Budget 2008 - Where's the Reaction?

When Brian Lenihan announced his budget last October, two of the measures in particular were met with howls of outrage and his government was forced to back down post haste. The first of these - and the one most people remember because of the dramatic pictures of the Age Action meeting in Westland Row church where Minister of State John Moloney was booed off the stage – was the attempt to take away the automatic entitlement of over-70s to medical cards.

The other issue which met with a lot of opposition was the attempt to impose a 1% ‘levy’ on the wages of all workers – including those on the minimum wage. As a result of the protests against this attempt to take money out of the pockets of those who could least afford it, the government was forced to take a slight step backwards and announced within a week that the levy would not apply to those earning less than €17,500 per annum.

Just over 5 months after that partial climb-down, Brian Lenihan announced that workers earning as little as €15,028 per year will have to pay not a 1% levy but 2% of their income. Where is the reaction? Where is the anger? The budget was a blatant case of Robin Hood in reverse.

The range of thieving from the pockets of workers and the unemployed includes:
· A doubling of the income ‘levy’
· Halving of jobseekers allowance for those aged 18 – 20
· A 2% annual cut in social welfare payments through abolishing the Christmas ‘bonus’
· Abolition of mortgage interest relief after the first 7 years of the loan
· Doubling of the health levy
· Halving and eventual abolition of childcare supplement

In addition to this, Lenihan made it clear in his speech that there will be more of the same to come in the next couple of years. And for what? So that bankers and property developers can be rescued.

Setting up a National Asset Management Agency is a mechanism whereby the bad debts of property developers will be shifted onto the shoulders of ordinary workers. Those who caused the crisis through their reckless gambling and speculation will be protected and the futures of workers and their families are being mortgaged to the tune of anything up to €90billion. In fact those who caused the crisis will actually be net beneficiaries of this budget. Robin Hood in reverse – take from the workers and give to the wealthy.

And Lenihan’s contention that “Those who can best afford it will pay the most” needs to be treated with the contempt it deserves. While it’s factually true to say that someone earning €250,000 per annum pays more (6% = €15,000) than someone earning €30,000 (2% = €600), the figures that matter are what the person has left. The person earning €250,000 can afford to pay a hell of a lot more. Lenihan’s budget has continued the political strategy of defending the wealthy. Where is the reaction? Where is the anger?

Workers Solidarity 109 May - June 2009 Edition

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