Saturday 18 January 2020

Austerity is about choices

Madam – Mr A Leavy (May 12) argues that President Michael D Higgins is wrong about austerity and that Marc Coleman's article (May 5) supports his stance, but they are all wrong.

The argument that there is no alternative to the current version of austerity, simply because the Government spends more than it generates, is not true. We all know the economy won't be fixed overnight and that public spending needs to be reduced. But there is a growing level of public anger arising from how money that is generated is spent and, in that regard, there are plenty of choices.

If the country is bankrupt as Mr Leavy and Mr Coleman believe, and we can't afford to pay for a child to have a hearing implant in both ears at the same time, how can we afford to pay President Higgins a salary of €200,000 per annum (more than the UK prime minister) on top of which we also pay unverified expenses and allowances. If Mr Higgins is so concerned about the country then why does he accept such an obscene salary? How can we afford to pay a pension of €140,000 to the likes of John Bruton and others?

These salaries and pensions are paid because this government chooses to pay them. Refusing to pay for a child's two ear implants or to cut the home help of an elderly person are choices made, not because we can't afford them, but because the money that should go towards that child or elderly person is instead being used to pay Mr Higgins and Mr Bruton.

Every day choices are made about who to apply austerity to and who is allowed to walk off into the sunset with an obscene pension and payoff. If it was as simple as just balancing the books, as Mr Leavy and Mr Coleman suggest, there are plenty of alternative choices that could be made and at the stroke of a pen the books would balance.

But that would mean making different choices and shifting the burden so that the well-off would make the same scale of real sacrifices as the less well-off.

No one predicted the outcome of elections in Greece or Italy so there's no reason the same can't happen in Ireland. It won't solve our problems but it might mean a different choice is made about fairly distributing austerity from the top down instead of the current choice of from the bottom up.

Desmond FitzGerald,

Canary Wharf, London

Irish Independent

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