much-hated property tax.

Err, yes?

This is what politicians do at election time, isn\’t it? Buy votes by explaining their policies?

The letters were sent out by the billionaire\’s centre-Right PDL party as Italians prepare to vote on Sunday and Monday, in one of the country\’s most important elections for years.

Mr Berlusconi\’s political rivals said the letters were misleading because at first glance they looked like official rebate notices from the Italian inland revenue.

But they could well produce a last-minute surge in support for Mr Berlusconi – a poll this month found that nearly 40 per cent of voters favoured the idea of being reimbursed for the IMU tax, which was introduced by the caretaker government of Mario Monti, the outgoing prime minister.

Economists, however, have estimated that the tax rebate would cost the cash-strapped country up to eight billion euros, at a time when it is struggling to emerge from one of the deepest recessions since the Second World War.

The letters came in official-looking envelopes which were marked \”Important notice: reimbursement of IMU 2012\”.

That\’s a pretty cool stunt actually. And as to the \”struggling to emerge from recession\” part. Isn\’t that what the correct fiscal policy is? Increasing the gap between what the government collects in taxes and what it spends? Or do we abandon Keynesianism when it\’s being proposed by someone we don\’t like?

6 comments on “The horrors of buying votes at election time!

  1. Way way back, sometime in the 1980s I think, there was a wonderful exchange roughly as follows:

    Jeremy Paxman: “Alan Clarke- we’re going to see a lot more of of these cynical gimmicks, obviously designed to buy votes, between now and the election, aren’t we?”

    Alan Clarke: “Well, I certainly hope so.”

    Someone wrote about that time that Alan Clarke was so rich he didn’t need to care what he said, so he thought he might as well say the truth.

  2. But Berlusconi is an evil capitalist so it’s different or something

    I despise Berlusconi as much as the next guy but I despise the hypocrisy demonstrated against him almost even more.

  3. Don’t we tend to reject Keynesianism when the supposed Keynesian is proposing the deficit spending in the bad times but has a proven track-record of failing to do the flip-side surplus-running in the good times?

    Berlusconi is no darling of the right or champion of liberalism (European, not North American definition). His venal self-interest eclipses that of most other politicians. All Berlusconi wants is a get out of jail card. The last government would have done well to grant him immunity on condition he never runs for office again, i.e. banish the corrupt senator from the precincts of Rome.

  4. And, of course, it won’t ‘cost’ the country anything, as the money will be put into the hands of the citizenry.

    Such logic, of course, is applied haphazardly by occupants of the right and the left depending on whether we’re talking about tax cuts/rebates, or government spending.

    I suppose the problem here is that the tax is been given back to the people who paid it.. and we know that folks like their Keynesianism with a meaty side order of redistribution (and/or favouring of preferred interests).

  5. In the current circumstances, surely the best thing to do with the tax raised is hand it to the people who’ve lent the government more money than is really comfortable for either borrower or lender. But as we know, few people can see past Thursday week and will take their cake now in return for general hilarity and chaos down the road.

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