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The Muslim Chef, 400 new jobs and Willie O’Dea was opposed to reducing the Minimum Wage…. June 30, 2011

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
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If you’ve some time to spare today its well worth watching last nights Vincent Browne.
The topic was the JLCs – why the pay of the lower paid must be lowered further?

Guests were Richard Bruton, Willie O’Dea, Joan Collins and Patricia Callan of the Small Firms Association.

I’d be far from a fan of Willie O’Dea but he was quite impressive especially against the nonsense being spouted by the SFA . (Although it is a bit rich for him to say he opposed the reduction in the minimum wage considering he voted for it.)
Amongst which were claims of “4000 new jobs in Restaurants if the Sunday Premium was dropped.”
An Indian Restaurant having to let a Muslim Chef go because of the Sunday premium, even though Sunday was nothing special to him.

Needless to say Vincent Browne and Joan Collins helped put Bruton and the SFA lady in their place.

Tonight with Vincent Browne

Meanwhile, back at the Seanad…Social Welfare Special! June 30, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in back at the Seanad, Irish Politics, The Left.
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Last week the Seanad discussed the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill. Let us start with Senator John Kelly of our social democratic/democratic socialist party…

Senator John Kelly: I will focus on what has gone wrong and what changes need to be made. While I do not propose to reduce our generous social welfare rates, it is unfortunate that a series of other bonuses have been introduced for those in receipt of social welfare payments. Free travel and electricity, rent allowance, mortgage subsidies, medical cards and so forth make it difficult for recipients of social welfare to take up employment. They are one of the reasons for the large number of people who are in long-term unemployment. If new charges, for example, water rates or property taxes, are introduced, social welfare recipients should not be automatically exempted from paying them as to do so would make it even more difficult for people on social welfare to take up a job.
Everyone in receipt of social welfare costs the State €21,000 per annum. By giving employers €10,000 for taking one person off the dole queue, we would create 100,000 jobs in the retail and tourism sectors. It should be mandatory for anyone offered such a place to accept it. Those who refuse to participate should have their payment reduced by 5% per annum until such time as they find work. The creation of 100,000 jobs would save Ђ1.1 billion per annum.
Overpricing in the hotel sector, an issue I raised on the Order of Business last week, was referred to by two Senators this morning. I propose adopting the French model under which two star, three star, four star and five star hotels may only charge prices within a fixed price bracket. This would prevent hotels from charging ridiculous prices, such as the €499 per night charged by some establishments last weekend to coincide with a number of concerts in Dublin.
I also raised the issue of rates last week. I ask the Minister to outline the Government’s proposals in respect of the rates charged to small businesses. If a business goes under and only one person joins the dole queue, the cost to the taxpayer will be €21,000 per annum. This does not make sense of the company’s rates bill is €5,000 per annum. As I have noted previously, for every negative action there will be a reaction.
All of the issues I raise create costs for the Department of Social Protection. Only one small pot of money is available to this country. It is wrong to think of various Ministers having different budgets because we only have one budget. As such, we must formulate ways of ensuring we do not create costs for the taxpayer. Adopting my proposals would reduce the social welfare bill.

Now I know this will come as a shock to some of you, but on the odd occasion I’ve heard Labour Party members express unfraternal opinions about Sinn Féin. Very very unfraternal. And I’ve even – and I know this too will come as a shock to even more of you – heard LP members suggest that SF aren’t really left of centre.

So it’s remarkable to hear from Senator David Cullinane of Sinn Féin the following response that seems more than a little bit positioned in what I’d describe as traditional social democracy, or even – perish the thought – socialism. Or, if you prefer, stating the bleeding obvious.

Senator David Cullinane: The Government must avoid making the mistakes of the previous Government. One of its biggest mistakes was to believe that cuts provided the way out of recession, such as cutting people’s pay and welfare benefits. A previous speaker spoke about some of the secondary benefits people on social welfare receive. The reason they receive those benefits is because they need them. When the low income and middle income families see their wages cut, that has the opposite effect and we have seen that. We have had all these cuts over the last number of years, and we have seen a reduction in retail sales. The reason small businesses across the State are suffering is that footfall is down and people have less money to spend. They are fearful and are tightening up their spending. That is why I have called several times for a proper discussion on the future of the JLCs. It is very important to me because if we continue to cut the pay of low income families, which it seems the Minister is about to do, this means that the industries where those people work, such as the retail sector, hairdressing or whatever, will be punished again because people will have less money to spend in restaurants, grocery stores and so on. Every euro taken from the pocket of a low income family is taken from the tills of local retailers. That has happened over the last number of years and will happen again if this Government continues on its course.

