Wealthy failing to pay their share
It was becoming clear: people at the top of the wage structure expected others to help pay their debts. There was even talk of slashing the national minimum wage below its current level of €8.20 per hour. “It’s too expensive,” said a voice.
OK. Let’s get this right: €8.20 an hour is too expensive but €800,000 or $480,000,000 or even $54,000,000,000 is not. What is going on here? Really, we need a whole new set of values to protect people from predatory behaviour. The conversation on the Pat Kenny Show was just an extreme example of such predatory behaviour.
The big question in tomorrow’s Budget is ‘will people take it’? Finance Minister Brian Lenihan made a desperate gaffe with his last Budget, telling people it was “no less than their patriotic duty” to support it. He told this to people who have had relatives die for Ireland, spent years in jail and endured hard economic times along the way. Mr Lenihan, do not use that ‘patriotic’ nonsense again.
There is a problem with the economy in Ireland as there is all over the world. But really, we need an entire new set of values. The market seems to be better for cars, shoes or chocolate but as soon as it sniffs out education or health – surely, shared values – it is disastrous. In Ireland, for instance, teachers in private schools are paid by the state! That can hardly be right.
In America, Hillary Clinton got short shrift when she attempted to reform the health service there. Meanwhile, Mary Harney is pressing on with privatising the entire health service in Ireland. She’s been warned many times that it is not the way to go (the American example where between 30 and 40 per cent of people have no health insurance is often cited) but she persists.
Of course, you’ll have some respect for ‘superiors’. Many are nice people but many are not. Indeed, preferment or promotion in the conventional sense has been bestowed on those who are prepared to “shaft the staff” – in other words, bullies. I used to write for The Irish Times, when it was not so conspicuously a right-wing newspaper and my final column after 12 years mentioned the fact that “this was a bullying age”. It was.
Perhaps, the worst aspect of such bullying was the sense that people were reacting to greater atomisation. They were being prised apart and made extremely competitive by forces which were unleashed with deregulated capitalism. It’s difficult now to understand how the process happened but the pattern was clear: if it didn’t end in 2008 it was always going to do so by, at latest, 2012.