A ‘hard road to a better future’? Er… no. December 6, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
There’s a fascinating caption to a piece by Cliff Taylor, Ian Kehoe and Emma Kennedy in the Sunday Business Post a week or two back on yesterday’s Budget which in a way points to the self deception on the part of the orthodoxy and its failure to understand why there isn’t greater support for their proscriptions.
Under a photograph of Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin it says:
…it’s surprising the coalition hasn’t made more use of the ‘hard road to a better future’ idea employed by Barack Obama.
Later Pat Leahy expands on that.
But it is surprising that Labour and the coalition in general have not made more use of the “hard road to a better future” idea, employed by President Obama in the US and originally by British chancellor George Osborne.
But let’s parse that out for a moment. First consider the differences between this state and that of the United States of America. One is a small unitary political entity, the other a continental federal state. Economically while there are clear disparities between parts of this island – and this was mentioned in comments on the DCTU march, in essence the impact of the crisis has been fairly homogenous. Whereas in the United States different states have had quite different experiences of the crisis. But then look at the central concept, that this government, and in the photograph it is exemplified by Noonan and Howlin, can somehow match the rhetoric (whatever about the actuality) of one of the foremost political speechmakers of our time.
Add on top of that the fact that the situation in the United States in general terms is much less severe than it is in this state (again one must note the caveat that some places are experiencing profound problems, others not to the same extent).
Obama and his administration have maintained a degree of state intervention that is anathema in this society. Nor have they cut with a will. In other words they are able to point to activist measures rather than the essentially passive and reactive measures taken here. Both states have experienced now prolonged levels of economic dislocation, but the US can at least point to some light at the end of the tunnel and make the case that by activist interventionist measures in parts of the economy they have made a difference. The coalition in this state can make no such claim – and more over the grand predictions of growth and recovery continue to be revised downwards.
Pat Leahy in the piece from which the quote originates says:
But Labour and its partners have not lately been good at articulating a path to the future that might convince their voters there was a point to all the austerity. Of course, much that will influence Ireland’s economic fortunes remains outside – or at least partially outside – the government’s control. The coalition can’t stabilise the eurozone, or unilaterally secure an agreement on Ireland’s bank debt.
There’s something of the ‘confidence fairy’ about all this, that somehow just saying things will improve will make them improve. In a way it is a bizarre step away from the supposed logic and rationality of markets – at least as their supporters and boosters would have us believe. That such an absurdly inapposite case can be made that Obama’s rhetoric in an almost completely different socio-political and economic context is appropriate for this state suggests some serious reaching at straws.
And Leahy has to accept facts. He notes:
A budget of which people are genuinely frightened is an opportunity to talk to them. The coalition needs to convince people that it is strong, competent and has a plan for the future. No one is expecting that a cutting and taxing budget will be exactly popular. But the question for the government is whether it can use the budget to convey that it is bringing the country on a journey – albeit a difficult one – to a better place.
But after four years or so of austerity, of budget after budget where there have been expenditure cuts and messing around with taxation, and with multiple years to come of further austerity, how can a ‘talk’ ‘convince’ people? When every plan winds up with its basic premises reworked and refashioned to account for under achievement of the original goals what possible confidence could people have in them? And what is this ‘better place’ when all around one can see the fabric of the state itself being intentionally and quite deliberately frayed yet further?
Today in the aftermath of the Budget we’ll probably hear more of this. Much more. We’ll also hear the confidence fairy invoked time and again to deliver the message that Big Rock Candy Mountain lies ahead – though already some of the figures look shaky, to put it mildly, and there’ll be more. But saying it’s all going to be alright won’t make it so.