So, let me see if I’ve got this right. It’s the Sinn Féin Senator who is defending people on social welfare, the Labour Party Senator who is seemingly arguing that various supports are little better than optional add-ons.

These things are clues.

As is the following. For the irrepressible Senator Kelly was opining on a different aspect of social welfare the next day:

Senator John Kelly:    I welcome the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, to the House. It is great to see she is not afraid to address us and listen to our gripes. The Minister has the most important job of anyone in Cabinet in dealing with our social welfare crisis. She has the largest budget and, unfortunately, everything negative that happens in the economy lands on her lap. There is a case to be made for Ministers knocking heads together and realising that whatever is done wrong in one Department costs in another, and it always costs the Department of Social Protection. Many examples of this exist and I will give one. I have raised the issue of commercial rates with the Minister of State, Deputy Perry. They are crippling small businesses which might employ one or two people. They could be closed down because of an amount of €4,000 or €6,000 per year. However, it would cost the Minister for Social Protection €21,000 if one employee is made redundant and €42,000 if two employees lose their jobs. We must come together and formulate a policy whereby we seek common sense. As I stated to Deputy Perry, we are dealing with one pot of money. It does not matter what Department has €20 billion and what other Department has €5 billion; it is one pot of money. If we come together we will be able to work our way through it.

I have great respect for Senator Mooney and he asked where it will all end with regard to the social welfare budget. Only the Lord himself knows that but I know when it started, which was many general elections ago when a previous Taoiseach bought elections by promising to increase social welfare in all its guises—–
Senator Darragh O’Brien:    The Opposition stated it was not enough.
Senator John Kelly:    Promises were made to increase unemployment assistance to more than €200 per week, to increase the pension to €300 per week and to give medical cards to millionaires aged over 70. Unfortunately this must now be addressed.
Many things were done wrong in the past. People on social welfare benefit from free schemes attached to social welfare and do not have to make certain payments. We may have another impending crisis with regard to water rates and a property tax. An argument might be made that people on social welfare should not have to pay these. This will make it twice as difficult for a person on social welfare to be motivated to go to work. The same person on social welfare is probably better off than somebody on the minimum wage.
Fraud in social welfare is rife. Senator Moloney mentioned photo ID, which is a great idea but I do not know why we do not consider fingerprinting all of the citizens of the country. Any law-abiding citizen would be quite willing to be fingerprinted with regard to claiming social welfare. If a person is law-abiding there will be no issue with this. We should consider it.

Let me observe, and speaking only for myself, in my opinion he’s wrong on that score. Completely and utterly wrong. But then what of this:

Senator Moloney referred to the transfer of community welfare officers. The system is in crisis because the Department has asked community welfare officers, the most loyal and hardworking employees in the public service, to transfer to a Department about which they know very little. Moreover, they do not know what is in store for them in future. The Minister should meet a delegation of community welfare officers to discuss their future because they are not being kept informed by the Department.

And what, pray tell, was Senator Kelly’s career prior to joining the Second Chamber?

Ah. And what of that other issue of the Bill they’re discussing? Take it away again Senator Kelly…

I cannot understand the reason some people are making an issue of the decision to increase the age of retirement to 66, 67 and, ultimately, 68 years. My father and mother who are 82 and 83 years old, respectively, run a petrol station. They are well able to do so and do not want to be unemployed or redundant. Most people aged 66, 67 or 68 years want to continue working. When one is 20 years old one believes a 50 year old is elderly and when one is 66 years old one believes people in their 90s are old. Let us take a common sense approach to this issue. If someone is in poor health at the age of 65 or 66 years, he or she should be entitled to a pension.

But you think he’s alone in this new model Labour Party? You think wrong…what of Senator Hayden, also of the LP?

