10.19.08

Useless Housewives can save the economy

Posted in Domestic/Relationships, Irish Politics, Sunday Times Columns at 9:14 pm by Sarah

Announcement: My column in The Sunday Times is concluding this week! I start in The Irish Times this Wednesday (22nd). For the moment they are cool with me publishing the columns on the blog, so though I am posting very rarely I’ll still be checking in on at least a weekly basis. I am delighted to be joining the IT. I suppose this does mean I’m officially part of the establishment, but as soon as I start sounding like it, I hope you lot will slap me around the place. It also means that as part of a daily paper I’ll have more flexibility on column topics, so its exciting times ahead. The next phase begins……

Perhaps my inner masochist is revealing itself, but I rather enjoyed the budget speech. What about the call for patriotism at the end? I actually cheered. What a smashing way to end the lashing. Yes, Minister! That’s what we’ve been missing all these years. With a mediocre soccer team and a losing streak in the Eurovision, patriotism has been sadly lacking. If hard times are what we need to bind us together then so be it. We can take the pain! I don’t mind cutbacks. Just tell me how this humble housewife can do her part to save the country.

What can I say? I was reared in the 80’s and it left a lasting impression. I never quite managed to develop a sense of entitlement. I bought the clothes, the shoes and the facials. I ate out a lot and paid other people to look after my children. But always with the uneasy feeling that someone would phone up and say “ There’s been a mistake and we’ve just discovered you’ve been using the guest towels. Here – use this old sack instead”.

Now that I’ve finally been caught out, it’s all quite a relief and I rather relish the prospect of a Blitz Spirit. So Minister, I’m in.

The problem is that there appears to be some confusion as to how the housewives of Ireland should act best for the sake of the country. The government needs unity on this issue, so Brian Lenihan needs to have a quick chat with the Greens, especially Trevor Sargeant. A couple of weeks ago Sargeant said that we belong to a useless generation. Actually he said, “We probably are the most useless generation ever to have strode the face of the earth”. This is “because of many people’s inability to do practical tasks such as mending a broken tyre.”

I blushed reading it because the bicycle bought in a rush of environmental consciousness and enthusiasm for physical fitness is out in the shed with a flat tyre. I could mend a puncture easily when I was ten, but I’m not sure how to go about it now. Could it really involve a basin of water and old spoons? I dropped into our local garage and hopefully asked the mechanics if they’d have a crack it but they looked at me as if I was bonkers. I’m not mad; I’ve simply become accustomed to outsourcing certain tasks.

Sargeant says I must change my ways and he urged us “to adopt a World War two-lifestyle and approach to consumption in the current climate”. On the one hand, that approach appeals to me. I took up the hems on my son’s schools trousers myself. I’ve got a kitchen garden going and hens are my next purchase. I don’t mind having a crack at painting the kitchen myself. Didn’t I paint my own bedroom several times when I was a teenager? The problem is that if I DIM (Do It Myself) I may be responsible for bringing the economy crashing down.

When I discussed the issue with UCD Economist Moore McDowell on The Last Word recently, he warned of the grave threat posed to the economy if we all followed Sargeant’s advice. Capitalism appears to have outlasted communism by about twenty years. This relative success is due to the theory of comparative advantage and specialisation, first proposed by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations. The theory and practice of Comparative Advantage is that people and countries should identify what they’re good at, what earns them most money and then stick to it. They should specialise in those products and buy from others what goods or services they decide to abandon. The idea is that everyone will make more money at the end of the proverbial day. When a country decides what product they’ll trade, they need to take into account issues like opportunity cost – the cost of choosing one thing over another.

If you’re a Senior Counsel with a kitchen that needs painting, you could take the day off work to do it. But you could have earned ten grand down at the Four Courts whereas you could pay a painter a couple of hundred euro to do the kitchen. Not only does it pay you to pay someone else to do the job, but you’re boosting the economy by spreading your money around. Now the painter can buy stuff and the money trickles down the line making us all richer.

The opportunity cost for women is particularly high. When I was sitting at home congratulating myself as I sewed – badly – the hem on my son’s trousers, I would literally have been better employed paying someone else to do that job, while I scribbled out a column.

