Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cut the sandwiches

I went to a talk today by Colm McCarthy - the UCD economist who advised the Irish Government on how to tackle the current economic crisis. He's a smart guy, but what I appreciated the most was his down to earth, no spin delivery.

He made a very compelling comparison between the current economic situation, and that of Ireland in the 1980s. He also pointed out that welfare, healthcare and education accounted for almost three quarters of public expenditure, and that if you weren't willing to reduce spending in those areas then you would have no real impact. Or as he put it...if you don't cut those areas then all you can do is reduce your spending on tea and sandwiches.

I'm one of those screaming liberals that would always support public cuts in spending, as long as it didn't touch welfare, healthcare or education. But Colm's talk today really made me question myself. He obviously focused on the macro-economic approach, and when you get down to the micro level, education, welfare and healthcare are about sick people, schools and kids - all highly emotive subjects. I'm left wondering how to reconcile this intellectual belief in the macro-economics with my social views at the micro-level. For as Colm pointed out, a bounced cheque is no help at all.

Colm's talk was worrying, and I don't think anyone left the room feeling in high spirits, but I'm really glad that I attended, and feel infinitely better informed and even a little more prepared.

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