Cutting the 8.5% rate of employer’s PRSI is an exceptionally important measure as part of the jobs initiative. I am only too well aware of what happened in this country in the 1980s. At the time, I worked in Darndale, Killinarden and Ballymun and I saw those communities sink into the despair of unemployment, recession and the issues which came with that. We only have to look at our nearest neighbour, in communities such as south Wales, where a whole category of people are referred to as “NEETs”, which means “Not in employment, education or training”. There are three generations of families in this region who have never known a family member in employment. These are important measures that will prevent Ireland going back to where we were in the 1980s, or having the experiences of some of those communities.
In respect of the increase in the pension age, we need to ensure that there is no discrimination against older people in the workforce. I have spoken to the Minister on another occasion about this and I know she is committed to it. It is also very important that older people are not discriminated against when it comes to educational and training opportunities, and are given access to good quality employment. We need to work hard to ensure that happens.
I have had the pleasures of teaching and tutoring in UCD over the last few years, and I have met a significant number of young people going through that university. I am aware of the difference something like the internship programme can make to young people coming through the educational system today. There was a whole generation of young people in the 1980s who never got access to proper, decent job opportunities during that recession. The Minister has shown her commitment to the internship programme. When the last Government stepped down, there was not one single internship place in this country, and I know this Minister is committed to providing 10,000 internship places. If she has anything to do with it, that 10,000 will be 20,000. I commend the Bill to the House.

And Senator Moloney?

Senator Marie Moloney:  All Members are aware of the country’s financial state and how much we are tied up with the EU-IMF deal. Job creation and getting people back to work is paramount for the Government. Our esteemed colleagues on the Opposition benches agree with this and will support many of the initiatives that we will introduce which will bring about job creation.
Social welfare deals mainly with the unemployed, people with illnesses and disabilities and State pensions. While a large percentage of its budget goes on providing for these areas, part of it goes towards creating employment, getting people back into the working environment and towards the retention of existing jobs. I welcome the lower 8.5% rate of employer PRSI contribution being halved to 4.25% from 2 July 2011 which will continue to apply until the end of 2013. Many employers are struggling to keep afloat at this time and every business has been affected one way or the other by the recession, except maybe undertakers. I hope that by the end of 2013 the Minister will be in a position to revisit this with a view to extending the reduction for a further period, provided as Senator Healy Eames said earlier, that the benefits of the reduction are monitored.
We must make being in employment incentive-driven rather than having a situation where people are happy to remain unemployed. It should never be the case that people can be better off being unemployed. Unfortunately, this appears to be the mindset adopted by some individuals at present. Many state that they are better off on social welfare because they can avail of secondary benefits such as medical cards, rent or mortgage supplement, reduced local authority rent and the back to school allowance. A distinction must be made between people who genuinely cannot work and those who quite simply do not want to work.
It would be desirable if measures were introduced whereby those in receipt of long-term unemployment could perhaps give something back to the community. Many of those who are unemployed have various levels of skills and they would be more than willing to put those skills to good use. They could, for example, work in their local communities for one day per week or per fortnight. What a difference this would make for local communities, Tidy Towns associations and elderly people who might have some odd jobs which need to be done in their homes but who are not physically capable of doing them. Some people detest being regarded as a statistic on the live register. They would feel a sense of purpose and would, for as long as they are unemployed, have a reason to get up each morning if they were given the opportunity to put their skills to use in the way I have outlined. Many of those who are unemployed take pride in their communities and would have no difficulty “mucking in”.

Which is interesting… but consider the following from the same speaker;

I have no interest in engaging in the blame game. I refer to the tendency to blame the previous Government for everything that has happened. Everyone in the country knows what happened and the requisite punishment has been dished out. It is time to move on. However, there is one dastardly act for which I cannot forgive the previous Administration, namely, the reduction in the minimum wage. I accept that those involved will argue that this reduction was introduced to benefit employers and to assist job creation. However, did these individuals not stop to consider the effect what they were doing would have on the lives of people who are trying to survive on the minimum wage? I ask those opposite whose party was previously in power whether they could survive on €306 per week. Could they feed, clothe and educate their children, run a car and heat their homes on that amount? I would find it extremely difficult to do so. I commend the Minister on giving this matter priority and on restoring the minimum wage to its previous level. I thank Senator Mooney for agreeing that the previous Government made a mistake in respect of this matter. It is very honourable of him to admit that.
During the general election campaign I met large numbers of unemployed people, many of whom are graduates. These individuals often indicated that they would be willing to work for nothing. I refer to young solicitors who are willing to do anything, even work free of charge, in order to gain access to an internship.

And so the deserving and undeserving welfare recipients return to the discourse. Albeit in not quite such explicit terms.

Finally, what of this from the Minister herself?