The bottom line is that Trevor Sargeant is both perfectly right and fundamentally wrong. We are a useless generation. We outsource basic jobs so frequently that certain skills once common will become increasingly scarce.

However by doing so we are actually helping the economy. Consumption might be our spiritual downfall but also our economic salvation. This is why Lenihan needs to tell Sargeant to zip it and make sure that us citizens don’t get confused by his budget message. The government needs to make cutbacks, but it’s vital that households don’t. If the country is to have a chance, the outsourcing must go on. Cleaning, decorating, repairing and baking are all tasks that came naturally to the 1950’s housewife. But we were poor and miserable in the 1950’s. If we don’t want to be poor again, the bad housewife can be the country’s great hope.

This might seem counterintuitive and you’re probably still in a post-Budget anger phase visualising all the cutbacks you’ll make around the house this winter. Stop and look at it this way. The budget wasn’t so bad at all.

For the past ten years the government flung money indiscriminately at people who could do without it. SSIA interest, automatic under-6’s child benefit bonus, over-70’s medical cards and inequitable tax allowances for high earners were all handed over as populist election winners. The money was crudely distributed and is being more crudely recouped, but I can’t help feeling it’s a case of easy come; easy go. What Fianna Fail giveth, Fianna Fail taketh away.

The trick to our future is to get over the snatching back of what we never should have gotten in the first place. Some people are poor, but if you’re reading this paper, I’d bet that you’re not. However, if you start acting poor then we’re really done for. The Blitz Spirit is all very well, but ultimately streets were bombed into rubble. If we don’t want to see our economy reduced to rubble, then we need to keep spending. Useless citizens of Ireland unite. Your economy needs you.

50 Comments

  1. Gavin said,

    October 19, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    Congrats Sarah, all the best! :-)

  2. Sarah Carey moves to the Irish Times | Gavin's Blog said,

    October 19, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    […] visiting!Sarah, a stalwart of the Irish blogging community, is finishing up at the Sunday Times and moving to the Irish Times. I wish her lots of luck, and I look forward to her latest […]

  3. Eily said,

    October 20, 2008 at 3:57 am

    Oh dear. Deeply conflicted – I really enjoy your column/posts but have given up on the IT. I used to be a daily communicant, then began to fall away and am now way beyond caring. Too much bought-in opinion and vested-interest commentary and not enough journalism; limp pieces-of-me diarists who just empty their handbags all over the keyboard and expect us to lap up the contents; and they seem to have pensioned off (or killed) all their proof-readers. That said, change is good and you sound happy with your move. Best of luck and hope to keep reading you, one way or another.

  4. Damien Mulley » Blog Archive » Fluffy Links - Monday October 20th 2008 said,

    October 20, 2008 at 5:41 am

    […] subscribe to my site using a feedreader or email. Thanks for visiting – Damien.I can blog it now. Congrats Sarah, she’s now writing for the Irish Times. Send Johnny Waters our […]

  5. Paul Newton said,

    October 20, 2008 at 9:40 am

    Hi Sarah,

    Congratulations and best of luck with the Irish Times, when I was young this would have been the dream, so even though the modern IT is not the bastion of objectivity we enjoyed in the 80’s it remains the only place in Ireland worth moving too.

    To go from the Sunday Times into the Indo would have been like moving from pig swilling to carcass rendering.

  6. laura said,

    October 20, 2008 at 10:34 am

    “Some people are poor, but if you’re reading this paper, I’d bet that you’re not”

    You need to get over yourself. Being poor is not a barrier to reading. Being poor is not a barrier to purchasing a sunday newspaper either. Being poor is certainly not a barrier to going into a library and reading a paper. I know lots of poor pensioners who read the Sunday Times. Not every one is interested in the red tops or the Sindo. Not that the sunday times is always much better. In fact, it is the last paper I would buy on a sunday, so full is it of nonsense like the line you wrote above.

  7. Sarah said,

    October 20, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Thanks for the good wishes. I had a great spot in the Sunday Times and former editor Fiona McHugh earned my undying gratitude by giving me a shot. But onwards and hopefully upwards.

    Btw Laura, The ST has 360,000 readers most of whom (as their advertising department will boast) are middle-class and well educated.

