August 2013        

Midsummer madness

It must be summer—not just because the sun has made a long-awaited appearance but because the establishment media are full of stories about internal “tensions” within the Government. And then of course we have the summer schools.
     Pages are filled with leaked statements and ministers jockeying for space. The Blueshirts of Fine Gael demand that the Government hold the line in budget cuts and budget deficits, with percentages of this, that, and the other, while Labour Party ministers wander around aimlessly, throwing shapes about “holding out” for a “softer” budget, that the unemployed and those on social welfare should not be cut—not that people on social welfare are already on the breadline and simply can’t take any more cuts.
     The Fine Gael wing of this decrepit Government want to continue reducing government spending by €3.1 billion in cuts and savings. This means more cuts, as most “savings” are cuts anyway.
     The Government are committed to reducing the fiscal deficit to 5.1 per cent by 2014 and to 3 per cent by 2015. Their strategy has been based on increasing exports, thereby increasing GDP and reducing the ratio of debt to GDP.
     Approximately 60 per cent of exports are from the pharmaceutical industry, the bulk of which are big-brand patented drugs. Next month the widely used anti-cholesterol drug Lipitor will cease to be covered by patent law; this will be followed over the next year by a number of other important drugs that are manufactured in Ireland. Ending these patents in the next year will significantly affect export figures. This can only mean that the debt-to-GDP ratio will increase, resulting in even deeper cuts in government spending and increased charges as they struggle to bring the ratio down to about 3½ per cent.
     They witter on about reducing the deficit so as to send a message to global bankers and the EU that the strong men are still in charge. The EU’s chief bottle-washer, Klaus Regling, has also called for adherence to a budget adjustment of €3.1 billion next year.
     Meanwhile they continue to talk about this state leaving the bail-out programme by the end of 2013. This may well happen, as the EU needs to show that the “Programme for Ireland” has been a success and that the Irish people have dutifully taken the bitter but necessary medicine, and that workers in the other peripheral countries should stop whingeing and protesting and just follow the Irish example.
     We may well leave the “programme”; but that will only be the beginning of a new and deeper phase of cuts and of attacks on working people. As the CPI has said on many occasions, each solution presented creates new and deeper problems for the ruling clique.
     They are continuing with their policy of privatisation, with An Bord Gáis now on the chopping-block. Recent figures from the HSE show that the transfer of home-help services from direct provision by the state to private providers has led to them now paying private contractors 1,600 per cent more for the same service once provided directly by the state.
     This is what privatisation is all about: ripping off the public purse to feed vested interests and bloat the profits of big business.
     This Government—and any other combination of parties that may form any future Government—have nothing to offer the people. They are just gatekeepers for the interests of the rich, for the EU and international finance houses, while thousands of families await a knock on the door from the bailiffs coming to evict them from their homes, as they can’t make their mortgage payments.
     None of these real concerns of the people will be discussed in the national media in any meaningful way, nor at the exhibitions of ideological sophistry that are the summer schools—the play-pens for establishment politicians, political hacks, and tame academics.
     What these really are are conduits for spreading and reinforcing the dominant ideas and continuing to blow smoke in people’s eyes, especially the idea that there is no alternative to this system: all we need is a bit of tweaking here and there, but no fundamental change is required.
     These events pretend to act as the voice of the real Ireland, the authentic Ireland, with the odd (sometimes very odd) lefties allowed in. The establishment media dutifully reprint the words of wisdom from these ladies and gentlemen (mostly gentlemen).
     What is not being discussed is the fact that the national debt has hit an unsustainable level: 120 per cent of GDP this year. This does not take into account, or quietly ignores, what are known as “off-balance-sheet” debts for guaranteed bank borrowings, NAMA borrowings, and underfunded pension liabilities.
     The illusion of democracy so carefully woven by the establishment is showing some gaping holes. The people only get one opportunity every four or five years to make a mark on a piece of paper; after that they are told to stand back and let those who know best make the decisions.
     The time for such a narrow concept of democracy going unchallenged has passed. Democracy is much more than just voting every four years for a number of different political parties, all with the one ideology. It’s time for a much more profound democratic transformation if we are to attempt to solve the people’s problems rather than the crisis of the system. Because these two things are incompatible.

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