People spoke about incentives to work. I do not think it is a secret that this is something that is lacking in the current social welfare system. The example was given earlier by Senator Healy Eames of a young man with a family who was reluctant to accept a job with a salary of €40,000. Let me try to do the maths. For an unemployed couple with three children, one benefit is the entitlement to a medical card if one or more of the children have an ongoing medical condition. If one is in low-paid employment and does not have a medical card or even a GP card, we all know how expensive it can be. For example, for a child who has a couple of bouts of asthma over one winter, the cost of visiting a GP can be €50 to €60, certainly on the northside of Dublin, and then there is the cost of prescriptions and inhalers. This problem is easily addressed by allowing people to retain their medical cards if they move into work, as in the back-to-work schemes that Senator Moloney spoke about. I was involved in setting these up many years ago when unemployment was high. We had an 18% rate of unemployment at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s.
The other big differential between those who are working and those on social welfare is, of course, rent supplement. Let us be honest about this. For a family of five renting a three-bedroom house, particularly in Dublin, this can be worth as much as €1,000 per month, without any taxation considerations. A person who is the breadwinner for a family of five and earning €40,000 per year must pay PRSI, the universal social charge and a small amount of income tax, whereas a family on rent supplement could be receiving a housing benefit of €1,000 per month – which would not be untypical for such a family in the Dublin region – or, for a family outside Dublin, a couple of hundred euro less. We are talking about a differential of €10,000 to €12,000 per year, and that is what constitutes the difference to which people have referred in their examples.
Shortly after taking office, I asked my Department to carry out research on this, because employers do say they offered a job to somebody at €35,000 or €38,000 and he or she was not interested. I do not think those examples are in any way mythical, but they do relate to people with a number of children who are entitled to a medical card. The medical card issue is addressable by instituting a transition period, but the rent supplement issue can only be addressed by a concerted effort by the Departments of the Environment, Community and Local Government and Social Protection, working together to make arrangements such as the rental accommodation scheme, or the RAS, as people call it in Dublin. We must remember that in a family receiving rent supplement, only the person who receives the rent supplement is assessed for the contribution, whereas most differential rent schemes assess the social welfare income of all adults in the house.

Now maybe it’s me, but if I were standing in the Second Chamber discussing such matters I think I’d have chapter and verse on just why those examples stand up and more importantly again how many people do they impact upon.

It might also be useful in such a debate to have the figures for the levels both numerically and in percentage terms of welfare fraud. But here’s an helpful pointer from a year or two back. Why yes, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Social and Family Affairs [who by contrast with our much vaunted second chamber were able to discuss the matter in much less... heated... terms]. Now that took me all of 30 seconds to find and I don’t have all the wealth of resources that members of the Oireachtas can bring to bear on such matters.

Most pertinently, though, consider the first sentence in the first paragraph quoted above. ‘Incentives to work’. It surely isn’t the social welfare system, or recipients, that have seen the unemployment numbers rise and in the face of the worst recession in a generation it’s hard to understand why Labour Party Senators or Ministers would be articulating this line about ‘disincentives’ to work.

This public sector ‘reform’? Why, just hand over parts of it to the private sector. June 30, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
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Got to love the use of terminology in the current recession. I pointed recently to some entertaining rhetoric, but what of this?

In a letter to heads of departments, secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure Robert Watt said that in their options for cost savings under the Government’s forthcoming comprehensive review of expenditure …the Government wanted a full list of options “and we as public service managers should be forthright in putting forward bold, creative ambitious and even unpalatable savings and reform measures, leaving the Government maximum scope to exercise its decision-making function”.

And this creativity? This ambition? This unpalatable ‘reform’? It would appear that it involves considering a handover to the private sector.

They should consider setting out human resource changes and structural reforms that would need to be in place to generate further savings and efficiencies – “both measures that would come within the remit of the Croke Park agreement and those that would go beyond its agenda as currently specified”.

Departments should consider identifying “self-contained areas of processing tasks that could be considered for outsourcing/transfer to the private sector”.

And

Mr Watt suggested no agency operating under a department remit should be considered untouchable. Departments should include in their proposals options to introduce “reasonable co-payment mechanisms to offset in part the costs associated with delivery of public services, especially (but not exclusively) in cases where lower-cost delivery channels are available”. Co-payments effectively mean the public having to make a contribution towards the cost of services. Examples include the 50 cent prescription charge introduced last year by then minister for health Mary Harney for medical card patients but later abolished.

Co-payment – eh? Not a word of course about social solidarity, of universal provision, of such provision underpinned by proper levels of taxation. Instead the continuing drum beat that implicitly calls for means-testing, privatization and reduction of the state sphere continues unabated.

It’s hardly a surprise that this crisis is being used as an opportunity to reshape the very nature of our societal contract – thin and … as it may be. But that the proposals are so forthright is dispiriting.

