Paula Clancy, director of TASC, has written an articulate and forcefully response to David Quinn’s column in last Friday’s Irish Independent. In that article Quinn claimed that ‘out of control public spending’ combined with the poor enforcement of existing regulation was to blame for the current crisis, but not, to the extent that it has been blamed, the mechanisms of neo-liberalism or the ‘free market’. He also provided a bit of scaremongering, conjuring up the fright show of the super-state.
“The left is using this economic crisis to make us turn to the State as our saviour. Once it tethers us to the State, it wants to grow it. The only way it can do this is through big and permanent increases in taxation.”
“David Quinn is right about one thing: we do need to start asking ourselves what kind of society we want when we come out of the current crisis. I think most of the allegations in his column last Friday are unfounded, but any call for a real debate on the choices facing us must be supported wholeheartedly.
For the last 15 years or more, economic commentary in Ireland has been dominated by economists promoting the line that inequality is good; public is bad; and, if the market and competition is allowed to do its thing, most of us will be rich. Most of these economists were rewarded handsomely for their pains. Those who were not directly employed by the banks and stockbrokers frequently had secure university posts which allowed time for consultancy services with regular access to industry, finance, government and the news media. Meanwhile, progressives who did warn about the flaws, inequalities and missed opportunities of the Tiger model were sneered at as jonahs, or dismissed as old-fashioned begrudgers, or both.
She also goes on to deal with that canard ‘out-of-control public spending’ ( also cited by Quinn) which has formed the backbone of Fine Gael’s criticisms of the government and which is called for again today by economist Dan O’Brien in the Irish Times.
“Out-of-control public spending is the other named culprit. Recent history tells a different story. Former President Clinton balanced the budget before he left office, but did so largely by slashing programmes for the poor. Of course, the second President Bush subsequently ballooned the deficit through massive tax cuts for the super rich and the illegal war in Iraq. The OECD, which has impeccable “free-market” credentials, said that Ireland’s “public spending and employment growth has not kept up with population and GDP growth. Government policy has decreased the number of public employees as a % of the labour force and the overall public sector wage bill as a % of GDP. Compared with other OECD countries, government employment in Ireland is relatively low.” And, despite the scaremongering, Ireland’s national debt is not out of control. In fact, on current government projections, it will be only slightly higher than 60% in 2010, compared to more than 75% for the Eurozone as a whole.”
You can read the whole thing on the progressive-economy@tasc blog.
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