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An unreal issue – the date of the election October 13, 2015

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The talk about the date of the election reached risible heights (or is it depths) last week, didn’t it? Headline after headline in the media stated the bleeding obvious – most entertainingly with a series in the IT which went more or less as follows on consecutive days.

Kenny declines to say if election will be this year or next

Banking inquiry should finish work before election, Burton …

Burton confident election will be held in early 2016

Fine Gael insists timing of election is Kenny’s call

Burton admits election timing is a matter for Taoiseach

Well now, who’d have guessed?

I’ve questioned the concentration on this, but I think it’s very telling to be honest. It always seemed there was an evasionary quality to it away from the Budget itself, or the policies of Fine Gael and Labour in government. It has functioned perfectly in terms of diverting attention away from actual issues. And there are broader problems, the sense that it such talk locks into a discourse in relation to political activity of it being about ‘events’ rather than processes or dynamics. And it’s also so pointless in purely electoral terms (almost so, anyhow). It will not impact substantively, I would argue, on the outcome of the next election. Fine Gael will still be the largest party and its task will remain identical, to cobble together sufficient votes to retain power.

The issue of the election date doesn’t alter matters all that much – or at least not in a way that is knowable. Earlier, events are more predictable. But perhaps FG hasn’t yet peaked and so on and so on. And perhaps that is why Kenny eventually came out with his strongest statement that a Spring date was the one he intends to go for.

Let me admit that I felt almost a twinge of sympathy for Enda Kenny this week on reading in the Irish Times that on foot of that latest pronouncements:

One Fine Gael source said: “We were of the impression that he would say he sees no reason at present to have an early election. He went one bit further and effectively ruled it out.
“It makes us look very weak and makes it seem we were dictated to by Labour.
“It is safe to say we were all a bit stunned by his comments.”

The key word in my sentence above is ‘almost’. Because this is entirely a mess of his, and FG’s, own making. The unnamed FG ‘source’ is as complicit as Kenny, albeit it was the latter who went out and made the play.

Simply put they were too clever by half. Great idea stoking up worries and anxieties amongst the opposition. Hey, it worked! But the inevitable problem was that if he wasn’t willing to go for it he would sooner or later have to make a statement of intent and that would cut across all the ambiguity and play acting of the previous weeks. And so he has and now having heightened expectations on his own side he has had to then dash them.

Last week I’d half written up a piece suggesting that this could if it went wrong work in a not dissimilar way to the process that occurred when Gordon Brown failed to call an election rapidly after becoming leader of the British Labour Party, therefore allowing the press and rivals to hammer him relentlessly as ‘bottling it’. But it didn’t seem to resonate and therefore I didn’t post it (perhaps I should have, others are rushing now to make the comparison) – it’s not quite the same with Kenny, he has the legitimation of being the (so far) most successful FG leader in the history of this state, but without question this destabilises him and allows for some noises off about his…well… bottling it. Not as bad as Brown, absolutely. Not great. Without question.

I think it’s the low level internal FG aspects of this that will be of greater importance than the actual election result. And while Labour seems pleased it strikes me that this is of no consequence whatsoever. Is the New Year really going to see an improvement in their currently dire prospects? Perhaps but not to any great degree, surely.

The next poll will be interesting. As will the measures unveiled today.

Smalltime October 13, 2015

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
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The Blades first new tune in 30 years can be heard and bought here
I like it.

Class war in Irish politics. October 13, 2015

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Given the day that’s in it, well worth reading this excoriating take-down of the RENUA Budget ‘proposals’ by Michael Taft.

He points out, and this is something that Lucinda Creighton admits, that the flat tax idea would leave those on the lowest incomes worse off than at the moment while effectively gifting those on higher incomes considerable sums. Amazingly, as Michael notes, Creighton’s response to this is that those on low incomes should – in effect – work longer hours! Amazing.

