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Epic Fail

It’s an Epic Fail

It’s an epic fail – the budget, the government and the country, but it’s not our fault. Right?

I was asked to be interviewed tonight for my reaction to the budget. I had hoped, like another friend and blogger, to wilfully ignore the whole damn thing. I am self employed and do not receive any state benefit, I am self employed so I will probably never receive any state benefit and I am self employed so I am way too busy trying to put food on the table to listen to the budget, especially over two days.

I had not listened to any news on day one and day two, today, I was tied up most of the afternoon when I got a note asking me would I comment on the budget for a major news channel. Wilful ignorance is not a good place to be when making serious commentary so I started googling, talking to my friend, listened to excerpts from the Dail and looking at my twitter feed.

As a result I have three main comments to make.

Firstly, the budget made no reference whatsoever to the Euro crisis. I am surprised. Is not the budget the financial plan for running our country over the next twelve months? If during the next twelve months the euro crashes and burns I would like to think the government has some plan in place, some crisis management in place. Perhaps the government is printing punts as I write, perhaps it is not telling the populace for fear of creating a gold run or a euro dump, but perhaps it is not. Is the government doing anything in case of this happening? Or in case of Ireland, one of the small unimportant countries, being kicked out or downgraded to a second tier nation.

It seems that the world economy is now run by the ‘markets’. This force, more so than government or people, is running the world. The ‘markets’ are determining if a country is economically sound or not and often with devastating consequences. Today Standard and Poors put the 15 eurozone countries, including France and Germany, on negative credit watch. Stand back and think about it. How can a corporation potentially ruin the ability of a country to manage its financial affairs? Just who gave them the power?

It’s the same with the unsecured bondholders. I think there is a clue in the title. They are unsecured. So how come these unsecured bondholders can hold our country to ransom. When they invested in our banks, they knew the risks, so when banks go bad, how come the Irish tax payer is bailing the unsecured bondholders out. I cannot fathom the logic.

Secondly, I carry on with the banks, again not mentioned in the budget. This country is suffering from unprecedented levels of debt and most of that is in the form of unsustainable mortgages. Some 100,000 households are in arrears or some form of difficulty. The government’s response, after bailing out the banks in the first place, is to protect them again and make the ordinary people pay twice for a failing in the lending system. A failure energetically exploited by the banks when times were good, and relentlessly avoided and ignored when things went belly up. Why do the banks not share parity of risk and responsibility? Why does the government support the banks again and again? The banks were the so called experts in lending, so how come the mortgage holders are penalised when the banks’ expertise failed, dismally.

The government continues to support the banks. Even worse is the heinous scheme promulgated in the Keane report.  This proposes to ask distressed homeowners give their house back to the banks, still maintain responsibility for the difference in mortgage and value, pay rent to the banks and if the homeowner does not have enough to meet rental demands, then the government will pay the difference. What part of that scenario makes sense? The banks do not suffer any losses, are given the asset, chase the homeowner for the difference and still get market rents subsidised by the government.

Yes, I’ve repeated myself there because the whole scheme stinks. And the really bad part is that the government says no one need ever know. So, Ireland of the twitching curtains will tie pressurised and broken people into a life time of servitude to the banks. It is worse than serfdom. We have been enslaved by our own. But no one need know, so this little dirty secret can be brushed under the carpet and the full extent of the failure of the banks never disclosed.

Finally, the budget, the budget. The budget that paid no heed to the possible demise of the Euro and what steps might have to be taken. The budget that paid a discriminatory nod to a select number of home owners that is as effective as sticking a plaster on an elephants bottom and about as fair as Thierry Henry’s handball.  The budget that said it would impose austerity measures on a nation already officially in a recession.

Yes, this budget has managed to penalise the vulnerable, the disabled, the alone. It has targeted the very sectors of society that need support, especially in a depression. It seeks to cut dole, to slash allowances for lone parents and to rip 40% out of the support for young disabled adults. It continues to slash at education and health when the services are only barely surviving. It pushes more people in higher tax brackets, it puts Vat on everything, and it crushes any chance of our society coming out of its depression.

Of course, Ireland is one of the nations where the 1/99 Occupy rule is most extreme. Some 1percent of adults own 28% of the country’s wealth. Where Brian Cowen is paid more than David Cameron, in fact where all our TDs, of which we have far more per capita than our nearest neighbour, are paid more than MPs, where senior civil servants in Ireland are paid far more than their UK counterparts.

Where the TDs still have, to the best of my knowledge, a €3000 plus allowance for laundry per annum.

This budget, ladies and gentleman, is an Epic Fail.


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