Thursday, 10 May 2012

A MEETING WITH A LOCAL TD


62 weeks now (and counting) we've been marching in Ballyhea and Charleville in protest against the ECB-ordained government-sanctioned bank bondholder bailout.
 
The numbers are stark and staggering: €103bn paid out by the Irish banks since the ill-founded blanket guarantee of 2008, another €40bn to go (figures per Parliamentary Question to Michael Noonan, mid-April 2012; we reckon the latter figure is more like €55bn); €62.8bn thus far invested by us, through the government, in those banks (again, figure courtesy of Michael Noonan). Add in the interest paid and yet to be paid on the borrowings to pay that €62.8bn, add in also another likely recapitalisation, that figure will exceed €100bn.

We were told it was to save our banking system - for what? To pay bondholders - nothing more, nothing less, those banks standing idly by even as local Irish business grinds to a slow halt. Four years of austerity budgets and we’re immeasurably worse off than we were when we started.

Last Friday week - by appointment - we met a local TD to outline the reasons for our protest and perhaps have our views relayed to the aforementioned Mr. Noonan. It was an experience none of us who were there (seven in total) have any wish to repeat.

The meeting had barely started when the TD outlined to us the difficulty of making ends meet on a salary of €92,672 plus expenses (this individual claimed over €50,000 last year), reeling off in rapid succession the list of outgoings, starting with a €10,000 pension contribution (and oh, wouldn't we all like to be contributing to that pension!), ending with the statement - "Thank God we get paid today."

Later in our exchange, after I had suggested that a third rate of tax starting perhaps at €100,000/annum would be one way of raising the money needed to close the deficit gap, the TD instantly jumped in - "Take a couple in Dublin who have gone to the trouble and expense of going through college; he now has a job let's say as a doctor or solicitor earning €120,000, she has a job where she earns €80,000; they have a big mortgage, a lot of extra outgoings, and you want to take more tax from them?"

At this I got a little hot - the government of which this individual is a party member can introduce without question universal levies, household charges, property tax, water charges, crushing those who are on lower and middle incomes, but mere mention of a third level of tax to spread more of the load on those who can most afford it and immediately this fictitious couple in Dublin is fabricated, struggling to get by on €200,000/annum, just as this poor TD is struggling to get by on a gross income (and boy, is it gross) of nearly €150,000. 

I'm deliberately not naming the individual involved, simply because I believe the attitude we met is symptomatic of the whole lot of them, Fine Gael, Labour, Fianna Fáil and the Greens before them. They pretend sympathy, the members of the governing parties (these and the previous) but there is no empathy - not a shred. As is evident above, they live on a different planet.

The Deputy outlined out to us the government policy, their hope that in three or four years, when our debt has become utterly unsustainable, we will get a write-down "of up to 50%" from Europe. We pointed out that at that stage the bulk of the bank bonds will have been paid and the one major bargaining tool we still have will be gone, surrendered, the private bank debt now all transformed to sovereign. This will then be sovereign default, for which we will pay a massive price. The guidelines we get to meet the current EU/ECB deadlines? Forget it - sovereign default will mean the troika now dictating line-by-line and top of their list will be our Corporation Tax rate, followed by our old-age pension rates, social welfare baseline rates, and so on and so on.

Before we left, in reference to the above,  I stated that a huge number of eminent economists at home and abroad are on record as stating that the bank debt burden is what is sinking Ireland and that the time to strike is now, that it's still not too late. I mentioned one economist in particular, Constantin Gurdgiev. It was like a red rag to a bull, the TD taking off on a rant - "The best thing he can do for Ireland is get on a plane back to Moscow," going on to state that Constantin had a good job in Trinity and inferring he should then not be criticising the Irish government policy, suggesting he had bought a house in Dublin that was now in negative equity, mentioning something about investments in Switzerland.

As a group we were disappointed with the meeting, astonished at the outburst – Constantin has been down to our march on two occasions and though none of us would claim to know him, we have all been impressed with what we've seen of him, wouldn't question his commitment to this country. This was too damned close to xenophobia for our liking. 

Afterwards we decided that trying to get anything done through our own politicians is a waste of our time and effort. Now we're going directly to Europe. Early next month the ECB is meeting in Frankfurt, after which they will have a media conference; we'll be there to ask a few questions of our own.

We have politicians in this country, so many politicians, all of whom put themselves and their party first – witness Ó Cuív and his pathetic efforts of the past week; we don't have a single statesman or stateswoman, no-one to represent the people. In that case people are forced to represent ourselves. We will. 

