11 December 2009

Budget! Budget! Budget!

My thoughts in the last 48 hours have been akin to the scene in 'Being John Malkovich', where the eponymous Mr Malkovich enters his own headspace and all he hears is everyone around him calling out "Malkovich! Malkovich! Malkovich!", only with the word "Budget!" instead.

I watched the whole thing live, and was pleasantly surprised to see #budget10 trend on Twitter, showing that in moaning and complaining online we still continue to punch above our weight. In the past I have recommended a tax on our cynicism and begrudgery as the most sure-fire method to raise the country out of its economic woes, and no doubt even as we speak our political masters are considering the introduction of a Methane Budget to follow on from the successful Carbon Budget launched by the Greens two years ago.

It is a telling sign that so far the only action threatened in response to the cutbacks comes from An Garda Siochana, who can no longer idly stand by as allowance after allowance is threatened. As the guardians of the peace they are prohibited by law from striking, but then again if they did who would actually be around to arrest them? No doubt when and if they do strike it will be in the form of a "Blue Flu", where the entire national police force calls in sick, which coincidentally allows them to claim their "Being Sick" allowance that makes up for the other bonuses they aren't able to claim by not actually being in work that day. Other countries have corrupt police forces that shake down citizens on the street, ours just take their cut at source.

But at least they are standing up and doing something, which is more than can be said for the rest of us. This budget was aimed squarely at the Public Sector, and the media has been very successful over the last few months in driving a wedge between the Public and Private sectors and thus as those outside the Public Sector are relatively untouched by this budget, they remain relatively unconcerned about it, with ample acreage of Me Feinn-ism on display.

The problem with this budget is not what is in it, rather it is what is not in it, with no provision for job creation, no increase in the corporate tax rate, and no introduction of a third tax bracket for those earning grossly above societal norms. Yet again the government has hit the most vulnerable in society (more than 50% of all public sector workers earn below the average industrial wage) while continuing to reward those responsible for our country's dire economic woes.

The nonsensical creation of a car scrappage scheme in the absence of a native car manufacturing industry and the proposed energy-efficiency measures for home-owners that is 'Weatherizing' by any other name are blatant copycatting of Obama programs that will have little impact on the Irish economy, and should have Minister Lenihan expelled from school for such appalling plagiarism. Seriously? The best stimulus packages he can come up with are cogged directly from the popular kid sitting in the next desk over? No wonder the FT rated Brian the worst Finance Minister in Europe, down from second worst last year.

But again the majority of accompanying hot air has been on the subject of what is wrong with the country, rather than offering solutions and suggestions of what could be right. Both Fine Gael and Labour did offer alternative budget plans in the last few weeks (Irish Election had a nice and short summary and comparison) and the unions offered their own suggestions, but I am not content to sit back and wait for others to make everything magically better.

I have received a good number of responses to my last post and already have had quite a few interesting conversations with similarly grumpy but slightly more motivated people. I will take some time next week to summarise some of the main ideas, and plans are already starting to formulate in my mind. Indeed a proto-Bawh-hah-hah! would not be out of place at this stage in the process.

In the meantime please keep your suggestions coming in and I will meet with as many of you as possible in the next few days, then hopefully in the New Year we can all stand tall, rub our hands together in glee and bellow out a hearty Bwah-hah-hah to the world in a collective voice, rather than as a group of isolated individuals.

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