But what, you may ask, is the rationale for all this talk of flat taxes? Well look no further than Deputy Creighton’s homepage where one can read this:

6. Is Flat Tax Progressive?
Firstly, a flat tax is the progressive tax system in insofar as the rich do in fact pay a lot more in tax than the poor in absolute terms. The abolition of reliefs and loopholes means that if you earn more money, you pay more tax. There are no more special arrangements for the wealthy.
RENUA Ireland also does not accept the premise that a progressive tax system must involve graduated tax bands. We believe in everyone paying their fair share, which is what a flat tax achieves.
Secondly, under our flat tax at low incomes, the average rate of tax paid by the poor is much lower than the average rate of tax paid by middle and higher income earners, owing to the basic income support included in our model.
Thirdly, a flat tax will incentivise work and reduce the burden owed to the state to the extent that it can create real and lasting economic growth, which will benefit all. By contrast under our current system the political Left prioritise an ideological commitment to punishing the wealthy at the expense of delivering real economic opportunity to working people.
We must not fall into the trap of disregarding the practical benefit of this proposal by focusing on theoretical and ideological hang-ups.

Well that’s a remarkable assertion that a flat tax is ‘progressive’ because the ‘rich’ pay ‘more’ than the ‘poor’. Perhaps someone doesn’t understand the technical sense of the term ‘progressive’ in relation to taxes.

Note that the flat tax isn’t ‘ideological’ whereas the tax system used in polities as different as the United States, Germany and this one is!
Michael makes mince-meat of the ‘basic income’ line above. It’s nothing of the sort, and no surprise there.

But what about those who are on the lowest incomes? Glad you asked.

7. How does a flat tax affect the most vulnerable in society?
A flat tax liberates the most vulnerable in society by increasing consumption, increasing wealth and providing a real incentive for people to get off social welfare, seek out a job and become economically self-reliant.
Not only are welfare-driven poverty traps eradicated under a flat tax, but minimum wage earners will be much better off by taking on additional hours of overtime, or moving from part-time to full-time work.
What our proposal does is offer a simple way to organically increase economic growth in the short, medium and longer term. Additionally, in the short-term the transition to a flat tax will provide an economic stimulus of over €3bn into the domestic economy (over a full fiscal year). People will feel the reduction in their weekly or monthly payslips and help commence the process of driving domestic growth on the high street and elsewhere.
A flat tax benefits everyone at lower income levels by creating the opportunity to work for everyone who wants to work.
It will damage the black market by making people more tax compliant.
It will reduce the number of capital-owners who locate and pay taxes overseas to avoid our punitive rates of tax here, and it will free up Irish people’s income, thereby increasing our rate of consumption.
As a society, we believe in, and defend vigorously, a flat tax of 12.5% on corporations. It works, it is simple, it is straightforward, and the flat tax variant of this should be applied to our personal incomes.

Can’t say I like the tone of the ‘A flat benefits everyone at lower income levels by creating the opportunity to work for everyone who wants to work’ quite apart from the small point that it is entirely unsupported by any actual data. Point 5 underscores this.

5. How does the flat tax encourage employment, enterprise, work and growth?
Just as the flat tax modifies government revenue in a variety of ways, it also has a dynamic impact on individuals from different income classes.
Taxpayers from all income levels would adjust to a greater or lesser extent to the changes in the tax system. Currently unemployed individuals will be able to find a job as a result of the economic expansion generated by the flat tax. Taxpayers who now pay the starting and basic rate will be willing to work harder since they would no longer face increasing marginal tax rates.
Finally, top earners might switch their investments from activities that minimize their tax burden to those investments that actually bring them the highest profit.
In general, all taxpayers would modify their behaviour, so that to best take advantage of the flat tax benefits.

‘A greater or lesser extent’? How much greater, how much lesser? What evidence is there for the ‘will’s’ in the above, why should we take them any more seriously than the ‘might’ in the second last sentence?

