Republican News · Thursday 20 September 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Blaming the victim

Who made the 26-County `tiger' economy? Who was it that put in the long hours of work building, producing and servicing? Who was it that had to be content with low wages that year after year rose only in line with inflation while the price of a house doubled in four years? Who was it that was asked to be more productive, more competitive, more flexible? Who is it now that is being asked to sacrifice their wage increases for the national good?

Why its the Irish worker of course. Who else would you turn to when the economy is going through a crisis? Who else would you ask to endure inadequate transport services, lengthening hospital waiting lists and underfunded schools? Who else but the ordinary worker is ever asked to tighten their belt and make a sacrifice?

The ESRI came up with the stunningly insightful idea this week that the tax cuts proposed in the budget should not be implemented this year. Why? Because it will only fuel inflation further. Workers who for years have endured substandard subsistence incomes are being asked to take a wage cut.

This proposal is all the more galling because the ESRI knows that for the past decade the middle and professional classes have made the greatest gains from tax cuts. For the first time, the government is coming round to the idea that the low paid should benefit most from any tax cuts. Now in step the economic pundits, proposing no tax cuts at all.

No matter what the rate of inflation is, it is fundamentally unjust that workers on the minimum wage are paying tax. Low paid workers are suffering most from the inflationary spiral. For most home ownership is completely beyond their means while at the same time they are suffering from higher food prices, especially on imported goods. Higher income workers and their families spent less proportionally out of their income on food and so are not bearing the brunt of inflation.

Why is it then that the middle and professional classes are not being asked to make the sacrifice? It is they who are buying the thousands of new cars and other consumer durables in this boom. It is they who more than others are driving the consumption boom. So why shouldn't their spending be reined in?

Better still, ask this question: Why are we blaming workers and consumers for inflation when they are not to blame for its causes?

This inflationary spiral was not caused by workers buying goods. It was caused by high oil prices, the weak euro and profiteers throughout the economy, most particularly in the building and property development sectors. When will those who should know better point the blame where it really belongs rather than advocating the soft option of blaming the victim?

Contents Page for this Issue
Reply to: Republican News