"And what if this independence thing doesn’t turn out well?" I often hear this question, arising from doubts as to whether we will be able to build a new State that works. It surprises me. It surprises me because many people ask it contrasting this scenario against a State that, according to them, works: the Spanish State. It’s obvious that Spain works better than Syria and many other states-- I don’t want to engage in demagoguery. But does it really work adequately? It’s clear that this is not the case.
I don’t base my position on well-known factors such as the scourge of corruption, the terrible unemployment rate, the political manipulation of the Constitutional Court, the recent institutional crisis of the monarchy, etc. Rather, I base it on three fundamental cornerstones of any democratic society: justice, tax fraud, and the undesirable use of lying in public life.
Let’s go step by step. First, justice. There is no true democracy without prompt, efficient and guaranteed punishment of those who break the law and abuse the trust necessary for living collectively. In Spain, justice is very slow, something which pivots more on dramatic effect than on contents. Many times it is a justice more of images, defendants here and there, jail stays of a few months that don’t seem like a real penalty, nor restorative of individual liberties or trampled public issues. And this is not the fault of judges and prosecutors. The real problem rests in the fact that in Spain there are 10 judges per 100,000 inhabitants, while in the EU there are 20, and that spending on justice is 1% of the State budget while in the EU it is 3.5%, among many other things. Is there any plan by the Spanish government to improve this situation? I’m speaking about a serious plan, not the one with unspecific measures that was announced last Thursday in the Spanish parliament. Do you know of any? I don’t.
As regards tax fraud, Spain has the highest direct tax rates in Europe. For the income tax, this happens in nearly all income brackets, not just at the highest levels. On the other hand, tax collection per GDP is the second lowest in the Eurozone. It is 9 percentage points below the average revenue! Greece, Malta, and Cyprus have more tax pressure than Spain.
This means two things. One, that tax evasion is monumental. And two, that those who pay do so at a rate far above what they should if the State did its job well and more citizens complied with the rules. Tax evasion generates a tax surcharge that falls on the paychecks of workers, and in general, on those who meet their obligations, whether they want to or whether they have no other option. Unbearable. Okay then. After much talk about the PP government’s tax reform, it turns out that not one course of action has been dedicated to this very serious problem that could be seen as an improvement or a structural leap forward. Very good. Hours and hours of politicians and civil servants dedicated to finding a way to stop "the pro-independence defiance", while not a single long-term plan has been put forward to reduce tax fraud and the submerged economy. Now that’s setting your priorities properly. I thought we were the ones wasting time and money on identity, folklore, and "things that don’t interest the people".
And finally, lying to the public. This is one of the main causes of the evils that I have described. There are so many examples that they would fill today’s whole newspaper. I’m talking about direct lies and not circumlocutions or half-truths. "On 9N they didn’t hold a consultation", "we won’t raise taxes", "we’re not being bailed out", "Spain is not in an economic crisis", etc.
One of the most extraordinary lies is that an independent Catalonia would be expelled from everywhere and the crisis would be so bad and the misery so great that we would lose a generation. What nonsense is this? If the fall of a bank or the Greek crisis, with a GDP lower than Catalonia’s, rocked world finances, how can they expect us to believe that, in order to keep a few people happy who believe in Spanish unity above democracy, they would punish several million Catalans with poverty and eternal exclusion, provoking an international market panic? Please, a little maturity and calm reflection. There are people who believe this, like they believe that justice and tax evasion are at a reasonable level and would only worsen in an independent Catalonia. It’s clear that Matrix is possible in the real world. These are understandable attitudes and perceptions, based on customs, habits, and fear. But they are wrong. And we must explain ourselves very well in order to overcome the resistance that comes with them.
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