Thursday, September 02, 2010

If this were a war we'd have objectives and strategies to evaluate

If the problems in our economy were a war the public would want to know: (a) What's at stake?; (b) What will it take for victory?; and (c) What will victory look like? From those answers would follow the tactics we'll be employing to win the war and a forecast as to how those tactics will play out.

I think this is one of the great problems of the current crisis and our political system. We have a government that's pursuing a policy that makes no sense to people because they're too scared to come on television and spell out what happens if we fail to save the banks; what it will cost collectively and individually; and what we'll have when we've won. {And, truthfully, this government is too discredited to undertake this now.}

I know there have been a few instances where the government, Brian Lenihan in particular, has given glimpses of what exactly is at stake and what it will take to fix the economy, but still everything's too vague. A year ago, more probably, Lenihan should have boldly stated that the debts the banks have incurred are enormous and we have to repay those because of a, b and c.

Then he would have explained that to repay those debts will require 10, 20, 30 years, whatever it will be and in the meantime this will mean more taxes, lower wages for government employees, reduced benefits for those on the dole and pensioners, lower cost health and education systems, etc. The government should have point blank said we'll be experiencing a significant reduction in our standard of living.

Never happened and never would because these people are too worried about their own jobs. So, we have hints at the darkness that's before us, but no explicit explanation as to what might happen. We have cuts to benefits for young people matched with an official indifference to the potential loss of thousands of young people to emigration. We have a government that caved at the first sign that older voters were objecting to small cost-saving changes (medical cards for over 70s). We have lots of little instances of people blowing on burning embers - trying to encourage banks to defer foreclosures, etc. - while the main fire (Anglo and even the other banks) is laying waste to our collective future.

The worst part of this is that our opposition is content to pick away at the government's tactics, but they're equally unwilling to make the big pitch. We don't need to hear how they'd tinker differently, we need a new strategy or at least new leadership willing to spell out exactly what is happening and what is going to happen.

The enemy's closing in and our leaders are hiding in their dugout.