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Housing crisis response July 28, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Eoin Ó Broin notes in the SBP in regard to the Housing Action Plan that yet again there’s an over reliance on the private sector. Quite some over reliance too. One of the most iniquitous aspects is the construction, as he points out, of 10,000 supposedly social units that will actually be private and leased to the state for 10 to 20 years. Rather than building a public housing stock the HAP seems determined, doggedly so, to keep away from such responsibility. As he also notes the recommendations of the Oireachtas Housing and Homelessness committee report which sought 10000 social housing units each year will not be met, with only 6,000 per annum constructed. And Ó Broin is correct too to argue that it is the very dependence upon private systems that has led us in large part to where we are today.

What’s telling is that Pat Rabbitte in the same edition starts out criticising ‘Trotskyite’ TDs responses to the HAP and then addresses not at all the issue of ownership. In the course of a column it does not trouble him in the slightest. Indeed for him it is all about process – supply, building costs, price of land. None of which are unimportant. But he himself has to admit that the commitment to 47,000 social units is ‘modest’. Perhaps I’m being unfair, but right there we see at least a part of the problem. If even those nominally on the left aren’t exercised by the who as much as the how and the when then the prospect for social outcomes is hugely constrained.

‘Flexible’ labour markets July 28, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Great takedown in the Observer earlier in the Summer of the above, where Philip Inman notes that this is ‘the new injustice inflicted on the working class’. What’s interesting is that Inman notes that:

Globalisation is to some extent at fault, though not necessarily in the way we previously thought. A recent study of US wages data found that despite China, Russia and the previously communist east European countries entering the global economy in the late 20th century, wages generally increased until the turn of the century and the first term of George W Bush’s presidency. It was not until 2003 that most household incomes went into decline.

And:

So rather than the previous narrative of stagnant wages for three decades, it seems that the incomes of all but the lowest-skilled blue-collar workers followed a rising arc in the 1980s and 1990s before a sudden reversal soon after the year 2000.
This more recent decline in incomes was matched by rising costs, in particular one cost that is deliberately not captured in official inflation figures: property. For most people, that is not an insignificant expense, and, as we know, house prices began to rise steeply from the late 1990s, pushing up monthly mortgage payments.

It’s not even that governments were unaware of the problem. He notes that tax credits in 2003 was driven by a wish to put a floor under falling incomes and rising costs. But, those costs keep going up. This has had knock on effects in terms of employment patterns – or rather ‘flexibility’ has become a watchword for those who find it expedient. And, surprise, surprise, while a small number find flexibility useful, for most it is a short-cut to perpetual impoverishment. The financial crash, of course, was another part of this dynamic.

And how does this work in practice? Inman points to an area one might not think was exposed to these practices:

For years, the health service has maintained a low basic wage for Monday-to-Friday daytime working and higher rates for other times of the day and week to persuade staff to work unsociable hours. That’s not enough any more, apparently: despite being highly coercive, it still gives the employee too much power.

It is already common to find radiographers and phlebotomists on zero-hours contracts and tied to a bank of staff who must cater for a range of hospitals, minor injury units and GP practices. They sign up to monthly rotas and can’t plan for a holiday or persuade a high street lender their work is secure enough to gain a mortgage.

It’s that dynamic in which workers are trapped, unable to break out, unable to put down roots. And that’s telling in itself, for Inman addresses that point about a small number liking the approach:

The defenders of flexible working argue that people like it. They are supported by surveys that show most appreciate being offered it. But as employment expert John Philpott points out, those who say they like zero-hours contracts are generally students and older workers, who have another income to fall back on.

Indeed he goes further and points out that ‘flexibility’ means two different things depending on where one is in the employment process:

…full-time workers say the flexibility they like does not come from draconian rota systems, but from time off to look after a sick child, and the opportunity to take leave or make up the hours another time. Working weekends and nights is rarely a pleasure.

Party name changes? July 28, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Here’s a question, does anyone know what the effect of name changes of political parties is on membership? My sense is that it is generally negative. But what of the shift from Sinn Féin The Workers’ Party to The Workers’ Party, did that lose them members – or gain them? And what of the shift from Militant to the Socialist Party?

And how about broader alliances? A good or bad thing in peoples opinions?

Given that name changes are usually made in order to indicate some new shift in direction, and to encourage others to join, what are the usual outcomes – positive or negative? Anyone know?

That public sector public sector pay thing, again July 28, 2016

Posted by Tomboktu in Economics, Equality.
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Those public sector workers are creaming it, unlike the private sector workers, right?

The key results of the report suggest that earnings of employees in the study fell during the 2008 to 2010 period with the exception of the bottom quartile (Q1) where earnings remained almost constant. The period 2010 to 2013 was characterised by increases in earnings in both the public and private sectors. In all quartiles in the private sector average earnings in 2013 were higher than in 2008, with the highest earners (Q4) experiencing the largest increase over this time period. This contrasts with the public sector where the highest earners in the public sector actually experienced a fall in average earnings over the 2008 to 2013 period while those with the lowest earnings (Q1) experienced the largest increase in earnings.

Oh. That’s from a new study from the Economics Department of UCC using data on earnings from the Revenue Commissioners.

And then there’s this:

Over the period there has also been a marginal increase in inequality in the sample considered. However, there is divergence between the public and private sector. While the private sector experienced rising inequality over the full period the public sector actually experienced falling inequality, with earnings converging during the 2008 to 2013 period. There was relatively higher growth in earnings in the highest earnings quartile in the private sector. In the public sector a fall in earnings in the highest quartile and increases in earnings in the lowest quartile are evident.

In fairness, it comes with caveats: you had to be in paid employment full time for the full year every year between 2008 and 2013 to be included in the study, and that means thousands of workers are excluded.

