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As a socialist and long-time member of the Labour Party I am very troubled by the Party’s present support for reducing the income of the poor and reducing public services. As I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t see much option to paying the chancers/bond holders as the troika ask us because I fear that failure to pay up might bring on greater misery. That leaves the state very, very short of money and moves one question to the top of the agenda: What are our priorities when it comes to reduced public spending?

I would prioritise the employment of teachers and SNAs, “free fees” at 3rd level, the maintenance of HSE services, the income of low paid public servants (not in that order and plus some others) way, way above maintaining the present income of those in the category, “wealthy” who are also in public service employment. If this priority is accepted, then we need to think at what level would a public service income ceiling need to be set in order to make the required cut without affecting the priorities listed above? I find it bizarre that while we can debate unpalatable cuts because we are in crisis, the question of solving or partly solving the problem by limiting ALL public service incomes to, say, 100k for workers and 50k for pensioners is – it would seem – out of the question. Jesus wept, 100k and 50k are generous. They would appear a king’s ransom to most of the people Labour has traditionally defended.

The Croke Park agreement will be cited against this proposal but it cannot be used to censor discussion. The problem with that agreement is that it defends equally the incomes of the rich as well as the poor among our public workers.

Right now we need to enlarge what we mean by “rich” beyond the 1% normally highlighted in leftist talk to at least the top 10% of income receivers. I think a problem for Labour and the left generally is that with a tradition of attacking just the 1% and a gut reaction of “let’s burn the bond holders”, they quite simply don’t have a plan B to make progress in the reduction of inequality when the 1% has us by the balls. What I’m saying is this: Ok, we may be forced to pay these international chancers but within the spending under our control, how can we move towards reduced inequality of income?

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2 Comments

  1. The problem has been the focus on reduced public spending, as if there were no other choices: taxes on wealth, on high incomes across all sectors (and not limited to the symbolic reductions in pensions of judges, etc.).

    When Bertie Ahern got his last pay rise as Taoiseach of €30,000, there was a hue and cryover an increase of that size going to one man, paid for out of the public purse. Few paid attention to the fact that that increase was tied to the increase of senior executives in the private sector — specifically the bottom quarter of those executives. That distribution of income in the sysytem needs to be changed.

  2. Tomboktu, I don’t like talking to someone who doesn’t divulge his or her identity and who doesn’t say why. However, I differ with you on a couple of points. Firstly, many of those who want to solve the problem by taxing the rich are either under a misapprehension or are themselve rich. You see, much of what the 1% have is unreachable and insufficient. Moreover, I’m defining the rich as the top 10% and many in that top 10% are active in calling for action on the 1%. In other words, the rich 1% provide a shield for the majority of the rich.

    Secondly, I’m not impressed by “what about?” arguments or arguments based on bizarre approaches to fairness. That is to say, I find it disgraceful and probably daft to argue that it would be unfair to tackle any of the rich until we tackle all of the rich. Let’s not defend rich public servants and rich public service pensioners by pointing either to a richer 1% or to payments in the private sector.


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