Posts Tagged ‘recession



01
Mar
09

Da speech

There were a couple of things I noticed while watching Brian Cowan’s Ardfheis speech yesterday, and chief among these was the crowd. These were the party faithful, who I always thought of as ‘true believers’, and so as expected the clapped and cheered when the were supposed to clap and cheer. Yet there was a sense that they didn’t want to be there. They all, every one of them, looked miserable. The closest thing to a smile was on Dick Roche’s face when the second Lisbon treaty referendum was referred to, and even this was soured by Cowan’s typically patronising manner. With talk of having the “courage to take our place at the heart of this larger, more vibrant Europe”, it was as if he was saying We’ve gotten you a second chance at this thing. Don’t fuck it up again.

Of course a level of dejection was to be expected, especially from the counsellors who had been invited on stage. They’ll most likely find themselves out of work after the local elections in the summer. The morning’s opinion poll must have been a depressing read for any Fianna Fáiller. Still, the most that can be said about the Indo’s poll was that it confirmed what everyone already knew. There was in my opinion little reason for them to be as shocked as they appeared to be. I mean, Coughlan looked like something out of a F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, all dolled up and fabulously dressed yet positively dead on the inside.

I have my own theory on this. What’s upsetting the true believers is not that they’re unpopular, but that there’s a general recognition that the broke their promise to us. During the last general election opinion polls were again unfavourable to Fianna Fáil. Of course the intense coverage of Bertie’s finances probably the greatest influencing factor on this, but there also was a general feeling that under the party public service were failing us. The health service was a shambles and justice system merely a school for criminality. The FF response to this was enforced frankness. Yes, services are bad, but if we are to have a hope of fixing these we need a strong economy to build on. Cowan himself said as much on a Questions & Answers appearance. The implication clearly was that only Fianna Fáil could be trusted with the economy.

It worked. They were returned to power. And only now to we realise that not only were they about to let the good times end, but that the whole that thing was based on unsustainable markets and false wealth to begin with. There were in the speech several timid references to the global recession, just to remind us that we should place our problems in this context. Yet there was no attempt, ala Gordon Brown, to directly blame our recession on an international economic downturn. They know we created this recession on our own, and that happened on their watch.

Even the strengths of the speech mocked them for their failures. The only thing that might be considered ‘meat’ to the speech was a promise to renew the regulation of banks.

I will create a new Central Banking Commission. This will incorporate both the responsibilities of the Central Bank and the supervision and regulatory functions of the Financial Regulator. This will build on best international practice similar to the Canadian model.

I can just imagine him writing that, face scruched up as the thought Must hammer in a reference to the Canadian model. Doesn’t matter where, just as long as it’s in the same paragraph to banking reform. The problem here is that, with the arguable exception of a promise to cap the salaries of Bank Chief Executives receiving government aid (which received the only applause of the night that could be described as rapturous), he said nothing that shouldn’t have been already in place. The Central Bank doesn’t need more structures in order to do its job, it just needs to do it. And avoid, say, repeating the from Anglo lawyers that Seanie Fitz acted improperly and immorally but not illegally (Come to think of it, that was probably what was eating Coughlan. If proof was needed that she’s out of her depth, then stating on national television that the Government was at most “disappointed” over the Anglo Irish Bank affair while repeating the not illegal mantra was surely it).

Anyway, prior to the speech there was much talk on what Brian needed to say to restore confidence in his party. I realise it’s far too late now, but I’d like to chime in on this. If he wanted someone like me, one of the non-mere statistics without a job, to get behind him, he should have put his hand up. He needed to say this:

Yes, we fucked up. We wasted public money in the good times and squandered the opportunity to fix service that weren’t working. We allowed a culture of blind faith in the banking industry to develop because we were distracted, as were you all, by how rich this made us feel. We now know what these mistakes were, and we know how to fix them.

Of course we were never going to hear this. It would have taken true strength and bravery and nobody in Dáil Éireann, including the opposition benches, has ever been able to convey this sense of leadership.

