CPOI Statement May 23, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.
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18 May 2012
At its regular meeting the National Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Ireland evaluated the present political and economic situation in the country, north and south. What is most clear is that the crisis of the system is deepening: the contradictions are deepening and spreading as the ruling elite continues to make the people pay for the crisis, and the system attempts to overcome the crisis at the expense of the people.
The Irish and British ruling class continue to use the crisis for a growing assault on working people, north and south, whether in the form of attacks on pensions and social welfare or a “bedroom tax.”
The external troika continues to determine all economic and social priorities, working in alliance with the Irish state, Irish capital, and all the establishment political parties. At the EU level the voices of monopoly capital are attempting to sow confusion while appearing to be responding to popular discontent with the effect of “austerity”—appearing to be listening and learning, to empathise with the suffering of the mass of the people, talking about the need to modify their strategy. But this in fact is just a change in language, not a change of strategy.
The Irish government in particular is attempting to turn the labour market into a hiring-fair, with tens of thousands of workers facing a life of precarious employment. The recent Supreme Court decision in relation to registered employment agreements will further erode and undermine workers’ terms and conditions and will result in renewed pressure on already low-paid workers.
The Communist Party of Ireland has pointed out and continues to argue that the policy of “austerity” is working as designed. It is essentially geared towards bringing about a massive transfer of wealth from working people to the super-rich and the monopolies. It is working as designed and is being executed with all the skill that the ruling class can draw upon, in particular using the state as the main vehicle for imposing their strategy, backed up and reinforced by their mass media.
The debt crisis is purely a means to an end, that end being the complete subservience of working people and in particular the subservience of the trade union movement. This is best reflected in the continuous bullying and coercion of workers into accepting some reheated Croke Park II agreement, despite the fact that the majority of public-sector workers have previously rejected it.
In the North the Protestant section of the working class will find no refuge in blind-alley politics in relation to the flying of flags. This will not put food on the table: it is a distraction, a political circus dressed up by a bankrupt leadership—a leadership who fully support the economic and social policies of the London government—who have no answers to the growing crisis of unemployment and deepening poverty. The flags protest is merely for blowing smoke in people’s eyes.
Not alone are the people of the South facing daily cuts in services, pay, and pensions, they are now being treated to a display of sexist and misogynist bilge from establishment politicians and the discredited hierarchy of the Catholic Church regarding the rights of women, in particular regarding a woman wishing to exercise her right to life beyond that of the foetus she is carrying, the right to safe and secure abortion. The time has long passed for a full and unequivocal recognition that women have the right to control their bodies and their fertility.
The CPI again reaffirms that we need to build the people’s resistance, to break the trade union movement away from the cul de sac down which elements of the leadership seem determined to continue dragging workers: of cuts in wages, deterioration of their terms and conditions, and savage cuts in public services.
The CPI reaffirms its call for maximum support for protests against the forthcoming meeting of the leaders of the G8—a club of the rich for the rich—in Co. Fermanagh. In particular it urges support for protests organised by the trade unions and other progressives organisation.
Building the people’s resistance and presenting an alternative direction for all our people, north and south—beginning the difficult but necessary re-conquest of Ireland for and by its people—is the task that the National Executive Committee and all the party have set themselves as we begin to prepare for our 25th National Congress in 2014. Statement ends.
…[the US government] cut a deal with multinationals to encourage them to bring back, or repatriate, the billions of dollars kept offshore to avoid tax.
Cook said he had no plan to bring back the $102bn built up by Apple at current tax rates, and recently opted to return money to shareholders by borrowing money instead. “I have no current plan to do so at the current tax rates.
“Unlike some technology companies, I am not proposing a zero rate,” he said. “My proposal is that we have a reasonable tax for bringing back money from overseas.
Cook said the tax rate for repatriated money should be set “in single digits” to persuade companies to bring it back. Standard tax for US profits should be, he said, in the “mid 20s”.
But wait, what’s this?
He also revealed that Apple had struck a secret deal with the Irish government in 1980 to limit its domestic taxes there to 2%.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore denied that Ireland had negotiated corporate tax arrangements with individual companies, despite the claims Apple had “quietly negotiated” an income tax rate of less than 2 per cent with the Government.
Speaking in Brussels yesterday where he chaired a meeting of the General Affairs Council, he declined to comment on the tax affairs of individual companies, but insisted Ireland did not negotiate special tax rates.
