Wednesday 31 August 2016

Gene Kerrigan: More cuts as we waste cash on Anglo

The €130m 'savings' to health services will heap a lot of pain on the vulnerable, says Gene Kerrigan

Published 02/09/2012 | 05:00

Well done. I understand it was a great party -- the music concert for the Yanks at The Point, on Friday.

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And, who'd have thought a bunch of Paddies could turn a game of American football, on Saturday, into a nice little money-spinner for the oul' sod! We're told the game and associated activities will generate up to €100m in tourist income.

And God knows we could do with the money. Well done, the tourism people.

Great stuff, the old Yankee footie thing. Now, when I say great stuff -- the last American football game I watched was the one in Robert Altman's comic anti-war movie M*A*S*H, set during the Korean conflict, and made when the Vietnam war was still fashionable in some quarters. So, I'm not a big fan of the game. But if it was anything like Mr Altman's game, I'm sure it was a hoot.

And when I say the music concert was a great party, I'm sure it was -- but there was a Paul Simon evening on BBC4, and I forgot to switch back to RTE.

Of course, when I say the game will generate up to €100m in tourist income . . .

I wasn't going to mention it, but guess what happens tomorrow? Go on -- it's not that difficult, it's the kind of thing that happens with some regularity. Yes, that chap down the back has twigged it -- well done. Tomorrow, we pay off another Anglo Irish Bank bond.

This one is worth €600m.

On Friday and Saturday, a lot of people worked very hard to bring off a tourism coup worth €100m. Monday, we piss away €600m.

A long time back, when Operation Banker Bailout began, this column suggested we might ask the Army to bring some artillery pieces to Stephen's Green, aim carefully and pound shell after shell into Anglo until not a brick rested on a brick. Still can't see any flaw in that plan.

Instead, we pumped billions more into the dead bank, and all the other dead banks, paying off the failed gambles of German, French and UK bankers, and helping to keep the euro propped up. So that we can be patronised and insulted as the beggars of Europe.

A month from now, what are we going to do? We're going to pay off another €1bn of someone else's debt. First day of October, €1bn, senior unsecured, to continue bailing out the zombie AIB.

Did you see James Reilly, Minister for Health, getting excited about cuts in his budget? Keep an eye on the blood pressure, Jim. He took a swing at the public sector. When in trouble, try to divide and distract.

Reilly apparently knows nothing about the new cuts, on top of the cuts announced in the last budget.

Operating theatre closures, patients to be sent home at weekends -- the kind of thing that opens up cracks that patients can fall into and die. It's not Reilly who's doing this, we're told, it's the HSE. Nothing to do with the minister. And I suppose that means he doesn't know anything about the reduction in home help.

Home help, what's the big deal? Sure, who'll notice?

You're old, your body doesn't work like it did, perhaps you're seriously ill. An awful lot of things that used to be important are now beyond your caring. But you'd like a little dignity in your time of illness, or in what might turn out to be your final days. The television's giving trouble, you can't find the newspaper and your legs won't bear the effort of a search.

And once a week, maybe even twice, someone comes in for an hour and lifts something from here to there, cleans something else, finds something you've lost, fixes something, tidies up so you won't be ashamed to ask someone to visit, makes the bed, makes a pot of tea -- maybe sits down and has a chat, makes a phone call, delivers something to a neighbour, gets something from the shops.

And if you're lucky -- and often you are -- these people are kind, caring. They make the difference between dignity and anguish. Between an approximation of normality and the approach of despair. The people who do this work are not paid a fortune, but it's more important in human terms than most of the work that most of us do.

This one hour of help the State provides -- this one poxy hour -- makes a big difference in a life made small by age and infirmity. This might be my life within a few years, or yours. One poxy hour.

And now they're taking away 600,000 hours of home help.

That's a lot of pain they're dumping onto the most vulnerable. But, of course, Dr Reilly knows nothing of this. He moans about what we've been persuaded to call the "budget overrun". The Department of Health calls it that, so does the HSE, and people like Brendan Howlin. So the media adopts the language as its own and we're told all about the "budget overruns".

Come on, folks. Words are our business. We're not supposed to let one side or the other rig the game by abusing language. Health budgets have been cut. Hospitals don't get enough money to do their work. That's not a "budget overrun". That's budget underfunding.

That's how they cut deficits. They underfund budgets. You might think that right or wrong, but that's what it is. Name it for what it is.

I've been looking at, where they keep track of all the money we're squandering on zombie banks. It tells me that on October 22 we're giving away €168m. This is just to do with Anglo, leaving aside the other zombies. And in November we're throwing away €139m on Anglo.

Guess how much James Reilly is cutting in the weeks to come (not that he knows anything about any particular cuts)? Total, €130m.

Of course, the €130m won't be actual savings. Much of the money would return in taxes and levies, the rest would be spent locally -- helping preserve private sector employment.

They don't care. We're on an austerity course, with our leaders sucking up to their masters in the troika, praying and simpering for a deal on bank debt.

(That last might have something to do with the bizarre leak of ECB letters to The Irish Times yesterday -- a leak that contains no quotes from the letters. This was -- how shall we put this -- a highly structured leak.)

They tell us the squandering of money, bailing out failed gamblers, has nothing to do with the real deficit, expenditure over income. We're told the deflation of the economy, ramping up unemployment, was unavoidable.

I'm sure they have graphs illustrating all this. Which may well next week be the subject of another highly structured leak.

Bottom line. The austerity policy is a belt-tightening exercise, combined with a transfer of huge resources from the citizens to the finance business. Selectively damaging the low and medium earners, the young, the sick and the elderly.

Next year, Reilly's cuts are pencilled in at €700m. Then there's 2014, and 2015, and 2016 . . .

Sunday Independent

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