Investing in a recovery for all

Posted: September 27, 2015 in Austerity, Elections, Fine Gael, Labour, Recovery, Sinn Féin

So, the recovery has finally arrived. The economy is growing, unemployment is falling and the long cold winter of austerity has come to an end.

In turn the Government is finally being rewarded by the electorate for all the hard decisions they had the courage to make.

As the general election approaches, voters are faced with a clear choice. Thy can opt for the stability and steady hand of the Government or take a leap of faith into the chaos of the unknown.

But readers be careful. This is not a description of the world in which you actually live. It is a fantasy narrative dreamt up by the spin doctors and strategists of Fine Gael and Labour.

The overpaid advisors in Government buildings are desperately hoping that voters will forget what their paymasters promised in 2011 and what they have actually done since taking office.

They are banking that a mixture of amnesia and fear will get them over the line.

While a superficial reading of recent opinion polls may provide Fine Gael and Labour with a little solace – beneath the surface something much more interest is happening.

The polls show a level of volatility amongst the electorate. More than 20% of voters are as yet undecided on who they want to lead the next Government. These people will not make up their mind until the election is actually called.

The polls also show that despite believing the economy is on the up, a majority of voters are not benefiting from rising GDP and falling unemployment.

Last week’s Business Post RedC poll showed that 62% haven’t felt the benefit of the economic recovery in their lives.

Revealingly the same poll indicated that 58% of people believed that a change of government was needed to deliver a fair recovery.

In response to the harsh reality of their unfair recovery Fine Gael and Labour have reverted to an old myth. A rising tide eventually lifts all boats they say. Give them just a little more time and the recovery will become local.

Unfortunately for the majority of hard pressed families nothing could be further from the truth.

The unfair nature of the Governments recovery is not an accident. It is the direct result of Government decisions.

Four deeply regressive budgets widened the gap between the wealthy elite and the rest of us.

Cutting front line public services to bail out the banks has deepened the deficits in our health, education, housing, childcare and community services.

Shifting the focus of revenue raising from direct to indirect taxation and service charges has hit low and middle income families hardest.

Failure to keep their election promises to invest in job creation, particularly in the domestic small and micro business sector has left large swaths of the country at the mercy of mass emigration and joblessness.

And as if all of this were not bad enough – the Government are about to deliver a budget that will make things much worse.

Having learnt nothing from the policy failures of the 1990s Fine Gael and Labour are about to repeat the classic mistake of the pre Celtic Tiger era. They are promising to cut taxes and increase spending.

This toxic combination of auction politics and hollowing out the tax base has been the hall mark of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour governments for thirty years. It has never served us well.

It will lead to the continued erosion of our social infrastructure and the deepening of economic inequality. It will perpetuate an unfair recovery in which the majority of people will struggle from week to week to keep their head above the water line.

We urgently need a break with the failures of the past. The failures of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour. We need a Government that has a plan to invest in social and economic recovery for all.

This means changing the focus from tax breaks for the rich to investment in health, housing and childcare. It means reforming the tax system so that it is fair while raising the revenue needed for investment in jobs and services. It means growing the small and micro business sector evenly across the state.

The next general election will indeed offer a clear choice.

Do we really want the chaos of rising homelessness, cramped classrooms, overpriced childcare, and underfunded A&E departments? Will people really vote for the instability of badly paid, precarious jobs and continued emigration?

Or will people chose a Government that has the courage to reform our broken social and economic model and invest in a fair recovery for all.

Last week’s Ipsos/MRBI poll indicated that a majority of people want a Government that will invest in services rather than cut taxes.

While Fine Gael and Labour are thinking of the next election, these voters are thinking about their future and that of their children. They want a Government that has a plan to invest in their future, and so do I.

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