  8. Deb said,

    October 20, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Congrats on the move Sarah!

    Great column. Having lived most of the past 20 years abroad I was amazed to come home and find an almost socialist approach to welfare etc. I think ALL welfare should be means tested (granted, there needs to be some modification to the means testing process before that would work) to ensure the money is really going to people who need it.

    The thought of Bono and the like collecting child benefit makes me ill. Not to mention the fact that unmarried couples who are well off and have been living together for years can collect the single parent benefit. Maddening – such an easy easy way to cut government spending. I don’t understand this sense of entitlement. I can’t help but wonder if it’s the demand for government money, easy 35 hour work weeks and insane amounts of sick pay, maternity benefit etc that partially got us into this mess in the first place.

  9. Noel Rock said,

    October 20, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Laura, all the stats say otherwise – and Sarah merely said that she “bets” you’re not. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule.

    Smart piece; you really cut nicely to the fundamental point: too often people get confused on the issue.

  10. Tomaltach said,

    October 20, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    Sarah,

    Wow, that’s great moving to the IT (great for you, and I agree with many others about its decline) Well done and goodluck.

    Now if I can pull on my anorak. The Theory of Comparative advantage was first written about by David Ricardo as far as I know, not our friend Adam Smith.

    Anyway, I think you are right about the consumption. It is a fundamental component of the modern economy and if we unnecessarily cause it to dip we will take a hit. However, the philosophical idea of a simpler less consumptive life is another matter – as you say, consumption may be our spiritual downfall.

    You say the budget wasn’t all that bad: correct. That is precisely what worries me. Given the enormous hole in the finances, I am not the only one to be thinking, wait a minute, this isn’t going to get us there. We may well end up borrowing 6 or 7% of GDP next year. That single digit figure hides the enormity of the problem. Basically Ireland collects about 30% of GDP in taxes. So say a deficit of 6% of GDP translates to something like taxes being 18% less than spending. Given the trajectory of our public expenditure and the inbuilt inertia upwards from the benchmarking, this means that closing the 18% gap is going to take huge adjustments. I mean massive massive changes. And the budget just doesn’t come anywere close to achieving that.

    The question is. Was the minister making the adjustment more slowly for fear that consumption would utterly collapse making matters worse, or was he simply lacking the balls to do what McSharry did in the 80s. Recall, back in the 80s the big cuts and adjustments came at the end of the decade – but the necessity to take that action was already clear at the start of the decade (Haughey’s tighten your belts speech was in 1980). Our political class lacked the balls to put country first and give us the medicine we needed early. I sincerely hope that is not being repeated here now, but we will only know around the latter half of next year. By then if the gap is widening instead of closing, we will need a budget next year that makes this one feel like McCreevy is back in town.

  11. Dan Sullivan said,

    October 20, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Nice one Sarah, will this be a daily column? Or are you joining the stable of contributors like Breda Ó Brien, John Waters, Vincent Brown? That Christmas do must be a right good gas!

    As for the budget, the problem is that since Lenihan doesn’t know Adam Smith from Mr. Smee in Peter Pan (didn’t he say that lawyers don’t understand economics at the weekend and what is it he is again?) he is entirely a hostage to his civil servants for ideas and simply went with their proposals.

  12. laura said,

    October 20, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Hi Sarah,
    I just think such comments contribute nothing to your article.

    I am sure that there are many statistics gathered regarding the readers of the ST, but you are doing a disservice to the “poor” who might be readers of the paper. As you said yourself “most are middle class” – most doesn’t equal all. What value did that sentence add to your article except to insult the poor person who might be reading? That person might be an exception, but they don’t need to be insulted or alienated.

    BTW, where do you get your figures of 360,000 readers? The circulation figure for the Sunday Times for Jan – June 2008 is 105,690 per sunday. I’m curious to know how a figure of 3.4 times that is calculated.

  13. Joe Drumgoole said,

    October 20, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Well done Sarah!

  14. Sarah said,

    October 20, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    circulation is how many people buy the paper – but more than one person will read the paper. So readers always greater than circulation.

