This government is better than its predecessor? Well… March 12, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
add a comment
There’s a piece by Pat Leahy in the SBP this weekend which raises some interesting points during an overview of the Government’s track record to now. He argues that:
The government is unquestionably better than the last one in all sorts of ways.
And he points to a (real, though fragile) economic stabilisation as evidence of same. And he suggests that:
The talk is no longer of hard choices, it’s about tax cuts. This highlights something that thoughtful people in both government parties tell me: the focus on completing the programme and exiting the bailout has been replaced. The main project of the government is now to secure re-election.
I wonder. I don’t think it’s quite that clear cut yet. This talk seems to me to be pretty cosmetic, albeit if it is shoe-horned into some sort of national agreement as is suggested on the front cover of the SBP at the weekend where pay freezes would be the quid for tax cut pro’s then perhaps it will be more formalised. By the by that’s a desperate error that the unions made once in relation to dealing with previous governments, that engagement with and acceptance of tax cuts as ‘victories’ when they were, as we have seen, anything but.
Still, Leahy moves on:
But has it really changed the flaws of the past? Is it a less powerful executive, through giving away some of its power to parliament or outside authorities? Is it more willing to listen and embrace dissenting views? Its record suggests the opposite, actually.
And he concludes:
The government’s poor popularity ratings suggest that very many people do not believe they got the change they thought they were voting for in 2011. Perhaps significantly, when you drill down into the polling numbers, you find that the government is most unpopular among those people that voted for Fine Gael and Labour for the first time in the last general election.
Moreover he asks…
Was there an alternative to austerity? There is always an alternative, but it comes with costs. The biggest decision the government made – to stick with the bailout – was not one it actually formally or deliberately made.
At no point did the cabinet or the EMC, from the outset the crucible of decision-making in the new administration, formally and seriously discuss the prospect for rejecting the troika bailout and the attendant loans.
Essentially, the bailout provided the cash to enable the adjustment in the public finances to be slow and painful, rather than quick and unpredictably disruptive. The bailout enabled the existing social, economic and political order to be maintained, rather than overthrown.
Eamon Gilmore and Enda Kenny did not seek to fundamentally remake the Irish system – they sought to save it. In that endeavour, they have succeeded.
But there’s a real problem there. Because even beyond adhering to the terms of the ECB ‘bailout’ which was not what they were elected to do, had they actually sought to ‘fundamentally remake the Irish system’ they would have then been doubly breaching the terms of the election in 2011 because for all the rhetoric there was nothing in their platforms that pointed towards a genuine appetite to ‘overthrow’ the existing social, economic and political order. Indeed to do so would have been deeply and profoundly undemocratic, as was the agreement with the bailout that they retrospectively cleaved to.
In a way I think this points up the sheer detachment of much of the media argument during the 2009 to 2012 period, an argument that has only faded somewhat in recent times – ironically just as the situation has stabilised to some degree. It’s all of a piece with short-cuts through democracy, that if only x government or y government, or Brian Lenihan or Enda Kenny or Lucinda Creighton could cut through the nonsense all would be well, unions tamed, finances restored, government diminished etc. Given that that is actually the status quo extant one has to wonder what more is wanted, though the sad truth is much more being the answer.
Leahy is far too clever to say that is the case (that a strong woman or man could impose their will), and his admission that there were alternatives to austerity is refreshing given the antipathy to even accepting that different choices could be made by some.
On the other hand there is the danger that the path followed will appear to be the middle way, the sensible option, and I find that deeply problematic. In reality it is unlikely given the context, of financial sector failure, that the polity would have been willing to bear greater pressures along the lines of those seen in Greece. Indeed I’d almost wonder was this the most bearable by the citizenry in terms of cuts. Though Leahy notes something often forgotten by the orthodoxy.
Everyone seems to be ignoring the fact that next October’s budget is scheduled to take another Euro 2 billion in spending cuts and tax increases.
But it is testament to how the political ground has shifted – though not necessarily in the government’s direction – that this is forgotten. That has considerable implications left and right in the coming months and years.
Since we’re talking about missing the point… March 12, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
add a comment
…how’s this for an example of same. It now transpires that Frank Flannery was a man with quite a nice retainer from Philanthropy Ireland (remind me again about the average industrial – ah, yes) while still working (unpaid) for a government party. I’m sure there’s no problem there. And who ambled through the corridors of power making suggestions on behalf of one or other entity to government Ministers. I’m sure there’s no problem there either.
But check this out.
In Brussels yesterday, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan acknowledged being lobbied by Mr Flannery in his capacity as forum chairman. However, he pointed out he chose not to introduce the tax measure sought.