One would love to think that this is merely the expression of an extreme and that what will actually occur will be much less radical. One would like to think that a government where the local franchise of the self-described Socialist International is a key component might balk at such measures. One may well be disappointed.

Interview with Sins Of Our Father Author Conor McCabe….. June 29, 2011

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Economy, Ireland.
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In case you haven’t seen it yet….

There is an interview by DCTV with Conor McCabe over on Dublin Opinion about his excellent book “Sins Of The Father”

5 Years ago this month on the CLR: The Last High King and his Faithful Bard June 29, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Irish Politics.
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It’s been five years since this site started up, so, it struck me it might be interesting to look back at some pieces from the CLR in 2006. For the rest of the Summer each week I’ll post up one. This from smiffy, from June 20th 2006, is perhaps of unusual contemporary resonance given the recent death of another former Taoiseach.

Long time fans of the True Voice of the Irish Psyche, John Waters, will remember a brief period in the mid-1990s, before he took up arms against the oppressive feminist tyranny we clearly all tremble under, where he trotted out half-arsed, poorly-understood misrepresentations of post-colonial theory every week, as a way of understanding the legacy of the Famine.

Well, it looks like the unread copy of Black Skin, White Masks has been dusted down and wheeled out in ‘defence’ (if you call a bizarre, nonsensical rant a ‘defence’) of the legacy of Haughey in yesterday’s Irish Times (sub required).

At least the previous Haughey piece we looked at tried to make some sort of case, albeit a spurious one. Waters, however, sticks with his tried-and-trusted faux-mystical tripe which, like the worst kind of New Age hack, he seems to think is an adequate substitute for boring old facts and arguments supported by evidence.

He wheels out the same old clichés we’ve had barked at us ad nauseam over the past week. “Everyone hated Charlie Haughey except the people” (no, everyone hated Haughey including vast chunks of the people, even the always useful to the budding reactionary ‘plain people of Ireland’). He had an “empathy with the people” (no, he was a populist with a barely disguised contempt for lives of ‘ordinary’ people). He was the one who made us all rich (no, he was around at the time when the economic policies which contributed, in part, to the current boom were initiated – with the cooperation of a Fine Gael party in opposition which acted, with the Tallaght Partnership, in a way unimaginable to someone as self-serving and power-mad as Haughey).

However, at least those others who come out with these kind of apologetics tend to at least acknowledge some kind of wrong-doing on Haughey’s part, even if it’s just the inevitable consequence of a ‘tragic flaw’ in his character.

Not John Waters. On the contrary, for Waters (via his wikipedia-like understanding of Franz Fanon), Haughey’s greed, corruption and ostentatious lifestyle are what made him great. He didn’t live in a huge mansion in North Dublin, or acquire his own, private, island and squander his wealth on overpriced shirts and overpriced dinners for himself, you understand.

No, no: he was doing it for you:

He sought to subvert the delusions of post-colonial Ireland, to manipulate the iconography of wealth and power so as to deliver himself and us to our potential.

You see, by being a rather comical anachronism (assuming the mantle of Ascendancy lord at a time when the Ascendancy had all but disappeared, and those who remained in the Big Houses, were impotent reminders of a bygone age) he was somehow undermining that image. One wonders if Haughey himself was aware that he was the living embodiment of subversive irony, or if he was just fond of being very, very rich.

Waters continues:

He stole Ireland back from the elite who had stolen it for themselves – by aping their pretences and self-importance and exposing the inadequacy of their charades; by creating a new drama of elitism: spectacular, attainable and democratic. (…)He showed us a way we might live, by living it himself.

Even more bizarrely, he claims:

He refused to settle for less than his own due, so refusing on behalf of the dispossessed; the men of no property; the women of less property; and the citizens who wouldn’t have minded their telephones being tapped if, back in the grey and wireless reality of early-1980s Ireland, they’d had telephones worth tapping. To the people of flawed pedigree, Charles Haughey said: anything is possible, poverty is not natural, and you do not have to accept your place.

Aren’t you grateful? Apparently, he was leading by example, like the Marxist who travels first-class to remind people that, come the revolution, we all will. He was, in Waters words, “the Fat Chieftain who promised to make his people as plump as himself”.

Except, of course, that he wasn’t. This kind of argument only makes sense if Haughey was, in any sense, a self-made man rather than the grasping, insatiable crook he was in reality. He was able to live the lifestyle he did only because he was bankrolled by his rich friends, and because he was a tax-evader, a point which Waters conveniently elides with an oblique reference to Haughey’s ‘methodology’ in acquiring all this wealth. If Haughey was genuinely trying to show people how they too could aspire to a lifestyle like his, he could at least have been a little more forthcoming in revealing the source of his wealth when asked.

