The first day of the National Economic Dialogue started with the Taoiseach saying that while the economy had improved, people still didn't feel the benefits of the recovery in their pockets. And that's the problem. At the highest level of Government, success is measured in how much cash a family takes home, rather than the quality and the affordability of the services they need - for example housing, early childcare, and public transport.
The scene set by certain Ministers at the sessions this morning means that it's an uphill struggle to make the case for investment in public services given how they frame the debate. 'Reckless spending' was mentioned by cabinet members - yet reckless tax cuts are not part of the debate. Today's discussions relate to how resources are spent - but only after the tax related reductions, and that makes today's discussion in Dublin Castle a little narrow.
So the scope for investing in what matters, in early childhood care and education, in affordable rented housing, and in schemes to improve the energy efficiency of our housing, look to be very limited. We need the revenues to pay for a fair society - but we also need the vision to invest in children, in an ageing population, and in quality services that behoves a relatively wealthy Northern European country.