    Here’s what it added: I’m sick of whingeing from people who refuse to accept the fact that they are well off. This victimisation of the PAYE middle class being ATTACKED and RAPED for taxes bla bla bla. Most of my peers have a fanatastic lifestyle and still bitch about immigrants and rent allowance. They have no idea what it really means to be poor. I like reminding them of that fact every now and then. Poor doesn’t mean you can’t afford the school fees this year. Poor is not being able to afford to buy heating oil.

  15. laura said,

    October 20, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Thanks for the basic lesson on circulation versus readers. :-) I understand the differnce, what I was wondering is how you arrive at the estimate that every copy is read by 3.4 people. According to the CSO, the average household size is 2.66. If you multiply average household size by circulation, it does not come to the reader figure you calculated :-).

    What you just wrote their in your comment – I think that’s what you should have written in your article – those of you who are middle class, stop whining. Not, I’ll bet you’re not poor if your reading this article. :-) I know poor people who read the sunday times. I see them in libraries.

    As an aside, I disagree, a barrister earning 10,000 a day will actually save the exchequer money if he doesn’t go to work. :-) I say keep all the barristers at home to paint the houses. I wonder if more barristers were kept at home, would Lenihan have found his 100 million that he needed from the medical card holders. :-)

  16. Sarah said,

    October 20, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    hmm the ST people themselves quote the 360k and I also saw it quoted in the Irish Times a couple of months ago in another report. Too much to do now to find the source, but trust me!
    Of course my statements are generalised – I do apologise but endless qualifications can kill a message …

  17. B said,

    October 20, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Well I am a”poor” person. I read the ST every week and have done for years. Everything I have I own outright. I don’t and never have believed that a mortgage was anything other than a self decorated jail. A house is an instrument that the bank can hang consumer debt on. The fact that you can decorate it and maybe in 30 years you might own it is irrelevant.

    I don’t have a mortgage nor any real consumer debt. I went to a posh school and I live in D4. I dont own any depreciating assets and have put money into unsexy things like my own head, travelling and a couple of companies that have not expanded into sexy areas like property and do well, maybe even better in a down market. We all need to eat and when we lose money at the casino we need sorting out.

    Barristers are people too. And so what if they earn a lot. Are they really happy? Haha. Damn right they are! And who cares? At the end of the day you have to live with yourself and if next door has a 735i and you only have a 325i does it really matter and is financial suicide to pay for a 740i really worth the extra effort?

    We are a nation of begrudgers and self delusionists. Big deal if your neighbour has a bigger car or a fancier extension. Big deal. For vanity we have collectivly got ourselves into hock big style. You wouldn’t see a queue of Mercedes at the lights in Germany but you do in Dublin. We flash a Middle Eastern amount of cash on things that we don’t really need and that send us to the poor house.

    The working poor read the ST. They can’t afford to stop the hamster wheel and get off. They are up to their necks in debt. Aspirational debt.

    The rich own the printing press and the poor are at home watching the Simpsons and eating Dominos. The middle class are obsessed with looking at themselves in the mirror.

  18. Darren J. Prior said,

    October 20, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Well done Sarah! This is a step up!!! I was aware of the ST sales figures but as you say you are part of the daily- as opposed to the Sunday- establishment now.

  19. B said,

    October 20, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    Er Sarah, We ignored World War 2. We even called it the Emergency. There was no blitz spirit her.

    My grandmother legged it out of Ireland and over to England to work in the war factories.

    And cheers to Darren J. Middle Class. Birds of a feather flock together.

  20. Eoin said,

    October 20, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    Well done Sarah. Good luck in the new post.

  21. Peaches said,

    October 20, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    Be careful in the IT Sarah, a nest of vipers underneath the veneer of civility by all accounts. I’ve given up buying it but will catch your columns here. Good luck!

  22. Darren J. Prior said,

    October 20, 2008 at 11:50 pm

    “And cheers to Darren J. Middle Class. Birds of a feather flock together.”

    I appreciate the security and comforts of middle class living. However I have working class values. Not that it’s any of your business but I lived in a small two bedroomed terraced house in the almost centre of Mullingar Town and in a small two bedroomed house in Ballybock (Baile Bocht) during the ’80’s. So I know what poverty is from experience while it was 20 years ago.