RosencrantzisDead noted here the point – on foot of Kenny’s voice being added to this chorus of denial, that it might not be a ‘special tax rate’ but more likely an issue of what was taxable income or whatever.
In terms of institutional reputation that small piece of information, whether accurate or not, is deeply problematic to the state. For it opens up the question of who else might, or might not, have benefited from such largesse were it available at all. If it is correct the recriminations from those who didn’t will be mighty, if it isn’t it won’t matter because all the assurances in the world won’t mollify suspicions. And of course it’s another
What’s telling in a way is how blunt Apple is about its position and its requirements – even if those are unlikely to be met. And yet it will add to the background noise in a context where, as noted by the Guardian, it exemplifies ‘how threats from multinational corporations are driving down taxes across the world’.
In some ways it is refreshing. There’s no pretence here of a social or economic good. Apple is all about producing products and making money and that’s that.
And yet I wonder too. When people articulate something along the lines Cook did it actually suggests that those being addressed – the US government in this instance – retains power. Nick Cohen once said, and apologies for dragging this out yet again, but it is appropriate:
…however novel the ability of companies to shift money and jobs around the world, and however restrictive the limits on the autonomy of national governments have become, corporations remain weak. When all is said and done, they are hierarchical associations for the production of profit. They can’t raise armies or levy taxes or enact legislation. Governments can do all three and turn nasty if they have the inclination…
Which is why the response should be a concerted effort by the US and other states to push it and its compatriots back. Because if nothing else this should sharpen minds in states across the world as to how to put some check on the power of the corporations.
Now the good news is, of course, that this is not going to be the status quo forever. Apple will fail and will fall, others will take its place – though not, I suspect, socially oriented operations for quite some time to come. But states have to take much of the blame for allowing a situation to develop where corporations can all but dictate policy to them. In the US in this open way, and – if one is to believe Apple – in this state in a covert and fundamentally anti-democratic fashion.
The Phoenix 30 Year edition May 22, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, The Left.
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This is well worth a read. I like the format, looking back across the 30 years of the Phoenix and engaging with those years in various different ways. Highly entertaining are a number of individual pen portraits of figures like Haughey, Harney, FitzGerald (a man, who as the Phoenix says, was far from the image portrayed of him), Dessie O’Malley and so on.
What’s most striking is how the Phoenix serves as a sort of mirror to the society. Sure, it has its quiet moments but reading this there’s no question that more often than some might expect it has been spot on. There’s a great anecdote about how Goldhawk met Haughey who proceeded to berate the former about ‘the shite you print about me’ only to get the response ‘you should get down on your knees and give thanks for the stuff we don’t print’. I paraphrase, but only slightly. But that encapsulates the point that the critique of Haughey was almost overwhelmingly political from the Phoenix with little or none (bar the very occasional pointed barb) of the gossipy stuff that dominated other media.
It’s also worth considering that while its ideology has been at times only gently dissident from various orthodoxies it has been dissident, and that is not necessarily a problem given its purpose, in its business coverage it has been often far far more accurate than the most of the rest of a remarkably credulous and compliant newspapers and outlets. It is no surprise to see that a month before Anglo-Irish went to the wall it was the first and only publication to point out that the bank was technically bankrupt – but tellingly even at that stage Anglo sent solicitors around to try to prevent the piece being published.
If there’s a sense that the stakes are less high than they used to be, well there’s some truth in that. The functional end of the conflict in the North certainly softened things, and a degree of homogeneity in Irish politics (in the main) didn’t help.
Perhaps tellingly there’s been a bit more bite on inter-Coalition issues in recent times.
Austerity indefinitely… May 10, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics.
… would appear to be the proscription being suggested by Cliff Taylor in last weekend’s Sunday Business Post. And it’s worth noting the piece linked to by CL in comments over the weekend here where, as he says in the FT Wolfgang Munchau’s take is that:
The new ‘austerity be damned’ zeitgeist is mostly flim-flam..
So what does Taylor suggest? Well he notes:
You know we are in strange times when the Financial Times writes an editorial lauding the views of left-leaning President Michael D Higgins. When various Eurocrats who have championed austerity – the latest being EU council president Herman Van Rompuy – join the call to find new approaches, things feel even stranger.
