Evening Blog - 06 December 2010

Criticism, analysis, response: The BudgetJam live blog. Email your comments here or comment below.

23.35 Donal Donovan is intent on portraying the IMF as an innocent bystander over on Tonight with Vincent Browne, it makes for frustrating viewing but thankfully Vincent is calling him on it left, right and centre - to quote, "Margaret Thatcher would be proud of this [MoU]" Depressingly accurate, Vincent.

Tomorrow will be a busy day here at BudgetJam, your contributions are welcomed with open arms as always. Thanks to all for tuning in, oiche mhaith.

23.15 It's nearly time for me to sign off for the night but before I do, a couple of more articles definitely deserve a mention. Seamus Bradley contributed a piece on the extent to which the extreme neoliberal ideology of the past thirteen years has influenced society, whilst Gavin Gleeson provided a great analysis of the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland and how Fianna Fáil and the Greens plan to protect the vulnerable. Last, but by no means least, Michale Taft gave us an excellent companion piece to his article yesterday on the myths surrounding public service expenditure - today he looks at Irish social expenditure and, like yesterday's post, it definitely deserves your attention. 

22.26 Thanks to Charles Fitzgerald for getting in touch. He sent on the following:

There is no alternative?

I just fail to see why nobody in our splendid government or for that matter the opposition is listening to any of the well-read economists and experts from the financial world who are suggesting that we have alternative options aside from the IMF/ECB loan plan.

Many of these same experts have been right on the button in explaining the problem in the banks since day one - Peter Matthews has been able to nail the costs of rescuing the banks and the real cost of NAMA almost to the million (not even the billion) since September 2008.

The two Brians seem hell bent on completely hobbling the nation to a plan which will ultimately bankrupt the state - we have no chance of ever paying off the debt that they are about to take on and are eagerly followed by their gabbling followers who repeat their mantras word perfect in the media with no understanding of what they are talking about.They get too much coverage - having Pat Carey on the programme the other night I presume was for some light comic relief?

We have to hold the main European players partially responsible for the state the banks got themselves into and it would seem that many of the big European banks are in major trouble too as evidenced by the borrowing they have had to do from the Federal Reserve in the U.S.

I agree with the idea that better we have an orderly default now than a disaster which will inevitably come about later when the rest of the European dream unravels or the Germans decide that they have had enough.

Is anybody listening to the voice of reason?

22.15 This just in from Miriam:

Who let the dogs out?

Yesterday the Sunday Times published what can only be described as a despicable, venomous hatchet job on Fintan O' Toole. His character, personality, aspects of his personal relationships and other issues were the subject of the paper's venomous, cowardly and anonymous attack on him. Arguments about his solutions to our economic crisis and the proposed budget are for another piece. There are many criticsims that might be made about O' Toole's position on many things, but this post is not concerned with them - nor is it concerned with the many sneaky, dishonest insinuations that the Sunday Times article is riddled with.

Defending heoroic individuals on whom we might all depend is not my agenda here. But one thing is unmistakable: Fintan O' Toole is nothing if not well motivated. Disagree with him as many people clearly do, he deserves recognition for his recent efforts on behalf of Irish society and about the manifest inequalities about to be visited on us all if the proposed budget tomorrow is voted through - and above all if the systemic corruption and incompetence that he has so eloquently exposed in his book Ship of Fools, is not radically confronted and halted. All that in itself is more than enough reason to anger the chauvinist brutes who run our country - and their equally brutish - if sly - opposition party supporters - Fine Gael and Labour alike. When you add into the mix, as O' Toole has, a series of effective public speaking events at which people have clearly warmed both to him personally and to what he has to say then you can be assured you will attract the customary, vindictive brutality of the Irish governing elite and, crucially, its supportive and equally vindictive media elite. Step forward The Sunday Times yesterday, The John Murray Show on RTE this morning and the Sunday Independent (who else?) yesterday. And of course the old Fianna Fáil reliable, Ryan Tubridy's (no relation!) Late Late Show - all suddenly coming out in a crowd over just three or four days. Funny that, isn't it? This post comments only on the Sunday Times piece - but watch this space.

