Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category
For five years now, the Greek people have been on the receiving end of a massive programme of forced austerity. Living standards have fallen, on average, by at least a quarter. Unemployment has risen to 1 in 4 of the labour force; youth unemployment is, officially, a staggering 50% and the real figure is far higher. Suicide rates have risen by 40%– a shocking indicator of the human cost of this failed neo-liberal ideology.
Right from 2008, there has been massive opposition to austerity in Greece. Large-scale protests, student walk-outs, occupations of businesses and government offices, and strikes, including general strikes, have all become common occurrences across the country. That the Greek state, despite three changes in government in the last five years, has ignored these protests and continued with austerity, is only one element in a broader erosion of the very fabric of Greek democracy.
We hear a lot these days about how the key to solving Ireland’s economic woes lies in building a “knowledge economy.” Fianna Fáil’s education minister, Batt O’Keefe, was a big fan of throwing this phrase around. And, as in so many other ways, Fine Gael and Labour have continued Fianna Fáil’s empty rhetoric.
How odd, then, that both Fianna Fáil and FG/Labour have continually advocated policies that have done serious damage to the Irish educational system. Class sizes in primary schools have risen continuously over the last five years and 85% of primary students in the Republic are now in classes of 20 or more, well above the EU average.
Adam Smith, that high-priest of free-market economics, believed that there were four principles for running a capitalist taxation system. Taxes should be equitable, non-arbitrary, convenient
to pay, and with some kind of return for citizens. These four ideas are said to underpin how capitalists think a taxation system should be run. It is ironic, then, that the new property tax proposed in this week’s budget fails to meet even one of these four principles. This is a government pursuing a form of nakedly neo-liberal capitalism that would make even Adam Smith blush.