Morning Blog - 09 December 2010
Criticism, analysis, response: The BudgetJam live blog. Email your comments here or comment below.
1.32 From Miriam Cotton, many thanks:
Press release from Inclusion Ireland, national organisation for people with intellectual disabilities, in response to budget.
No Croke Park Agreement for people with disabilities
– no reprieve as social welfare allowances hit again
People with a disability have been hit as an easy target in today’s Budget, as Disability Allowance falls again, says Inclusion Ireland. Today’s cut means people on Disability Allowance are down €847.60 a year since 2008.
Inclusion Ireland rejects cuts to people on Disability Allowance and Carers Allowance, as an attack on the direct living standards and the quality of life of people with disabilities and their families.
An €8 weekly cut to Disability Allowance was announced today. This is on top of an €8.30 cut last year, amounting to €16.30 a week in just two years - from €204.30 in 2008 to €188 announced today. It has been proven time and time again that there are extra costs associated with having a disability.
Carers Allowance is also down, with cuts of €16.50 per week on the 2008 rate (down from €220.50 a week in 2008 to new rate of €204 announced today).
These cuts are at variance with the National Disability Strategy, which is often spoken about by Government as evidence of their commitment to people with disabilities.
1.30 Eoin O'Mahony has an update on his correspondance with politicians over the budget.
"I got a personal response from Maureen O'Sullivan, and a reply to me reply of yesterday. Look what the office our former lord and master sent me:
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Bertie Ahern
Date: 9 December 2010 12:24
Subject: Re: Your constituents need you to vote against minimum wage and welfare cuts
Dear Mr O'Mahony
I wish to acknowledge receipt of your recent email to Mr. Bertie Ahern TD.
I will bring your correspondence to Deputy Ahern's immediate attention.
From me: Well, it was "Personal" in one sense
1.25 I hoping to upload some photos from the protest on the 7th before I have to head off, but in the meantime Miriam Cotton has this:
"Found a report on The Real News Network - interview with Canadian Leo Panitch, Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy at York University, Toronto and author of "In and Out of Crisis: The Global Financial Meltdown and Left Alternatives". Panitch understates the level of culpability of the Irish government and banks for the initial crisis but otherwise hits the nail on the head. Paul Jay, interviewing, sums up 'so basically the Irish banks bet on the lending they had from the European banks and when the Irish banks got into trouble the government guaranteed the lending and then got clobbered by the European banks for guaranteeing it because nobody believed they could pay it back?'' "Exactly" says Panitch. Interview is 9:48 mins here:
"You can see the enormous class inequity that is built into this situation" Panitch.
Of course, I reminded Miriam that this has been on ILR already :)
Speaking of ILR (sorry, can't help it) the posting of Michael Taft's The Creepy Billionaire's Budget has reached 28 retweets, the most eva and has some good comments there too. Shows what impact its having.
Other blog posts worth checking out is WorldbyStorm's assessment on Cedar Lounge Revolution on the politics surrounding the budget:
"Then there’s the curious aversion to genuine increased taxation. Now this isn’t to say that there isn’t increased taxation, but note how they have eschewed increasing tax rates instead reducing tax credits and changing bands.
Again, given their continual emphasis on a ‘low-tax’ economy this is unsurprising, but clearly they can fashion this to some political end further down the line.
And that’s what so interesting about this. The current generation of Fianna Fáíl politicians may well be beaten, though Micheál Martin’s mutterings this last weekend seem to indicate someone is ready for the top job in the party – whatever is left of it post-2011. And whatever about Brian Cowen suggesting he’ll lead them into the next election – a somewhat dubious, but not entirely unlikely proposition given the way things are going – the Budget is in part shaped to the political end of providing some sort of legacy for the era after the EU-IMF intervention has finished."
1.10 Helena Sheehan again on Paul Gogarty, on what he might be able to do after he leaves politics after the election:
"I think that he should run a creche specialising in minding children while their parents do press conferences."
Which reminded me of this:
1.00 Hugh Green kindly sent on this fantastically good article from Mute on neoliberalism and the politics of austerity. It argues as many have probably gathered already that rather than the fallout from the financial crisis indicating the end of neo-liberalism, as the title of Paul Mason's book Meltdown: The End of the Age of Greed suggests the austerity that is being imposed now points towards the future of neoliberalism. Austerity is how the organism will survive and prosper.