“He was doing pro-bono work for a charity when he was talking to me,” Mr Noonan added. “He had a proposal which connected contributions to the charity to residency. He came in on a delegation, into Finance, and we took a copy of the proposal, but I sent it to the finance committee, and the finance committee had a full hearing on it and brought out a report,” he said.
“Actually the finance committee recommended that we would accept it, but when I looked at it myself I didn’t do anything in the Finance Bill to introduce it.”
That’s alright then!
Doesn’t Noonan get it (of course he does), it’s not that he didn’t take the suggestion, it’s that the suggestion was made in the first place from someone who was working (unpaid) for his own party at such a high level.
So it’s not alright at all.
What you want to say – 12th March 2014 March 12, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.
Missing the point on the recovery? March 11, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
So, now come the complaints about those who would ‘talk down’ the ‘recovery’. For there’s a piece by Conall O’Morain, of the Sunday Business Show on Today FM, in this weekends SBP which takes the austerity ‘Groaners’ to task for talking things down.
So far we’ve had Holocaust Deniers, Climate Change Deniers and now we have Recovery Deniers. And they were out in force on Vincent Browne’s new monthly TV3 show, The People’s Debate’. In what was a bit of a broadcasting free-for-all, despite Browne’s very best efforts, 200 of Ireland’s Top Narcissists shouted at and over each other for two hours. Each claimed that they felt the pain of austerity’ most and they all agreed they were anti-austerity’ – a stupid badge of honour worn like that of the Pro-Lifers, as if any of us are for austerity (tax increases and service cuts) or against life’.
Well, it’s hardly novel to argue that ‘austerity’ isn’t value free, that there are indeed those who seek greater austerity, tax increases and service cuts as a part of an avowedly ideological approach to the nature of the state and capitalism, an approach that if not adhered to in full does indeed comprise a significant portion of orthodox socio-economic policy today.
That’s so central that one could almost wonder how he could make a case for it being otherwise.
He hits a lot of targets, a PBPA that doesn’t come out using it’s more ‘accurate name, the SWP’, and a certain incoherence in the critique of the current situation. But that is to miss the point, I suspect, because it is almost entirely irrelevant what the SWP does or does not do in relation to the broader orthodoxy, and the incoherence of the critique doesn’t as such invalidate a critique or mean that a situation is beyond critique.
And this is seen not least his contention that things must be improving because:
So there you have it. 60,000 people back to work last year and some parts of the HSE doing much more with much less. But this couldn’t be true because the man on Vincent Browne’s show said so.
But if that’s evidence that things are improving, when so much else isn’t factored in, such as emigration, such as the reality as noted by Pat Leahy that much more has yet to be taken out of state funding, €2bn plus at the next budget, and that’s if things go well – the SBP itself in a money saving leaflet (hey, the times are good, whatever the ‘groaners’ say, no?) notes the sheer scale of the numbers with mortgages in trouble. That’s the problem with making out that the recovery is powering ahead when the very paper the column is hosted in in article after article attests to the reality that the ‘recovery’ is partial, fragile, perhaps even illusory. Because of course there’s a lot of space between free fall and recovery.
I don’t know if what we’re experiencing is a recovery, though there clearly is a more stable situation than there was. One can be marginally grateful that that is the case while still noting that stability does not mean the situation is good, or even poor. There have been too many cuts, too much damage carried out on the socio-economic fabric, for that to be the case. More measured analyses agree that austerity is here until 2018 at the best and in truth for much longer afterwards given the constraints imposed by Europe.
Sure, it’s easy to find inconsistencies and worse amongst some of those contesting the status quo, but that doesn’t invalidate the broader message.
Socialist Party Name Change March 11, 2014Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics, The Left.
On ballot papers it will now read ‘Stop the Water Tax – Socialist Party’.
So will that be just Paul Murphy running under that Party Name?
….. as I presume the Socialist Party candidates running for the Anti Austerity Alliance will be down as AAA candidates.
Services and manufacturing March 11, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Economy, Irish Politics.
William Keegan in the Observer points to some curious facts at the weekend.
Writing about a ’40-year old Tory obsession with services that has served no one’, he argues that:
As I wasted several hours on the telephone last week to various branches of BT stretching from here to India, I reflected on what a farce modern management has made of privatisation.
True, there are those who recall having to wait to get the old, nationalised BT to install a new line; but I seem to remember that in those days if your phone was out of order, you merely rang a three-digit number and called an engineer. Nowadays it requires endless calls and a truly Kafkaesque routine of questions and “procedures”.
And this points to a reality about services that he then outlines, that for all the rhetoric service is overstated, massively so in some instances.
I fear there is a wider problem with modern management. They outsource to cut costs and make life difficult for the customer. And part of their secret is to make the consumer do the work. Indeed, I am lost in admiration for the way some modern businesses have managed to force so many people to “go online” and do the things that the business itself should be doing if it really wanted to provide a “service”.
