December 2011        

The budget

Make the poor, the sick, children and pensioners pay

The much-leaked budget has come and gone. It arrived from Berlin via Brussels, stamped “non-negotiable” and delivered by the Tweddledum-Tweddledee show of Brendan Howlin (Labour Party) and Michael Noonan (Fine Gael), each delivering part of the budget and outlining the strategy for the coming period.
     This has been one of the most reactionary budgets in the history of this failed state, but it will only be the first of a number of very harsh budgets in the coming years. The strategy is to ensure that working people will pay in full the socialised corporate debt dumped on our people by the internal troika of Fine Gael, the Labour Party, and Fianna Fáil.
     This Government, in alliance with the external EU-ECB-IMF troika, is determined to make the Irish people pay this odious and unbearable bank debt. All the attacks are aimed at making the poor pay; but the next two to three budgets will not just be attacking the poor and working people but will begin to attack others who at this time feel they are immune.
     It is clear that the strategy of the Government is to protect the interests of foreign banks and bond-holders and of the rich and powerful here in Ireland. This is seen in the cuts in social welfare payments and children’s allowance, cuts in the fuel allowance to pensioners, single parents’ allowance, the threshold of the drug repayment scheme raised to €132, increase in college registration fees from €250 to €2,250, the abolition of maintenance grants for postgraduate students, increased charges for school transport, the cuts in the subsidy to CIE, and the imposition of a household tax of €100; with built-in punishment clauses this charge will quickly rise to €1,000 or more.
     In March 2012 the Government will hand over approximately €3½ billion to bond-holders as part of the debt repayment schedule. This is almost the same amount of money saved in this budget.
     In the Dáil debates it was left to Shane Ross, a right-wing TD and charlatan, to raise the debt issue and the role of the EU in this whole charade. The left did not take the opportunity to draw attention to the relationship between the debt and the cuts, and they failed to raise the role of the EU in framing this budget.
     They certainly raised the issue of taxing the rich, but that leaves us with the impression that they buy into the argument that we are somehow responsible for the debt and must pay it. Calling for the “cancellation” of the debt is a fudge, instead of attacking the fundamental anti-democratic nature of the debt. This is not the people’s debt, and must be opposed.
     The question has to be asked: Have they really got a clear alternative strategy to offer the people, other than a collection of demands?
     Not alone was the performance of the left, in its broadest sense, very weak but one has to ask, Where are all the organisations that claim to represent people: the National Women’s Council, those who claim to speak for the elderly, the homeless, and the poor? Almost all have been silent. They have also been absent from the recent demonstrations against austerity. Are they more concerned about their funding than about defending people whom they claim to speak for?
     Even the ICTU has been lacklustre, with some unions hiding behind the Croke Park agreement, remaining silent while others, more vulnerable, come under attack.
     We have to get back to the most basic trade union principle, that an injury to one is an injury to all, or, to put it in today’s terms, an attack on the most vulnerable is an attack on us all.
     We are experiencing very sharp class struggle from above. The ruling elements will make the people pay so long as they are allowed. We need the broadest coalition against this Government, against the external and internal troikas, which are determined to make working people pay for the crisis of the system and this odious corporate debt.

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