I never liked horror films. Perhaps I was a timid child, but I never saw the appeal of being scared senseless for enjoyment – what annoyed me were the shocks. You know, when a half-eaten corpse falls out from behind a door or a clown jumps out of the fridge. Uhh!!! Sends shivers down my spine…
Sometimes shocks are welcome though. You know, glass of water to the face after seeing your potential tax-bill next year. Morgan Kelly’s article in the Irish Times today was precisely that – ice cold!
Kelly pretty much says what I’ve been saying for a while now – no, that’s disgracefully arrogant… I’ve been saying pretty much what Morgan Kelly has been saying for a while. Anyway, I don’t see the point of commenting on every aspect of Kelly’s rather dense article (may I suggest, Ms. Kennedy, that in future you give the man a running column or, at least, give him a column a day for a week?). So, I’ll just highlight a few points.
First off, the politics:
“The German and French banks whose solvency is the overriding concern of the ECB get their money back. Senior Irish policymakers get to roll over and have their tummies tickled by their European overlords and be told what good sports they have been. And best of all, apart from some token departures of executives too old and rich to care less, the senior management of the banks that caused this crisis continue to enjoy their richly earned rewards. The only difficulty is that the Government’s open-ended commitment to cover the bank losses far exceeds the fiscal capacity of the Irish State.”
Well, that’s it in a nutshell, really. That’s the politics of this whole mess. The big euro-powers don’t give a damn about the Eurozone – they only care about their currency. Irish policymakers – who should know better, you know, being politicians – don’t notice that the big euro-powers have their own agenda. But then, that doesn’t matter, because half of them have their beady little eyes on a retirement position inside the zone – far away from any constituency that might, by that stage, be crawling through their windows in search of blood. And the bank managers… no, I won’t… Let’s just say…
Policymakers in Ireland consider themselves patriots and, to large extent the media supports them in this delusion. They are warriors against popular opinion – braving the hate and the red-paint in order to implement their clear-sighted plans. But, no, their plans are murky and questionable and their crusade against popular opinion is deeply suspicious – after all, no matter how badly they fuck up, you won’t see them at the end of the dole queue; unless, of course, they’re posing for a photo shoot.
Next up, the budget:
“This €70 billion bill for the banks dwarfs the €15 billion in spending cuts now agonised over, and reduces the necessary cuts in Government spending to an exercise in futility. What is the point of rearranging the spending deckchairs, when the iceberg of bank losses is going to sink us anyway?”
If that doesn’t provoke a ‘well duh!’ moment, then nothing will. The budget is a strawman, built from the sticks of neo-liberal dogma and stuffed with rotten hay. Historically the ‘budget trope’ appeals to a certain cautious and overall admirable middle-class sentiment – the imperative that one should never slip into the red. Since the crash it’s also been wheeled out in more priestly attire, in order to appeal to a sense of guilt: we’ve splurged, we’ve spent – now let’s tighten those belts.
So far, so common sense – but common sense is rarely, if ever, good economic policy. And as the government choke the public sector, the unemployment rate climbs and tax revenue falls we get a sense of the effects rather quickly. Laws of gravity, Mr. Lenihan… Did they not teach you that at Law Scho… oh… right… shit!
And… the response:
“As ordinary people start to realise that this thing is not only happening, it is happening to them, we can see anxiety giving way to the first upwellings of an inchoate rage and despair that will transform Irish politics along the lines of the Tea Party in America. Within five years, both Civil War parties are likely to have been brushed aside by a hard right, anti-Europe, anti-Traveller party that, inconceivable as it now seems, will leave us nostalgic for the, usually, harmless buffoonery of Biffo, Inda, and their chums.”
What can I say? Harrowing… But I’d also point out that we have a far more developed hard-left in this country than America does… This is sure to make a difference…
One thing that I can possibly contribute. As far as solutions go, Kelly holds up his arms (from the tone of his article, I’m surprised he doesn’t tear up his passport…). I think we can be a tiny bit more optimistic about this. As I’ve alluded to before, Ireland’s only hope is by joining a coalition of countries in Europe that lobby the larger powers to restructure the entire system along broadly Keynesian lines. Our leverage? Well, guilt for one – drag those Marshall Plan ghosts out of the closet. Let’s hear all about debt-financing being used to construct factories on the charred remains of concentration camps. Oh, and there’s the Euro – we should paint these policies in broad idealistic brush-strokes. Long term policies to stabalise the Eurozone as a whole – that sort of thing.
Hell, if Kelly’s right and attacks on Europe are in the pipeline, then they might as well come from the right side!