by Frank Schnittger
Tue Mar 24th, 2020 at 10:45:56 PM EST
The Irish government, led by the most conservative major party in the state, has instituted a number of emergency measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic:
- The government will fund 70% of workers salaries up to a maximum of 410 per week tax free in businesses effected by the crisis.
- Social welfare, unemployment, and sick pay is increased from 203 per week to 350 p.w.
- The government is taking over all private hospitals and incorporating them into the public hospital system for the duration of the crisis.
- A rent freeze and ban on evictions.
- The cost of these measures is estimated to be 3.7 Billion over the next 12 weeks - greater than the total annual budget surplus estimated prior to the crisis.
So the government is conceding the principle of a basic social living wage and a single tier universal health care system - in line with the long standing demands of socialist parties in Ireland. Although intended as temporary measures, once these principles have been established, it will be very difficult for any government to row back on them in the future.
If 203 per week is acknowledged as insufficient to live on now, how can any government revert to it later? If private hospitals can be incorporated into the public health system now, how can any government revert to the long waiting lists for treatment that were endemic in the under-resourced public health care system of the past?
Of course future conservative governments can argue that what is affordable for a limited period in a crisis and financed by borrowing is not going to be sustainable in the longer term. But the counter argument will be "why not increase corporate, wealth, and higher income taxes to fund them going forward?" A number of ideological red lines have been crossed, and it is going to be very difficult for any government to walk back over those lines in the future.