Croke Park 2

February 28, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Croke Park 2 is not primarily a fiscal adjustment event but an ideological adjustment event. This is revealed by examining the standards of what is regarded as possible and impossible and by examining the choices and assumptions that lie behind this event.

First, let us briefly note one such assumption and one of its many consequences. This is the framing in virtually moral terms of a constructed division between ‘public’ sector and ‘private’ sector. The ‘public’ sector is constructed as the site of waste, of excess, of laziness. The ‘private’ sector is, in contrast, the site of innovation, productivity and virtuous hard work. The ‘private’ sector is considered as within the ‘real’ economy while the ‘public’ sector is sustained within an artificial realm. The ‘private’ sector is virtuous by being subject to the rigours and discipline of the market (the ultimate arbiter of the ‘good’). In contrast, the ‘public’ sector is closeted and protected from market discipline and thereby is regarded in principle as flaccid and complacent.

As a result, this construction creates the conditions for a division of workers between these sectors. ‘Private’ sector workers are encouraged to imagine the excessive enjoyment (the Lacanian jouissance) of their ‘public’ sector colleagues and to thereby resent their assumed advantages and benefits. The extraordinary anger of employer representatives and many media commentators when speaking of the ‘public’ sector can be explained as symptoms of this deep envy. The mobilisation of libidinal forces such as resentment is a critical ideological device which structures popular political perceptions. As Slavoj Zizek points out in his The Sublime Object of Ideology the presumption that the other has access to some specific enjoyment denied to us really bothers us and lies at the root of social dysfunctions such as racism (2008: 212).

Ideology is that which masquerades as ‘common sense’, as the obvious, the technically necessary thing to do. Thus is Croke Park 2 presented. Yet a simple examination of the realm of choices within which Croke Park 2 is set exposes the underlying ideology.

The objective we are told is to close the gap in our current budget between income and expenditure. How is this to be done? One obvious route is through taxation. Do we think that all those with incomes above €65,000 should be reduced by 5.5%? If so, then let us impose taxes to that effect. Or all those above €185,000 should be reduced by 10%? But no, it is simply ‘impossible’ to tax high earners in the ‘private’ sector. Why? Because it would be a ‘disincentive’ to work and, more seriously, discourage foreign corporations from ‘investing’ in Ireland. At the time of the 2013 budget, Finance Minister Noonan rejected a Universal Social Charge increase on incomes above €100,000 for these precise reasons. These factors don’t apply to the ‘public’ sector however.

Or what about increasing corporation tax, presently at a nominal 12% but de facto at an effective 6% on average? But no, this too is ‘impossible’ because it also would discourage corporate ‘investment’ in Ireland. So too with royalty or windfall profit taxes on oil and gas corporations. So too with carbon taxes or pollution taxes or other social charges on private corporations.

Revealed here is the dominance of the logic of Capital. This is the hidden ideological kernel at the core of the choices being made. In a way therefore, the choices made are perfectly ‘rational’. They are required to maintain the functioning of Capital. Of course. So let us be honest about this and come to see that what is happening to us is not ‘objectively determined’ or ‘fair and equitable’ but the consequences of an economic and social structure serving the interests not of one group of workers over another but of Capital – the implacable logic and demands of which we are required to serve. Let us at least recognise where we stand and what is our true Master.

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