Saturday, October 25, 2008

RED C poll numbers for Oct 26th 2008

FF 26% down ten percent, FG up 5 to 33%, Labour up 5% to 15, SF on 10%, Greens on 6% PDs on 2% and others on 8%. Those numbers if true, and given the source I'm strongly inclined to believe them, mean the government.

With independents like Jackie Healy Rae moving on to education the terrain isn't going to get any easier for the government and this moment probably represents the Green's best moment to hold FF to the pin of their collar and force concessions in the budget. Failure to do so will leave the Greens tied to this budget as closely as are FF right now.

And if FF don't revise the budget massively on foot of Green party pressure they should cut and run. It's the punch that FG should have thrown in '94. An election while FF are completely on the back foot could be the only chance to get the mandate an Irish government needs to take the actions that are necessary. Will they take the chance or like Gordon Brown fluff it?

Update: poll numbers confirmed on RTe News

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What if McCreevy had continued to extend medical card threshold?

I mentioned yesterday that I'd take a look at a counter factual where instead of abolishing income as a factor for the allocation of medical cards to those over 70 that the minister of finance had simply continued to aggressively extend the income threshold.

In 1999 the income thresholds for medical cards even for the over 70s were much lower than they are now. Of course, governments had considerably less revenue in those days before the Celtic Tiger and also had more outgoings in respect of unemployment etc. The thresholds were subsequently increased as per a budgetary commitment by roughly 33% each year until March of 2001. In Budget 2000 McCreevy announced that the next and final step would be to remove the income threshold completely for those over 70. Yet what if he had persisted with his original measure?

Taking the lower of those over 70 figures for 1999 of £133.00 which equates to €168.87 as our base point we see the intended increase of 33% or €55.72 per year in the threshold would have been up to €337.74 in March 2001. Note this is more than the initial revised threshold from last week! And it’s the figure from 7 years ago. So had Charlie McCreevy continued with the same level of increase annually (not % wise but in flat cash terms) the threshold would have been

March 2001 €337.74 (this is double the initial 1999 figure)

March 2002 €393.46

March 2003 €449.18

March 2004 €504.90

March 2005 €560.62

March 2006 €616.34

March 2007 €672.06

March 2008 €727.78

So think about that for a moment, the income threshold would now be higher than that most recent ‘final proposal’ of €700 per week gross to come from the government on Tuesday of this week. Plus, it wouldn’t have involved any re-negotiation with the IMO and consequent explosion in the cuts of the scheme which apparently cost us €254 million last year. Just imagine for a moment what else we could have done with the billion plus Euros over the last 6/7 years? How many more children in lower income families we could have offered medical cards to in that time or funding for nursing home care?

What am I saying sure they didn’t know what to do with the billions for Euros they did have so given them more would have only have lead to throwing good money after bad.

*Figures as from a Cork/Irish Examiner (it's TCM anyway) article in 1999

Medical card means test thresholds:
Up to 66, 66 to 69, 70 to 79*, Over 80*.
Single - living alone: £92.00, £100.00, £133.00, £140.00
Single - living with family: £81.50, £86.50, £115.00, £120.00.
Married couple: £133.00, £149.00, £198.50, £208.50.
Allowance for child under 16: £16.00.
Allowance for other dependants: £17.50.
Allowances for outgoings on house:
Excess over £16.00 a week
Reasonable expenses necessarily incurred in travelling to work
Excess over £14.50 a week
* These are the thresholds likely to apply from March 1, 1999.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What McCreevy hadn't given the medical card to everyone?

Back in 2000 when Charlie McCreevy announced the plans for the extension of the medical card in Budget 2001 to all over 70s irrespective of income he was introducing it as the next step of a process by which the government had doubled the income threshold necessary to get the medical if you were over 70. The question we have to ask now is why didn't he stick with that idea, extending coverage in a progressive indeed aggressive manner but all the while based on income and ability to pay.

Charile Dec 6 2000 - Medical Cards for Older People In my 1999 budget, I announced that the income limits for medical cards for people aged 70 years or over would be doubled over three years, commencing in 1999. That process will be completed next March, and it is now proposed to take the next step. I am pleased to announce that, from 1 July 2001, entitlement to the medical card is being extended to all those aged 70 years or over.

What was wrong with simply progressively extending the threshold for the card and the benefits associated with it year by year? Oh I forget we were due a general election and McCreevy reckoned the older members of our society could be bought off. And if you look at the raw polling data he was dead right. Later today, I'm going to try and extrapolate why we might be now in terms of thresholds if McCreevy has stuck to his guns.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

There's a hole in the budget, dear Brian. A hole!

So it seems the threshold for the over 70s medical card is to be raised again. And FF (or the cabinet at the very least) must be hoping that this will lower the temperature enough that they can get through the week without more people going overboard.

However, at first reading one has to ask if most of those receiving the benefit of the card will now retain that benefit then the government has close to 100 million of a hole in its budget calculations. To be added on to this is the possible/probably changes in the income levy, we're told that about 800,000 people who work don't pay income tax, but they would be paying the levy as it is on all income. So let's at a minimum scenario and presume they're all earning the minimum wage that means they could be paying €180 per year under the Lenny Levy. If all 800,000 were to be exempt from the levy that would be another €150 million missing from the budget. A hundred million here, a hundred and fifty million there and soon we'll be talking about real money!

Update: It does sound from the statement that the government has adopted the idea from Fine Gael that savings could be made in the drugs area by more use of generics. I wonder if the media will even notice or acknowledge this. Also it now appears the government is modifying the competition act in order to make it possible for it to negotiate with the IMO in future, that might work locally but what about European competition law. They really are making it up as they go along.

On the radio this morning

I'm due to be on the Joe Finnegan show on Shannonside / Northern Sound about 9.30am this morning, Oct 21st. You can listen live, I hope. I'm meant to be talking about the fit or suitability of our politicians as compared to their actual jobs but you never know. This is live radio after all.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Will Bertie be there?

So with the not unexpected announcement that pairs will be offered by FG only for those government TDs on actual proper business for the state, in this case the trip to China, the arithmetic for Wednesday's Dail vote on the Fine Gael motion starts to look somewhat interesting. For example, where will Bertie be I wonder? Is he even in the country? I've mailed them at his office to ask, I wonder if I'll get a reply. After all, I am a citizen, this is a republic, he still works for me, or is collecting a salary at my expense.