Pensions face axe as Cowen orders €3 billion cuts!

Angela Merkel and the major EU governments are taking an interest in making sure Irish working class people pay up for the economic crisis. They are going to check Brian Lenihan’s budgets from now on, just to make sure they contain enough cuts. And to pacify their “European partners”, Brian Cowen has ordered his Ministers to come up with €3 billion in cuts by the end of the month.

According to the economics professor Morgan Kelly, “It is no longer a question of whether Ireland will go bust, but when…by 2012 Ireland will have a worse ratio of debt to national income than the one that is sinking Greece”, Irish Times, 22 May 2010.

That means billions more in cuts in social welfare and significant tax rises for working class people are on the cards in order to pay for this debt crisis.

The health service is set to lose another 3,500 beds at a time when hundreds still lie suffering on trolleys. Almost 2,000 nurses and midwives posts have been lost in the last two years but another 6,000 jobs are to be lost in the health service.

Eamon O Cuiv, Minister for Social Protection [sic], has flagged up the prospect of cutting the old age pension in December’s budget. “I am not ruling anything in or anything out in relation to social welfare changes…Pensions have to be taken into account in the mix. They are €5 billion of the €22 billion we pay out of the social welfare budget…I cannot rule out the possibility that they might be [cut]”.

A propaganda campaign from the government aimed at creating support for the idea of cutting the state pension and for further cuts in child benefit may unfold over the summer. The pensioners have already given Fianna Fail a thrashing when they tried to cut medical cards for over 70s and cuts in the pension could provoke a similar reaction.

The government claims the crisis is bottoming out yet jobs losses are averaging 6,000 per month and company closures are 25% higher than this time last year.
Quinn, IBM and Pfizer announced up to 2,000 job cuts, despite all three compainies being highly profitable. IBM made pre-tax profits of €22 billion last year and Pfizers bought Wyeth for $67 billion last October. As we have argued, there is no economic justification for these job losses, they are simply happening because of the greed of super-rich shareholders. Instead of continuing to pour billions into the black hole of the banks, the government should launch a major programme of public works to create jobs and nationalise major companies imposing big lay offs.

As the government continues to make a mess of the economy, with Fine Gael and Labour biding their time, waiting in the wings to get their hands on the Mercs and perks, the need to build a real working class alternative has never been greater.

“The Irish economy is like a bleeding patient from two gunshot wounds. The government has moved competently to staunch the smaller, budgetary hole, while continuing to insist that the litres of blood pouring unchecked from the banking hole are ‘manageable’”, Morgan Kelly.

The measures the government are implementing are futile and rather than resolving the crisis, they are making it worse. The political consequences are potentially explosive as the working class and young people can not indefinitely pay the price being extorted by the government.

A strike wave is sweeping across the countries in Europe that are introducing the most draconian austerity measures. It may not be too long before the struggles and strikes in Greece, Spain and Portugal come to Ireland. Later this month there will be the very significant European Wide Week of Protest and Solidarity, initiated by Joe Higgins, putting down a marker on the need for united action of workers across Europe. The Socialist Party is committed to building a socialist alternative to the pro-market establishment parties and the right-wing union leaders, so that this movement can be directed towards achieving socialist change – join in the fightback, join us today!