Yours sincerely,
Diarmuid O'Flynn.

13 comments:

  1. Irish Communism - Love it or leave it!

    http://www.japlandic.com/2012/05/irish-communism.html

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  2. Well done lads & ladies.
    While what you state is quite depressing,
    we all know it to be true.
    The best of luck in Frankfurt.

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  3. You would be quite within your rights to name the T.D., but don't think that this would get any media coverage! Fair play for not tearing shreds of this individual that though it would have been well deserved. Note how many people have worked hard to put themselves and their children though college on a fraction of their wage.
    But as you point out, they live on a different planet.

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  4. I think your last paragraph captures perfectly the situation we find ourselves in. It is utterly despicable that, by and large, our politicians no longer represent us and are completely removed from the realities facing the majority of the people in this country, indeed in the world.
    More people need to follow the lead of the people of ballyhea and stand up and be counted. All across the country small groups of citizens are meeting, debating, discussing the issues of our times. Many of us feel powerless as we watch our future freedom and independence being given away in payment of debts, current and future, that can only be described as odious. These debts were not and are not for the benefit of the irish people. As we watch twats, such as your TD mentioned above, trying to hold onto wealth that was spuriously gained , and trying to justify outlandish incomes (€200k pa for gods sake) we can only hope and pray that the will of the people will Ultimately prevail and that real political leaders will emerge to pull us put of the mire into which we are quickly descending.
    The people of Ballyhea may feel they are plowing a lonely furrow, but believe me, they have support all accross the country from ordinary concerned citizens. Let's hope the power of the many small groups can be harnessed to the benefit of us all.
    No Pasaran

    Dom Carron

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  5. The bank guarantee was given by the FF/Green government.
    I don’t recall you criticizing it at the time. Indeed you media people IN THE MAIN cheered the deal. The Irish people were told that it was a master stroke. It would cost the taxpayer nothing.

    Now of course thanks to that decision by the last government the National Debt is €170 billion. Unfortunately the promissory notes mess bequeathed by the FF/Green government is not easily sorted. It has landed the Irish taxpayers with another colossal bill for many years to come.
    The problem is to find a formula to ameliorate the intolerable burden on the Irish people. Now anybody who claims that this mess can be sorted quickly or easily is an idiot especially in the light of the current Euro turbulence.
    I have read simplistic nonsense from economic illiterates who are blissfully unaware of the difficulties. But boy have they the "answer".
    Greece has undergone a semi-default. It got a write down at a price that will destroy it. So it won a pyrrhic victory. Sinn Fein urged people to follow Greece’s example. Strangely the Irish media has only focused on the write down. The cut backs and impositions imposed as A QUID PRO QUO are horrendous How many Irish people would work for a new minimum wage of €2.20 per hour I wonder? 150,000 public servants are to go. The tax increases (direct and indirect) and other impositions are astronomical. Pyrrhic victories are easily won but not easily undone. That’s the price Greece is paying for a partial default.

    The problem of Ireland’s banking debt HAS to be addressed in a manner that will not destabilize the markets. Addressed it has got to be and is being. The ECB CANNOT BE SEEN to bow to pressure from Ireland. If it is SEEN to bow to political pressure it will lose credibility. You amazingly have very little to say about PROMISSORY NOTES. Where was your condemnation at the time?

    It’s amazing how you seem blissfully unaware of the DEFICIT problem bequeathed by your last government. You complain about water charges and the household charge. Are you not aware that an IMF/EU deal was signed by the last government? As a quid pro quo for financial assistance these were part of the deal. The deficit has got to be tackled. People like you need to face facts. Ireland is BUST. It is BANKRUPT. It has a HUGE DEFICIT PROBLEM. When you go up to Belfast you pay rates on houses to the tune of 1600 euro. Much better you should travel to the US if you want to see real property taxes in action. Incidentally this government did raise the minimum wage. From 1 January 2012, the exemption level for the Universal Social Charge level was raised from €4,004 to €10,036.

    You are living in a bankrupt state. Wake up before it’s too late.
    Ireland is OVERSPENDING to the tune of 30 cents in every euro. That’s the mess inherited by this government. That is the problem that is conveniently ignored by extreme left parties such as Sinn Fein and the Socialist Party. . These parties are surfing a populist wave driven political irresponsibility. Yet you have done nothing but snipe at people who are walking on thin ice and who have managed to keep the country afloat. . It seems that you are unaware of the euro crisis. Ireland’s promissory note mess will not be sorted while there is Euro turbulence. It would further unnerve the markets. We are living in very dangerous times. I don’t think you appreciate how close we are to a WORLD ECONOMIC CATACLYSM. IF the Euro falls there will be a world economic catastrophe that will put the Wall Street Crash in the shade. There are no instant solutions. It is time we grew up as a nation. Incidentally the US is heading towards bankruptcy as well under media darling Barack Obama. .

