“Taxpayers money” is a neoliberal trope

A common refrain, “taxpayers money”. We feel it with outrage when talking about the wasteful government programme gone awry. It helps strengthen our argument when we push for greater levels of oversight and scrutiny in public procurement.

Taxpayers money is intuitive. It makes us feel important and empowered; we pay taxes and it is therefore our funds that enable government. We pay taxes. It us us – the taxpayer – that funds government. That’s our money they are wasting.

It is also dead wrong. Taxpayers money is a toxic idea and a neoliberal trope.

“There is no such thing as public money. There is only taxpayers’ money.”

Margaret Thatcher, October 1983

“We know that there is no such thing as public money – there is only taxpayers’ money”

David Cameron, 6 April 2015

Why are Conservatives so keen to push this line that it is taxpayers money that funds the state? Malcolm Reavell puts it perfectly.

“The concept of “taxpayer money” creates an impression that government must have an income to fund its spending. The ‘household budget’ model planted in peoples’ minds makes it possible for government to declare certain spending is “unaffordable” and it “hasn’t got the money”.”

Malcolm Reavell MMT Advocate (from Twitter)

Learn more by watching this short video: