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Irish budget won't stop the rot

The Irish Parliament’s vote to implement a further, more savage €6 billion programme of spending cuts and tax increases has done nothing to stop the worsening debt crisis transforming the political landscape throughout Europe and beyond.

Quite the opposite. As Ireland follows Greece, and with Portugal and Spain jostling for position in the queue for aid, the conditions of the Intenational Monetary Fund-sponsored package for the Irish Republic are reverberating throughout the continent. And the pressure is mounting across the Atlantic too.

In the United States, Democrats are in open revolt against President Obama’s deal with the Tea Party-inspired Republicans to continue Bush’s 10-year-old tax breaks for the wealthy, which were widely expected to be allowed to expire at the end of the year.

This proposed new deal is part of the political price for agreement on a further debt-funded stimulus. But the markets are worried, and the cost of US borrowing has started to rise.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn the managing director of the IMF says the “piecemeal” country-by-country approach can’t solve the crisis but Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel is not alone in blocking proposals for a Europe wide rescue scheme. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders far-right Freedom party teamed up with the so-called Socialist Party to oppose the deal for Ireland.

For the Irish people, the new budget slashes social welfare benefits, public pensions and capital projects, whilst forcing the 45% of low wage earners to pay income tax for the first time in order to rescue the banks and pay the interest on government bonds.

Michael Noonan, finance spokesman for the centre-right Fine Gael party stated the obvious: "This budget is the budget of a puppet government who are doing what they have been told to do by the IMF, the EU Commission and the European Central Bank."

But what he didn’t say is that the demands of these agencies are themselves orchestrated and conducted by the much more powerful forces at work in the rapidly contracting global capitalist economy.

Even as the captive Irish government was applauding itself, warnings of further mass assaults could be detected in the absurdly optimistic growth forecasts underpinning the new budget.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan pins Irish hopes on gross domestic product national income (GDP) expanding by 1.7 percent next year, nearly double the European Commission's forecast of 0.9 percent.

The government is forecasting growth of 3.2 percent in 2012, 3.0 percent in 2013 and 2.8 percent in 2014, but Danny McCoy, head of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation said he saw little in the budget to help job creation or restore economic competitiveness.

In reality, governments throughout the world are in a competitive race to destroy living standards, driven by the needs of an economic system of global corporations competing for declining profits as markets shrink and collapse.

The crisis began when credit-funded stimulus reached its limits. Political parties of the left and right are ganging up together to design and implement “austerity” programmes that can only accelerate the process of contraction. Despite the rhetoric of recovery it is what they are required to do.

Campaigns to resist the assault on people’s lives must be brought together with the democratic and legislative means to replace the moribund capitalist system rather than patch it up. People’s Assemblies can begin to construct a richer form of democratic control based on social ownership and not-for-profit production and finance. Check out A World to Win’s proposals for transforming social relations in our new Beyond Resistance booklet.

Gerry Gold
Economics Editor

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