18
Feb
09

Dermot O’Leary can go fuck himself

I was interviewed yesterday on the lunchtime show on 102-104FM regarding this blog, where I accidentally proclaimed that I’m joining the Socialist Party. I’m not. I don’t have a problem with Joe Higgins and co (in fact, Clare Daly has helped me out with a couple of pieces I’ve done in the past), but I’m not a socialist. I am, despite my present condition, a believer in the Capitalist model, just as long as it’s even slightly regulated. The reason for my unintended commitment to Marxism was that I was thrown by the question (enquiring if I might enter politics to see if I can do a better job than the current shower), and I suddenly recalled sentiments I expressed earlier in the day as I read the papers and began to suspect the socialists are right.

Economists with Goodbody stockbrokers are warning that the economy will shrink by 6% this year, and in response the government should cut social welfare payments (which seems like a good opportunity to recall my opinion on economists. For all that people like O’Leary know, we’re better off investing in an online casino than following their advice). Naturally, I was pissed. It’s not that I’m concerned with my own pocket, at least not primarily. The issue I have with this is the signal it sends out, and what it says about the capitalist’s thinking in this crisis.

Earlier this month the government faced anger (and will probably go on to face strike action) from lower civil servants over their cost-cutting pension levy plan. In practise (and it seems Lenihan didn’t quite realise this) the higher-paid civil servants will be less affected by the levy than the rank-and-file. The burden for fixing this recession is placed squarely on the lower-paid worker. And now, in the report titled A Rocky Road Ahead by Goodbody economists Dermot O’Leary and Deirdre Ryan, the idea is to cut support for those most affected by the recession by reducing dole payments by at least 3% (as well as cutting grants for students, which again are offered to those from low-income families).

The article that covered this in yesterday’s Daily Mirror highlighted that every 1,000 on the dole cost the state €11 million. This to me sounds awfully like the repeated language used in the media last year to highlight what a burden on the taxpayer the civil service is. It conveniently pastes over the fact that the unemployed, as with the civil service, are not the ones responsible for the recession. They are, in fact, the victims of it.

And what do we do with those who are responsible? Well, they get €7 billion bailouts, legislation guaranteeing deposits, and – if they really screw up – nationalisation. All necessary, perhaps, but it does kinda suggest Marx was right.

As for the suggestion by Dermot O’Leary that unemployed people wouldn’t lose out due to a general fall in prices, people are losing out as it is. I know many people (myself included) who are being kicked out of their homes because the can’t meet mortgage and rent costs. To tell these people that they can save 5% on a bag of carrots is highly insulting.

Anyway, I want to thank 102-104FM for their interest in this blog and what I’m trying to do here. I’m still not quite sure what it is that I’m trying to do here, but I appreciate the support.

14
Feb
09

Fame at last

The ‘Review’ section of today’s Indo has a feature on personal stories from the “Frontline” of the recession, in which yours truly makes an appearance. Any fans of this blog who’d like to know what I (or even my mother’s sitting room) look like might want to pick it up. Dear Edel paraphrased a lot my comments to her, but she didn’t change the points so that’s ok, and I suppose I did kinda ramble for a bit.

05
Feb
09

A rejection letter just in case you were thinking of asking us for a job

Recently I wrote a somewhat whiney post about a receiving a rejection letter that upset me. Now, however, my experiences with rejection letters are getting surreal.

I was sent an e-mailing stating, “You applied for my role in Customer Service area just recently. Unfortunately this role has been closed and we won’t be able to proceed with your application at this stage.” Nothing I’m not used to, except that I never applied for this role. I’ve received so many rejection letters lately that they’re now being sent on spec.

Ok, this e-mail was obviously sent to me by mistake, but it’s still something of a coincidence that they sent a response to a job application to someone else who’s looking for a job. On the other hand, I suppose in this climate you throw a stone in the street and exceedingly likely you’ll hit a jobless person.

16
Jan
09

Rejection letters are now advising to give up all hope of getting a job

I received a letter this morning in response to a job application at a Carlow radio station. As I made the application many months ago I had long since abandoned any chance of getting the job, so I was somewhat surprised to get this letter.

