The program has everything but the kitchen sink: a “code of laws regarding the status of pets,” “the direct election of the President of the Republic,” support for the poor, massive aid to families, “an extraordinary plan for the raising of the capital, Rome, to the standards of the major European capitals,” renewable energy, an increase of the smallest pensions, the straightforward doubling of disability pensions, the reduction in the number of parliamentarians, and the introduction of tied credit.
Not just a governing program, the 10 points that have been drawn up by the press and propaganda office of the center-right coalition are a manifesto carefully crafted so that everyone—absolutely everyone—can find a promise that applies to them and a glimmer of hope.
What about the abolition of the Fornero law, a bitterly contentious issue these days? That is also included, as Salvini demanded. However, it is accompanied by a small qualification that softens and weakens the proposal: “A new pension reform, economically and socially sustainable.”
Which is to say that one will still need to take into account the calculations made by the least beloved minister in the history of the Republic.
Likewise, the issue of the relationship with Europe, another item that is divisive by its very definition, is put in ambiguous enough terms to make everyone happy.
While the “recovery of sovereignty” is mentioned, it is qualified with a “soft” formula: “the prevalence of our Constitution over communitarian law, on the German model.”
There is only silence, however, about the Jobs Act, and indeed on labor issues in general. Those are, after all, small, secondary problems, so the center-right has chosen not to talk about them at all.
This silence reveals a deep-seated embarrassment, especially since the program promises the sun and the moon.
The trouble is that if they were to attack Matteo Renzi’s reforms, this would mean repudiating all the policies of the Berlusconi governments and disappointing a substantial part of the social bloc that Silvio Berlusconi himself is trying to rebuild. On the other hand, defending these reforms would mean antagonizing voters. The best option is to pretend they are not an issue at all.
Overcompensating for this fact are all the promises regarding taxes, a topic that has always been the true workhorse of Berlusconi’s Right.
A degree of ambiguity is found even here. While it is true that the Flat Tax is first in terms of importance and the introduction of a No Tax Area is second, it is also true that no number is mentioned for the single tax rate. They say their ambition would be to bring it below 20 percent, but that is smoke and mirrors. In reality, even a much less visionary 25 percent would hardly be more realistic.
But the tax-related section of the program is really substantial, and it is such that it will speak to the majority of the electorate: “fiscal amnesty for all the small taxpayers in difficulty,” “the abolition of the inversion of the burden of proof in tax matters,” “the immediate payment of all the debts owed by the public administration.”
As everyone knows, Berlusconi is playing a double game. He is hungrily eyeing some broad governing coalition, encouraged by the German example, but at the same time he is not abandoning the prospect of an outright victory. As one can see from this “monster of a program,” in order to try to win again, he is playing the same card he always does: the promise to cut taxes.