Here' the money quote:
"In addition to the individual and sectorial politics of the current protests (respectively, massive personal debt burdens and the privatization - which is to say creditization - of what remains of public services such as education, health, care, etc.), the implementation or not of austerity then involves a systematic politics of debt. Systematic because, contrary to assertions that the credit crisis marks the end of neo-liberalism, austerity as the means of ‘recovery' from the financial credit-crisis turned public debt-crisis will instead inaugurate a further diversification of capital accumulation for the already wealthy, entrenching neo-liberalism mechanisms and conditions of one-sided capital accumulation. That is, austerity is not just the cutback of the state but the entrenchment of neo-liberalism (as the acceleration of capital accumulation on the basis of leveraged credit revenue). This future of neo-liberalism is what governments are now seeking to implement. And vectored through individual and sectorial interests this is what the current spate of protest struggle against, what they have in common - what is systematically political in the current conflicts."
12.50. Apparently 100s of students have walked out of schools in Castlebar to protest. Hope they're carrying placards saying: Thanks for f**king with our future.
12.45 Eadaoin O'Sullivan made the excellent point that my mentioning of the Pearse Doherty article in Joe.ie "Is Pearse Doherty the most dangerous man in Ireland?" suggested that the article was a standard bit of Shinner bashing. My mistake if so. For clarity it's very favourable to Pearse and rightly so. On that Dail speech it says:
"It wasn’t just what he was saying that made the newcomer stand out. He looked far younger than anyone in the chamber and he spoke with an energy and passion that died a long time ago in most of the greying politicians of the other parties – and even of his own."
My point purely made is not to focus on politicians and their delivery style but on the policies their party put forward. It helps that Doherty and his party are right on how a stimulus is needed, what its positive effect would be and how austerity just doesn't work, as this podcast interview with Joanne Spain on ILR demonstrates. As she says these ideas haven't been tested yet. When everything else has failed, lets give them a go
12.30 From Helena Sheehan on the increasing weirdness of Paul Gogarty
" I decided to watch Oireachtas TV via the web just now and heard a truly weird
speech by Green TD Paul Gogarty: on how much worse the situation for education
would be without him, on how cruel the cuts are, on how we were bullied into
bailout, on how he was going to vote for it all anyway. To bolster his position,
he read a letter from presentation nuns saying that the budget must be passed
for the good of the country. Well, if the nuns say so, we've got to do it,
don't we? Are we back to the 50s or what?
Keep an eye on them, if you can, at www.oireachtas.ie."
My thoughts: An election would sort out Paul Gogarty's weirdness problem I think although he'll probably end up as a chat show host on RTE.
12.25 More things going down and up.
"Fitch Ratings has downgraded the Republic of Ireland's (Ireland) Long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) to 'BBB+' from 'A+', respectively. The Outlooks on the Long-term IDRs are Stable. Fitch has simultaneously downgraded Ireland's Short-term foreign currency IDR to 'F2' from 'F1'."
Ahead of the Claiming Our Future demo against the Minimum Wage outside the Dail at 1 today, the number of signatures on the online petition is up to 5400 so far.
Budget Down on having babies
Jane Gray on Ireland After NAMA notes "an odd whiff of anti-natalism in yesterday’s announcements, specifically in the decision to remove the additional level of child benefit to third children, and to reduce maternity benefit".
Citing arguments about the importance of encouraging women to enter the workforce from Richard Tol and others in the ERSI and acknowledging that having children often leads to women withdrawing from paid work (although more so in Ireland where childcare is expensive and poorly regulated) she stresses that government dis-incentives don't work:
"But as our European partners must know, dis-incentivizing people from having children is a self-defeating response to the problem of balancing work and family responsibilities."
11.55 CSO data just released today shows that housing, electricity and fuels cost more since last year (+9.2%), alcohol and tobacco down (-3.3%) via politics.ie. It's online here, but David Cochrane provides the quote:
"Consumer Prices in November, as measured by the CPI, decreased by 0.1% in the month. This compares to no change recorded in November of last year. Prices on average, as measured by the CPI, were 0.6% higher in November compared with November 2009.
