Author Archives: Tony Groves

From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the National Ploughing Championships yesterday; Tony Groves

We are just over the one hundred day mark into the reign of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the only substantial change is that the lack of substance is now communicated as a virtue.

Of the core challenges facing the government, we can only say with certainty, that there are certain plans with less than certain outcomes.

There are also more kites floating around than on Dollymount Strand during a Kite Surfing Contest.

One such kite, that flew from the Taoiseach’s lips, was the proposal to convert NAMA into a Housing Development Agency to help tackle the housing crisis.

That this is considered new and innovative, as part of the new and innovative government, is disappointing.

This is, in fact, old news. NAMA has always had the ability to help in tackling the burden of homelessness. NAMA was created, on day one, with the powers to do just that.

Section 2 (iv) and (viii) of the NAMA Act state that the purposes of the establishment of NAMA are:

‘to protect the interests of taxpayers and to contribute to the social and economic development of the state.’

There it is in black and white. NAMA doesn’t need any new powers, it simply needs to be directed to carry out the task for which it was created. NAMA should already be working to “contribute to the social and economic development of the state”.

The kite of getting them to do so now is not new and innovative. The question, that sadly is not being asked, of this government is, Why Haven’t You Done This Already?

Fine Gael are in power since 2011, for them to not have even suggested this before can only be negligence and/or an ideological choice.

There is nothing new in putting markets before people. There is nothing innovative in falling asleep at the wheel.

The argument that they couldn’t have seen this crisis coming doesn’t hold up either. As early as 2013, the then Minister for Housing Jan O’Sullivan said:

“Homelessness is an affront to every value that we assign to the concept of citizenship. In a real republic there is an onus on us all to ensure that all citizens have a place they can call home”.

Sadly, there’s not much room for optimism. When Leo spoke of the NAMA possibility he was quickly shut down by his ‘handlers’ and further explorations were closed to questioning.

NAMA is part, and have been part, of discussions on the housing crisis for years now. Foisting it on them now isn’t a solution. NAMA ha shown no desire to enter the “contributing to the social development” stage of their remit.

Leo, who has a history of saying “it was like that when I got here”, needs to step away from the PR for a few hours.

He has said funding isn’t an issue, great. Issue the funds Taoiseach.

Give the Local Authorities the responsibility to get on with building. Make the Department of Housing, and your good friend Minister Eoghan Murphy, responsible for removing roadblocks and expediting building.

Support the Non Governmental Organisations who are on the front line, taking the flack that six years of Fine Gael government has had a hand in creating.

Make the Local Authorities, the Department and the Minister accountable. Do what Section 2 (viii) of the NAMA act says: contribute to the social development of the state; not just the social media side of things.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly aTrickstersworld

From top: 1 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at a final press conference on Day 2 of the Fine Gael Autumn Think-In in Clonmel in County Tipperary.; Tony Groves

Democracy; a small Greek start up, weaponised by the Romans, Exported by Britain, Commodified in the United States of America, Mis-sold in the Middle East and downgraded to a Global Corporatocracy via an iOS update.

So this is where we are.

In the early part of the 20th Century the West sent out armies and proxy armies to stop the spread of democracy in countries whose natural resources they were hollowing out.

Nowadays, the West is promoting democracy into these places. Not because the West has changed, but rather that democracy itself has.

For months a quote, attributed to Wolfgang Schäuble, has been pissing me off. It goes “Democracy is fine, as long as it doesn’t change anything”.

You see, it is this single line that succinctly sums up the health of what once meant People (Demos) Power (Kratos). Democracy is now the term for the unaccountable and the unaccounted.

In the West it disempowers national governments; forcing murderous austerity on people in order to protect markets.

Whereas in the developing world (a horrible term) it is used to tap into cheap labour forces and devour what natural resources are left.

Rent-Seeking is the economic process of increasing your wealth without creating new wealth. This is done via corporate and national hegemony. Wars are fought to “install democracies”. Just reading that sentence should stress how far removed from the democratic origins we have moved.

Leo Varadkar has had, as ever, an interesting few days. He told the Fine Gael think-in that “Fine Gael will never talk down to people”.

Less than 24 hours later he condescendingly told the Irish people that they weren’t ready to vote based on the recommendations around the 8th Amendment, of the Citizen’s Assembly.

Not finished with his myopic proclamations, he then warned public service chiefs to perform or to step down.

This from a man who failed in portfolio after portfolio.

When Churchill famously described success as “going from failure to failure, with no discernible loss of enthusiasm”, he couldn’t have known Leo Varadkar would ride that mantra to the top office in Irish Politics.

