What a damning indictment of the Budget that alcohol was the only stimulus featuring significantly in Finance Minister Lenihan’s economic landscape.
Perhaps the Minister believes that the low paid, the poor and the unemployed, whose living standards he has brutally lacerated, will go and drown their anger and economic pain in slightly lower priced booze instead of fighting back and organising to kick his government out of office.
‘The worst is over’, proclaimed the Minister as he delivered Budget 2010. Then he went on to inflict the most savage cuts ever on the living standards of low to middle income public sector workers and the unemployed while hitting all working people with tax on fuel and cuts in child benefit.
‘We must stabilise the Budget deficit,’ he also said, ‘but we are doing it in a fair way.’ That was another blatant lie.
The whole thrust of the measures announced is to fall on the shoulders of workers and social welfare recipients. There was a ruse to pretend that the Government was also attacking the rich by a minor imposition on multimillionaire tax exiles. But with brazen arrogance, Minister Lenihan stated baldly in the course of his speech that the 12.5% tax on corporate profits would not change and was here to stay. In this the Government showed that it is primarily a servant of big business.
Of 39 countries in the continent of Europe, only four have lower corporate tax rates than Ireland – Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Cyprus. Sweden’s rate is double Ireland’s while Belgium’s is almost three times greater.
If Ireland had a similar corporate tax rate as Sweden, it would have brought in an extra €6 billion extra in tax on profits last year. But the cuts and extra tax inflicted mainly on working people and the poor yesterday amount to €4billion. That is a deliberate political decision of a right wing government.
The attack on the level of unemployment payments is reprehensible. It amounts to a blatant discrimination against young workers whose payments are to be halved.
But the cut of €70 per week for an unemployed person of any age who refuses a job offer is a charter for slave conditions. It is designed to force workers to accept jobs on miserable wages as part of the strategy to cut wages right across the board.
Workers, public and private, need to unite to mount a massive campaign of opposition to this savage attack, kick this Government out and open a discussion on a fundamental and radical alternative way of organising our society in contrast to this broken, capitalist system.