The EU Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) decreased by 0.2% in the month, compared to a decrease of 0.1% recorded in November of last year. Prices on average, as measured by the HICP, were 0.8% lower in November compared with November 2009.
The most notable changes in the year were increases in Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas & Other Fuels (+9.2%), Communications (+2.9%) and Miscellaneous Goods & Services (+2.4%). There were decreases in Clothing & Footwear (-5.5%), Alcoholic Beverages & Tobacco (-3.3%) and Education (-3.0%).
The annual rate of inflation for Services was 2.0% in the year to November, while Goods decreased by 1.1%.
The most significant monthly price changes were decreases in Alcoholic Beverages & Tobacco (-1.0%), Restaurants & Hotels (-0.4%) and Transport (-0.3%). There was an increase in Clothing & Footwear (+1.9%)."
11.45 Paddy Healy has passed this on:
Presentation on Pension cuts will definitely proceed this evening at the earlier time of 7 pm in Teachers Club Parnell Square
The vote on this will take place in Dail to-morrow, Friday. It is contained in same bill which implements appalling cut in minimum wage (please sign petition against this on Claiming Our Future website)
The presentation will be given by Sean Fallon in a personal capacity.
Sean is secretary of the Retired Secondary Teachers Association and a member of the ASTI Pensions Committee
The actual budgetary changes are now known.
11.30: One of the excellent points that Gavin Titley made on that Vincent Browne show was about the vacuity of the way that the delivery style, dress sense or the 'look in the eye' of politicians are discussed over the politics or the policies they ascribe. Twitter is a frenzy with its rightful condemnation of all this talk of Brian Cowen's new found 'robustness', as if his leadership quality changes the fact that he was largely responsible for the situation we're in now.
Another politician though that seems be getting plenty of attention for his robustness is new SF TD and finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty. Perhaps its because his budget speech was the last to be delivered but now the video of it is getting widely distributed, and some website called Joe.ie is asking "Is Pearse Doherty the most dangerous man in Ireland?" Certainly I got a kick out his way of handling Joan Burton on Prime Time last night, as all she seemed to able to say was that the Labour Party voted against the Bank Guarantee. Kudos to them for that, perhaps, though its still debatable that they knew what they were doing when they went against it. Certainly there is much of their policy since which suggests that they haven't a clue about how to get the economy working again. However, there is a danger with the robustness of Pearse Doherty's performce to get caught up in style. Lets see what SF's policies are and work it out from that.
11.15 Two stories in this morning newspapers offer contradicatory accounts of the budget and its good to see that budgetjam might have a hand in highlighting one of them. The Irish Daily Mail says its been a millionaire's budget, and while I haven't read the piece (link appreciated) I gather from @harrybrowne's tweet that it comes from Michael Taft's post The Creepy Millionaire's Budget.As Michael puts it: "Budget 2011 provides considerable tax breaks for those on very high non-wage incomes. If you happen to be a millionaire you are nearly 6 percent better off with Fianna Fail’s budget."
Then we go to the Irish Times article which the headline that requires some serious bolding and font size pumping:
The article is written by Tim Callan, Claire Keane and John Walsh of the ERSI which claims to have been written as a reaction to yesterday’s headlines showing "the loss facing “the average family”, which were based on overly simplified calculations for families assumed to represent the average". They've got science, and models and statistics and stuff. Rethorically they ask is the budget fair? And respond, equally rethorically:
"Answers to these questions depend in part on social and political values; but first we need to get the facts right, so that debate can be based on solid evidence". So what is there evidence?
"As in past years, we assess the impact of policy against a neutral baseline ie, one in which all incomes rise or fall by the same percentage. This is achieved by indexing existing policy for 2010 in line with an expected fall in average wages in 2011 of around 1 per cent.
The chart shows broadly similar percentage losses in incomes – between 2 and 3 per cent – across both low and high income groups. The second lowest income group, which contains large numbers of pensioners, fares somewhat better, with losses of less than 2 per cent."
This doesn't correspond to what Tom has discovered. Then they say:
"Policy changes have reduced top incomes by close to 10 per cent, and middle incomes by about 5 per cent. The protection afforded to the State pension means that incomes of the second poorest fifth of the population have fallen by less than 2 per cent, as against 3 per cent for the poorest group."
