September 2012        

Austerity with a vengeance!


The government has announced a softening of its election commitment not to increase income tax or to cut basic rates of social welfare. The commitments given during last year’s election by Fine Gael and the Labour Party, and reiterated when they formed a coalition government, were a centrepiece of their first budget.
     But as the process of agreeing next December’s €3½ billion worth of cuts in the budget kicks off, government figures have revealed that the tax and welfare pledges will be on the table. The €130 million cost-cutting package announced by the HSE has been drawn up in an attempt to eliminate its €259 million deficit.
     Unless it is arrested, the deficit is projected to reach €500 million by the end of the year.
     The deficit (on 31 August) is €259 million. The HSE has a statutory obligation to remain within its budget of €13.2 billion for 2012. To deal with the existing deficit and to remain within budget it is now obliged to introduce a range of additional cost-reduction measures, to be implemented throughout the remainder of 2012 and into 2013.
     As its statement makes clear, the HSE “has been set clearly defined budget targets by both the Troika and Government.”
     The €130 million of cost-reduction measures is in addition to other non-operational measures that have been submitted to the Troika. These include cash acceleration of receipts from health insurers and the transfer of surplus money within the health service.
     The cuts announced by the HSE in late August will result in earlier admissions to nursing homes and longer stays in acute hospitals, it has been claimed. This is nothing more than a direct attack on the elderly, the sick, and the poor.
     In addition the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, refused to rule out means-testing child benefit and cutting free electricity, phone rental and travel for pensioners. Listeners to talk shows will notice an orchestrated campaign against pensioners’ benefits. They question their “efficiency” and the need for such benefits in the first place. It seems that the petit-bourgeois element comprising the coalition feel that there are savings to be shaken from pensioners.
     The elderly, the sick and the poor are paying a heavy price. This year alone the government will hand over to international bankers and wealthy individuals nearly €5 billion in servicing the socialised corporate debt, a debt that is neither the people’s debt nor their responsibility.
     By September nearly another €2 billion will be paid over to unsecured bondholders, all coming from the public purse—a case of robbing working people and handing it over to the rich and powerful.
     The government are sacrificing our people and the services they rely upon to feed the avaricious greed of international finance capital. We need a change of direction and a new departure from the current failed economic and social strategy, one that will put the people first.
     The crisis for capitalism and its hangers-on has meant a renewed assault on the workers and poor of this country. Any benefit is being eroded, to be replaced by new areas of exploitation by the privatisers and the robbing of small amounts of capital at the expense of the ordinary citizen.
     Meanwhile health and education systems are falling apart, with more to come.
     The evidence now clearly shows what the CPI has been saying since the onset of this crisis: that the systemic response to the crisis has been to shift the burden of debt and risk onto working people’s shoulders while redistributing and transferring capital from the poorest to the richest.
     This is nothing less than open class warfare by the government on behalf of the rich against working people, with little resistance from the trade union movement, still clinging for grim death to the coat-tails of the Labour Party.
[MA]

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