Speaking to him late this afternoon, O' Toole does not rail against a conspriacy of vested interests out to get him but he does agree that the Sunday Times' and other newspaper/broadcaster's coverage could well be more than merely sloppy journalism. "No-one called, not to check a single fact", he says. "These are small things, but they tell you something.. street names, my salary, the 19A bus does not run from past Harcourt 'Road' and the whole thing about me driving off in a BMW Series or whatever after the protest march...I don't drive, I don't own a car, I got on the 13A bus after the march in Dublin to go home - as many people on the bus would be able to tell you...I am paid €85,000 a year and I am not a part-time worker. My work involves much more than the hours I put into writing - there are many meetings and a lot of adminsitrative and other things involved - as Deputy Editor, of course there are".

What has O' Toole done to get the establishment so nastily riled? It's not possible to repeat the insinuations against FOT here without giving them possible legal credence but see here, in particular if you want to know what has upset 'the powers that be':


 More analaysis of media treatment of Fintan O' Toole with reference to budgetjam generally to follow.

21.58 Also today, Roddy Flynn continued our 'Guess who's having a Good Recession?' thread with a look at Brian Patterson, former Chairman of the Financial Regulator and serial myth-perpetuator. Speaking at an event organised by the Kilkenny Chamber of Commerce on Friday, Patterson reminded us that WE ARE ALL TO BLAME for the current state of affairs. Yes indeed "we were all responsible"...except 'we' here doesn't actually include Patterson himself – how dare you suggest such a thing! How on earth could he possibly have contributed to the economic crisis by failing to regulate the banking sector in any meaningful way? It's not like he was Chairman of the Financial Regulator...oh wait.

21.40 BudgetJam received some great contributions today; Piaras Mac Einri writes about how government ineptitude has contributed to emigration since independence. In particular, he highlights the attempts by governments to play down the situation:

"the Government in the 1980s was not prepared to admit that the return of emigration was a problem, at least for the many who had not chosen voluntarily to go. Instead, the new spin was to present the latest generation of emigrants as been completely different from those who had gone before them – a mobile generation of young Europeans, enhancing their skills and experience through their global options before returning to benefit the homeland."

And of our current politicians he says:

"The spin machine is again in overdrive as new versions of old myths and half-truths are dusted off and recycled. Young people, says the Tánaiste, are 'going abroad and enjoying themselves'. To be sure, there is some distance between the American Wake and the world of Skype, the provincial newspapers on the internet and affordable international air travel. But the underlying reality is that the State, for the third time since independence, has spectacularly failed its own citizens and has cynically sought to find a way out of its crisis, inter alia, by pressing the 'export' button all over again."

21.05 Eoin O'Mahony has kindly sent on a piece from OpenDemocracy for your perusal. It offers a contrary view of 'Ireland's existential crisis'.

This bit in particular grabbed my attention:

"the sheer drama of these intense days in Ireland has been accompanied by a gathering media consensus that already may have worked to occlude some underlying realities of the country's situation and exclude relevant other points of view from consideration. The signal of this emerging consensus was the emotional outpouring that greeted the arrival of the IMF and EU negotiators in Dublin. The bulk of media analysis framed this event as an unprecedented loss of Irish sovereignty - all the more distressing for a country which had until recently been extolled as an exemplar of dynamic, neo-liberal globalisation."

Read the full article here.

20.40 Alison here. Sorry folks, we're a bit hampered by technical gremlins this evening - should have another couple of posts on the way for you. In other news, one of our resident budgetjammers Gavan Titley will be on the Tonight with Vincent Browne panel later on this evening. He'll be talking about the budget and twitter and he'll be joined on the panel by Donal Donovan, former deputy director of the IMF, so if you've any good retweets, comments or questions for the IMF send them on to us. We think it'll be a lively one.

19.05 Michael Lowry, one of the two men who now has significant responsibility for our collective future, was full of talk on Matt Cooper's Today FM's The Last Word about the 'safety net' he alleges will protect the most vulnerable in society from the effects of the budget. Pushed by Cooper he was forced to admit, however, that was 'not aware of the detail' but yes, he was definitely satisfied that it was a good thing.

Now get this please people: he was brazen enough to say that, in forming his opinion, he was happy with answers he had had from government with regard to the modernising of gaming and gambling legislation...

No wonder Ivan Yates, Celtic Bookmakers and purportedly netural Irish Examiner columnist (cf earlier post here) is inclined to defend Mr Lowry.