Not only, however, does Waters refuse to admit that Haughey ever did anything wrong, he seems to argue that Haughey, by virtue of his greatness, exists outside this kind of petty ‘morality’.

Being perhaps unable to achieve release from the cocoon of post-colonial illogic, you will “point out” that he was himself the prime beneficiary of his own dramatisation. This was unavoidable and therefore morally unexceptionable. There was no other way of demonstrating the possibilities.

The ‘dramatisation’ Waters refers to being, of course, the acquisition of massive wealth. He goes on:

His fingerprints are all over the transformation of Ireland, but the explanation is too complex and amazing for easy acceptance. Before he came, we were poor: now we grow rich. Before he came, there were hovels, now a housing boom. Before he came, there were dirt tracks, now motorways and flyovers. Before he came, we were afraid to speak in whispers; now we proclaim our worth to the world.

(…)

To deal with such a legacy by counting “good” and “bad” and weighing the difference is simple-minded and pointless. At its best, politics steers closer to magic than logic. To calculate the impact of Charles Haughey, we must add positives to negatives, hate to love, to know the sum of what he inspired and what he overcame to make the impossible banal.

This is nonsense, of course, but it’s dangerous nonsense as well. It exemplifies the kind of mysticisation and aestheticisation of politics beloved of fascism, where the lives and destinies of individuals are subsumed into the destiny of the Nation or the People (as a collective) conveniently embodied in this single great man (and, let’s face it, it’s always a man); the great man who doesn’t have to live under the same laws nor is subject to the same moral standards as the rest of us.

It feeds on the myth of the establishment, where the Taoiseach, Tanaiste, the government, the owners of the media and millionaire businessmen like Michael O’Leary are all plucky underdogs and where Fintan O’Toole and Ivana Bacik really run the country.

It’s an unhealthy and profoundly anti-democratic worldview which serves to keep people docile, complacent and unquestioning and where an essentially conservative agenda can be presented as a radical.

Pretty typical John Waters, all in all.

Means testing as against general taxation… more thoughts from the US June 29, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
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Good discussion on the ever useful To The Point podcast on KCRW about pensions in the United States. As with this state and neighboring ones the debate is about funding. In a piece on the AARP [American Association of Retired Persons] some useful nuggets were thrown up. Roger Hickey of the left leaning Campaign for America’s Future was one of those participating in the program. In response to the points made by a representative of The Third Way, a supposed Democratic think tank calls for means testing he offered the following thoughts.

Warren Olney:

What do you say to a means test [for social security]…my understanding is that when social security was originally proposed it was said that unless everybody got benefits everybody wouldn’t want to contribute…

Roger Hickey:

Yes, and it’s a progressive benefit, people on the lower rungs get better benefits relative to what they put in.

WO: Does a means test make sense to you?

RH: Well, you know means testing is a beauracratic way to examine everybody’s income. The tax system does that already…and so, if you simply lift the cap rich people would be paying more for their benefit. That’s a form of means testing but it’s not one that’s going to dip down and grab the middle class people who are really dependent on social security. And when you talk about means testing you’re inevitably talking about cutting middle class benefit and that’s a non starter for politicians who want to stay in office. The middle class depends on social security and if they get a sense that you’re turning it into a welfare program for just the very poor then you’ve lost the solidarity inherent in social security when it was devised.

There are two arguments encapsulated in Hickey’s response above, firstly a pragmatic one and secondly what can be seen as an ethical one – or perhaps from a left position an ideological one. I think that on the left it is the second argument that is most often brought to bear, and rightly so, it’s far from incorrect.

There are other arguments as well in favour of universal provision supported by general taxation, as noted previously on this site numerous times, that the social outcomes are vastly superior to means testing. But that’s a difficult enough area to position a defense because to be honest far too many aren’t particularly concerned, other than in a rather nebulous way, with social outcomes, and some are actively hostile to such outcomes.

It’s the first argument that Hickey makes, the one based in pragmatism which I think is so important. The tax system already provides a mechanism for examining income. Why on earth need we bother with duplication or triplication of same through means testing various services and provision?

