‘It’s the foreigners fault’ and ‘We should look after our own’ are statements I have heard more than once recently. It hasn’t been common but it is happening more than it used to.
Each person that expressed these views was at pains to point out that they were not racist. They had ‘foreign’ friends. Each person lamented the politically correct culture that meant they could never say what they were telling me openly. As they were making their points from an economics perspective, and giving the benefit of the doubt to their insistence that they were not ‘racist’, I responded on the basis of economics.
On an economic basis they are completely missing the point. Immigrants are not taking your jobs. Immigrants are not the reason your household income is lower than it used to be. Immigrants are not the reason for the rise of precarious employment. Those that are spreading these ideas have no interest in helping you. They are looking to capitalise on your discontent in order to be elected, or gain notoriety. Think Donald Trump. Or closer to home Peter Casey. The ‘immigrant’ argument serves as a distraction to what is really going on. It’s even worse than that, it serves to enable inequality to grow as people vent their righteous anger in completely the wrong direction.
A recent T.A.S.C. report has found that in 1977 the top 1% and 10% took home 4.8% and 23% of national income. In 1986 this grew to 5.2% and 26.1% and in 2015 had ballooned to 11.5% and 37.2%. The rich are getting richer and everybody else is squabbling over the leftovers. While we are squabbling and throwing blame anywhere and everywhere the problem is worsening at an ever quicker rate.
Recent news that Consultants could prescribe certain expensive cancer medications to V.H.I. patients but not to public patients should have been a wake-up call to us all. Some lives are now more valuable than others. This has probably always been the case but I don’t think it has ever been so blatant. But still some blame the ‘foreigners’.
The days of getting a decent permanent job which allows people to raise a family and even have the occasional holiday or meal out seem to be gone. We live in an economy filled with short term contracts and inconsistent hours. Getting a third level education isn’t even always enough to ensure a comfortable life. I wonder how long my children will have to spend in third level education to stand a decent chance? I hope I’ll be in a position to help them. Inequality has become the norm. But it’s the ‘foreigners’ fault, right?
The housing market is no better. People are being forced to move further and further away from where they work and often their wider family because of ever rising rents. The rents they are paying are often higher than the mortgage repayments they would make if they were able to buy. The problem for most is that they have no way of saving for a deposit while paying such massive rents. If you haven’t got parents with the means to give you a deposit, home ownership is but a retreating dream. Surely clear ability to make mortgage repayments should negate the need for a deposit? There is regular media commentary saying that home ownership is not important and renting is the European way. Most of these commentators are home owners themselves. Is this the ‘foreigners’ fault too?
No it’s not. We should be angry. We should not allow populists to misdirect this anger to benefit themselves. Join a Trade Union. Insist on fairness. Stand up for people in the same boat. Stop blaming groups that are as diverse as you and I. The system is at fault, not the ‘foreigners’.
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