And that, and this is crucial:
There is a growing realisation that the euro recession could just trundle on indefinitely. Even European Central Bank president Mario Draghi conceded as much last week, using the peculiar Central Bank-speak phrase that the risks to the growth outlook were “on the downside”. Roughly translated, this meant he was worried that the ECB’s forecast of a pick-up in growth in the second half of this year might not be realised.
And in fairness he asks:
But is anything really going to change, apart from a few cooked-up announcements for the June euro summit on “job creation”.
Draghi has brought the ECB a long way – both by way of rate cuts and by promising to buy the bonds of countries in difficulties. He also said he may yet do more.
And notes that in comparison to US style ‘monetary expansions’ the ECB is a long long way from a truly interventionist approach.
While he notes:
But the things that might really make a difference – such as commitment by the richer countries to expand a bit more, let wages rise and so on – do not look likely. EU leaders will put together some manoeuvres to boost investment with the European Investment Bank and so on, and some may be useful up to a point, but they will not change the picture.
As for the promise to “break the link” between troubled banks and sovereigns . . . well, let’s not hold our breaths.
So, taking all that he then applies it to the Irish context. But he does this in a way which suggests that he hasn’t integrated the essential point that austerity isn’t working.
So how should Ireland play this? In a two-faced way, I would suggest. We should do all we can to push the Michael D-type agenda at European level – more expansion, eurobonds, whatever. At home, meanwhile, we should just concentrate on getting the deficit-cutting job done. If there are useful things the government can do to support growth in certain areas via investment, while still delivering on budget targets, then fair enough.
However, the focus should be on getting our figures back in order and hoping that the rest of Europe (and the world) finds a way to get growth going internationally. That’s the mix we want. To pretend we have the cash, the leeway or even the ability to actually stimulate our own economy is pure folly.
But this makes little or no sense, even on its own terms. If austerity isn’t working then it isn’t working. If it isn’t able to deliver across the eurozone in states with much greater resources how logically can it function in this state? If the former are seeing at best ‘indefinite recession’ then what will this state face? How can we cut the deficit or get the figures ‘back in order’ if they cannot? Indeed he’s ignoring the point that the reason for the push-back against austerity is because as a policy it has failed, not because it’s an option that is less viable as against one that is more viable.
And given the incredibly constrained economic approach adopted by this government even within the the context of the troika et al, one which has deliberately eschewed increases in personal taxation, the idea that we ‘lack leeway’ seems wrongheaded. I’ve already noted last week that Michael Taft and others using ECB/IMF constraints provided alternative plans.
Cliff Taylor might not agree with such plans, but it is disingenuous to assert that there is ‘no ability to actually stimulate our own economy’ let alone that the very idea is a pretence.
Pat Leahy, in the same edition of the SBP, makes a telling elision of two different things in another piece on austerity. He elides (or confuses – depending upon one’s interpretation) the idea of an ‘end to austerity’ with those who say ‘austerity hasn’t worked’.
All of a sudden, the end of austerity is in vogue. Christine Lagarde, Jose Manuel Barroso, Joan Burton, Jack O’Connor – everyone’s at it.
President Michael D Higgins has warned about the dangers of austerity in a speech to the European Parliament and a Financial Times interview. So is the end of austerity really in sight?
Let’s be clear. Those are functionally and in every other sense two different positions.
The government could declare an ‘end to austerity’ based on the premise that it had worked. Those of us who have been sceptical about it from the off would point to the growing quantity of data to support that contention. That latter position argues that austerity is wrong in and of itself, not that it is coming to an end naturally.
And it’s also worth noting that Burton et al have also noted the limits of what is achievable in terms of austerity in contemporary polities:
Lagarde has been beating the drum for Europe’s economies – especially the strong ones which can afford to borrow – to shift from budget cutbacks to investment. In a striking qualification of existing policy, Barroso said that Europe had reached the limits of political and social support for austerity.
That latter is not unimportant. Greece would now appear to be very much an outrider, and perhaps some have learned a few lessons from its example in terms of what negative impacts can occur when a society and polity is squeezed too hard in the name of fiscal rectitude.
What’s fascinating though with Leahy, as with Taylor, is the inability to see that if it is not working in bigger more stable economies then its chances of working in ours is minimal.
There is a slight air of unreality about this – which is fine – but it is begetting a fantasy political debate, and that is not fine. “People need a break,” said Mary Lou McDonald in her questioning of the Tánaiste in the Dáil last Thursday. They sure do. But pretending economic policy can be constructed in these terms is ridiculous.