It’s an egregious waste of resources in a context where we’re told on a continual basis that we must seek greater efficiency. I don’t want to address the reasons why some believe means testing is preferable for fear of being accused of projecting onto the motivations of others, but one might look at the unhappy history of those who are beyond the PAYE tax net for perhaps some clues as to why there is such a push to

I was having this discussion with a friend recently who, coincidentally enough, was arguing that some pensioners appeared to be a privileged group in the current climate given that they’d seen fewer impacts on their income. His line of argument was that means testing them would weed out the wealthier.

Now, there’s many responses to such a point, not least that the returns on such means testing would be relatively minor in terms of addressing our fiscal crisis and perhaps that pointing at one group, pensioners, or those on welfare, or whatever is to miss the bigger picture that the crisis is unamenable to solution through such measures.

But taking it on its own terms I suggested that taxation would be the obvious way forward and the response was why should the government give money only to take it back? But of course one can see the dynamic in two ways. One could see it as the taxpayer giving money to the state in the form of taxes and then some being given back to the taxpayer. And given that we have a functioning and functional tax system, at least for those who are within the PAYE net, why bother imposing another level of control through means testing?

That really is the question that needs to be asked, because that’s when the secondary and tertiary benefits of universal provision supported by general taxation alluded to above then come into play.

JLC ‘reform’… June 28, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
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There’s a report in today’s Irish Times by Deaglán de Bréadún that posits that Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton is going to point out to Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton some basic issues as regards his plans to ‘reform wage setting mechanisms’.

Ms Burton was not available for comment last night but other Labour sources said that, if the Minister for Enterprise presented his original proposals, she would be highlighting the implications for her budget in the event that wage-cuts were imposed on the sectors in question.
There would be a prospect of additional claimants becoming eligible for Family Income Supplement whereby workers on low pay are entitled to significant extra payments.

Nice if true and indicative of the complexity that the blunt category of ‘reform’ faces when it engages with actuality.

But, reading the piece this caught my eye.

The EU-IMF bailout agreement specifies that the system must be reformed but Labour TDs want to ensure any cuts in wages are minimised.
The programme for government includes a commitment to reform the JLC structure and to “examine the rate of pay for atypical hours”.

Actually the first part is incorrect.

Here’s the relevant passage from the EU/IMF Letter of Intent, Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies, and Technical Memorandum of Understanding issued on December 3rd 2010.

An independent review of the Framework REA and ERO arrangements will be initiated by the end of Q1 2011. Terms of Reference and follow up actions will be agreed with European Commission Services.

And here, from the Report on Joint Labour Councils are the terms of reference under which it laboured:

First up the genesis…

But the report on the Joint Labour Councils

1.1 The National Recovery Plan, 2011 to 2014, published by the Government on 24th November, 2010, commits to a range of structural reforms to the labour market aimed at removing barriers to employment creation and disincentives to work; and at re-orientating activation measures. In this context, the Government committed to legislate for a reduction in the hourly rate of the National Minimum Wage. It also made a commitment to review the framework of ERO and REA wage-setting mechanisms within a period of 3 months.

And here in the context of the EU-IMF programme.

1.2 On 28th November 2010, in the context of its announcement of the joint EU-IMF programme for Ireland, the Government reiterated its commitment to this review, stating that the terms of reference would be agreed with the European Commission Services.

And finally the terms of reference of the review.

1.3 The following terms of reference were issued in February 2011:

Terms of Reference
The following are the agreed terms of reference:

1. The review will take account of:-
The shared employment maintenance and creation objectives, of the Government, employers and trade unions, both within the regulated sectors and in the wider economy; and the possible renewal of the Private Sector Protocol by IBEC and ICTU.

•The common desire to see the continued orderly conduct of industrial relations across the economy and the relevant sectors;
the continued protection of employee rights and interests;

•The current levels of domestic competition and international competitiveness of the sectors covered by EROs and REAs; price and wage movements in the economy and in major trading partners; and the impact of EROs and REAs on labour market flexibility and sustainable employment across the economy.

•Independent external economic and labour market evidence.

•The views of Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas and of stakeholders including IBEC, ICTU and the CIF, and of all of the parties directly involved in the current mechanisms in the context of evolving private sector pay policy.