We can see a particularly pointed example of same in relation to the way the banks here are currently offloading anything that could be regarded as a ‘service’ to customers and charging handsomely for same (indeed the SBP’s money doctor had a piece on same and it is breathtaking how cynical and mercenary that process actually is).
Anyhow Keegan notes that privatisation and service oriented policy/ideology had odd roots:
The biggest joke is that the originators of the drive towards privatisation – Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher – somehow convinced themselves that the future of the British economy lay with the development of “services”. Jim Prior, employment secretary in Thatcher’s first cabinet, wrote of the Treasury ministers at the time: “None of them had any experience of running a whelk stall, let alone a decent-sized company. Their attitude to manufacturing industry bordered on the contemptuous. They shared the view of the other monetarists in the cabinet – that we were better suited as a nation to being a service economy and should no longer worry about production.”
That dislocation between ideology and experience is remarkable, isn’t it? Having worked in the private sector for most of my working life I’ve always been amazed by the rhetorical boosterism by some politicians of an area that is – to put it kindly – problematical. Indeed a lack of proportion in regard to its very real weaknesses (whatever it’s certain strengths) is endemic now – one which surely matches or exceeds the most credulous adherent of the unreconstructed command economy.
Still, I tend to think there’s a more fundamental reason for the reification of ‘services’ and the indifference (shading into antagonism) for manufacturing, for it was in the latter that unionisation in the private sector was at its strongest while in the former it was weaker, and by extending one it was thought that the power of unions would weaken further. So this was intrinsically ideological a decision, and note that economically the concentration on one at the expense of the other seems at this remove to be so deeply problematic that even the Tories are having to make some efforts to to pay lip service to ameliorating the situation of manufacturing in the UK.
And Keegan makes one very basic point when he notes that:
…veteran Labour MP Michael Meacher says in his eminently readable new book, The State We Need – Keys to the Renaissance of Britain: “Any sustainable growth of living standards can only be built on a strong and resilient manufacturing base. Therefore rebuilding that badly weakened manufacturing capacity, halved in the last 30 neoliberal years, should be made an overriding aim for the next Labour government.”
Well, maybe the LP in the UK will do that. Maybe.
It’s the stuff you don’t expect that… March 10, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
…screws up a government. It’s true, though, isn’t it? The Reform Alliance, much trailed in the media had little enough effect on the Coalition. The Seanad abolition referendum, even factoring in how little people care about that institution one way or another, likewise. The LPT. Tricky at the beginning, but by the end easily enough dealt with. Water? An open question. Austerity itself, whittling away support but FG is unlikely to drop lower than it’s 2007 election rating of 27% for which they will probably be grateful (the LP? Ah, that’s a different issue).
But look at this, who would have thunk that a close examination of Rehab, under a chief exec whose political home was once FF, would lead to this?
Must be others this evening wondering how long they can hold on.
Here’s an interesting thesis… March 10, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History, Irish Politics, The Left.
…Reactions in the West of Ireland to political change in Northern Ireland, 1968-1982. (MA: NUI Galway, 2013) by Gerard Madden. A genuinely innovative perspective on the conflict which is well worth reading in full – and a good healthy Bibliography too! Thanks to the person who sent the link and thanks to Gerard too.
SV from the CPOI – March edition March 9, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left, Uncategorized.
1 comment so far
Table of contents:
Vulture capitalists eye Irish homes [NL]
James Reilly’s plenary indulgence [TMK]
The Victorious General
Give us bread and roses too
Social media: Whose interests do they serve? [EON]
Lions led by donkeys [NOM]
Is Monsanto poisoning us? [TMS]
They haven’t gone away, you know! [FK]
United States and European Union launch their destabilisation strategy [EMC]
Did Mandela really change South Africa? [TOM]
Venezuela: A difficult year without Hugo Chávez [SE]
Creating a shared future: Winning the Shankill? [TR]
Letter: Creating a shared future
From the lead article:
Vulture capitalists eye Irish homes
A number of mortgage books have already been sold to unregulated private equity companies or hedge funds, mostly American; but in the proposed sales of the IBRC residential book (13,000 former INBS mortgages) we are looking at the largest sale ever of mortgages to unregulated vulture capitalists . . . What does this mean for mortgage-holders?
Unusual comparisons… March 8, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, Irish Politics.
The arrival of two leading Ukrainian politicians in Dublin to plead with European Union leaders for meaningful action to prevent a Russian takeover of their country put the simultaneous debate about Ireland’s legacy bank debt into perspective. Whatever the outcome of the Government’s effort to secure a more favourable deal on the debt, our problems look like small potatoes compared with those facing Ukraine.