An exploding plastic inevitable: peel slowly and see.

Last week I’d stopped short of describing Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour as economic illiterates, but I’m beginning to think even that would have been overly generous now.
The front end of the multi-media happening that is the election campaign is currently dominated by rows over 2, 3 and 5-way debates (depending on who is invited and who turns up). Having watched the first (and given that, as a genre it doesn’t tend to get any better), it looks like they are simply going to be more set-piece rehearsals of pre-prepared responses. So the three larger parties are largely skirmishing across terrain that has been mapped out by the media (who then provide the mother and apple pie for the designated ‘winner’).

Basically, it’s Strictly Come Prancing for politicos.

If you strip away the media comment and debate, there isn’t really any content emerging in what the parties are saying. The election debates themselves still seem completely at odds with the wider reality that the Central Bank are waving around another 50 billion promisory note for the banks, while Alan Dukes (ex-Fine Gael leader, now chair of Anglo-Irish Bank) would like another 50 billion thrown onto the tab. Chatter on the late night politics shows last night had Gavin Titley suggesting that the head of the IMF is now just assuming the state will default (while I can’t source a link for this – since the first two 50 billion stories are true, this is kind of obvious now).

When you take the lid right off, there appears to be a political establishment that either still don’t grasp the reality here, or don’t want to know about it. And there will probably be an electorate who will feel even more disenfranchised when this becomes clear. It doesn’t look like this story will overshadow the election, but it will darken the next Dáil.

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  • wee buns

    ‘If you strip away the media comment and debate, there isn’t really any content emerging in what the parties are saying.’

    Absolutely John
    And we have to stomach another three whole weeks of this fudgery and posturing.
    The predominant sound is of the electorate’s hair being ripped out by the roots during last night’s ‘leader’ debate…

    Reform: the question of simple accountability within the Dáil has gone utterly without mention. Duhh.

    Economy: spectacularly woeful inability to understand/mention/grasp the opinions of a large swathe of leading economic experts, never mind grasp the realities of default.

    According to Michéal Martin the streets would have been over run by marauding murdering bandits if FF had not guaranteed the banks. Immediate chaos. Does he actually think that people believe this balderdash?

    Any ‘ordinary person’ (the very same who is being hammered for political stupidity) who reads the news with moderate interest to a moderate depth, has got the picture of default as being inevitable by now; when & how notwithstanding. These geezers, having honed their ‘abilities’ with their arses parked on green leather of the Dáil for 20 yrs, are not only economically illiterate, but they think the electorate is too.

    ”So, the central challenge for Irish politicians is the decision to initiate change or wait for it to be imposed on us. Decisions will be made on our behalf in March by countries that do not have our interests at heart.”
    Above quote from Elaine Burn’s article:
    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2011/0204/1224288983190.html

  • Greenflag

    So if FF, FG and Labour are all economic illiterates (and I would’nt doubt it for a moment ) then what does that make the IMF as described in this audit -reported on bloomsberg website .? If Mr Moises Schwartz the director of the Audit report is to be believed then it seems the IMF is even more guilty of regulatory negligence and ‘averting ‘ their gaze than our own thickos ? .

    And the Irish people are supposed to take IMF advice now ?

    excerpt :

    A report gauging the IMF’s performance from 2004 through 2007 said its economists were sometimes “in awe of” the authorities’ reputation and expertise in larger nations i.e the USA & UK .’.

    “IMF staff felt uncomfortable challenging the views of authorities in advanced economies on monetary and regulatory issues, given the authorities’ greater access to banking data and knowledge of their financial markets, and the large numbers of highly qualified economists working in their central banks,” according to the IMF audit released today.

    The Washington-based IMF, which was created after World War II to help ensure the stability of the global monetary system, paid too little heed to deteriorating banks’ balance sheets and financial regulatory issues, according to the audit. The report lists various ways the fund can avoid similar mistakes in the future, including through changes in governance to make room for candid and dissenting views.

    IMF staff “often seemed to champion the U.S. financial sector and the authorities’ policies,” the audit said.

    “This is a political institution. At the end those are important shareholders and it’s difficult to challenge them,” Moises Schwartz, the director of the audit unit, said in an interview yesterday.

    the full article here

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-02-09/imf-economists-in-awe-of-rich-nations-missed-coming-crisis-audit-finds.html

  • aquifer

    Financial chaos abroad means high interest rates, and the American merchant banks like that.

    And it distracts people from the fact that the US is bust.

    So we pay real money to people who just make it all up.

    For bank balance sheet read balloon.

  • tuatha

    The Irish economy was about €167 billion in the year to September, 2010.
    Anglo’s loss was just over 10% of Ireland’s GDP
    And in American terms, Anglo’s loss would top $US1.4 trillion, which would be larger than all the aid given to the country’s financial sector by the government from 2007 onwards. And that’s just in one year. The loss for the 27 months would top $US3 trillion in America. But the detail of the update from Anglo Irish exposes the extent of the black hole the bank is in, along with the entire Irish economy.

    During 2010 the Irish government injected an extra €17 billion into the now nationalised bank as customer deposits dropped 59%, to €11.1 billion and borrowings from the central bank and European Central Bank jumped to €45 billion.

    Total support from the state had reached €25.3 billion (including the money injected in 2010) by the end of the year, allowing the bank stay within capital requirements set by the Central Bank. At its peak Anglo Irish had €78 billion in assets, so nearly one in three euros of assets have been lost.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘Basically, it’s Strictly Come Prancing for politicos.’

    Alternatively, turn the sound down and listen to ‘Heroin’. I imagine the sight of grey men prancing is enough to make you yearn for a bag of it.

