Fintan O'Toole: Bad social policy makes for bad budgets

Ireland’s finances are worse than other countries in four key ways

The Minister for Finance delivering Budget 2018. Paschal Donohue today, like all of his modern predecessors, is so busy making sure the ship is not sunk by gross inequality that he can barely think about the course of the voyage. Photograph: Alan Betson

The Minister for Finance delivering Budget 2018. Paschal Donohue today, like all of his modern predecessors, is so busy making sure the ship is not sunk by gross inequality that he can barely think about the course of the voyage. Photograph: Alan Betson

The point of a ritual is to reinforce our sense of what is sacred. The ritual of budget day is not meaningless. It carries a message: fiscal policy is what really matters and it must be elevated above all that other stuff. Things like housing and inequality and child poverty are all very well, but they are not the real thing. They are optional devotions; the budget is high Mass.

The State insists on placing fiscal policy in one box and social policy in another. The former, for the people who make decisions, is the serious adult stuff. The latter is the fluff for the cribbers and moaners.

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