    Being a FG or LB supporter/voter is something I have to battle with. Currently I like FG more. I have no respect for the artificial empty vessel class politics of the far left. Even working class people have rejected them.

    Living in Castleknock in Dublin West where Trotskyite Joe Higgins is going to stand in the locals next year I must say I am looking forward to having the so-called leaders of the emerging working class revolution knocking around the doors of my estate next year. :} Joe Higgins was the only far-left politician at national level in Ireland and he lost his seat last year and his party’s share of the vote went down. The sectarianism of the far-left is pure gutter politics. Unfortunately not many people know how sectarian they are but that stems from the fact that sectarian class politics in Ireland is largely invisible and a failure.*

    *Unfortunately I live in the constituency where the Trot SP/CWI are at their strongest nationally and indeed internationally. While I accept in Mulhuddart the above mentioned politics is not invisible vis a vis the existence of the Shinners and Trots it is a failure in political terms. Unless you count the combined electoral strength of the far-left to be a success.

    Why are you again B?

  23. B said,

    October 21, 2008 at 12:59 am

    To be honest Darren if a mortgage and a car loan is middle class living then there is practically no real security there. You are owned by the bank.

  24. Electron said,

    October 21, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Sarah, I’m delighted for you – a great break with a great paper.

    On your piece – I’m surprised that you got carried away with Mr. Lenihan and his call to arms (sorry patriotism). You know that that was only intended for the faithful – their friends and seven eights of the civil service. His party put third term electoral success before country and now he has the brass neck to ask for patriotism – years gone bye , he and his colleagues would have been had for treason. Nothing can ever justify what they’ve done to this fantastic little country and purely for their own personal gain. Patriotism is a precious word and only has meaning if the person calling for it is prepared to lay down their life for the cause, otherwise it’s only a coward’s refuge.
    Competitive advantage is an exciting concept and although the idea was around for eons before Adam Smith, he’s the one who gave it force and produced in his Wealth of Nations, what can only be described as a blueprint for an industrialised society – it gave real impetus to organised expansion and was a driving force for empire consolidation. It’s interesting that during Dev’s era we weren’t taught about it at school – it wasn’t until I went to England that I encountered the concept in everyday conscientious. I suspect that the idea of high specialisation wasn’t compatible with a small population working in isolation from the greater world. – people might have started to wonder if the project was the right way to go , so they had to be content with being inefficient jacks of all trades in order to survive – ignorance was bliss.
    On the medical card fiasco – universal entitlement should be the norm for older people – the wealthy pay taxes also, so why should they be treated differently. Means testing is only more jobs for the civil service.

    Must go – Sarah, give them hell and keep the honest !

  25. Paul Newton said,

    October 21, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    “The sectarianism of the far-left is pure gutter politics”

    Thanks for that Darren J ~

    So we’ll leave far left and far right out of it so will we?

    It’s middle ground that counts, after the far right right ramblings of Thatcherism and Reaganism, we discovered a long period of “Middle groud” in America, the UK and eventually Ireland, it was really the far right in a shiny suit and the disguise took in the world until about 6 months ago.

    Maybe your self serving proclamation of “working class values” salves your conscience, but it does feck all more for the disadvantaged in Irish society

  26. Darren J. Prior said,

    October 21, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    What is it that you disagree with me on? The far-left? Do you think working class people need or want Trotskyite Communist parties to represent them? And remember Higgins was a TD for ten years without the majority of his voters knowing- because he didn’t tell them- that he is a Trot.

    “but it does feck all more for the disadvantaged in Irish society”

    Do you want me to prove myself to you?

  27. Laura Farrell said,

    October 21, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    “Some people are poor, but if you’re reading this paper, I’d bet that you’re not”…..ooooh I would seriously seriously challenge that.
    The problem with the current situation in Ireland is the total and utter lack of direction and a total post-greed-is-good mentality that simply doesn’t know where to do, idiologically or otherwise. The problem is, free market capitalism has effectively just collapsed. We have nothing to paper up the cracks with. Now don’t get me wrong, I am no Trotskyite, but I do see a huge gulf where effectively, both individually and collectively, governments everywhere simply don’t know what to do. Its like the building trade – we prop it up articificially and we head straight back to the same situation again, but if we do nothing, we leave those who’ve hedged their bets, loan guarantees and investment funds on it facing paper values based on nothing more than speculation.