Workers lives…a continuing series July 28, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Latest data on life expectancy for those who work at desks – boiled down, one hour of exercise per day is required to mitigate the negative effects of same, as noted in the Guardian.

But…

Ekelund acknowledged that work pressures made taking lengthy breaks – the legal minimum in the UK is one 20-minute break – unrealistic for some.

Eklund argues that television viewing time might offer some time there for exercise and that’s okay as far as it goes but factor in travel times, overtime, etc and that legal minimum break…

Signs of Hope – A continuing series – 28th of July July 28, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Gewerkschaftler suggested this recently:

I suggest this blog should have a regular (weekly) slot where people can post happenings at the personal or political level that gives them hope that we’re perhaps not going to hell in a handbasket as quickly as we thought. Or as the phlegmatic Germans put it “hope dies last”.

Any contributions this week?

A new equilibrium in the North July 27, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Michael McDowell in his SBP column at the weekend makes some good, some not so good, points as regards the prospect for post-Brexit reunification of this island. I think he’s right that a lot of the rhetoric, as noted previously, is based on very little. To interpret the result in the North as indicating a shift towards independence is to misunderstand the dynamic on the ground.

That said, that said, straws in the wind such as these point to – in a way – a more interesting potential opening up, a sort of partnership between North and South to protect joint interests in a way that hasn’t been evident in the past and which might, just might, rework relationships in fascinating ways.

McDowell takes Adams to task for raising the issue of a border poll, but I think that is somewhat unreasonable. Even if the prospect of such a poll is close to zero at the moment at least by making the case he was able to put the North’s interests (and those of the island) front and centre in discussions where only the SNP initially appeared to have any handle on what was going on. The subsequent meeting of minds between Wales, Scotland, NI and to an extent Dublin last week may well have been assisted by that.

McDowell, is, in fairness, clear about his preference for reunification. And he argues that ‘confessional equality’ between Nationalists and Unionists may emerge, and ‘welcome as such a new equilibrium would be, int terms of creating a climate for equal partnership among the people in NI and ending the dynamic of religious majoritarianism there, it does not foretell a sudden see-saw movement towards unification in the short medium or long term’. I think he’s right to be cautious.

If Brexit demonstrates anything it is that in Scotland, Ireland, North and South, and to a degree Wales there’s a strong sentiment that seeks continuity rather than rupture. But working that continuity may well, simply because England is detaching itself from others whether explicitly or implicitly, lead to some very interesting places.

The Fourth Revolution… July 27, 2016

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A while back I picked up John Micklethwait and Adrian Woolridge’s book the Fourth Revolution in the library. Micklewait and Wooldridge wrote a pretty good book on the US right entitled the Right Nation: Why America is Different in the 2000s, and so they should have, being both an Editor-in-Chief of the The Economist and a Management Editor respectively. Sad to say, though, the Fourth Revolution isn’t anywhere near as good or as interesting and readable as that other book.

In part this is because, as with many such things, there’s a sense of pre-determined conclusions forcing the text along the way to align with them. In part it is because their central thesis that three revolutions in relation to government – the arrival of the nation-state, the development of the liberal statement and then the welfare state, seem questionable as means of categorising enormously complex processes of state development. Their idea that somehow the state is in massive crisis also seems open to question. They trace this supposed crisis to entitlement culture, generational pressures, distorted democracy and a raft of other issues, not least insufficient choice.

Sounds familiar? It should, as does their proscription for a fourth revolution which seems, well, well worn at this point. Efficiency, smaller government, a constraining of democracy, and so on is all in the mix. None of that is terribly novel.

And although they warn against – say – the Chinese approach, and to a lesser extent that of Singapore, i.e. authoritarian polities, it’s difficult not to get the feeling reading the book that there’s a certain admiration for certain aspects of the way those states conduct themselves. Indeed there’s a real sense that that constraining of democracy, as mentioned above, is central to what they proscribe.

For much of the book the problem is that statements that are very open to interpretation are simply taken as read. Hence the state is in decline, hence only significant injections of private ‘expertise’ will save it, hence it is irreformable from within. There are a number of modish nods – they support Obamacare for example and make great play of the idea that they’re not anti-state. But… but… the sort of state they seem to prefer would be remarkably limited.

There’s considerable angst expressed over entitlements – child benefit and suchlike, and as it happens there’s an element of truth in some of those criticisms. Yet their answer is means testing and they demonstrate no curiosity or interest at all in the one proven mechanism for clawing back monies in respect of such entitlements, that being the income tax net.

One review online makes a point in it that is very very important, that there’s a desperate staleness and over-famliiarity at the heart of the ideas in the book. This is, after all, the same message that we’ve heard since the late 1970s, in essence a somewhat modified Thatcherite/Reagan approach. It is curious in the extreme that a supposed fourth revolution is meant to appear on foot of that. Their rationale is that the Thatcher approach was only half-implemented, but one has to wonder how accurate that is.

But the attempt to dress this up in new clothes fails. I think there’s a lesson there. The current period has seen, as never before in the last three or so decades, efforts, of varying effectiveness, to provide counter-narratives in political form to the prevailing orthodoxy. Certainly there appears to be some appetite for change. How much? Well, that’s a different question again, isn’t it?

What you want to say – 27th July 2016 July 27, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

EU expansion July 26, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Tom McGurk writes in the SBP that Turkish accession to the EU must be a ‘generation away’ following the coup. What is odd about this is that that was pretty much the consensus well before the coup. Indeed it would be difficult to see any real prospects of Turkey joining the EU before the late 2020s at the earliest. The negotiations process is so slow, and entails so many issues that one would have to wonder if the words ‘if ever’ should be added.

As to further expansion elsewhere. Difficult to believe that Brexit hasn’t dealt that a very short sharp shock.

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