There’s more. Note points 8…

8. Should tax punish the rich?
We need to dispel the notion peddled by the Left during Ireland’s financial crisis that there is something wrong with making money, being successful and creating wealth. If someone works hard we want them to keep as much of that as possible. That applies as much to the minimum wage worker as to the well-off professional.
We want to clamp down on the scenario where a hard-working parent hands over most of what they earn to the taxman. That, rather than the creation of wealth or the attraction of those who can generate wealth to a country, is what is really immoral.
The biggest winners from this policy are working families across Ireland who pay income tax, pay PRSI, pay USC, pay the TV licence, the motor tax, their water charges and all of their other utility bills. They are the backbone of this economy and they deserve a break. We want to give those people more money and we are not ashamed to say it.

Not a word about the state, social and other provision, indeed anything. It’s as if taxes are a sort of punitive raid on the great and the good by those who take them for the hell of it. But then for some who will find this attractive that is the relationship.

And note too a fascinating sleight of hand where ‘rich’ suddenly becomes short hand for pretty much everyone! Except for the ‘poor’. Amazing.

What is this? Well, its a pretty unashamed appeal to the best-off, a fairly naked policy approach to transfer wealth from the less well off to those who are much better off, and in doing so offer a sort of kind of economic justification for same, albeit one which appears desperately thin on any serious examination. But there’s a basic problem with the rush to point to such global titans as Latvia, Estonia, Hong Kong and so on. They’re marginal states, bar HK which was in a rather more anomalous position. Even in the powerhouse of capitalism there’s no serious push for flat taxes. Some would argue this is a solution in search of a problem.

It’s amazing in a way how RENUA continue to push a line that they’re not ideological when they’re so clearly pro… well, ‘rich’ as they put it above. It certainly goes far beyond any other party in Irish political life at the moment. Hard to believe the LP, FF or FG would be quite so naked. Of course one is reminded of the old Bush Jr. line about ‘these are my base’, and indeed that is who RENUA is attempting to appeal to.

Karl Whelan has some not entirely kind thoughts about the RENUA proposal here…
And Cormac Staunton on TASC has further thoughts too about the inequities of the proposed policy. He notes in particular that in this respect RENUA places enormous emphasis on ‘trickle-down’ effects, which as he suggests are ‘more and more discredited by evidence and experience’.

And he notes that this would also have an enormous effect on overall tax take such that it would…

“…result in a tax take of €12.33 billion, versus the current take of €15.84 billion. Though this equates to a difference of 22 per cent in tax take”

Clearly they don’t intend to plug that gap, for as Michael notes in the face of multiples crises and challenges facing this economy on many of them…

Renua proposes  . . . nothing. 

But in a way is that not of a piece with the above. For those RENUA is attempting to get support from these aren’t issues, or are of marginal importance. Whether there are sufficient of a like mind to support it is an intriguing question. Or are any potential RENUA voters really going to dig into such curious policy proposals as these, rather than simply flying along with the idea that Creighton is a good parliamentarian or politician, whatever her specific policy ideas?

This is the party feted in some quarters of the media. This is the party that is seriously considered to be a contender for a Coalition following the next election. These are the policies on which it intends to contest that election.

One has to wonder whether this comment from earlier in the year by Creighton was more prescient than she knew – particularly in relation to the order of importance…

Renua is a party. It has a brand, it has an identity, it has a policy platform.

Some would argue that that last comes in a very distant third.

Anyhow, as we hear of the Budget measures introduced this week, perhaps it’s useful to reflect upon the thought that while RENUA might seemingly be at the extreme end of matters its proposals run with the grain, not against it, of Irish political activity and those who run this state.

Workers Party Forum on the Housing Crisis – 15th Oct 7.30pm – Axis Centre, Ballymun October 12, 2015

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Over 42,000 people, including 16,500 children on Dublin City Council’s housing waiting list.

Rents in Dublin have increased by 10% since 2014, forcing families to live in hotel rooms or on the streets.

Council tenants living in houses with damp and pyrite while councils are not responding appropriately due to Government cutbacks

Come to the Forum and be part of a discussion about solutions to the housing crisis that put the needs of working class families and communities of the profits of developers.

What can be done to solve this housing epidemic?