2. The review shall provide an assessment on the following points

•The continued relevance, fairness and efficiency of the current ERO and REA mechanisms and of individual Orders and Agreements, and in particular:
o Whether and to what extent the function played by EROs in ensuring protection of minimum wages and conditions overlaps with that of the statutory national minimum wage system introduced in 2000; whether minimum wages and working conditions more stringent and over and above those guaranteed by the national minimum wage for the worker categories covered by EROs are justified on the grounds of fairness;
o the economic function played by REAs in the collective bargaining framework of Ireland and their legal status, including in relation to the definition of designation of REAs “collective agreements or arbitration awards which have been declared universally applicable” under Article 3 of Directive 96/71/EC on the Posting of Workers and the public policy obligations underpinning the statutory framework for REAs having regard to EU Treaties and
in particular, Article 28 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the Solemn Declaration on Workers’ Rights, Social Policy and other issues, and relevant ILO conventions;
o whether and to what extent EROs and REAs contribute to nominal wage rigidity in the covered sectors and occupations, with potentially relevant effects on employment during weak economic conditions and on the adjustment of labour markets across sectors, occupations, and geographical areas.
o the adequacy of the process for the registration of ERO proposals, in particular with reference to the constitution of Joint Labour Committees, their operation and governance, and their role played in the process.
o the appropriateness of the process and criteria applied by
the Labour Court for the acceptance of REA proposals for registration;

3. Make recommendations on the following issues:
o The continued relevance, fairness and efficiency of the current ERO and REA mechanisms and of individual Orders and Agreements;
o Possible legislative amendments to the existing framework for the regulation of terms and conditions of employment to ensure that the framework is fit-for-purpose in the current economic climate, including to remove anomalies and obsolete provisions, and to move to a more streamlined, transparent and flexible wage setting model.
Without prejudice to any findings in relation to the above, and after assessing compliance with internationalconventions and EU labour directives, recommendations for reforms may include:
o The introduction of derogations to EROs and REAs in case of financial difficulties of employers and with a view to protect employment;
o The introduction of more flexible and responsive variation mechanisms in the pay conditions established by EROs and REAs;
o The conditions for registration, enforcement, amendment and cancellation of EROs and REAs;
o Simplification of compliance requirements for employers covered by EROs and REAs;
o The penalties in case of breach of obligations relating to EROs and REAs.

4. The Review will be conducted jointly by Kevin Duffy and Dr Frank Walsh having regard to the need for the Review to draw both on (a) particular knowledge of the operation of wage setting mechanisms and (b) independent economic expertise.

5. The government is committed to taking urgent action, including making any legislative provision which may be necessary, following its consideration of the recommendations of the review.

As can be seen the key term above in all documentation is ‘review’, not ‘reform’ and the review when it was issued was clear that doing away with JLCs wasn’t sensible – though it did argue for certain changes.

But such rhetorical confusions on the part of those who are paid to report these things correctly are now a part and parcel of the discourse.

“We were deceived , We were underestimated , They thought we were asleep in their nightmare …….” June 28, 2011

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
4 comments

-we were deceived
-we were underestimated
-they thought we were asleep in their nightmare
-but we woke up!
-we gathered at the squares,
-we came to know each other
-we started to transform our dreams into reality
-all together
-united
-with solidarity and dignity
-Now it is US who talk, and THEY that are afraid!
-We will not rest in, until those who stole from us, pay!
-We will not go unless all those who plunder our lives
and burn our future, go first!
-28 and 29 of June, 48 hours in the streets!
-All Greece in Syntagma square!
-The midterm agreement shall not pass!

People’s Assembly of Syntagma square 1.34
People’s Assemblies of districts and region
Unions and Syndicates

Big Brother catches up on the Healy Raes …… June 28, 2011

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
Tags: ,
1 comment so far

So Michael Healy Rae won a reality TV show with help from over 3,500 votes that were generated from an Oireachtas phone in 2007.
It really beggars belief and then we get
the reaction of the Healy Raes when found out .

When asked about his role in the affair Jackie Healy Rae answered….

“There wouldn’t be a hope in the wide earthly world that I’d be in a position to make that number of calls. Not an outside hope in the world,”

Michael Healy Rae said

I knew nothing about it.
“Unless I am after mastering bi-location everyone knows where I was.”

Incredible stuff.

Presumably the story will get picked up and go global

Hey, look, it’s us again… or as others see us redux… June 28, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

The issue of the Irish economy pops up in a discussion on Slate of the [very] few examples of where tax cuts have increased revenue.

The Irish case also offers little support for the idea that tax cuts always pay for themselves by goosing growth. The cut in the corporate tax rate did not aid Irish companies’ bottom lines so much as it attracted extraordinary amounts of foreign capital. International firms like Pfizer relocated their European headquarters to the country to take advantage of the low tax rates. All those new companies contributed to an expanded corporate tax base. (Now, Ireland, suffering from crippling debts, is scared to raise the tax rate, which might encourage the companies to leave.)

Great.

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