There is certainly a reasonable debate to be had about the optimum pace of fiscal adjustment and the effects of too much austerity in strangling growth. But any substantial easing of austerity either requires the government to dip into cash reserves intended to provide comfort to future lenders, or to seek to borrow greater amounts. Neither course of action is calculated to inspire confidence in the markets from which Ireland must continue to seek funding.
The problem with that latter argument is that it entirely ignores the point that the economy continues to fail under austerity measures – putting aside the public appetite to accept them for a moment. In other words it is impossible to grow in such a context. Hard to believe that the markets would find that inspiring much confidence either.
Moreover, and again one must consider the lack of interest in alternatives, Leahy appears to believe that there is but one way forward within the orthodoxy:
The budget deficit – the difference between what is raised in taxes and what is spent on public services and welfare – still stands at a billion euro a month, give or take. This sum must be borrowed, thus adding that amount to the existing national debt, on which recurring interest payments must be made. It is currently being borrowed from the troika; when Ireland exits the bailout, it is intended that the shortfall will be borrowed from the bond markets.
But much of the public debate about the “end of austerity” seems to suppose that continuing to borrow endlessly at this rate is an option that the government is inexplicably declining to take.
The truth is that the day-to-day policy-making in the government is still utterly constrained by the need to reduce the deficit. Just because the coalition is used to that now doesn’t mean the need to do it is any the less.
But that again ignores the very shape ‘austerity’ has taken in this context. And as always there’s the recourse to a sort of Irish economic exceptionalism:
Austerity in Ireland has never been the product of a calculated decision on economic policy in the way that it has been for, say, the British chancellor George Osborne. Rather it is a necessity imposed by circumstances.
Except, as we know it is entirely possible that the government could have pushed the balance towards taxation rather than cutting of services and provision. The troika were largely indifferent to such. There’s good evidence that such an approach would have only very marginally delayed any recovery (although at this point the idea that recovery will ensue appears optimistic at best).
And there’s something just a little cynical about the following:
It’s more than understandable that people are fed up with austerity – who isn’t? But here’s another uncomfortable fact: in the post-bailout era, which Ireland will probably enter later this year, the Minister for Finance will probably have to run an even tighter fiscal ship.
As long as Ireland needs to borrow money, either to expand or just refinance its national debt – and that is far into the foreseeable future – all governments will have to govern with one eye on the international bond markets. That may be a deeply unwelcome and unjust intrusion, but it will remain the case. The world is as it is, not as we would have it. That will remain the case for future Irish governments, whoever occupies the Taoiseach’s office.
Again, this ‘there is no alternative’ only holds true to a very very narrow reading of events. It is worth noting that if the austerity approach is discredited, and again it’s worth considering Munchau’s argument that this is ‘flim-flam’, then that itself will engender a radically different context. Look at what Taylor says again. He notes that the US, the UK (in it’s own strange way) and Japan have all followed monetary expansion policies. That is too remains within the orthodoxy, albeit a different version of same.
But in a way this debate is overly complexified, and as a sort of riposte to that it is worth examining closely a piece by Mark Blyth in the current edition of Foreign Affairs magazine (unfortunately behind a paywall), hardly a voice of the heterodox, drawn form his book ‘Austerity: The history of a Dangerous Idea’. Blyth is Professor of International Political Economy at Brown University in the US and his analysis of austerity is one that should make its proponents deeply uncomfortable.
He notes that that ‘the eurozone countries… have volunteered as subjects in a grand experiment that aims to find out if it possible for an economically stagnant country to cut its way to prosperity. Austerity – the deliberate deflation of domestic wages and prices through cuts to public spending – is designed to reduce a state’s debts and deficits, increase its economic competitiveness, and restore what is vaguely referred to as ‘business confidence’. The last point is key, advocates of austerity believe that slashing spending spurs private investment, since it signals that the government will neither be crowding out the market for investment with its own stimulus efforts nor be adding to its debt burden. Consumers and producers, the argument goes, will feel confiencet about the future and will spend more, allowing the economy to grow again.’
He also suggests that the reasons for the adoption of austerity as a policy are as follows:
Austerity is a seductive idea because of the simplicity of its core claim – that you can’t cure debt with more debt. This is true as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough…three factors undermine the argument that countries in the red need to stop spending.
