March 2013        

Theft by stealth—the solution of the rich


Government spokespersons constantly remind us that the finances of the poor have been protected from the ravages of the worst excesses of the Troika. But even a cursory examination of the situation reveals this to be utter nonsense.
      When the well-paid are faced with cut-backs there are intensive negotiations to avoid the cuts or at least mitigate their extent. There will be no change without consent. Cuts are actually agreed upon. The judiciary will resort to legal protection, in the form of constitutional amendments, before any amendment is made.
      There is no day in court for those who are on social welfare benefits or in low-paid jobs. The protection of the Constitution is the exclusive preserve of the rich; those at the bottom of the pile can expect and receive nothing in the shape of protection from the state. All they can do is suffer from the effects of measures that are aimed at young families, the elderly and the sick as the government slashes child benefits, triples prescription charges, and rubberstamps the hugely controversial property tax.
      Meanwhile the telephone allowance has been reduced to €9.50 monthly, causing suffering for the elderly and invalids. Those dependent on regular contact with hospitals and consultants, such as transplant patients, will face greatly increased bills.
      The electricity and gas allowance will be set at a single rate, based on the average market rate from all suppliers now available (for an unchanged 150 units per month). The new rate of €35 per month will show as cash credit for those who receive a bill or be paid as a cash allowance. The unit allowance has been abolished.
      Over a short period the unit cost of electricity rose from €0.1619 to €0.1699. Were that to continue, inflation could spiral out of control. The effect on the working class, the unemployed and low-paid, already bad, would worsen alarmingly.
      Those on health benefits would feel the pinch more severely. The old prescription charge of €0.50 per item has been raised to €1.50; in some cases this has meant a rise in a prescription bill from €5 to €15; it is not unknown for the monthly bill to rise to €30. The cut-backs in staff numbers and in the salaries of those remaining nurses and the recruitment of low-paid “yellow-pack” nurses add to the problem.
      The savage attacks in the form of cut-backs and increases are passed off as being a diktat from the Troika. But a recent revelation showed that they have been imposed by the Irish bourgeoisie in order to keep up their interest payments. And, as usual, the payments will be shouldered by the working class.
[MA, JA]

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