We are in danger of being ruined by simplistic thinking. It's everywhere these days; on radio shows, where only one template for extracting Ireland from its economic difficulties will be counselled; from the mouths and mildewed minds of economists who, with some noble exceptions, cling to the same old thought processes which allowed the collapse to happen in the first place; from the financial pages of the newspapers where alternative viewpoints are as welcome as open coffins in a Galway church.
The template is roughly thus: Ireland is banjaxed and broke. Therefore we must make cuts. Cuts are good, cuts make sense. The cuts must be targeted at everybody, including the very poor. The only exception to this is the banks. The banks need to be given money, because we'd be even more banjaxed without the banks.
The argument is regularly expressed as simplistically as that. No alternative is countenanced. No subtlety of thought or expression is allowed. Anybody who refuses to give a simple yes answer about the need for cuts is regarded as some kind of flake. Any attempt to explain that, actually, the solution to our woes should be multi-layered, involving a widening of the tax base as well as some discriminate cutbacks, is ridiculed and its proponent instructed that she or he must get with "the programme". The problem is that 'the programme', if it is followed, will floor Ireland for years.
Ivan Yates, Newstalk's energetic new presenter, is a big fan of 'the programme', and is regularly reduced to spluttering incredulity when he comes across somebody who is not on board. On Wednesday, he and his breakfast time co-bouncer Claire Byrne summoned in the Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore for a dressing down; between the three of them they provided the week's most fascinating political interview, rivalled only by Matt Cooper's evisceration of Fianna Fáil's Billy Kelleher on Thursday.
To say that Gilmore is not with the programme would be to indulge in wild understatement. He is to cuts what Bernie Madoff is to sums. Undoubtedly, this is partly for political reasons. There is electoral mileage to be got from feeling the pain, to borrow a Clintonian phrase, of those increasing numbers on the live register or of people in jobs that haven't seemed secure for a very long time. It worked on 5 June; it'll probably work again.
But Gilmore has another agenda, one that will make him increasingly unpopular with the keepers of the programme as the next general election nears. His ability to overcome that opprobrium, and convince people that he is not the opportunist he will be accused of being, will decide whether he becomes the most successful Labour leader in Irish history.
On Newstalk, Gilmore was invited to acknowledge the need for cuts to unemployment payments, the minimum wage, child benefit and public-sector pay. He refused. He made points and arguments that you don't get to hear very often amidst the national cuts consensus. He resisted being browbeaten.
In relation to social welfare, for example, he suggested that one way to cut the bill would be to get people off the live register and back to work. It's not a radical point; returning people to work is an uncontroversial part of Barack Obama's stimulus plan which is currently keeping the US from sinking into depression.
We do things differently in Ireland, however. Although unemployment is rapidly becoming the country's biggest problem, the government and the non-politicians who buy into 'the programme' have deemed it to be of a lesser priority than even the difficulties of Anglo Irish Bank, so recently the recipient of more than €3bn from the state. Not alone is it of little importance, but now the campaign has begun to remove some of the paltry benefits enjoyed, if that word is being used correctly, by the unemployed. We are creating a massive social problem, but the stupidity of the cuts consensus doesn't end there. The more money we take out of people's pockets, the more we shrink the economy even further, leading to more job losses. As Ictu's David Begg said a few times last week, no country has ever deflated its way out of a recession. But in Ireland, thanks to a government without the competence to make decisions, and a thoughtless consensus in favour of the uncomplicated simplicities of cuts, we look like we're actually going to give it a try. Things will get worse, no doubt. Much scarier is the thought that it could be years before they get better.