And these are:
…distributional, since the effects of austerity are felt differently across different levels of society. Those at the bottom of the income distribution lose proportionately more than those at the top, because they rely far more on government services and have little wealth with which to cushion the blows.
Trying to get the lower end of the income distribution to pay the price of austerity through cuts in public spending is both cruel and mathematically difficult. Those who can pay won’t, while those who can’t pay are being asked to.
Which certainly makes clear the paucity of the austerity approach. But he also adds that:
The second factor is compositional. Everybody cannot cut their way to growth at the same time. To put this in the EU context although it ameks sense for any one state to reduce its debt, if all states in the currency union, which are one anthers major trading partners, cut their spending simultaneously, the result can only be a on traction of the regional economy as a whole. Proponents of austerity are blind to this danger because they get the realtinsihps between saving and spending backward. They think that public frugality will eventually promote private spending. But someone has to spend for someone else to save, or else the saver will have no income to hold onto.
Finally, and most importantly perhaps, he argues:
The third factor is logical: the notion that slashing government spending boosts investor confidence does not stand up to scrutiny. As Paul Krugman and others have argued, this claim assumes that consumers anticipate and incorporate all government policy changes into their lifetime budget calculations.
And he makes the following point which is key:
The assumption that this behavirou will actually be exhibited by finically illiterate, real world consumers, who are terrified of losing their jobs in the mids of a policy-induced recession is heroic at best and foolish at worst.
He continues by examine the roots of Austerity in the tension within liberal economic approachs to the state and amidst some useful insights – not least that it was austerity, not inflation, that drove the rise of National Socialism in pre-WWII Germany (and he makes a persuasive case about the role a very deliberate approach by the German government of the period to rebuff reparations played in hyperinflation in that period), and that austerity has pushed the United Kingdom to the brink of the very first triple-dip recession in a developed country, he also has some thoughts that are relevant in light of the discussion above as regards Taylor and Leahy’s arguments. He directly references the supposed argument that Ireland’s situation in the 1980s proves the efficacy of the austerity approach.
All these countries cut their budgets, devalued their currencies, and controlled wage inflation, and their later growth rates were impressive. The purported mechanism behind the growth was consumers’ far-sighted expectations, that is, the confidence effect: anticipating that public spending cuts now would mean lower taxes later, individuals spent their money, making these economies boom.
He suggests that more recent scholarship undercuts this thesis. And he notes that:
First, in each of these cases, a small state was cutting its public spending at the peak of a period of growth and when much larger trading partners were expanding. They were also discrete events, happening in one country at a time, rather than simultaneous contractions.
He also notes Stephen Kinsella’s research that ‘in the Irish case… real wages increased during the late 1980s, suggesting that a routine stimulus effect, not changes in consumer expectations, caused the boom’. He doesn’t mention explicitly the transfers from the EC during this period but they are a crucial part of the story of the ground work for the 1990s boom.
But stepping back a moment if that is correct then it doubly underlines the point that contemporary austerity measures cannot deliver growth. If not then, except off the back of EC transfers and a period of growth, expansion of larger trading partners, then how now in the context of almost continent wide recession? If the policy of austerity cannot work in this state as its proponents argue (even putting aside the inevitable and actually occurring damage to our economic and social infrastructure), then it seems – at best – perverse to pretend that it can and continue implementing policies which are clearly counter-productive. This isn’t a left-wing argument as such, although it is an argument that the left was making from the outset. It is one rooted in pragmatism. If it doesn’t work then why are we continuing on this course. And if it doesn’t work then it is long past time to seek alternatives before the damage incurred is too great.
What is Blyth’s solution?
‘First do no harm’ he suggests. And he continues:
Countries cannot simultaneously shed their public and their private debts, which is what Europe has been doing. Rather, governments should get the private sector pay down its debts while maintaining public spending: after all, private-sector savings need to come from somewhere. Once that is done, as the private sector recovers, tax revenues will increase, and the accumulated debts and deficits can be paid down.
It would appear that the only way forward would be through an EU wide programme that would foster growth actively in states like Ireland, Greece and so on, rather than a bland – and self-evidently – incorrect faith, for that is what it is, in the market to provide. Moreover it requires a shift in terms of the attitude towards the deficits accrued (deficits by the way which in many instances the severity of which is borne by the state taking on private sector failure). And it requires a complete rethink of the attitude to public spending which has taken hold.
