The theatre of Budget Day is no more than that. In the UK, the Chancellor of the Exchequer typically stands alongside his smiling wife while he holds up a battered red box on the steps of 11 Downing Street.
n Ireland these days, the box is a folder with a USB on the side, and Mrs Donohoe wisely remains at home, but the drama from the unlikely financial double act of Paschal Donohoe and Michael McGrath remains largely in place – and wholly unnecessary.
Imagine if you ran your household finances as the Government does. Gather the kids around the table on a cold October day and get them to work out exactly what they’re going to cost you for the next year: school, clothes, dentist bills, birthdays, trips to McDonald’s, haircuts, and don’t forget the family dog, his vet bills and treats. And what about granny’s birthday, and maybe a caravan in Kilkee next summer? And wouldn’t it be nice to paint the kitchen or change the car if there’s a few euro left?
Don’t come running to me if you make a mistake – there’s no more where that came from. Money doesn’t grow on trees, you know, except when it’s the giant money tree of “the markets”.
With a national debt already tipping €200bn before Covid arrived, the country’s credit card is maxed out. Mind you, much like many families, it doesn’t really matter as long as you can make the minimum payment. Nobody’s actually expecting to be repaid. Not in our lifetime, anyway.
For the last few weeks, as every year, we have to put up with Leo et al’s annual Dick Van Dyke impersonation: “Let’s go fly a kite, up to the highest height/Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring…”
The kite-flyers-in-chief had already dropped most of Paschal’s bombshells. Sure, didn’t we know how it would turn out. An extra fiver, spun as €500, lost already by putting the heating on this winter.
Only a singularly inept government could turn a free day off into a row. And while the nurses, rightly, are hoping for a few extra days’ leave or a bit more money after the life-saving of the past couple of years, lining up behind them are the teachers, bus drivers, civil servants and all of those who, er, did their job.
Yes, under the weirdest of circumstances, mostly pivoting their kitchen into an office, and so say all of us.
I wonder if we wouldn’t be better off just employing a bit of helicopter money to restart the economy that has suffered the most, apart from anything else.
The Spanish are giving all 18-year-olds €400 to spend on “cultural activities”. It must be local, not internet, and cinemas, theatres, books and concerts will be supported.
France and Italy are doing something similar, while every adult in Northern Ireland is busy applying for a £100 voucher to eat out and do something fun.
So, less of the gimmickry when it comes to handouts – give us the money and stop making a song and dance about it.