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It’s cold outside, inside, it will always be cold!

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We stand in the eve of what is predicted to be the worst (most austere) budget in Irish history. Based on information leaked so far, the prediction for an average single income household, earning about €35,000 per annum will see a reduction of roughly €600 per annum in take home pay (for single people on the same margin the different is roughly €900 per annum). Those figures are simply based on the leaks so far and don’t account for anything that is set to come tomorrow. Yes, the budget of doom is set to land, roll, and extinguish all hope on this Emerald Isle.

Much is being uttered regarding a cap on civil service salaries – most recent indications suggest €250,000 will be the limit applied. I do subscribe to the philosophy that there is no greater pain and suffering at any level is individual, beyond comparison. As such I always stay clear of making a logical argument into a battle of two sides where each defeats the other and the problem lives to fight another day – the kind of politics that has been played in this country for way too long. Without applying the classical “but”, I do still feel that as a corrective measure, this rumoured limit is still grossly excessive. Public service is just that, it is people who seek a career that aims to improve the standard of life for everyone and to partake in the running of the country – it’s a vocation of such. Sadly in the last 10 years the public service has been seen as a gravy train by many (sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly). There are many lower paid public servants that rightly voice their concerns about cuts but there are equally as many, excessively high-paid public servants, with guaranteed pensions of 50% of their final paycheck who scurry for subterfuge when genuinely angry people come knocking. This is where the gravy train view of the public service gains most credence and it needs to stop. It needs to be tackled by sensible caps on top level scales, the kind of salary that will only attract somebody who wants to make a difference and serve their country not chancers looking for big money first and duty second. The guaranteed pension at 50% of final salary for a full service term also needs to be scrapped or alternatively made less exclusive and opened up to the public to choose as a viable pension offering compared to the leading institutions – either way a flat 50% is not a viable payout.

One of my biggest worries is the legacy of the Greens and the carbon tax inclusions in this budget. Carbon tax was pushed so much as an environmentally conscious mechanism to reduce emissions. However, last week, in the criticism of the 4-year plan by other political forces such as the EU, the truth became blindingly obvious (not as if we didn’t already know). One criticism of the plan by the EU (to save a crippled economy and bring more cash into the public finances) was that they would have liked to see greater carbon taxes. So, there it is folks, the bitter proof – there is no interest in using carbon tax at all, to dissuade pollution or emissions, it’s plain and simple, a tax generator to screw the common man in everything he does. Even in a crippled economy. I dread to see what else will appear under this guise in years to come.

News broke this morning regarding the honour bestowed upon Brian Lenihan, as worst finance minister in the EU. To be honest, I never had much time for Brian, always thought that his ideas and interactions with the public were the actions of a desperate man. However, I don’t think it fair that he has been branded as such in this poll. He inherited a poisoned chalice, a bird’s nest of public finance mismanagement, and a black hole of financial corruption (at least a black hole in terms of public knowledge, some government officials may well have been aware of what lied upon if not beyond the event horizon).

It’s still cold outside; about the only thing that hasn’t entered a state of flux in the last week. I’m working in a public service building whose temperature was well below the HSA guideline minimum (due to heating failure) but nobody left on such grounds. Not a bad result for a country that is supposed to be a militant, unionised farce who drops shovels at the first breach of conditions. Despite what some people want to believe (let’s call them secondary problem creators, primary problem failures) this is not “Carry On at Your Convenience” – if you don’t get the reference then try to watch that movie with its own brand of bawdy, British comedy at some stage that it will probably be aired this festive season. If only people invested the same effort into problem solving as they did into pitting groups against each other; We’d not be in this predicament now, that’s for sure – the eye would never have been off the ball.

So, we sit and wait for the published budget to be aired tomorrow afternoon. We await our financial fate with unprecedented, nervous anticipation. For many years budgets have come and gone. I certainly never paid much heed to the prophecies of doom in previous times. I don’t think we have ever really had a harsh budget in recent history. However, tomorrow’s tale has me a little concerned for the future of society. I foresee a long Winter of civil unrest, should certain things come into being. Yes, it will be cold for a long time to come.

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