The problem is that, as noted by CL and others, there is no political will – whatever the shifting mood music – to do so.
…at ground level in this part of this island? I only ask because of the weird dislocation between the policies implemented by the ECB and those adopted by banks and mortgage providers in this state.
Now, of course, there is the obvious caveat that it is unlikely that RoI mortgage holders are top of the list of concerns of the worthies at the ECB. But look at how the linkage between interest rates as ‘set’ by the latter and interests rates as set by the banks/mortgage providers are so divergent.
In a widely anticipated move, the ECB cut its main interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point to 0.5 per cent, a record low. While the rate cut was aimed at providing a shot in the arm for the European economy it will also reduce mortgage repayments for hundreds of thousands of Irish people with tracker mortgages tied to the Central Bank’s rates.
I’d be very interested to know the figures of those who will be impacted positively by the cut. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps, but what of those who won’t see them passed on by banks and other financial institutions.
How many are on trackers mortgages? According to David McWilliams:
Today, trackers account for 60 per cent of Permanent TSB’s €26 billion Irish residential mortgages. Trackers make up 54 per cent of AIB’s €27 billion book and 23 per cent of the €16 billion book at its subsidiary, EBS. Some 62 per cent of Bank of Ireland’s €28 billion book are trackers.
All told, that works out at €51 billion, or about 52 per cent of residential mortgages at the four main banks. A higher proportion of buy-to-let mortgages, about 70 per cent, are on tracker rates.
McWilliams, argues that tracker mortgages were a ‘virus’ which – in part given that 85 per cent of them were lent in the 2004-2008 period, were directly responsible for exacerbating the crisis – by encouraging builders to keep building given that enormous sums of credit were being brought into the housing market.
While the cut will be automatically passed on to tracker mortgage holders, people with variable rate mortgages are at the mercy of individual banks and with banks pushing variable rate mortgages up irrespective of the course of action being followed by the ECB, the possibility of rate cuts being rolled out across the board seems remote.
And an interesting coalition of forces is crying foul on this, from the Professional Insurance Brokers Association who note that ‘Irish bank interest rates which have been creeping up surreptitiously’ and ISME who ‘called on the Government to take the “strongest action possible” to force banks to pass on the reduction’.
Because as noted in the SBP at the weekend the impact of interest rate decreases isn’t restricted to those on mortgages. Savers will see deposit interest rates fall and SME’s will see little or no change because ‘lenders in peripheral countries such as Ireland are not pricing off the ECB’.
And the response from our government?
Asked whether Minister for Finance Michael Noonan had any comment on whether banks should pass on the rate cut to standard variable rate customers, his spokesman indicated he would not be intervening.
“This is purely a commercial matter for the banks,” the spokesman said.
But it’s not entirely, or not at all, at least it’s not if the rhetoric emanating from government over the last few years is anything to go by. For example AIB for example remains ‘almost fully state-owned after a €21b government bailout’ as noted in the second IT piece linked above. And how this encourages growth in the economy escapes me.
It gets worse, in a way:
The ECB also signalled yesterday that further interest rate cuts could be on the cards.
So, as interest rates fall across Europe for those with mortgages interest rates will rise here. I’ve already pointed to the near certainty that sooner or later, and most likely sooner, ECB rates will rise again. That will, I suspect, push a new tranche of those hanging on with mortgages to the brink and over, with the consequent socio-economic impacts.
McWilliams notes that this will affect those on trackers grievously too:
If the European economy ever recovers, the Germans will insist on interest rates moving up swiftly to pay its savers, who are seeing their income from saving wiped out as interest rates keep falling.
What happens to the ability of hundreds of thousands of Irish people with trackers to meet their mortgage payments when interest rates rise to their long-run average of 4 to 6 per cent?
Clearly we will see mass defaults across Trackerville and these defaults will be unique to Ireland because they will be happening when the rest of the eurozone is recovering strongly.
If anything shows you just how damaging the banking policies of 2000-2007 actually are, it will be the sorry story of the tracker mortgages for the course of their 20 to 25-year life.
A perfect illustration of how the different demands of the different areas within the eurozone operate at odds with one another and how policy is all over the place. Trouble building up there.
That Eurozone growth… May 6, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics.
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…somewhat delayed or so it would appear.
Retail sales across the euro zone were down by 2.4 per cent in March on last year’s levels
Retail sales in the euro zone fell by 0.1 per cent in March, in line with previous estimates, new figures showed.