    What worries me is we learned nothing from the 80s. Minister Lenihan has just revivied a budget worth of notice in 1983: there was nothing, not a single original thought in the budget, and worse still, some of its key proposals either totally lacked political strategy or hadn’t been thought out to such an extent the “savings” or “gains” figures are a total wild guess. Meanwhile the north faces a deadlock (ignored in current crisis) and massive job losses are occuring, leaving a huge proportion of the population massively disenfranchised both politically and monetarily. The reality for a lot of people is that they cannot afford. Mummy and Daddy in my case didn’t have spare cash to put down as a deposit on a nice pad for either me or my 3 brother/sisters, nor were they even suitable as guarantors, so we all sit in our 30s without homeownership, all of us in extremely vulnerable jobs. Yet we are all graduates (2 of us have masters degrees) and yes, we all read the IT, so don’t assume we are not vulnerable, because we are considerably more vulnerable than people from traditional, middle class home owning backgrounds with good pensions and savings/investments.

  28. Andrew Lawlor said,

    October 21, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    Sarah, congratulations on the new job. I’m sure it is aa well deserved as it was hard earned. Knock ‘em dead, kid – as they say.

  29. john said,

    October 21, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    Love the originality of your articles. Definitely increased sales for Irish Times

  30. Colman said,

    October 22, 2008 at 7:26 am

    Congrats Sarah. I might actually see your pieces in the paper now.

    However, if you’re going to take Adam Smith’s name in vain, read his work rather than depending on the popular caricatures of it. He did not say what people claim he said. Same with Ricardo for that matter.

  31. Wildean said,

    October 22, 2008 at 10:50 am

    Why did you quit the ST Sarah, could you not have kept both gigs going a la John Waters IT/Mail combo?

    Ditto the earlier caution re the IT. Watch your back.

  32. Paul Newton said,

    October 22, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Trotskyite Communist,

    that he is a Trot….

    Very interesting summation of politicians who are committed to social equality as a mainstay of Irish society ~ Maybe for the sake of controversy and self justification you expect me to scribble a load of Nazism to describe the far right, but to be honest i enjoy reasonable and informed debate rather then name calling and simplistic smearing of men like Joe Higgins.

    and no you don’t have to prove yourself to me Darren, you already have!

  33. Darren J. Prior said,

    October 22, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    You may feel that idolising what Leon Trotsky did and stood for to be normal, acceptable politics but I don’t.

  34. Darren J. Prior said,

    October 22, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    I read your column today Sarah. It was very good!!!

  35. B said,

    October 22, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    How can I phrase this without using the word lickarse?

    Oh no I can’t. But I am Cuil with that.

  36. Paul Newton said,

    October 22, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    “idolising what Leon Trotsky did”

    Did you know Darren that idolising is the same concept as demonising, neither of which is practical or good.

    I have no idea what Joe’s opinion of Leon is, but your drivel of accusing him of idolising so you can demonise him is just pathetic.

    Maybe you should forget about this excellent blog and join your ilk of idolisers and demonisers, you can get Joe Duffys number on the RTE website

  37. Darren J. Prior said,

    October 22, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Maybe, just maybe, it could be successfully argued (not not many-if any- would be bothered) that the SP don’t idolise Leon Trotsky. But he IS their figurehead leader. I don’t blame you for not knowing as they don’t tell people including a lot of their members that. I can provide links/evidence if you want.

    If the SP were innocent students I wouldn’t mind them. Their youth wing is like that. The party’s leadership- or most of it- aren’t though. They aren’t nice or innocent people I know from experience and I don’t like them. They aren’t the worst in politics in the country. The Shinners and the WP are far worse but they are still “not nice people” really as a female councillor who sits on Fingal County Council with two of their councillors said to me a while back.

