Friday 22 November 2019

Kevin Myers: We need Churchillian blood, toil, sweat and tears, not Gilmorian communist bluster

Kevin Myers

The one thing we wanted from a new government is the one thing we're not getting. We needed a grim realism, spoken with a single voice. Instead, we have been treated to the sort of deranged and boastful fantasies of a Soviet Five-Year Plan from the Tanaiste, Eamon Gilmore.

He told the nation last weekend that there would be no more pay cuts, the day before the latest exchequer figures came in: and they read like the final dispatch from the beleaguered Soviet garrison in Kabul, borne in a cleft stick by a deaf-mute Waziri beggar.

We still haven't got it, have we? Perhaps, this is because our preferred communal memory is of oppression and victimhood. That's why we seem pathologically incapable of using the word "bankers" without adding the term "fat-cat". It's why we go on about the "bondholders", the new landlord class of Irish demonology.

But Europe remembers another Ireland, one which for 30 years, and with a nauseating sense of entitlement, received vast capital transfers from Germany, even as we undercut the rest of Europe with our corporation tax rates. Do you know what? Europe doesn't like us very much. They gave us billions, and we gave them Padraig bloody Flynn. And now, the Tanaiste assures the Irish people that there'll be no more cuts. So why doesn't he also promise to suspend next winter, redirect the Gulf Stream to improve the grape harvest in Donegal, and meet Dublin's energy needs with a hydroelectric dam on the Dodder?

Let me tell you two things. Public service numbers and public service pay will be cut within the next year. Not because I want it, but because it'll happen. Fact. Tax revenues required to pay for the public service are falling: €7bn below target, according to Monday's figures, with income tax 4.2pc below expectation, and VAT 5.4pc.

Meanwhile, we manically hold on to our corporation tax like a child with a comfort doll. But the top rate of personal tax is heading for 60pc, which probably means that soon our low corporation tax will not be all that attractive: personal rates of tax will be so high that no foreign companies will want to set up here.

Meanwhile, we talk gibberish. We have a "universal social charge" which is not remotely universal. It is not levied on the dole, or social welfare, or children's benefits, or capital gains, and only partly on pensions. The barrister classes of Donnybrook are still claiming their tax-free children's allowances. Teenage girls are being insanely bribed to get pregnant, with benefits, dole and 100pc rental allowance. Meanwhile, our payments to the unemployed remain the highest in Europe, and our public servants here are paid roughly 40pc more than those in Germany. The HSE employs over 110,000 people, 11,000 of them managers: so what do the employees of the entirely separate Department of Health actually do? Jesus, we didn't even manage to get rid of "privilege days", the celebrations of the empire which public service unions have rewrapped as Christmas and Easter presents.

One reason why the tax takes are down is the remorseless rise of the black economy. If someone stops working officially and claims the dole, the tax take on that is 0pc. Worse, if he then enters the black economy, he is robbing a taxpayer of work, so he too goes on the dole. This is a disaster that will become exponential as taxes on productive work continue to rise. Yet anyone who proposes taxing the dole will be rewarded with the full range of Labourite tabloid-sneers: Scrooge, Thatcherite, monetarist, et cetera.

We now need Churchillian blood, toil, sweat, tears and truthfulness, not Gilmorian communist bluster. The Taoiseach must now explain the appalling scale of the hardships before us. Of pay cuts and longer working weeks, with all major capital projects cancelled, with pensionable age deferred and with far slimmer packets at the welfare hatch, for retired politicians in particular.

No one likes writing stuff like this, because it sounds hard-hearted and makes one unpopular -- for if I say it's coming, it'll certainly be my personal fault when it does, won't it? But we have run out of choices. While we continue to maintain the toxic delusions of the Croke Park deal -- Fianna Fail's truly evil chalice -- we are creating debts that are totally unpayable, and forging an ultimately insoluble social crisis. These delusions will have to be dealt with either by us, or if we fail, by the icy-eyed ECB/EMU commissars who will inherit the pitiful remains of the Irish State, a beggar's battered tin-cup in its cold, dead hand, marked 'Croke Park'.

We're in deeper trouble than ever before, even without the insanely acquired bank debts. Why? Because our politicians have refused to tackle our underlying quartet of problems: the conjoined public service trinity of pay, numbers and productivity, plus our utterly unsustainable welfare-benefits bill. Moreover, the pre-election nightmare has overnight come true. As Fine Gael ministers dither and appoint study groups to ponder, The Public Service Permanent Protection Party, ie, Labour, is loudly proclaiming that the yawning great gash in the liner's side, also known as government expenditure, is really quite good for us.

Meanwhile, seawater pours through the portholes, and the band's just slid off the deck.

Irish Independent

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