Don’t mention the war… May 4, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, Irish Politics.
…would appear to be Stephen Collins approach in this piece on the speech by Michael D. Higgins during the week where he strongly critiqued austerity. It’s not so much Collins’ analysis of the speech…
The logic of his [Higgins] critique of the liberal economic orthodoxy prevailing in EU institutions and most of its member states, including Ireland, represents an implicit criticism of the Government’s approach.
Well, yes. Though not an entirely explicit criticism and I’m dubious about the following:
Senior civil servants were reported to be concerned about the speeches delivered by the President.
I may be wrong, but I suspect that such speeches are vetted, or at least given a degree of oversight that would prevent anything too embarrassing from being said.
Nope, it was more the following, which presents a remarkably – what’s the term, tactful, tangential, simplistic, reading of a particularly difficult event in relations between a President of this Republic and the government of the day:
One of the reasons for Kenny’s restraint [in terms of intervening over the MDH speech] is probably his awareness of the damage done to the Fine Gael-Labour coalition of the 1970s by the row with Ó Dálaigh that ultimately led to his resignation as president. That row developed from a presidential decision to refer a piece of emergency legislation to the Supreme Court rather than from any statement or action that could be regarded as outside his constitutional remit.
The then taoiseach Liam Cosgrave and Ó Dálaigh did not enjoy a great relationship and the president resented not being given regular briefings by the taoiseach.
This was sent to us at CLR earlier today
Take action in the legislative process of EU-Seed regulation!
There is urgent action needed to avoid damage by the upcoming new EU regulation of seed marketing. The new regulation will de facto ban old and rare varieties and farmers varieties and threaten the exchange and selling of seeds of diversity. DG SANCO (the General Direction of the EU for Sanitary and Consumer affairs) has been working on a proposal for a new regulation since years.
On Monday, the 6th of May they will present their proposal to the conference of commissioners. They could not get a consensus of the two other affected DGs, DG AGRI (agricultural affairs) and DG ENVI (environmental affairs). Both opposed the last draft of the proposal, and DG SANCO is not looking for a consensus.
The new regulation has mainly been drafted by Isabelle Clement-Nissou, an employee of GNIS, the French lobby of the Seed Industry. Madame Clement-Nissou was sent as a national expert to Brussels by the French government and is supposed to ” support ” DG SANCO. The drafts for the proposal became worse from the first to the second draft; and it is expected that the final proposal is going into the same direction. Since there is no consensus between the three DGs, the commissioners have to vote on the proposal.
If a majority of commissioners votes against the proposal, it should be stopped. If they vote in favour, it will be given to the EU Parliament and to the Council. The seed industry is pushing the legislation, because they’ve spent a lot of money to influence the seed legislation. Furthermore, they don’t want it to be postponed after the election of a new parliament in May 2014. They take the risk that the commissioners vote against it − and we think: the commissioners should do so! There is only a little chance to get a majority of commissioners to vote against the current proposal, but we still should try.
Each country of the EU has one commissioner in Brussels, so we need 14 votes against the proposal. The commissioners of DG AGRI and DG ENVI should vote against, so we need 12 more.
Please write to the commissioner of your country and convince him/her to vote ” NO ” on the proposal of DG SANCO on 6th of May.
Try to make a link from his/her department to the seed issue, and try to make clear to him/her that the proposal for a new EU seed legislation will affect the cultural and biodiversity heritage of your country and the freedom of farmers to use the seeds and the varieties they want to.
NO PROHIBITION OF SEEDS OF DIVERSITY! By the obligation to register varieties before marketing, the new regulation will be a de facto prohibition of old and rare varieties and of farmer varieties. Please write to your commissioner in Brussels no later than the 28th.
He/she has to make a statement on the proposal from 24th of April on, the sooner, the better. On the 6th of May, we must obtain at least 14 objections, otherwise this proposal will become the official proposal.
THE EMAIL ADDRESS OF THE IRISH EU COMMISSIONER MÁIRE GEOGHEGAN-QUINN IS: firstname.lastname@example.org SUGGESTED MAIL:
Dear Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, I have recently been made aware of the upcoming proposed changes to EU seed marketing law. This proposed new regulation will de facto ban old and rare varieties and farmers varieties and stop the exchange and selling of traditional seeds.