  38. jane nuts said,

    October 23, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Sarah,
    I have to write to you here because I have looked for a blog relating to this article – but to no avail!
    I must say that I found your article yesterday in the Irish Times ( congrats for getting it anyway !!) – so, so hurtful.
    I like many of my age group have 2 dear dear grandparents. Both of them contributed to the state . The state that you and I now enjoy.
    I find it deeply hurtful that any one should try to advocate a situation where their rights are diminished – as your article seemed to do yesterday.
    They will both now lose their medical cards as their combined incomes / pensions come to € 76000 .
    This is hardly a staggering income if you are living in a coveted part of Dublin admittedly (D4) but there are other people who did not work as they did to earn their status in this society.Others did not EARN – . they INHERITED- thats the difference.
    To think that you could possibly conceive of throwing these , in my mind heroic people to the wind is sad . Sad indeed.!!

    Others will say that those who can afford a house overseas- as they do- and have an opportunity to enjoy the sun- as they can – in what they call their golden years are heartless, and possibly also jealous.!!

    MY grand parents are very dear to me and I will fight for their right to retain their medical cards and all the other things the State owes them.
    They earned them. They didn’t do drugs. They worked and strived all their lives to provide private education for their children – my father –and mother.( different grand parents of course !!)

    They are entitled to their expression of their modest wealth . Yes they drive a 08 car and Sports utility vehicle ; the former for a Sunday drive and to visit their loving relations ;and the latter to protect them from the boy racers who inhabit our roads.
    They deserve everything they get from the State. They still pay taxes – that means they are taxed on the double !!
    Do you realise this .
    I would be grateful if you were to appreciate their position in life and accept that they Do deserve what they have earned nobly.
    Please see and accept my point of view , as deep down you know I am right .

    Jane Clarke

  39. paddyanglican said,

    October 23, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Jane – What the government did re the Medical Cards was monumentally clumsy and stupid. I told Maire Hoctor this yesterday morning just before she got up on the podium, which incidentally she tells me she insisted on doing and was not put up as a scape-goat. I feel very sorry for her as she was obviously out of the loop as she revealed on Vincent Browne last night and yet has to defend what appears to be indefensible! It seems pointless having a Minister for the Elderly who is utterly disenfranchised! The equivalent in my own organisation, the Church, would be for the bishops in closed conclave to draw up a new creed which says that Jesus has been replaced by Simon Cowell and expect all the clergy to go around wearing their trousers up to their nipples and replacing the liturgy with a spiritual ‘X Factor’ where the successful contestants go to Love Island and the others get to spend the rest of eternity selling penny apples for Bill Cullen!
    For a very small financial saving the government have lost all the political capital and credibility they had. However I think common sense would say that the universal medical card for 70+ should never have been introduced. It was a cynical ploy to buy an election and poor stewardship of the nations resources no matter how well off we thought we were!
    People are too angry at the moment to listen to reason and I think the Grey Panther march yesterday was about more than medical cards – I think it was more about a sector of the population who are increasingly invisible in our rapidly changing and disconnected society. However there are better ways of making them visible than giving free medical care to those who can easily afford it themselves. You talk about rights and we all do have rights but our rights are of necessity affected and circumscribed by the rights of others who also deserve a piece of a shrinking economic pie. There are huge wasteages in our welfare and health delivery system and these need to be addressed but the reality is that if we give out free medical cards to the wealthy there will be less beds in our hospitals and less resources to help those who are really needy and marginalised. If your grandparents are to continue to receive totally free healthcare someone else will be excluded from the system. In a situation where resources are finite my privelage is someone else’s denial. I am in the same category – i drive an 08 car and my wife drives an SUV. We have two very reasonable incomes. I don’t expect or think I have a right to a free medical card at 70 unless or until my situation changes drastically. Taken to its extreme people who need resources will die if some of these resources are given to those who don’t need them. If we all got what we deserved we might have even more to complain about!

  40. Sarah said,

    October 23, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    oh my god. Is Jane for real?

    Her dear dear grandparents who live in D4 and drive an 08 car and have an income of 76k per year are entitled to free doctor’s visits?

    HAHAHAHAHAHA

    Are you going to inherit the D4 pad Jane?

  41. Sarah said,

    October 23, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    she is taking the piss, right?

  42. paddyanglican said,

    October 23, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Sadly I don’t think so!