Sure enough, it was the usual “thank you for your interest, we’ll keep your CV on file” bullshit. It did, however, offer some explanation on why I wasn’t offered a position. “In light of the present economic climate we have decided to fill the position from within our existing staff,” read the letter. Well, in light of the present economic climate, I can’t help but feel this is a massive slap in the face. Not only do we face massive competition for jobs from the thousands that have been hurled onto dole queues in recent times, we now have to contend with the few positions that are available being filled in-house.

Fair enough, the writer of this letter was only being honest. Radio stations are facing a loss of revenue just like everyone else and they have to watch their own bottom line. All the same, a bit of diplomacy might have helped. Is it too much to expect some consideration for those of us who have been most affected by this recession. I would have felt better had the writer of this letter never bothered their arse to send it to me.

10
Jan
09

Economists need to shut the fuck up

They’re at it again. Today’s Irish Times has a piece about how economists are predicting 10% jobless rates by the middle of the year. Fás economist Brian McCormick went even further, saying we’ll reach 12% by the end of 2009. He warned, “the immediate future for the jobs market depended on the impact of a weak sterling and the credit crunch on the retail sector, as well as the way in which migration trends respond to the changes in the economic environment,” which pulls the simultaneous trick of sounding suitably dire and blaming the immigrants for it. The Indo has a similar piece, which states, “Some economists secretly admitted that their official estimates could be conservative and jobless queues may reach levels not seen since the 1980s.” It’s enough to wonder why we bother getting out of bed.

Well, you know what? Fuck them! The one thing I’ve learn from this whole recession is that there’s nothing quite so useless as an economist. These are the swaggering dickheads who failed to see the recession coming, and let the government get away with wasting money on services that don’t work, giving tax breaks to the country’s super-rich, criminally inflating the housing market, and generally take us all of a fantastic voyage on the good ship “Celtic Tiger”, which sunk like a stone after the first strike of an ice-cube (explained here better than I ever could). If these economists advised banks to invest their (our) money in an online casino they’d have been laughed out of a job. This, on reflection, would have been a far safer option. At least online gambling doesn’t create massive – and quite unmistakable – market bubbles. Ok, there were some economists warning of a possible crisis, but the ease with which these few voices of sanity were ignored largely proves my point that all economists useless. Remember when Bertie suggested that people warning of an economic slowdown should kill themselves and be done with it? I’d love to know what the miserable tit-bag makes of that comment now.

So, now that we’re in the middle of a slump that these knobjockeys helped lead us to, they’re trying to make us feel worse by convincing us there’s no way out of it anytime soon. Well, they can shove their predictions up their holes, because it seems to me that their only talent is to tell us what’s currently happening, like a weatherman who operates by looking out the window and saying, “bit cloudy, might rain.” It also seems to me that reinforcing a constant message that “your job isn’t safe” will undermine consumer confidence further and make the whole thing worse. For all we know (and when I say “we” I’m including economists) the economy might turn around in a month’s time and we’ll wonder what the fuss was about.

Ok, that’s probably not going to happen. All the same, there’s not much use in worrying about it too much, which is what these dicksplashes seem to want, and they don’t expect to be questioned on this because they’re economists and that means they’re experts and know what they’re talking about. The media has given these cunts a free ride for their failures, but there’ll be none of that here. I’m not going to feel bad because they want me to (angry, maybe, but not bad).

07
Jan
09

So Bev was kicked out of Fianna Fail and this was somehow the taxpayer’s fault: UPDATED

My dole payment today was significantly less than usual. This is because I told the social welfare office that I’d been working over Christmas serving people I hate in an environment that suggests Marx was right. Actually, I didn’t have the nerve to mention the Marx stuff. I just told them I’d been working so my payments should be docked accordingly. I’m pretty sure I would have gotten away with it, but I figured I was better off being honest. The apprehension about getting caught would have been just too annoying, and I was starting to feel guilty every time I heard Cowan or Lenihan utter the words “significant exchequer shortfalls”.

