It can be hard to see beyond the impending budget and the rising crescendo of voices clamouring for cutting our way out of the present gathering economic storm. Conservative commentators and economists have a very simple recipe roughly summed up as:
cut public spending
slash borrowing quickly
sell off public assets
- rescue the banks and the bankers
These responses pass for orthodoxy and have a stamp of authority when recycled through the media – especially particular Sunday journals. This calls for a rounded, balanced and socially fair response. One such response is coming from CORI – the Conference of Religious in Ireland. It takes a similar line on many issues to that of ICTU – especially in regard to tax reform.
An interesting feature of both contributions is the way in which they point, not only to necessary immediate responses to the current crises, but to the need for a fundamental shift in the economic and political philosophy underlying public policy and thinking. The culture of individualism, greed, anxiety and market dominance over human values needs to be critiqued. An alternative needs to be envisioned and practical steps undertaken now. Just as the fall of the Berlin wall marked the end of communism in Europe, the calamitous turn of events with loss of jobs, production, capital values and confidence, marks a new chapter in history and could yet signal a dramatic collapse in the dominance of neo-liberalism. The coming two to three years will be decisive. Truly we are living in extraordinary times and one in which political economy must rise to the challenge with clear principles and clear options and policy solutions for public debate.
Starting with the Budget in Ireland on April 7th, what are the areas of public spending and taxation that need to be changed now? The National Economic and Social Council has identified five inter-linking crises. ICTU has issued its 'ten point plan'. CORI, in its Briefing Paper, has based its policy approach on 8 key points.
I'll be examining each of these approaches in subsequent posts - but meanwhile perhaps people would like to comment?