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The Irish are being trussed up in a teutonic straitjacket

Does anyone know what's really going on? Behind the billions swirling around in our headlines every day, is there a grand plan drawn up by a secret conglomerate that ultimately calls all the shots?

Are we merely pawns in a chess game played by corporate conspirators, bondholders, oil oligarchs, bankers and a few heavy-hitting politicians? Are they perpetrating that most insidious of mass delusion techniques, the Big Lie.

I have no hard evidence for this. It's all very circumstantial. And it may be that I am suffering from the early -- or even the later -- stages of paranoia, but a lot of things don't make sense to any sort of rational examination. And, at the very least, a conspiracy theory is always more entertaining than the cock-up explanation.

For a local example of a conspiracy against the public, what about our own misnamed social partnership which, it now transpires, had to go on all sorts of trips abroad to find out how things work in other countries.

We, Ireland, the planet's pathfinders in the science of social partnership, had no choice but to go foreign and see how it's done somewhere else. If you believe that, you'll believe anything.

Here's another example of something that doesn't make sense to me, again right in our own backyard. We are very exercised about the €4bn needed in the budget from savings and higher taxes. But 70 per cent of the amount needed to bridge the budget gap is owed by one family, the Quinns, to Anglo-Irish Bank, who in turn have written it off at taxpayers' expense.

Sean Quinn has promised to pay the money back, something I would urge him to do as soon as he can, if possible before December 7, as we would then need only €1.2bn in the budget.

The dread we feel about December 7 would thereby be greatly eased in one deft move. There would be few worries about property tax, water tax, corporation tax, and the rest.

Is it likely to happen? I'm afraid not. This business is, I'm afraid, just one more surreal sideshow in the politico- financial farce that has become our daily entertainment fare -- more like a black comedy in my book. If it wasn't so awful it would be very funny.

As for these shadowy figures, the bondholders, they are a true mystery. Though at least we know that the profits made by one of them, Roman Abramovich, will go to pay John Terry's wages and indirectly, as it were, for his other activities.

But beyond that, and the fact that some of their representatives are infantile adults who make chimp noises at one of our hardest working ministers, these bondholders are anonymous and unknown to most of us.

It is presented as a triumph if we manage to raise a billion or so from bondholders on the markets.

But is the money used to promote economic growth? No, of course not. Instead, it goes toward the cost of government and its apparatus; the politicians, the civil service, the public service and social welfare.

None of it is a very productive way of spending borrowed money paid for by taxes. Simon Coveney remarked during the week that 'we' needed to borrow €55m a day to close the gap between what 'we' take in and what 'we' spend.

I'm sorry, Simon, but I don't

feel I belong to the 'we' you speak of at all. The 'we' you refer to is the Government and its machinery, and it is true that to keep that going, the taxpayer has to borrow more than €20bn a year.

But there is a real economy that is on its knees, an economy where people invest their own money to make profit, to run businesses and to create real jobs.

It is another world from Simon Coveney's 'we', and it is being brutally deflated at the behest of Merrion Street and Frankfurt in order to force down wage costs, depress property values and allow unemployment to make us more export-competitive.

The price is too high, the casualties of war too numerous. We cannot stand the punishing pace of being tied to a deutschmark-supported euro. We cannot depreciate our currency (as stronger economies than ours around the world are doing), we cannot go for a little inflation, we can't even do a bit of quantitative easing.

We are trussed up in a Teutonic straitjacket. But we are Irish, for God's sake -- and there's nothing wrong with that. We're just not German, that's all! Not better, not worse, merely different.

Investment and growth in the non-public economy is the only way of getting the jobless numbers down. The Taoiseach and his government are fixated on the fiscal deficit as if this is all there is to the economy.

During the week, Mr Cowen identified tax hikes, spending cuts and growth as the ways to "close the gap". I might as well be listening to the dog bark.

But what about real jobs? Cuts and hikes will hardly help to create jobs in the exposed economy. I am reminded of Orwell: "During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."

The truth is that the government cannot create jobs. It can create employment, a different thing, which has to be paid for by taxes on someone else's job and profits.

If the Government by itself could create jobs, we would have 100 per cent employment.

It is, truly, time for the Irish people to shout "stop!" to EU fiscal orthodoxy. Because otherwise, by the time we achieve the Holy Grail of competitiveness, we could be economically dead in the water.

At least, if that were to happen, one hopes that we will be beyond pain.

Sunday Independent