It is exactly this reason that I’m in a boiling rage over Cooper-Flynn and her latest bullshit. She’s claiming a €41,000 annual benefit offered to independent TDs, even thought she’s a fully fledged Fianna Fail member. She can apparently do this because she was an independent when elected, having only rejoined the republican party’s ranks in 2008. The law clearly states that she’s still entitled to the money. So a loophole it be, like the kind she was good at finding when she was at National Irish Bank.

As of now, Cooper Flynn “earns” a €106,581 salary, as well as the numerous expences that TDs can avail of. On top of this she is somehow entitled to a tax-free €41,000 every year until the Dail ends in 2012 (or perhaps sooner than that, if this kind shit continues) for being something she actually isn’t. This is exactly the kind of doublethink that Orwell warned us about.

So what’s Flynn’s justification for this. According to The Irish Times, she told Midwest Radio, “prior to the last election I was elected as a Fianna Fáil TD. I found myself outside Fianna Fáil after the first year and spent the following four years as an Independent. In that particular case I did not receive the Independent allowance despite the fact that I did not have the support of the party structure and had the additional expenses that all Independent deputies have.” This might seem fair enough, except that during those years the country wasn’t facing a recession (which, incidentally, her party let happen) and the government wasn’t demanding cutbacks in every aspect of public spending.

Later this year the government will try to convince us to say yes to something we already rejected. This is a government that is already far more unpopular than it was during the last Lisbon referendum, due largely to the economy. And yet this woman is still banging on about what she’s “entitled” to. Of course we really shouldn’t expect Cooper-Flynn to be concerned with bigger pictures. She, like her similarly scummy father, is an old breed of Fianna Failer, in it for what they can get out of it. Let us not forget why she was expelled from the party in the first place. Now, when you think about it, she actually expects us to pay for this

It takes a particular nasty streak of greed to be Beverly Cooper-Flynn. I’m sorry to sound like an Evening Herald headline but it just so happans that occasionally they’re right. I could give you other examples of her greed related to me by my Mayo sources, but unlike RTE I can’t prove these and she would probably be successful in her libal claim against me. Nonetheless, she is clearly a self-interested bitch who’s only damaging her party and her govenment by being a part of it. The only way Fianna Fail can fix this one is if they once again make Bev a legitimate recipient of an independent TD’s allowance.

EDIT:
She finally buckled. I suppose it was inevitable, really. Still, I can’t help but wonder what it was that did it. I mean, yesterday she was adamant she was entitled to the allowance. Yet today, after a wee word with Cowen, she’s giving it up. What exactly did he say? Somehow, I doubt the word “please” was involved.

Apparantly she was “deeply hurt by some of the media comments that portrayed her as being dishonest”. I don’t doubt it. No matter how dishonest these fuckers really are, they still seem to expect universal awe for some reason. I know it’s unlikely, but I really, really hope that my post was one of the media comments that upset her so. Bitch!

I also had to laugh at the “used to benefit my constituents” remark, How exactly? Did she run around Mayo giving away the money to strangers? One must assume they’re the ones losing out now that the money is gone. No point in worrying about it too much though. It’s just more doublethink.

08
Dec
08

Sleeping in everyday: understandable or just laziness

I’ve just realised one small reason why I received so much traffic yesterday. It seems I got at least one hit from the search term “unemployed sleeping in everyday”.

This got me thinking about laziness and whether this is fostered when unemployed. Now I’m not saying this to brag, but this phenomenon hasn’t really factored in my unemployment. I’ve set my alarm for 7:00 so I can sleepily tune into Morning Ireland. I then get up properly at around nine or ten to read the news online and get a look-in on my favourite websites. Granted, I can end up doing this until late afternoon, but because of my career choice this would be still true if I were employed. Of course, there have been occasions when I just couldn’t get out of bed, and I do have a habit of sleeping on the weekends, but this I’m sure is equally true of you lucky people with jobs.

My brother, however, is a different kettle of fish. I visited home last weekend and I was quite shocked at his behaviour. My brother is a self-employed carpenter, so naturally this recession has hit him hard. He hasn’t had a job in weeks. Don’t feel too sorry for him, though. It’s largely his own fault. He’s a decent carpenter, but a stereotypical tradesman, the kind that you stay home all day for because he says he’ll show up but never does. With his reputation he didn’t need a recession to be out of work.

