From Socialist Voice, December 2005

The budget: More of the same

There has been much hype about the budget in the press. The talk is about the second-last budget before we face into a general election, and of the more humane face of Fianna Fáil asserting itself as against the ruthless Progressive Democrats.
    While there was some small progress in the areas of old-age pensions and children’s allowances, and some small movement in the child-care area, the central thrust of the budget remains neo-liberal, with the emphasis on the market and little on society.
    The tax shelter for the rich remains, and tax incentives continue to bolster and increase the role of private medicine, with continuing incentives for the building of private hospitals. We see an indication of the lucrative nature of these incentives and the money to be made when business people like Larry Goodman—who made his millions selling dodgy beef—are among the main investors in the new private hospital outside Galway.
    Not alone does the budget reinforce the drive towards private medicine but it also takes the approach of tax incentives to private investors in the provision of child-care facilities, rather than going down the road of providing state or municipal child care. Even the children of the nation will be subject to the laws of the jungle, of the market.
    We have a continued shift away from personal taxes to indirect taxes, which means that the highest tax burden remains on PAYE workers. A further indication of the pressure on wages from the race to the bottom has been the drop in revenue from the PAYE sector. Though the number of jobs created and filled this year is up, the revenue from direct taxes is down, which shows that the new jobs are not paying enough to fall into the tax net—even at the lowest rate.
    Like all budgets under capitalism, you will always get an increase here and an increase there, depending on the mobilisation of political forces around immediate priorities. Provided the economy is buoyant, some gains will be made; but, as capitalism is subject to slump and boom, it is in the periods of slump that we witness the true class character of the economic decisions and priorities that governments make. They will give crumbs when things are going well and take as much as they can back when things get tough.
    The interest of capital will always be protected and will come first, with the needs of workers and their families falling well short.

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