The apparent background to this is that DG SANCO (the Directorate General of the EU for Sanitary and Consumer affairs) has been working on a proposal for a new regulation driven by lobbying of the big agricultural seed companies. Apparently, however, two other EU directorates, DG AGRI (agricultural affairs) and DG ENVI (environmental affairs) both opposed the last draft of the proposal because it was so bad for agriculture and biodiversity. DG SANCO is now pushing ahead with the new law by putting it directly to the Commission this week.
I would urge you to vote against the current proposal, as it impacts everyone who cares about our seeds and our freedom to save, use, and exchange them.
Given our Irish heritage and background in agriculture and indeed the many rare and beautiful varieties unique to our country, it is vital that you understand how the proposal for a new EU seed legislation will affect the cultural and biodiversity heritage of Ireland, and the freedom of farmers and growers to use the seeds and the varieties they want to. By forcing registration of all varieties of every crop species that exists, the new law will prohibit old, rare and traditional public− domain farm varieties. This will guarantee huge profits for the seed industry but will be a terrible loss to the people of Europe as our agricultural heritage is outlawed overnight!
I would urge you SAY NO TO PROHIBITION OF SEEDS OF DIVERSITY! VOTE NO….
More info at: www.seed-sovereignty.org
From Spain: 28 April 2013 April 29, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, European Politics, The Left.
1 comment so far
ejh has returned after a break of some weeks. And it is a disturbing and thought-provoking piece on the nature and constraints of political language in the context of Spain and austerity, but with ramifications further afield.
The run-away plutocracy… April 23, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics.
An amazing stat quoted by RosencrantzisDead here at the weekend
The top 10 earners shared €23.52m in core salary, bonus, pension and benefits. This compares with €19.75m last year – representing a 19 per cent pay increase. … Apple boss Tim Cook was paid €3.2m last year. Despite heading up what was briefly the world’s most valuable company, Cook was paid less than Smurfit Kappa chief Gary McGann. Apple is 104 times more valuable than Smurfit based on market capitalisation.
We all may have partied, but some of us have evaded the hangover.
Consider it. Tim Cook, cornerstone of US, no – international, corporate culture. An exemplar of same. And yet his salary – despite the profitability of Apple, the fact that it sits on a mountain of money (a fairly useful approach US based companies have to take), the ubiquitousness of its products and services, is less than some Irish corporate heads. It’s worth noting that the previous year Cook took home...
…$378 million in 2011, almost all of which came from a grant of one million shares awarded last August. Cook’s base salary is $900,000, along with annual incentives to the same amount — almost insignificant next to his stock options, but a lot higher than the $1 that Steve Jobs famously drew.
But even in that single example of boom to… well… massive wealth by any reasonable standards we see a perfect illustration of the sheer dislocation of contemporary capitalism and its essential contingency.
Naturally the left – I think sensibly – focus on the disparities of wealth and income. The dangers of a run-away plutocracy beholden and answerable to no-one but themselves and beyond the constraints of democratic oversight is something that is to me one of the key societal dangers and threats facing us in the near to mid-term. The retreat of social democracy and the marginalisation of the further left as well as the paradoxical (in light of the crises attendant on contemporary capitalism) consolidation of the orthodoxy has allowed this to develop in an even more unhinged fashion (Occupy represented one response, although the limitations of same are obvious).
That’s the immediate danger, it’s not just that our projects are unfulfilled and are unlikely to be any time in the near future. It is that those forces arrayed against us are now so deeply embedded, so immovable, that they functionally are able to do mostly what they choose to do on a political and socio-economic level.
What strategies and tactics we should adopt in light of this is difficult to know. But, whether we’re shifting leftwards or simply trying to stymie plutocracies the interim goals are perhaps very similar, not least in bringing back into focus concepts like the primacy (and ability) of the state in terms of ensuring degrees of equity in regard to taxation, and there are more.
Otherwise… not good.
By the way, on the topic of Apple, the following comment from an ‘investment analyst’ made in the context of share prices and expected lower growth was priceless…
According to analyst Toni Sacconaghi at Sanford C Bernstein, investors want to get their hands on at least half the cash flow – $22bn a year, up from the $13bn Apple announced last March it would spend on dividends and buying back its shares to help boost the price. He said: “We think a cash-return programme that is smaller is likely to disappoint investors, while a higher number would likely be viewed favourably.”
Apparently Apple has traditionally eschewed dividends.