I can't query the evidence here, but this doesn't account for how such a cuts affect those on low incomes. A 2% cut for those on low incomes has a much bigger impact on their quality of life than 10% cut on those who earn significantly more.
10.45 Donagh here doing the morning slot. Pardon the delay - technical issues blah blah blah.
09.10 Good Jesus, John Murray is booming his name out on the wireless again and trying to be funny. Time to sign off. One depressing thought before I go. RTE television has in recent weeks run documentaries on anti-social behaviour in two of Limerick's notorious estates, Southhill and Moyross. Badfellas by Paul Williams completely failed to highlight the underlying factors for the problems experienced in these estates, i.e. the social breakdown resulting from years of neglect. Primetime Investigates did allude to the abandonment of these places by successive governments, though the main focus was on reporting the terror inflicted on residents by a small group of people.
The problems Southill now faces began decades ago. Two-thirds of Southill's 6,000 population in 1982 were under the age of 18. Ninety-four percent of children left school at the age of 16 and fifty per cent of Southill's male population was unemployed. No facilities or amenities were provided for the huge young population. Despite the poverty, Southill was a thriving community then. But decades of abandonment have led it to its current state where residents who lived there since the 1970s can no longer live there. Patterns of welfare-dependency were repeated, disillusionment and hopelessness became engrained, and that was palpable again in the recent RTE reports. Read more from Politico's Village magazine archives on Limerick's failed regeneration here.
So swingeing have the budget cuts been that so far reportage has been focussed on the groups affected, with cursory comparisons to those wealthier groups relateively untouched by the cuts. The longer-term social fallout that will result from these cuts in services, amenities, the increase in poverty and social exclusion that will follow has yet to be addressed in any meaningful way. The consequences should be the basis for any debate on this socially regressive budget.
Alison spotted this isolated story on two hungry children found scavenging bins in Waterford.
08.51 An example of the depth of inequality between the lowest paid and the political class (never mind the bankers). From the Irish Examiner (via Alison Spillane)
“Despite the Fianna Fáil leader’s salary being reduced from €228,466 to €214,466, further cuts to the minimum wage mean the Taoiseach’s take home pay is 14 times higher than those in the lowest income bracket compared to 13 times higher pre-budget. While TDs are paid €92,672, it was not felt they should take a further pay cut for the good of the country — or have their numbers reduced.”
Full article here.
08:50 Thanks @TrishD and @GerryCasey. The Workers Alliance group is staging a protest against the EU-IMF deal outside Deptuy Jimmy Devins' constituency office in Sligo this Saturday. Read more here
08:45 A graphic from the Irish Times on how the banking bailout has grown and grown. And grown. A timeline of quotes on the bailout from Brian Lenihan and Brian Cowen would work well with this.
08.30 Just in from Alison.. Free Education for Everyone reports that a Clondalkin student, Shane Donnelly is threatened with expulsion from school after leading a walkhout on budget day to protest cuts in education: Read the story here
Shane Donnelly appears around 8 minutes in to this protest outside the Dail on budget day:
08:27 Irish Times letter todaty from carer - cuts will force many into poverty. More here: http://www.irishtimes.com/letters/
Madam, – It was with intense dismay I learned that the Budget has targeted both the Carer’s Allowance and the Disability Allowance. Both allowances have been significantly reduced for a second year in a row.
I can personally attest that this will prove to be the the falsest of economies in the short to medium term and will result in a major financial backlash on the government. As one who cared alone for six years for my mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, I can attest firsthand to the unimaginable stress and strain suffered by carers as a result of the work that they do.
The reduction of their paltry allowance for a second year in a row will undoubtedly force many carers into poverty and this, together with the exhausting and stressful work which they do will make their position unsustainable. Many will be forced to reconsider their position as carers. The daily struggle to care for a loved one while battling constantly with the “system” to access the most basic of services, coupled with the financial strain which will result from a reduction in the Carer’s Allowance will force many to withdraw from their role as carers and to surrender their loved ones to long- term institutional care at enormous expense to the state.
