Pitching one against the other… August 8, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
The Irish Times editorial contemplates austerity and social solidarity. It argues that:
AT A time of intense economic pressure, social solidarity is a vital component in providing support for the State and its institutions. Dealing with demands for cuts in public expenditure made by the EU-IMF troika in return for necessary funding, the Government must ensure a fair balance is struck in the coming budget. In spite of high unemployment and business and mortgage difficulties, Ireland remains a wealthy country where some sections have largely escaped the effects of recession. It would be wrong if the poorest people were now required to support those who can afford to pay a little more.
But who are those sections who have ‘largely escaped the effects of the recession’? Interesting question. One can see an answer emerge somewhat nebulously from the following:
Ms Burton opened a defence of her department’s spending programme in this newspaper by arguing that social transfers provide an important stimulus to the economy and that a reduction in welfare rates is likely to hinder economic recovery. That is not a new idea. Further up the economic ladder, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has consistently opposed cuts in public service pay on the same grounds. Differences of scale and impact do, however, apply because the great bulk of social transfers would be immediately recycled through the economy.
Well, that last is slightly arguable given pay rates and pay cuts effects on lower paid public sector staff. Though to pitch one group against another, when both act as effective economic stabiliser – and this is something of an economic trope, is a zero-sum game. And one has the sense that the IT isn’t convinced by the argument in either instance whether for public sector employees or those on welfare.
And lest this sound like the IT expects that the situation of those on welfare can be ameliorated, think again. Quite the opposite.
Indeed the piece is explicit:
That said, she admits that savings will have to be made in her department to meet the demands of the troika.
And this I find most indefensible about the IT’s approach. For it such ‘savings’ have to be made one way or another. Cuts whether in social welfare rates or elsewhere are part of the process and the IT for all the hand-wringing isn’t arguing against them. Instead though it continues:
It is not a comfortable position to be in, particularly as her colleagues have failed to take action on public sector allowances under the Croke Park agreement and have withheld details of a property tax. Those matters will have a direct impact on the scale of welfare reductions required. Ms Bruton argues in favour of social transfers on economic grounds. Damage to social solidarity caused by patently unfair cutbacks would be of greater significance.
To me that last makes a mockery of calls for social solidarity. The IT is aware that a policy option of increased taxation on all property (what Michael Taft and others consider a genuine property tax) and increased income tax are political options that would significantly alter the playing field. But oddly it doesn’t call for same. And granted it isn’t obliged to given its position. But it might at least acknowledge the outcome of the course of action it calls for rather than offering us futile ‘don’t look here, look there’ stuff. Austerity and solidarity, indeed.