    I don’t recall you speaking out in the 2002-2008 period when the damage was done to our economy. Why not? Was it political?

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  6. One word for you and all your fear/scare-mongering, misanalyser - Iceland.

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    1. Read FULLY what I have posted. You have FAILED to address the issues as I outlined them. It is you who is the "misanalyser"(sic) as you term it. There was no word of criticism from you of the policies pursued during the Celtic Tiger period. There was no criticism from you of the BANK GUARANTEE or PROMISSORY NOTES IN 2008. Where were the marches around Ballyea THEN?
      Now one word for YOU: Greece. There you only see the beginning of the development of the implications of a SEMI default. Now visualize what a full default would be like. Fools rush in where others fear to thread.
      By the way Greece is a member of the Euro. Iceland was not. You talk about the Irish middle class. Maybe you should look at the destruction of the Argentinean middle class after default. There thousands were left to rummage for food in bins and all their bank savings were wiped out. I am not a fear monger. I am a realist. I am spelling it out as it is. The damage was done in 2008. You don’t want to hear an alternative point of view because it challenges your cosy assumptions. Default is an ugly business.
      You want default. You avoid or are unaware of the implications. One Word: Greece.
      Second word: Argentina.
      Now read this article>
      It’s titled "Greece, Ireland Can’t Copy Iceland Default Model, Sigfusson Says". It appeared in Bloomberg June 15, 2011. The article is by the Icelandic Finance Minister Steingrimur J. Sigfusson.
      There is no silver bullet. Remember also Iceland was not a member of the Euro.

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  7. Let me make very clear, I'm not of either the left or right, have no time for what I believe is all that outdated terminology. For those of you, however, who believe we should all of us bow to the will of the 'markets', have a scan of this:
    http://www.irishleftreview.org/2012/05/14/charles-dallara-iif-negotiate-sides-table/
    These are the kind of people who have brought the world to where it is, these are the kind of people to whom the likes of Analyser above believe we should still be paying tribute. No.

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  8. Analyser, "It’s amazing how you seem blissfully unaware of the" situation here. Either that, or you are very knowledgeable and are deliberately trying to mislead.
    By playing the "oh it was the other party's fault" line, you are seriously out of touch. Have you noticed how this new party are doing the exact same thing as the last? Can you not see that this is the same? The faces may change, but the direction we're going in never does.
    Take a step back for a moment. There IS a solution. Iceland have shown us the way.... put the criminals in jail where they belong. That is the bankers as well as those in 'power' who played the same game. Take them to court. A fair court.
    This debt does not and never should belong to the Irish people. This is taxing my unborn children, their children for a debt that a bank owes! Anybody who thinks that this situation is ok really needs to have a rethink. It seems like the catholic church has prepared us well for this, with their idea of Original sin... being born into a situation where you accept the sins of others as your own.
    No.

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  9. I spelled out the implications of default. I spelled out the reality of the current euro crisis. An Irish default added to the currency crisis in Greece would be the coup de grace for the Euro.
    You Irish want default. Go ahead. Don’t say you were not warned. I have no agenda one way or the other. I spell out the cold hard facts. You avoid or are unaware of the implications of default. One Word: Greece. You have only seen a partial default there.
    Second word: Argentina.
    Now read this article
    It’s titled "Greece, Ireland Can’t Copy Iceland Default Model, Sigfusson Says". It appeared in Bloomberg June 15, 2011. The article is by the Icelandic Finance Minister Steingrimur J. Sigfusson.
    Remember also Iceland was not a member of the Euro. It had control over its own currency unlike Ireland.
    Study the destruction of the middle class in Argentina post default-peoples savings were wiped out. Thousands rummaged bins for food. I am well aware of the injustice foisted on the Irish people in 2008. The problem is to evolve a solution that will pass the markets and not further destabilize the Euro.



