Slí Eile: In an excellent and hard-hitting analysis and critique of Budget 2010 (the Irish one) by Social Justice Ireland (formerly CORI Justice) fresh off the presses last Thursday within 20 hours of the Budget speech there is a comprehensive and incisive account of the budget from an equality and anti-poverty perspective. It is well worth the time to study this 20 page document. It can be downloaded here.
In a telling comment it states that:
Government has placed its faith in the failed neoliberal economic model which caused many if not most of the current economic problems not just in Ireland but across the world.Not only did the budget worsen the already precarious situation of the poor -working, unemployed or otherwise - it 'provides no pathway towards a credible, desirable future that Irish people can strive to attain'.
Nobody can accuse Social Justice Ireland of not outlining a detailed 'alternative budget' to the one brought forward. In November SJI published a detailed set of costed proposals and fiscal adjustments that would avoid any cut in social welfare. It can be downloaded here.
A criticism I have of the document and stance taken by SJI is that in common with that taken by many progressive commentators it seems to buy into the overall parameters set by the Government from April of this year (the €4bn adjustment split between expenditure cuts and tax hikes). This is not a good strategy and is one that risks turning a recession into a depression and a lost decade. We should make the case for higher spending, not lower spending, financed by taxes on the better off and employment generating enterprises. Another criticism I have is the commitment to a 'low tax' regime - albeit higher than our super low one currently - (the 'low' defined by SJI as a level of tax revenue just below the EU average). I would argue for going well above the EU average since the latter is only an average and reflects a wide range of tax takes including very low-tax countries in the East of the EU suffering from an excessive neo-liberal overdose following the collapse of communism in those countries.
However, all in all, the SJI paper is an excellent critique and stems from a positive and welcome values base. More power to their elbows. My hope for 2010 is that more and more commentators, researchers and activists can join forces to produce the data, analysis and policy thinking and actions to begin the transition to a new society based on values of fairness and respect for human rights over the dead hand of the markets. There is a lot to be done.