Quelle horreur! Our fun-loving politicians will escape the knife
Published 12/08/2010 | 05:00
THE sector that will escape, almost unscathed the necessary State spending cuts desperately needed to keep the sinking ship afloat, is the political system.
In a system where the head of government is the fourth-highest paid in the world, cost-cutting leadership is probably going to be in short supply. But it is not just the leadership. Leadership is not a one-person attribute, but a culture.
What would a cost-transparent leadership culture look like in the Irish political system? It would be a much different system to what we have now.
For one, there would be absolutely no unvouched expenses. Such expenses are not expenses -- they are a cynical way of paying "off books", unworthy of a parliament.
If I do not present a receipt for a work-related expenditure, then I simply do not get paid. Is that too hard a concept for the elected classes to get into their heads? Nor do I, or any other employee public or private, get paid simply for turning up. We get paid, but we do not get paid extra for deigning to clock in.
Neither I nor anyone I know in the public or private world get paid expenses for travelling to work. Dail and Seanad Eireann, the place of employment of our parliamentarians, is in Kildare Street.
People are elected not for their constituency but from it, to a national assembly. Let's leave aside the cost of the expenses or the payment of these for people who could use public transport (perhaps even for those who do. . . ), and let's leave aside the notion that they work for their constituents.
They work at and for a national assembly. If I move to UCC, then I do not expect UCC to pay for me to travel there daily. If you do not want to work in Dublin, then don't. If you do, then move here or within commuting range and don't expect plaudits for same.
Finally, there should be no expenses for political (aka feeds of pints) activities. People get involved in politics for two reasons -- because they enjoy it (so why should we subsidise one hobby or consumption activity) and/or because they perceive it as an investment, in that they will gain more from being involved than not.
This need not be monetary, but is still, from utility perspectives, an investment. In which case, we need to ask: is it an investment we want to foster? Members of political parties can and should pay for political activities, with limits strictly enforced and monies only payable via a central, transparent, public system.
This will not happen. There is no will in the political system. That is not to say that it should not happen, but it will not.
Living in the golden manger is always more attractive than not, and courage is not a virtue we find in Irish politicians. While they continue to live in the golden manger, they will urge us to cut and cut while ignoring the deep hypocrisy of their position.