Posts Tagged ‘unemployed

08
Apr
09

The Unemployed Budget

Like everyone else, I was paying strict attention to the telly yesterday to see how we’d be affected by the budget. This was a funny one for the unemployed, as there was the possibility that Lenihan would listen to the likes of Goodbody Stockbrokers and actually cut social welfare payments to those of us on the dole (a line elegantly countered by Fintan O’Toole in yesterday’s IT). I recall a few articles in newspapers in the last few weeks that sought to highlight the burden each individual dole recipient places on the state, which read to me like the kind of line journalists pick up from PR people who are trying to condition public opinion. I got a real sense that we were being braced for something shocking.

So, people on social welfare might be tempted to breathe a sign of relief, as on the face of it at least we seem to have gotten away with it. After the medical card blunder of last “real” budget, Brian was a lot more nervous about been seen to attack social welfare recipients. There are no major cuts in social welfare, according to the three broadsheets this morning. This of course isn’t the full story, but more on that later. The most notable cut was the abolition of the double payment at Christmas time. This has lead to witty comparisons to Ebenezer Scrooge, but frankly, I find it hard to justify a difficulty with this. I for one was not entitled to the bonus last Christmas and I don’t think I would have been this year either, and I was expected to just get on with this. Of course it’s very easy for me to say this, considering I’m a singleton who doesn’t have to worry about paying for a family Christmas. And considering the as yet undisclosed impositions that are to be place on the children’s allowance, the oncoming holidays are sure to be a difficult one for families on social welfare. To this I can only say it was always going to hurt.

Far more unforgivable, in my opinion, is the halving of dole payments for people under 20 years of age, an incentive Brian says for people to take up training. This is a basic display of ageism in that it assumes universal parental support for young people, which is not always the case. Will extra Fas and PLC places be provided for every person under 20 on the dole? I very much think not. As far as I can see, the pain this will cause does not justify the money that’s likely to be saved, which according to the Irish Independent will be €300 million.

Also unfair is the cut in rent allowance. It’s not so much the cut that’s the problem but the reasoning for it. According to Lenihan’s speech this is merely in tune with the drop in rent prices, a remark quite similar to Goodbody’s Marie Antoinette-esque belief that a cut in social welfare is justified due to a drop in inflation. This supposed that those on social welfare noticed an corresponding drop in their expenses, conveniently forgetting that the inflation drop was fuelled by a general consumer race to the bottom. For people already at the bottom there is nowhere else to go. Well, the same is true for Brian and his perception of rent prices. Suzy has gone into more detail on this here.

Apart from cuts, there was another reason unemployed people were paying attention to this budget. We wanted to see what was being done to create jobs. I’m going to leave this for people more qualified than I to discuss in detail. However, I will say it seem there was precious little announced in this regard as far as I can tell. I suppose such measures were never a consideration for this “mini” budget. Nobody of course ever believed there would be anything about this budget that could be described as “mini”. The Indo had it right today with a supplement entitled “Crisis Budget”. It was just about plugging the hole in the public finances that FF created for themselves. Creating jobs will have to wait for another day.

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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.

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.

21
Nov
08

The first post

The following is a quick ramble on the point of this blog. I recall reading a comic strip in Viz years ago titled “The comic strip character with no attribute”. Basically, as the title suggest, this strip was about a guy (his name has long ago been beaten out of my brain) without the standard anomaly in his personality that normally warrants a comic strip. He wasn’t desperate and he wasn’t a menace. He had no penchant for dodging unsavoury scenarios and he didn’t whizz about at abnormal speeds. His strips dealt with such events as waiting for the bus or queuing at the post office. If someone asked him for a peculiar favour, no misadventures would ensue (It’s possible that I’m misremembering the point of the strip. It seems there must have been more to in than that. Nonetheless, there certainly existed such a character and I’m sure I found it funny that nothing funny happened to him).

This perfectly reflects the purpose of this blog. Having spent exactly seven of the glorious Celtic tiger years toiling at various stages of third-level education, I graduated this year only to be told: “Sorry, we’re having a recession now. Didn’t you get the memo?” I have garnered an impressive collection of certificates and degrees, and I have nothing to do with them. For a while it seemed like I had my foot in the door of my chosen profession. I moved to Dublin and regularly contributed to a major national newspaper. Then nothing! The worked dried up, the pay cheques stopped coming, and I suddenly found myself joining my Finglas neighbours on the dole queues.

This is why I started this blog. Like the poorly recalled Viz character, I have nothing to do other than write about having nothing to do. So I created a blog that has no point other than be a blog.

So that about accounts for it. I’m not yet sure what form this will take. I’m not even sure if I’m doing because I have something to say or if it’s just to keep me sane. In blogging as in life, we’ll see what happens

Peace out, Damien.