Last week Joan Burton, the Labour Party minister for Social Protection, gave an address to the Leinster Society of Chartered Accountants. You can read the full speech at the Department of Social Protection site. I noticed as I was inserting the link to the site that the URL still contains that quaint 20th century word ‘Welfare’.
Invoking Barack Obama, Burton made announcements to the assembled chartered accountants about her department’s ‘activation’ measures, under the heading ‘The Case for Activation’, thereby presenting what is a key element of the Troika’s Economic Adjustment Programme for Ireland as though it were the product of democratic deliberation by a sovereign government. ‘Activation’ is the name given by ‘the economists’ (as Burton calls them) to a series of bureaucratic measures aimed at making life difficult for people who are unemployed. As Burton puts it:
research shows that the longer a person is unemployed, the less effort they make to find employment. People become defeatist and lose motivation…
For example, I am trying to ensure that people don’t find the security of the social welfare system more attractive than the risky world of work.
Reading this, I was reminded of the following quote by Mont Pelerin’s finest and Margaret Thatcher’s intellectual hero, Friedrich von Hayek, in the Road to Serfdom:
We cannot blame our young men when they prefer the safe, salaried position to the risk of enterprise
Mutatis mutandis, the men and the women kept in unemployment through deliberate policy choices by the government in collaboration with the troika, where untold billions of public money are spent keeping banks and interests associated with the property market afloat instead of being used for investment programmes (here, ‘the economists’ might talk about opportunity costs), are safe and salaried, whereas those out in the world of work are the risk takers.
(The risks of poor physical and mental health, future loss of income and so on and so forth associated with unemployment, and generated by deliberate government policy, are the wrong type of risk.)
An example of the latter might be chartered accountants, who provide services to the financial services industry, and, indeed, the public. NAMA, for instance, has contracts with all four of The Big Four. The Chairman of the Chartered Accountants Leinster Society, which Burton addressed to detail her plans about what she was going to do with all the risk shirkers, works for KPMG.
It is hard to work out what the association is between the Chartered Accountants Leinster Society and the Labour Party. Perhaps there is none at all.
But it is diverting to note that on the morning of the ICTU march of 27th November 2010, which was the last mass mobilisation in Ireland, members of the Labour Party held their Pre-Budget Forum at Chartered Accountants House on Pearse Street, the headquarters of the Chartered Accountants Leinster Society.
They then made their way over to take part in the march, which would prove, in time, to have enervated far more than it energised, once the Labour Party, backed by unions, took its place in government to do the will of the Troika, as they had agreed with Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
And now Joan Burton returns to the Chartered Accountants Leinster Society, and encourages them to take up the offer, in their firms, of the free labour offered to them under the JobBridge scheme, which helps keep wages low but introduces unemployed people to the risky world of work, id est, working for nothing.
“I have also been reforming the social welfare system to ensure that work pays for welfare recipients”, said Burton. That’s a pretty apt way of describing the introduction of a scheme that supplies free labour to an industry sustained by massive public subsidy.
Well, here is a quick comparison of the gulf between the risk takers and the defeatists. It shows the gap between the salary packages of Chartered Accountant Managing Directors in Industry & Commerce and Financial Services (source: Chartered Accountants Leinster Society survey) , and what a ‘Jobseeker’ (an Orwellian term used to place responsibility on the person who is unemployed, not State institutions, for the fact of his or her unemployment) received annually, during the recession (source: Department of Finance Budget briefings).
Which group does the Irish Labour Party serve more faithfully?