The Vultures Come Home To Roost

Chart of inequality levels around the world.
The gap between rich and poor has expanded nearly everywhere in the last few years, but nowhere more than here in Ireland. (Source: International Business Times)

Yesterday the UN voted to introduce a protective framework for insolvent nations. The motion was sponsored by Argentina, a bankrupt country currently under attack from ‘vulture funds‘ that bought portions of its debt and are now blocking any restructuring deal on the grounds that it might reduce expected profits. The resolution was carried with 124 in favour and only eleven nations against. By and large these are home to powerful financial sectors that might lose out from restructuring poorer countries’ debts: the US, Germany, UK, Canada, Japan. There was one weird exception: Ireland.

Government will keep playing this down, but we are one of the most indebted nations on the planet. More than a quarter of our revenue goes directly to service borrowings. Only Greece and Panama spend more. Only Greece, Portugal and Papua New Guinea have greater international debt as a proportion of their economies (source). And yet our alleged representative votes to protect not the national finances or the wealth and health of the citizen, but our corrupt and corrupting financial services sector. Ladies and Gentlemen, do you see what we have become? A debtor nation, with a creditor leadership.

Chart showing the ever-increasing wealth of the richest few.
The global crash that brought never-ending austerity to the rest of has left the richest richer than ever before. (Source: International Business Times)

Complete This Sentence

Ooh! Ooh! We got our report card! The IMF has checked out what we’re doing with all the money they lent us. Let’s start with a choice quote:

At around 40 percent of GDP, the cumulative cost of supporting the financial sector accounts for half of the sharp increase in net public debt in recent years.

That’s probably as close to saying “Basically they’d be OK if they weren’t a pit prop for Europe’s collapsing banking industry” as the IMF can allow itself to get.

On the bright side, people have finally been jailed over the billions that were ripped off the nation. Some of the bankers, right? Well no, some of the borrowers in fact. But it’s a start.

(Actually when I saw the headline “Sean Quinn’s son and nephew jailed for three months“, I assumed it was one person. Ours is not to question what goes on within a family.)

Sadly though the jail term is not for social larceny, but merely contempt of court. Which reminds me… Now cases are ongoing I probably need to scatter the word “allegedly” liberally through the following. But it seems that the Quinn family, having invested well but not wisely in the failed Anglo-Irish Bank, attempted to hide their assets from their creditors. Which, since the state has taken ownership of this mess, is us the taxpayers.

Allegedly.

There was a stupid debate on the radio today, where a loyal follower of the Quinn camp came on to argue that the family was being persecuted. It’s too late to act like innocent dupes of the big bad bank though, when you’ve been caught trying to hide your money down the back of Russia.

It was a big bad bank however (allegedly, allegedly…), and the other recent good news from the fiduciary front is that Anglo’s erstwhile financial director has been charged with sixteen fraud offences. Sixteen. Imagine, a banker could actually go to jail.

But for how long? A friend of mine did an interesting calculation. A few months ago, someone received a six-year sentence for not paying VAT on the garlic he imported. Don’t say that’s harsh until you see some of the garlic we get in the shops; you’ll agree that hanging is too good for them. The penalty was so severe because the tax he evaded came to €1.6 million. Which establishes that sentences are proportional to how much you rip off the State. Interesting…

Six years for 1.6 million – that’s 3.75 years for each million off-ripped. Anglo’s greedy machinations cost the exchequer €47 billion (€30.6 billion + interest). So if his punishment is to be kept in line, he’ll have to go away for… 175,250 years.

Not to despair though. What with prison overcrowding he’ll probably be out in just a few thousand.

How Abject Can We Get?

The Dail Eireann
What is the opposite of social welfare?

A Dáil committee debate; someone yet again makes the point that if we selectively burn lenders now, they will remember it if we ever want to borrow again.

The government’s logic seems to be that the bank debts taken on – but not created – by the State are just like all public borrowing now. But they’re not the same. It was money lent into an overheated credit market by reckless lenders. Just as our banks made loans they should not have, those international institutions lent money they should not have lent to our banks. They took unreasonable risks, they stoked a boom, and they helped collapse the entire Irish banking industry.

We want them to remember not to do that.

Occupy All Streets

Giełda na Wall Street
"Question us, and you're questioning America"

It is to my shame that I have not yet written about the Occupy Wall Street movement.

I hadn’t intended to write about politics at all of course, with my driving test now less than 36 hours away. But if I can break that for something as parochial and – when it comes down to it – irrelevant as an uncorroborated allegation against a relative of a presidential candidate, I can surely spare a few words on the global revolt against capitalism. And as it happens, I have only three:

About ***ing time.

Really, what took so long? When the financial industry has been allowed to get away with the greatest act of larceny in history. When the people of capitalist countries have spent years looking on helplessly as their nations’ wealth was corralled into fewer and fewer pockets. As democracy degenerates into a re-branded aristocracy. As poorer people – indeed, poorer countries – are crushed by systems set up to benefit the rich, while being told that that is their personal failure. How have we managed to put up with this shit for so long?

It is great to see that ordinary people of good intent still believe you can change things. Or maybe they don’t believe that. Maybe they see no hope of ever changing anything. But they protest anyway, because they cannot not protest anymore.

Occupy All Streets

Giełda na Wall Street
"Question us, and you're questioning America"

It is to my shame that I have not yet written about the Occupy Wall Street movement.

I hadn’t intended to write about politics at all of course, with my driving test now less than 36 hours away. But if I can break that for something as parochial and – when it comes down to it – irrelevant as an uncorroborated allegation against a relative of a presidential candidate, I can surely spare a few words on the global revolt against capitalism. And as it happens, I have only three:

About ***ing time.

Really, what took so long? When the financial industry has been allowed to get away with the greatest act of larceny in history. When the people of capitalist countries have spent years looking on helplessly as their nations’ wealth was corralled into fewer and fewer pockets. As democracy degenerates into a re-branded aristocracy. As poorer people – indeed, poorer countries – are crushed by systems set up to benefit the rich, while being told that that is their personal failure. How have we managed to put up with this shit for so long?

It is great to see that ordinary people of good intent still believe you can change things. Or maybe they don’t believe that. Maybe they see no hope of ever changing anything. But they protest anyway, because they cannot not protest anymore.