Wednesday 22 November 2017

Gene Kerrigan: State dealings mired in mixed messages

'Moral hazards' of handling recession are puny compared to the elephants in the room, writes Gene Kerrigan

Switch on the radio or TV at any time and there's a good chance you'll hear some chancer warning that we mustn't "send the wrong message" on this. Or we must "send the right message" on that. It's a gutless phrase overused by our spineless political class, our timid media, and -- it pains me to say -- our fearful citizens.

It might be a cabinet minister, a stalwart of the banking world or a taxi driver calling Joe on Liveline. People use the phrase whenever they've a weak argument for doing something, or for not doing something. Unable to win the argument on its merits, they sidestep the main issue and warn that "the markets" or "the troika", or the wealthy or the poor or the young or the impressionable, might be "sent the wrong message".

And, today, our leaders and the media are terribly concerned about the danger of sending out the wrong message about the "moral hazard" of debt forgiveness. Any suggestion for getting people out of unpayable debt must first pass the "moral hazard" test. In short, what message will it send?

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