Pushed futher, and quite hard by Cooper, about how he had supported Brian Cowen after Cowen's recent disgraces at the Fianna Fail party conference, Lowry proclaimed:

"I have done what is right by the country"

How do we allow two pricks like this guy (Healy Rae being the other, of course) to end up with so much say about so much that affects so many?

18.25 This just in from Carole Craig:

"I probably shouldn't say this, but listening to Lowry (and others undoubtedly but I haven't had the stomach for it today) on the necessary of inflicting pain (on others, naturally) for the greater good, is anyone else reminded of pronouncements made by the British during the famine?

It would be interesting if there are any good historians among the crew to find a parallel and put them side by side."

17.50 Ivan Yates' April Fool Message

Seeing as we are looking at how the media is complicit in marketing the government line, I thought it might be instructive to revisit a column by Ivan Yates in the Irish Examiner just 7 short months ago which more or less concluded with the following immortal words:

"The media are treated as an irritating necessary evil that has to be indulged rather than a conduit to sell the message."

More about that message that Yates was trying to 'sell' on April 1st:

"BEFORE the dawn comes the darkest hour. This week's choreography between the Minister for Finance, Central Bank governor and Financial Regulator seeks to reconstruct the Irish banking system. We have to hope it works. Don't be too fearful about the enormous sums being injected into AIB and Bank of Ireland."

No, we needn't have been too fearful about that pocket money – which put the loans we now have to repay to the IMF and the ECB in the shade.

"The medium-term outlook is for an upward cycle of events that will ultimately restore banking profitability."

Growth in the medium term is now estimated at 0.9% - almost 2% below the level the government were trying to blag us about when selling the IMF/ECB loans just one week ago – this confirmed by the ECB. AIB and BoI are all but dead, surviving only on the ECB/IMF life support machine. Takeover by foreign bank/s and subsequent transplant surgery is the only viable future they now have. One former IMF Chief Economist, Simon Johnson, thinks it is not out of the question that any rescue for Irish banks will be by the Chinese. [To Margaret Ward on her Business News slot on Newstalk.]

"The key issue is to ensure that NAMA transferred these loans at realistic market prices – otherwise it's a zombie institution with a paralysed business plan. The higher the NAMA haircut, the more viable this prospect becomes."

You had things a about f here, Mr Yates. Genuinely realistic market prices would have to be a fraction of the substantial fraction of what the government was willing to pay. Which is precisely why NAMA is now a zombie institution itself. Predicating it on artificial, citizen-funded, market manipulation was and is continuing madness. Property Developers Rule OK! At any rate NAMA is now a zombie institution.

"This week's measures, in retrospect, could be the pivotal turnaround for the taxpayer to escape the blanket state guarantee on Irish bank deposits. This could be a fresh start from a financial nightmare."

You brought us so much hope but...

"The blind and the sick had to accept a reduction in income because the state's finances are losing €2bn per month."

No, nothing to be done about that. Of course not. Not when you had to sell another message in another Examiner column advocating the retention of expensive subsidies to horse racing institutions. (Column has since apparently been removed from the Examiner website.)

"The blatant fear has to be the cabinet is concocting a façade that amounts to a cave-in to avert all-out strikes. This could result in the 2010 budget arithmetic yielding only temporary illusory savings. Remember the unpaid leave scheme. Have we forgotten what we promised the EU Commission, the ECB and our euro currency colleagues? A programme of fiscal rectitude cumulatively to reduce the budget deficit by €12bn over three years."

Were you ever wrong! There was never the slightest fear of the trade unions, man! Not with a collective leadership so utterly in the pockets of its social partnership colleagues at IBEC and in government. Look how they rolled over, whimpered and pulled the blankets up over their heads! Looks like the strategy didn't play out for us anyway, did it? We were so well behaved, narry a public sector strike of any sort the length or breadth of the country. But it made no difference to 'our EU colleagues' who have now decided to keep the innocent Irish citizenry in penury for two decades so we can pay for their private banks reckless lending to our own private, reckless lenders.

"The banking bailout could be sold as a transforming moment. As comedian Frank Carson cracks, "it's the way ya tell 'em"."


We should all tune into the prescient Ivan Yates on Newstalk over the next week or so – his programme is on air even as I type. Let's see how he's selling the budget now, shall we?

Read more here.

17.45 Hi all, Miriam here - just a few thoughts to roll on with for the next couple of hours - a retrospective on the prospectives of mainstream icon Ivan Yates..."