    It was particularly interesting to see that you have made no reference to Irelands DEFICIT of 18 billion euro The hot heads who want default have been unable to explain how the 18 billion euro budget deficit would be funded. In short it would not be. We would have to cut spending by one third instantly (Three times the intensity of the last Lenihan budget). In the event of default nobody will fund us in the short term. If such a scenario unfolds the game is up for Ireland. The economy would collapse. Who will provide the 130 billion euro funding for our banks currently provided by the ECB in the event of a unilateral default.
    No it is much better to keep the heads down and seek to stay afloat and evolve a solution to the promissory note mess. Let Greece implode if it wants to. A solution to the promissory note mess is only one brick in the wall however

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  10. Okay Misanalyser, my final missive to you, whoever you are - can't figure whether you're ECB or Fine Gael/Labour but either way as an apologist you fit both bills.
    I didn't criticise the blanket bank guarantee because at the time (and to this day) I was earning my crust as a sports journalist, had only a passing interest in matters politics - much as I trust my doctor or any other professional I used to trust my politicians to do the right thing by us. At the time we were led to believe - by the banks themselves - that it was only a matter of €5bn and the bank problem was solved, that money to come back to us all later.

    As the following couple of years passed and the true extent of the bank debt began to emerge, it was then I really sat up and started to take notice. I have no experience at organising any kind of protest and initially confined myself to just sending e-mails to all the politicians, thinking (and God I know now how naive I was!) I might influence one or two.

    At the time of the issuance of the Promissory Notes I was still completely green on economic matters, had no understanding of what was happening; I know now.

    At the time of the troika agreement I was e-mailing the Fianna Fáil and Green Party TDs especially, begging a couple of them to cross the floor and vote down that agreement - failed.
    (continued)
    It's only in the last 15 months of protest in Ballyhea and Charleville that I've come to educate myself on what's been happening to Ireland and on that, a couple of bones to pick with you:
    a) The Promissory Notes are easily dealt with, and here I agree totally with the attitude of the ECB - there should be NO negotiation, we should simply burn them up. That €30.7bn was issued at the behest of the ECB to pay failed bonds from a zombie bank, not a cent of it going to the Irish people - this is most certainly not our debt. I won't even begin to debate this - if you believe it IS our debt, fine. And by the way - and this is more than semantics - that mess wasn't 'bequeathed' to this government; they demanded and got the job they now have, went into it knowing full well what they faced.
    b) I have never suggested default - how do you 'default' on a debt that's not yours to begin with? The previous government should never have offered a blanket bank guarantee, should have guaranteed deposits only then let commerce take its course. With a national debt less pension reserve fund at the time of only about €30bn we were in a strong position. The deficit should have been tackled immediately but fairly, hitting hardest those who could most afford it, the high earners; I believe also a levy should have been added to the Corporate Tax rate, finite and small (2% for two years, going down to 1% for two years, then gone). The pension reserve fund should have been used to inject funds into the ecomony through public work programmes/infrastructure etc.
    It's still not too late to do a lot of this (continued)...

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  11. c) Sovereign default is what WILL happen, sure as there's shit in a goat's arse, if we continue on our current course; if you believe anything else you're in the land of the cloud cuckoo. In the four years 2012 to 2105 our banks will pay bonds totalling €55bn - that's an average just shy of €14bn/yr. Throw into that mix the mounting mortgage arrears problem, add in the Promissory Notes, and voila, that's the cake you think is baking nicely. You think our banks won't be coming back for more dosh? You haven't mentioned the growing impact of the bank debt borrowing interest on the deficit - why not?
    d) I mention again - Iceland. You didn't finish that quote from Sigfussen 'Iceland didn't have the ability to save the banks.' - that's why they they let their banks default. Are you seriously suggesting we have the ability to save ours? As you rightly point out, Iceland has its own currency where we are in the euro, but what of the ECB's role in this? They created a new currency but it was a monster, a monster they never controlled, a monster that has now wrecked the economies of several countries. The euro didn't have the same singularity as other major currencies, surely then the ECB - as those ultimately responsible for the new currency - should have been extra vigilant, should have seen what was happening and stepped in?
    FROM THE BEGINNING the ECB should have taken over responsibility for recapitalising the Irish banks. The big German and French banks who loaned tens of billions into a super-heating Irish economy were blinded by their own greed - what of THEIR burden-sharing, what of the 'WARNING: your investment may fall as well rise' golden rule of capitalism, what of the ECB's damming of the normal flow of commerce at the expense of the Irish people? That's fine with you, this abuse of their financial muscle to blackmail a weak government?
    In all your fine writing above I can't find a single word in which you suggest that we, the Irish people, have any reason to protest - I don't have to ask whose side you're on.
    Final word Misanalyser - NO.

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