Nearly every political interview in this country seems to bring up Government use of “taxpayers’ money”. Personally, I deeply resent and regret this trend – I think it breeds a NIBMY, us-and-them approach to politics. But political opinions aside, it is an intrinsically political term and so is not a suitable expression for any impartial interviewer.
I don’t want to slam the Taypayers’ Alliance (which taxpayers?), much as I can’t help feeling their rent-a-quote ubiquity is possibly to the dentriment of sensible debate on the role of Government. I just want to be clear: it’s not “taypayers’ money”, it’s public money.
What’s the difference? “Taxpayers’ money” implies it should be in the hands of the individual: the taxpayer. It doesn’t take into account that there’s a valid and influential political belief that money should be redistributed to ensure an equal society. “Taxpayers’ money” is a conservative term, it argues for the individual against the state. Use it if you believe that – but interviewers shouldn’t try to persuade us of the validity of their beliefs; they provide an independent, equal platform for others to present theirs. Loaded terms don’t help anyone.
Public money on the other hand doesn’t discuss the source of the money – how it got there, it only describes its use. “Public money” means that, for better or worse, money has been taken from somewhere and is now ready to be spent. It doesn’t even imply it should be spent, perhaps it might be given back to the public (made up of individuals but without highlighting that). It does mean however, that if the money is to be spent, it should be for a good reason. I’ve no problem with an interviewer saying that.