So as the dust settles on the 2011 Irish general election and the formation of a new government of Fine Gael and Labour has been decided, both camps are claiming victory in the content of the programme for government. A quick read over the document reveals that it has the print of a neo-liberal agenda all over it, yet the Labour Party seem intent on claiming it as a victory for their negotiators. However the reality is that Labour will be propping up a neo-liberal government just to get a sniff of power. So what does all this mean for the ordinary punter?
For a start, the new programme for government is nothing more than a continuation of the failed policies of the previous Fianna Fail and Green coalition. Both Fine Gael and Labour have signalled their approval of the transferring of wealth from the public into the hands of private bondholders, facilitated by loans from the EU and IMF. This grossly immoral and unfair process will do nothing but confine the country to generations of debt. With interest repayments incurred on the borrowings to bail out the banks set to reach €10 Billion per year by 2014, one third of our current national economy, an economic recovery will be impossible. Default on the debt is inevitable and should be done sooner rather than later.
The programme for government also proposes to cut a further 25,000 jobs from the public sector, dumping these workers onto the dole queues, taking more money out of the economy and raising the cost of spending on welfare payments. This cull of 25,000 we are told will be achieved without affecting front line services. Who do they think they are kidding? The problem with the public service is not one of numbers, but of numbers in the wrong places. A re-deployment of jobs to the front line is the reform that is required.
The programme also proposes no new increases in income taxes. A Labour Youth member I encountered recently told me that this was a victory for Labour negotiators, failing himself to realise that the introduction of a water tax and a property tax will hit the low paid and unemployed hardest. Income tax is but one of the many tax generating revenue systems, are people need to start realising that the government are just finding newer ways to steal from them to bail out the banks.
The proposed reform of the health service, ushering in a system of "universal health insurance" will do no more than privatise the health service along neo-liberal lines. Gilmore, during his speech to convince party members to accept his grubby deal with Fine Gael, spoke of the Tory Party in Britain not daring to touch the NHS. At the same time he was proposing a deal that will further transfer public wealth into the hands of insurance companies through a system of mandatory insurance. Just how the Labour Party can claim this policy as a victory for them is beyond belief.
In education, the proposal to "review the Hunt Report" (see "Factory Farms for the Mind on http://www.politico.ie/) is nothing but vague, and doesn't make any reference to the increase by the last government of the registration fee from €1500 to €2000. A recent study of over 1000 students in DCU found that 40% are at risk of not being able to continue their studies due to this increase. No mention either of the cutting of maintenance grants, or the failure of many county councils, such as cork, to pay any students their grants before now for this year.
How this programme for government can be seen as anything other as a continuation of the EU / IMF diktats is beyond my comprehension. Just what Labour achieved in their negotiations, apart from maybe diluting Fine Gael neo-liberalism, is another thing that escapes me. A victory for Labour? Well, they did get a seat at the government table, and for many in Labour that seems to be enough.
Be moderate? We only want the earth.