Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Time to respect our elders

Now, enough has been said about the Budget and the Government's general stupidity over the last couple of weeks. Celtic Donkey isn't going to go over old ground, especially as I've been rather quiet lately (for which, my apologies).

Suffice to say that the assurance I felt when the Government took the unprecedented, but (I thought) wise, step to guarantee the banks has been totally and completely wiped out by the most stupid, ill-thought out and badly planned Budget, ever.

I did pass maths for the Leaving Cert too, Brian. But I don't pretend to be an expert.

There are aspects of the Budget I have no quibble with. As a "young professional" in a secure-ish job, I can afford the 1% levy. I can afford the hike in petrol, wine, and the other increases designed to hit me and my ilk.

I don't think a father of three supporting his family on my salary - just lower than the average industrial wage - can afford the 1% levy.

Why didn't they just up income tax? It's a fair, equitable tax, designed to hit those who can afford it. Bloody stupidity, that's why. Everyone was prepared to take a hit, proportional to their income.

And the biggest issue of the Budget; withdrawal of the medical card for the over 70s. Now let me say, first, unequivocally, that I don't believe in universal provision. I believe in equitable provision. And giving a medical card to someone like my Granny, with a full contributory pension and a fair amount saved, is nonsense. She can afford healthcare.

But the medical card opens the door for her to get the services of a public health nurse, a chiropodist, public physio and public geriatricians. All things that are very difficult or even impossible to access even if you are willing to pay. That's something that needs looking at, totally apart from the current argument.

I think the Opposition are being a bit disingenuous in feeding the frenzy over this. They should be criticising the way it was done, but the principle makes sense - they had enough problems with it being introduced in the first place.

But there's one thing about this Budget that is beginning to renew my faith in people. And it's rather a surprising thing, I think.

Maybe it's the fact that we have lived through the good times. My generation thinks recession means you go to the cinema mid-week to get the cheaper ticket. If you took the right to breathe free air off us, we'd probably sigh and say at least the price of drink hasn't gone up.

But old people... well, fair play to them. Despite the fact that not all of them are affected and they may be slightly confused about the details of the plan, they are not taking this lying down.

Fianna Fail, as the funeral-going party, should have anticipated this. The grey vote is absolutely massive. Bertie Ahern knew the value of it. Willie O'Dea knows the value of it. You would think Brian Cowen, a rural Deputy who took his father's seat, would know the value of it. Obviously not.

They have done the least 'Fianna Fail' thing they could possibly have done. They have hit their own core voters with the bluntest instrument they could find.

And those voters are letting them know about it.

The over-70s have mobilised in a way student radicals (all four of them left) can only dream about. Their protest outside the Dail today was absolutely massive. One man (aged 71), interviewed on RTE news had been up since 5.30 this morning for the trip from Waterford, in order to protect his medical card and those of his friends.

They feel, quite rightly, that their generation has been shat on from a height. They are the generation who genuinely worked hard all their lives, paying up to 60% tax, sending their kids to college before free third-level education and paving the way for my generation to have a grand time pissing our way through four years of free college and complaining that we had no money, while spending it on drink.

Try getting a student to get up at 5.30 to go and protest against the reintroduction of fees. Not gonna happen, I can tell you that now. Even if you catch them on their way home from a night out, still drunk.

Whether I agree with the pensioners or not on universal provision, the fact that they have stood up for themselves in an era in which we have forgotten how to make our voices heard in a meaningful way shows the strength and solidarity of times we have forgotten.

We are great at spin and PR and awareness campaigns, and whingeing on Joe Duffy. But we are not great at being proactive about things that really matter. Time we did something that has been forgotten by the Celtic Tiger generation: time to respect our elders, and learn something from them.