  43. Sarah said,

    October 23, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Ask not what our country can do for us..oh go on do so. DEMAND that our country does something for us regardless of how much we have benefitted from our country. Let’s have MORE.

    That is what’s going on isn’t it?

    The state OWES us seems to be the default position…

  44. Dan Sullivan said,

    October 23, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    I’ve often been given to wonder if those who are now retired and voted for FF in 1977 and continued doing so on through the 80s and 90s feel even a little bit guilty for banjaxing the country in the first place. 76K per year for two people in a house that is worth multiples of the purchase price with no mortgage is a tidy position to be in.

  45. Paul Newton said,

    October 23, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Jesus it’s a weird position but I find myself in agreement with Sarah on both agenda’s

    Fair play, although I did not see the article I congratulate you on being one to see through this protesting, demanding seventy year old bullshit.

    As for the Darren J’s and Jane’s of this world, some people just get their kicks out of winding people up and claiming to be right all the time, don’t bother your head with them, for a serious Fine Gaeler to come out with a truthful analysis instead of Enda’s political “they worked so hard for 40 years” rubbish is very heartening ~ There will always be naysayers and sceptics in the world, ignore them, they only want the attention or the votes anyway.

  46. Electron said,

    October 23, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    Sarah, I didn’t get a chance to read your article yesterday, but I gather from a comment above that you oppose seventy plus medical card entitlement. I have to say that I totally disagree with your position for two reasons – the first being that most of the wealthy elderly have contributed, over their working life and are still contributing, a considerable amount of tax in both direct and indirect forms to the exchequer. You may not know, but taxes were punitive during the seventies and eighties – it was normal for a single person to be left with only fifty percent of gross income and vat on luxury goods went up to thirty five percent at one stage. That generation had to work hard to make any progress – so why subject them to the stress of means testing for such a small amount in the overall health budget.
    The second reason is that I suspect that this is a contrived smokescreen to take the focus off what’s coming down the road from our banking sector. One hundred million is only small change in comparison to what the bailout is going to be. Some of our bank’s shares are now below two euros, so their capital base must be getting shaky – so while you’re getting all worked up about a few elderly wealthy people getting medical cards at the taxpayers expense, the cost of bailing out just one developer through bank right offs and state re-capitalisation will be multiples of that. Of the two, in my opinion, the elderly have a far greater entitlement.

  47. Dan Sullivan said,

    October 23, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    Electron, if you didn’t read the article how can you then proceed to give reasons why you disagree with it?

  48. Tom Cosgrave said,

    October 29, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Congratulations Sarah, best of luck!

  49. Conor McHugh said,

    May 27, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    I agree entirely about your ‘useless generation’ comment. One upshot I’ve noticed is what I would call the ‘Pay A Man’ syndrome, where everything is achieveable so long as you have the ability to Pay A Man to do it. But what’s really interesting is where that’s all leading…..

    Recently, two friends asked me to do them favours. The first involved a friend asking me to give a friend of hers a lift. It had transpired that the friend and I were both taking the same train and both getting off at the same station, where I had parked my car. My friend asked me if I could give her friend a lift to her house, which is quite close to mine…..and offered to pay me to do so. I rejected the offer, because I didn’t see why I should expect payment to give someone a lift on a route I was driving anyway.

    The second instance was when a friend, who also lives close by, was away on business for a two days. As someone who works from home he has some rather expensive equipment in the house. He asked me to house-sit for the a night – and offered to pay me to do so. But why would I expect payment for the doing something as simple as sleeping in his spare room, using his shower, drinking his coffee and making sure to turn on his alarm and close the door behind me before going to work?

    I felt strongly that the concept of ‘doing a favour for a mate’ has been lost somewhere along the way. What next? Will they suddenly start offering to pay me to spend time with them?

    I have a slight feeling that the fact that I’m living in what was once quite a rural area, but is now becoming increasinly urbanised, and that the two people in question are urbanites, has a lot to do with it. In farming communities, accidental and informal Meitheal systems are entirely the norm, especially with something as simple as giving someone a lift to somewhere you’re going anyway.

  50. Conor McHugh said,

    May 27, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    Ps, I’m really enjoying your blog.

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