Thatcher’s Poll Tax Popping in for a Visit

Abraham Doron (Translated from Hebrew by Orna Meir-Stacey)

According to the new budget proposal, housewives who work only in their household and are raising the next generation of workers, will be required to pay a Poll Tax. Today we were told that this appalling proposal will be removed from next year budget

Among the edicts which the new state budget is about to impose on population groups of medium and low income, the most difficult and unjust one is the introduction of a health and national insurance tax on housewives, who do not work outside their households. The proposed tax is of a uniform rate, which will be imposed on women who do not have an independent income of their own. The proponents of this tax did not, apparently, ask themselves from what source these women would be able to pay it. This tax, if approved, will need to be collected from the total income available to the family, irrespective the level of its income. At stake is, therefore, a significant reduction of the available income of families of low income levels, and a most regressive form of taxation. So, along with other edicts, this tax will severely hurt the weakest groups of population. Its result will be the widening of the social gaps in the country which are, in any case, of the largest compared with other developed industrial countries.

RagenThacherThis tax resembles, in essence, the Poll Tax which Margaret Thatcher tried to implement in Britain at the time. Thatcher’s Poll Tax was intended to collect a uniform local tax from each adult living in Britain, in order to cover the cost of services which he received at his place of residence. The idea of our Treasury officials to impose the tax on housewives is identical to the Thatcherite idea to require that every housewife, as an individual, pays for the services she receives, whilst removing her from the economic-familial-social context in which she lives and operates.

The Poll Tax aroused in Britain huge popular resistance, and the attempts to actually collect it were met with great difficulties: large segments of the population simply refused to pay it, and the police had to admit that it could not enforce its collection. In the end, the tax led to riots which were forcibly crushed in the streets of London and other cities. As a result of this, and despite Thatcher’s insistence, the Conservative government had eventually to cancel the Poll Tax.

The Poll Tax marked the end of the political career of Thatcher and her colleagues in the Conservative government. It is astounding that the Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who was elected promising ‘new politics’, is trying to drag back with him the old Thatcherite politics. If this Poll Tax is imposed, it will not bring much honour to Mr Lapid, nor much income to the State’s treasury. But is will go down as a mark of shame to the state of Israel.

Abraham Doron is a professor emeritus in the School of Social Work and Social Welfare at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

This post originally appeared in Hebrew on Haokets.

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