Anyway, he has developed a habit of sleeping in until afternoon everyday. I would occasionally assume he was out and about as I hadn’t seen him all day, only to realise he was still in bed. In one instance my younger brother needed a spin to town, so I suggested he phone the lazy brother to ask if he could come home to do it. “What do you mean? He’s in bed,” came the reply. This was 2:00pm.

When the lazy brother was awoken and informed what time it was, he declared, “Jesus, don’t say I slept until 2.” Not that this apparant shock spurred him to do anything about it. He stood in bed for another hour.

People who have lost their job have perhaps earned the right to be lazy and sleep in on occasion. But we need to strike a balance. We need to find something to motivate us to get out of bed (this is partly why I started this blog). Otherwise, we’re just letting it defeat us.

Hope you can find something to do. Peace out, Damien.

04
Dec
08

New Lazer card

Bank of Ireland sent me a letter today (they actually sent in last week, but assuming it was just a statement I didn’t bother opening it until this morning) informing me that my ATM card is to be cancelled, making way for the fancy new lazer card contain within. I’m not sure I’m happy about this. I mean, the culture of banks offering services that people didn’t need or ask for is what got us all into to our current mess. But fuck it. If I don’t have to queue at ATMs when doing the Christmas shopping then who am I to complain.

04
Dec
08

Classism in a recession

Yesterday was sign-in day at the social welfare office, which meant filing up with my Finglas brethren to prove to the government that I still exist. I’ve come to hate going to the social welfare office. Not because of the snotty staff or the frustrating bureaucracy (though these are certainly issues), but because it involves interacting with my neighbours. Yes, I admit it, I’m a snob.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t feel any embarrassment about being unemployed, like it’s below me or something. I grew up in a fairly working class environment, so I can usually feel at home in such environments. But the proudly ignorant prattle of Finglas’ residents, with their borderline retarded accents, is destroying my faith in humanity. I really don’t think I can take much more tracksuits or gaudery jewellery before snapping.

Of course this is my problem and I have to deal with it. I don’t expect anyone else to tolerate my prejudice. I mention it only because it has gotten me thinking about Ireland’s class-structured culture in these recessionary times. For as long as I’ve been aware of such issues we Irish have been telling ourselves that we don’t have a major divide between the working and upper classes. It was a stick for us to beat those uppity English fuckers. It was also clearly a lie. Our class structures may not be as pronounced or overt as that of the English, but it’s certainly there. And we don’t have any right to be self-congratulatory just because England is more honest about it.

I’m not sure if it was always there or if our classism was a product of our recent affluence. As we concerned ourselves with designer labels and how much our property was worth (regardless of whether we intended to sell it or not), did it become easier to look down on people? Where once we saw the salt of the earth did we suddenly perceived chavism? Maybe a level of classism was always there, but became more streamlined during the celtic tiger years, or maybe there was no change at all and we’ve always been this way. I don’t know the answer to this. I can’t remember back that far.

If there was a change, what facilitated it? I always got the impression that the working class were seen as the source of much of Ireland’s racism and homophobia, which obviously became a major issue as the country became more culturally diverse. However, this is a fallacy as far as I can tell as the upper middle-classes can be as equally racist and homophobic as anyone else, or at least that’s been my experience. Maybe we can lay the blame with the working-class themselves, as un-pc as it may be to say it. Did they replace their previous honest, hard working ethic with one that was far uglier in the eyes of outsiders?

Whatever the truth, what happens now is going to be interesting. Are we going become more understanding and less judgemental as we become more frugal and thrifty? Will we become less likely to whisper, “typical,” when we see young fellas smoking joints on the bus (based on actual events)? Clearly not, if I’m anything to go by. Conversional wisdom would suggest that if our class culture is a product of the celtic tiger, it will be reverted now that the tiger has truly deserted us. I really hope so. I hope we (me especially) will recognise that scumbags belong to all classes. I’m afraid, however, that I’m just not convinced it’s going to happen.