Feature

Federalism is great—for the rich north

&ldquo;Fiscal federalism" means that rich areas get extensive services and poor areas get nothing, said Angelo Panebianco in<strong> </strong><em>Corriere della Sera</em>

Angelo PanebiancoCorriere della Sera

Local taxes should go for local purposes only—it sounds so democratic, said Angelo Panebianco. In practice, though, it means that rich areas get extensive services and poor areas get nothing. That’s what Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s new government wants for Italy. His ruling coalition depends on the support of the far-right Northern League, a party that has long promoted the concept of “fiscal federalism.” The term means that local governments get control of their own tax monies, rather than sending that revenue to the central government. It’s no surprise that the idea is popular in northern Italy, which has long complained that its taxes subsidize services in the poorer southern region and Sicily. But what’s in it for the south? “Maybe I wasn’t paying attention when the explanation was given, but I fail to understand how the political class can justify implementing such a revolutionary change” that benefits only half the country. The Northern League’s leader, Umberto Bossi, claims that “federalism is for all of us.” But Bossi is the same man who has called the Italian flag “toilet paper” and just last week flipped the bird during the national anthem. Surely he doesn’t speak for all of us. “Doesn’t the south get a voice?”

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