    I don’t know just where I’m going
    But I’m gonna try for the kingdom, if I can
    ‘Cause it makes me feel like I’m a man
    When I put a spike into my vein
    And I’ll tell ya, things aren’t quite the same
    When I’m rushing on my run
    And I feel just like Jesus’ son
    And I guess that I just don’t know
    And I guess that I just don’t know

  • John Ó Néill

    William – not hard to guess what I’d been listening to – I think this was my jumping off point (and the Warholesque disposability of electioneering, of course):
    And all the politicians makin’ crazy sounds

  • Munsterview

    wee buns : ” The predominant sound is of the electorate’s hair being ripped out by the roots during last night’s ‘leader’ debate…”

    There is no debate of substance or there will not be. The Taoiseach’s office and leader of government is in Kennys grasp, he need only to have this reality formalized, he do not have to win it, he has already done that but he can loose it, hence keeping this ‘gaff an interview guy’ out of serious media exchange or political debate.

    Real financial debate would involve real examination of past financial affairs and how they messed up the economy so Fianna Fail must keep moving the goalposts to avoid debate.

    Labour must sound conservative and Statesman like for the centre right FG seconds and third preferences while they need to sound left and bolsie to get the left wing votes. Any real debate would show up Labor’s contradictions, it was not that Gilmore is lacking in intellectual or capacity or ability to stand up to Martin, rather to use a Kerry saying, he had to ” talk all day and say nothing” ( or at least for the duration of the debate ) to preserve Labor’s position.

    Sinn Fein and Higgins can afford a no holds barred approach, both are building up their bases and can afford to ‘kick ass’ as our Yankee brethren would put it.

    This I am afraid will be the standard for this election. They all know that Coveneys twitter on the morning of Brian Cowen’s less than sparkling performance brought the whole FF house of cards down and of course not forgetting wee Willie O’Deas wee little bit of perjury.

    Some sharp with it cookies are using cutting edge new media but in general the experienced politicians are very wary of saying anything worthwhile. So no real debate so far nor for the remainder of the election I fear to say!

  • wee buns

    MV
    ‘There is no debate of substance or there will not be’.

    The pity of it is in the wasted potential.

    Democracy in Ireland then being an illusion/delusion, perhaps it is more fitting to describe the main parties as ‘reality illiterates’.
    When the rule is to lock arms and lie; (a rule to which the meeja mostly eagerly agrees) how can the ordinary person avail of the democratic process? No wonder a plethora of cynicism prevails.
    As a sonnet 94 reads:
    ‘Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds’.

  • tuatha

    Fintan O’Toole pointed out the fallacy of the current Dail, total control by the governing party and the Opposition impotent. I have no taste for his alternative though, building from the county council upwards – surely that’s what led to this ‘clientism’ in the first place? “Aye, he’s a worthless piece o’ shite but he got me mum into hospital..”.
    The problem as I see it is the tiny electorate divided into MM constituencies – even in the most populous EU country, Germany – 83M+, this has resulted in total scleroticism.
    The onlyh chance for true democracy in Eire is simple D’Ondt – that is Proportional Representatikon (PR) with Transferable Vote (as currently).
    Unfortunately this requires an electorate who
    a) understands that THEY have the POWER
    b) wants to use it in the NATION’s interest
    c) is capable of doing so
    An old political saw in Oz is “put yer dough on self interest, coz ya know it’s trying”
    The trouble is,most people wouldn’t know their real self interest from a hole in the ground and thus vote for the most plausible pusillanimous political poltroon on offer.
    Elitist? Moi?

  • wee buns

    tuatha
    You do a disservice to the electorate in your claim that they do not know what’s good for them. Strokes are being pulled that punch deep into the psyche here.
    The voting system is not the problem. The culture of cronyism is only due in part to a strong sense of localism and otherwise shaped by historic factors like emigration, but ultimately rooted in a sense of powerlessness: hence the idea those services have to be bought by the currency of a vote, never mind that taxes have already been paid. Ireland has one of the most centralized governments in Europe.

    Accountability: there are no separation of powers between civil servants and the department it ‘serves’ is key: no checks & balances, no real accountability or scrutiny…indeed ‘All acts of the Department and of its officials are the acts of the Minister’. This would seem to be where the incentive lies for ministerial ignorance and indolence. It enables ministers to claim they ‘did* not* read*the*brief when the shite hits the fan.
    As indeed happened in 2003(example cited by O’Toole) the then minister for health claimed (now returned safely to us after alien abduction involving gawd knows what probes to become leader of FF, Michael Martin) when it emerged the state was charging elderly people for beds in public nursing homes when it had no legal power to do so, to the tune of 2 billion state theft from elderly people. He did not read the brief. We heard Bertie this month claiming he*did*not*know* the banking crisis…err…happened.
    The current system doesn’t hold government to account; doesn’t create laws; has no power to conduct serious investigations; is not representative of the people in terms of seeking to express their views or being at all typical f them in class age or gender. WTF?!

    Labor wants to hold referendum on gay & lesbian union, FFS!

    How about the marginally more pressing issue of a referendum on the IMF/ECB bailout?

    Independent candidate for Dublin S, Shane Ross said it today during a debate on radio RTE 1:
    ‘The main parties are locked into a conspiracy that protects the banks.’

    FG’s party line is: ‘Irish people want to pay their way’.
    This is outrageous!!

    Pay THEIR way? WHOSE debt is this?

    Can you imagine the thousands of elderly people whose sense of dignity & pride would never have compromised them to be in debt, how they must feel? What a low blow by FG.