SPEAKERS: Fr. Peter McVerry – Housing and Homelessness Campaigner

Lorraine Hennessy – Housing Activist with Balgaddy Working Together who have bravely fought to improve housing conditions in their area

Jimmy Dignam – Workers’ Party Dublin North West Candidate

A Corbyn media effect? October 12, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

This from Peter Preston in the Observer is curious:

Was there a “Corbyn effect” on newspaper sales in September as Labour selected the new special one? Not for a Tory-leaning press unleashing salvoes of criticism. The Sun (-3.51%), the Express (-2.88%), the Mail (-1.08%) and the Telegraph (0.50%) were all down on August’s figures, with the Times standing flat pat.

As for those readers who said they’d cancel their Guardian or Indy because they weren’t cheerleading for Jezza hard enough, they’re difficult to pick up too. The Guardian (up 1.02%) and the Indy (up 1.73%) had solid Septembers – as, since you ask, did the Observer, up 3.74%.

I don’t find it entirely difficult to understand. If one thinks about it the media onslaught on Corbyn has been relentless (including from supposedly ‘left’ media). Yet that has simultaneously gifted the Labour Party an enormous amount of coverage, and the hyperbole in relation to Corbyn has meant that any reasonable scrutiny has demonstrated that far from being extreme his positions are actually quite moderate.

Sport and politics, and politics. October 11, 2015

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I heard today another person say that a win or two this evening in sport would make a 2015 election more likely. Perhaps so, and who could deny that win in Cardiff? Writing this before Poland v. Ireland the question struck me how many political contests have been shaped by sporting victories? And could the GE?

And what of the latest from Enda Kenny this weekend that he ‘intends’ a spring 2016 General Election? Can he walk back from that? 

What to make of this? October 11, 2015

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From RTÉ… 

Sinn Féin has confirmed that the party’s TD Sandra McLellan has decided not to contest the next general election.

The Cork East TD posted on Facebook that her efforts as a TD were consistently undermined by a small number of party members locally.

The announcement follows a bitter row in the Sinn Féin organisation in Cork East earlier this year, which resulted in the resignation of dozens of party members.

A nice series of science animations… October 11, 2015

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Found this, from  Stated Clearly recently, one of a number of useful overviews of aspects of biology and evolution. Neatly done explanations of processes. Impressive.

Earth without water and other nonsense October 10, 2015

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This story here, from Phil Plait on Slate about an image, supposedly of what the Earth would look like without water, which is doing the internet rounds is highly entertaining. Sadly the image is utterly wrong – it’s of Earth’s gravitational field. The image of the planet without water is a bit more prosaic. Though Plait posts an image of just how much water is on this world’s surface and that’s pretty thought provoking. It reminds me of Arthur C. Clarke’s story “The Fires Beneath’ which notes in passing just how much of this planet there is and how what we regard as life is hardly more than a smear on the skin of it – so to speak.

It also reminded me of this from some years back, one of the most brilliantly incorrect depictions of the solar system as it travels through space.

And this piece shows what’s wrong with it.

A plausible future. October 10, 2015

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I mentioned Clarkesworld Science Fiction magazine recently – and their excellent podcasts, and they post a lot (all?) of their stuff online, at least initially (there’s an app too from which you can subscribe to the magazine).

Here’s another story, this one written by Una McCormick and entitled ‘Sea Change’. I particularly like the way so much is mentioned in passing – Theodore Sturgeon once complimented the Strugatsky’s on not spelling everything out in their work, and this piece is like that. I’ve always felt that much of the best SF, not all of it – sheer escapism is healthy, is rooted in the present. This most certainly is in depicting an all too plausible future with some starting points in our own present (or more or less our own present, the story was written in 2007). Exaggerated social stratification, conservative social laws, indentured workers. The sense of a society which isn’t outwardly vicious as such – although the implications of some of what is written is appalling, but is utterly exploitative and shifting in precisely the wrong direction is particularly disturbing. It’s all here in the story of one person who is actually in a pretty good position in that society but realises that fact and doesn’t just accept the status quo.


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