What we truly can't afford is bad accounting
Published 17/10/2013 | 05:00
* Let me get this right. The country is apparently bankrupt and needs to balance its books and one final push should do it. Fine. Certainly there are plenty of pensioners who can well afford to pay all their own bills, just like there are plenty of young and middle-aged people who can well afford their mortgages and GP fees.
Pensioners pay all the same income tax and levies as anyone else and have the same bills to pay, so why is the threshold for cutting off the medical card for those over 70 based on their gross income instead of their net income?
Also, why is the 'free' (which is in fact paid by for by all taxpayers whether or not they have children under five, so it's not free) GP care being made universal instead of being aimed at those who genuinely need it? Are the public sector, who bleat so much about how hard they work, not capable of devising a system that targets 'free' GP care to those who genuinely need it?
If the country is bankrupt, why is there no problem finding the money for elite private schools, which cost about €95m, and automatic increments to the public sector, which cost about €200m? If parents want to send their children to private schools, then why should that be subsidised, and what justification is there for a public sector employee to get an automatic increment when their private sector equivalent could only dream of such a perk? That would be €295m saved straight away.
How can the country afford to pay various pension tax reliefs, which, according to the Social Ireland 2013 Budget submission, cost a staggering €3bn? These are reliefs paid for from the taxes of people who don't themselves have pensions and which goes to benefit people who not only gain a private pension but do not forgo as entitlement to a state pension as a result. If even two-thirds of that bill was cut, that would be a saving of €2bn. Just think how many lives could be transformed if that money could be redirected toward new job creation.
This all belies the myth that the country costs too much to run and can't afford certain things. It can. But politicians always choose the path of least resistance. I don't suppose Mr Kenny and Mr Noonan have themselves been touched by the recession in any way, as their expense claims make sure of that. So they attack those they feel are least able to fight back. Well, let's hope the grey lobby rises up again to remind the political class that there's a limit, and a basic decency people have a right to expect in their old age.
Canary Wharf, London
LET'S END PARTY SYSTEM
* In the ongoing search for a reform of Irish democracy, a key element which has not been questioned is the multi-party system. It injures democracy in three ways. It allows party managers to dictate the voting decisions of TDs and, in cases of disobedience, to limit the offenders' contributions to the Dail. In general elections, parties, interested only in winning Dail seats, induce the electors to choose representatives on grounds of party affiliation rather than personal qualities.
At the same time, in Ireland, as indeed in other European countries, the parties have lost the role and utility which they originally possessed by representing ideological differences that were substantially present in the electorate. All the parties now claim to hold in varying degrees more or less the same values and to be pursuing more or less the same objectives.
Political parties are not mentioned in the Constitution. Getting rid of them would not require a referendum; it could be done by enacting a law.
Imagine parties replaced by the entire adult population of the Republic, acting as a single 'party' to elect the Dail as it already elects the President. The Dail, as now, would elect the Taoiseach, who would appoint the Government. That, combined with devolution of substantial powers and functions to local authorities, would constitute a clean break and, for our democracy, an invigorating fresh start.
Dr Desmond Fennell
Sydney Parade Ave, Dublin 4
UNIVERSAL HEALTH CHECK
* While the introduction of free GP care for the under-fives is welcome – the Government could have made a considerable step towards better health for all the citizens of Ireland by introducing an annual universal free health check for all. Such a measure would have huge health benefits in the early discovery of preventable illnesses while also saving the Exchequer considerable money.
It seems odd that we require NCTs for cars and licences for TVs and dogs – and yet no tangible compulsion or assistance to maintain better health by Government really exists.
Assistant Professor, School of Nursing & Midwifery, Trinity College
DEATH: OPT-OUT OPTION?
* At times you have to feel sorry for politicians being compelled to blather on in defence of policies. Often you know what they mean but it comes out in an obtuse fashion.
Poor Brendan Howlin was being pushed by Sean O'Rourke on the question of funeral expenses. He resorted to "Thank God this is something which does not visit us too often".
It used to be that the only certainties in life were death and taxes. Is the Minister hinting, as a possible silver lining to his Budget that the former may in fact be avoidable?
John F Jordan
Flower Grove, Killiney, Dublin
STINKER OF A BUDGET
* I am flabbergasted at many of the cuts; they are literally stinkers. Two-thirds of the most punitive ones were targeted at lower to middle income, the ones struggling and most vulnerable – mothers with babies, the unemployed, the sick and the elderly. It was a Budget promoting inequality, looking after the banks and the wealthy who were rich on Budget morning, richer still that evening.
The ridiculous €100 weekly for 20-to-25-year-olds to "encourage them go into jobs" was laughable. What jobs and where? Do they mean Britain, Canada, the US or Australia?
Thurles, Co Tipperary
AGE BRINGS WISDOM
* What a marvellous letter from Anthony Woods, entitled "Ageing is Liberating" (Tuesday, 15 Oct).
Many of us in our golden years can really relate to the wise and wonderful words he has written.
I am in my early 60s and, reading between the lines, would imagine Anthony to be a good few years ahead of me, which makes his words even more relevant and full of great wisdom for the rest of us.
Congratulations, Anthony, and thank you.
Glenties, Co Donegal
TOO MANY POLITICIANS
* Without going into many details, once again this year's Budget will savage the most vulnerable.
If all the do-gooders and I-am-alright-Jacks of this blessed island had voted in favour of the abolition of the Senate, perhaps the Government would have made the necessary savings to spare further pain to those who have little or nothing.
Does the Republic of Ireland, with a population of Rome and Milan put together, need 226 political representatives between TDs and senators? Here there is one well-paid political representative per 18,000 inhabitants, in comparison with Belgium (1/37,000), England (1/40,000), Denmark (1/42,000), Portugal (1/47,000), France (1/58,000), Italy (1/62,000), Spain (1/76,000) and so on. . .
Concetto La Malfa