Similarly with those in receipt of Disability Allowance. These are people who suffer from long-term illness and who, as a result of that illness, are unable to work. They need to be protected, yet they have been punished for a second consecutive year as a result of a further reduction in their allowance.
Many struggle to live in the community and to remain out of long- term care but among these, there will now be a large number who will be unable to continue to live in the community as a result of the inevitable poverty which will be enforced on them as a result of this further reduction in their benefits and who will have to resort to long-term care, once again, at enormous expense to the state.
The fallout from these cruellest of cuts will without a doubt rebound dramatically on the Government. – Yours, etc,
Dr BERNADETTE BRADY,
08:19 O Cuiv defends the cuts blind pension - about 1,500 avail of it. On Liveline yesterday, blind people told of the expenses they incur such as €25 per week in insurance for their guide dog as well as up to €60 per week for dog food and other necessaries. Several said they will be forced to consider discontinuing the use of guide dogs.
08.17 Eamon O'Cuiv on Morning Ireland. Here we go again with the fraud from Eamon O'Cuiv. Fraud apparently is a huge problem in the overall figures.
08:12 @morning_ireland segment It Says in the Papers calls the Examiner piece below a "post-budget" story. It says Anne McGrath is "coming to terms with" the cuts. This describes the cuts as final. Perhaps they are inevitible but an opportunity still remains to reject them and there is no reference to this in the segment.
08:02 Within the hour RTE Radio 1 news has notably changed... after an interview with Roisin Shorthall on Morning Ireland and a statement by Fine Gael it is now leading with the "challenge" to backbenchers and independent TDs to revoke the social welfare bill.
08.01 Reminder about today's protest. Politico will report.
DEMONSTRATION TO SAVE THE MINIMUM WAGE
OUTSIDE DÁIL EIREANN
THURSDAY 9 DECEMBER - 1:00pm
A delegation of minimum wage workers will present our petition to TDs asking them to vote against proposals to cut the minimum wage to €7.65. (www.claimingourfuture.ie)
The proposed cut is contained in the Financial Emergency Measures In the Public Interest Bill 2010, due to be voted on in the Dáil on the 9th & 10th December.
Please show your support and join us at the Dáil at 1pm!
07:49 Budget demoted from most front pages today except in Irish Examiner. It leads with the headline "They don't care", the compelling story of how the budget will affect Carer of the Year Anne McGrath who loses €40 a week in the proposed budget cuts. "I cannot even think about Christmas. It’s the last thing on my mind at the moment," she said.
Read the full story here.
07:47 The Irish Dail Mail today reports on how millionaire self-employed people benefit from Tuesday's budget. I don't have a link to the story yet but Michael Taft provided the details on BudgetJam yesterday.. read here.
07:42 Fine Gael has joined Labour in asking backbenchers and independents to vote against the Social Welfare Bill later today.
07.38 Eamon O'Cuiv will be interviewed on Morning Ireland after 8 about the social welfare cuts and disability allowance cuts. He was alos interviewed last night on TV3's Tonight where he was evasive under fire from Sean Healy of Social Justice Ireland on the effects of the budget on the working poor and welfare recipients. The TD Gravy Train was scrutinised as well (see details of all TD salaries, allowances and decarations of land/share ownership on Politico's database of Politicians here). Healy produced a graph showing the enrichment of TDs over a 24 year period (an increase of €900 in take home pay per WEEK) versus a total increase in welfare of €143. The increases were also wildly out of line with the average industrial wage. Read the details here.
07:26 Universal Social Charge . Disappointed with ESRI's role on child benefit last year who "took the wrong view" on across the board cuts. Last year there were compensatory benefits to poorer people, this year there are none. Rachel English moves the conversation swiftly along to banking bailout without allowing any real analysis of alternatives.
07:22 Labour's Roisin Shorthall on Morning Ireland. "people on very low incomes are taking a hammering in this budget". "Last year people (on social welfare) took a hit of €8 and this is being repeated this year. It is unfair when governmennt had choices." She calls on independents who said they would support the government to rethink their position after the detail of how "vicious" the budget is has become apparant.
07:20 Malachy signing on this frosty morning. Twenty minutes of Morning Ireland without significant mention of budget. Social welfare amendments to be passed today.