By Conor Burke
In a short period of time, the cost of essentials such as food and fuel have skyrocketed. Working-class people are faced with a cost-of-living, or more accurately a cost-of-survival crisis, in their daily lives.
Rising prices come on top of rising rents and property prices, which have been a consistent crisis in our lives for eight years now. This crisis has been perpetuated by successive governments’ commitment to the private market, allowing property developers, landlords and vulture funds to reap huge profits at the expense of ordinary people.
The key reason why inflation is skyrocketing is simply that the bosses are passing on the extra costs they face to working-class consumers. On top of this we are now seeing a massive spike in energy costs which have now been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. Again, privately-owned and run energy companies are unwilling to take a reduction in profit, so we pay the price.
Stealth taxes fuel crisis
Prior to Christmas the Government announced a €100 payment for household electric bills to be paid directly to energy suppliers, but given the speed at which inflation is rising they were forced to double this amount within weeks of its announcement. Ireland is now the fourth most expensive country in the western world, yet wages and government assistance payments lag way behind in relation to rising costs. Despite this, they shamefully slashed the Pandemic Unemployment Payment from €350 to €250, and now it is set to be reduced to €208 by the end of March.
Despite attempts by the government parties to say that inflation is being perpetuated by external factors, clearly there are certain elements that are unique to the Irish economy that are driving inflation rates here higher. In fact, the Government is directly responsible for some of them.
It imposed a minimum pricing on alcohol, introduced the sugar tax, both of which hit poorer sections of society hardest. They brought in the green-washing Carbon Tax, which imposes unjust expense on those who can’t afford an electric car and who have no option but to drive older vehicles. In reality, this measure does nothing to address climate change. Meanwhile, they have allowed the housing crisis to go from bad to worse.
What we need:
- The inflation spiral is a consequence of the instability and chaos of the capitalist system. There are certain things that can be done to alleviate the burden on workers and young people:
- Increasing the minimum wage to €15 per hour would immediately help low-paid workers to cover basic costs.
- Slash and freeze rents at affordable levels. Commence a public housing programme building tens of thousands of homes on state-owned land.
- Introduce free public transport and invest in an expansive, reliable public transport system throughout the country.
- Take the energy suppliers into public ownership so that costs can be made affordable. For a major programme to retrofit all homes in the state.
- Break with the capitalist market: take the key wealth-producing sectors of the economy into democratic public ownership so we can plan the economy to cater for the needs of people not the profits of the bosses.