Leo, like our political representatives, has some accountability. They must go in front of the people every five years and seek their vote. But this isn’t real accountability; democratically or professionally.

Roman Consuls had one year terms. In many industries annual Fitness and Probity assessments are required along with Continuous Professional Development learning. Performance Reviews are monthly, quarterly and annual in thousands of workplaces.

Politicians, chosen to represent our democratic voices, tell us that “the practicalities of doing the job” got in the way of holding them to pre election promises.

In no other workplace is the excuse “Isn’t that what you tend to do in elections?” acceptable. But in politics, it is a quip.

The brilliant Arundhati Roy calls modern democracy a Lifestyle War.

She said:

“A war whose whole purpose is to expand the War, increase the Terror and obfuscate the fact that the wars of today are not aberrations but systemic, logical exercises to preserve a way of life whose delicate pleasures and exquisite comforts can only be delivered to the chosen few by a continuous, protracted war for hegemony.

The anything Schauble was referring to was the uninhibited ability of hegemonic countries and companies to move around the globe freely, while restricting the freedom of the people they are ‘democratising’.

The anything Schäuble was referring to is the Rent-Seeking methodology of using wealth and power to expand wealth and power, in the name of thee ‘free market’ hegemony. Wolfgang Schäuble knows democracy, beyond parish pump politics, is, if not dead, on life support.

But there is hope. When car insurance premiums fell recently it was on the back of officers of the EU raiding Dublin based insurance companies and discovering oligopoly price fixing practices.

Interestingly, not once did the current Housing Minister, Eoghan Murphy, tackle (or mention) this behaviour when he conducted his 2016 investigation into rising premiums.

The EU Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, not content with telling Apple to pay Ireland €13bn in back taxes has thrown down the gauntlet to the hegemony of the biggest multi-national corporations.

She also took a swipe at the politicians who allow such Rent-Seeking free market practises to pass.

When she recently said that “the market is not the society. For a long time we have been told that is all it is”, she was aiming a not so subtle kick at the Schaubles, the Varadkars and the Tim Cooks.

Arundhati Roy (whose brilliance I can’t stress enough) thinks democracy isn’t beyond saving.

She, like Vestager, knows toppling the corporate hegemony will require corporate revolution.

But as she says herself;

 “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing”.

Are you listening?

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly aTrickstersworld

Rollingnews

From top: Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe at the publication of the review of Ireland’s Corporation Tax Code (Coffey Report) this week; Tony Groves

There’s a lot of kites in the Republic of Opportunity airspace at the moment. It can be difficult to keep up with which ones are up and which ones are dive bombing back to the earth.

Even when some are flying higher than others it can be unclear as to what it might mean for us back on terra firma.

One such kite, that has been floating for years now, is the EU’s Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base. After many years of ignoring it we are going to have to deal with it, Jean Cluade Junker says so!

The CCCTB is, like all tax laws, easy to understand, while impossible to navigate safely. The main aims are to:

Tackle loopholes currently associated with profit-shifting for tax purposes.
Encourage companies to finance their activities through equity and by tapping into markets rather than turning to debt.
Support innovation through tax incentives for Research and Development (R&D) activities which are linked to real economic activity.

Corporate tax rates are not covered by the CCCTB, as these remain an area of national sovereignty. Our 12.5% rate is not up for discussion.

There’s a lot to be said for a CCCTB that stops huge Multinational Companies avoiding paying tax. The issue, from an Irish perspective, is that there won’t be any profits in the pot for us to tax by the time the “transfer pricing trick” receives the cash.

That is a worry.

When Seamus Coffey, Chairperson of the Fiscal Council, reported on our Corporation Tax system this week the media reported a clean bill of health.

Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe was triumphant, describing the report as “very positive”. RTÉ and the rest went along for the ride.

I’m not sure many of them read the report, or some of its more interesting conclusions. I’ve linked to it here for those of you as boring as I am.

For the rest of you the main points, at least to my mind, are:

That Ireland’s transfer pricing scheme needs “updating and expanding”

Revenue require “enhancement of resources to deal with international dispute resolution”

That we introduce “a cap on allowances as a way of smoothing corporation tax revenues over time”

In layman’s terms, this means Ireland is not offering our (dodgy?) transfer pricing scheme to all firms. That’s something the EU Commission might call “preferential treatment”.

The Revenue Commissioners are currently, and through no fault of their own, unable to deal with the mess that is sheltering profits from all over the world in Ireland.

The ‘smoothing over time’ simply means we close our loopholes slowly, so as not to spoke the MNC horses.

I’m not advocating for Ireland to drop the “transparent tax haven” Unique Selling Point, far from it. We don’t have German Manufacturing, Scandinavian Natural Resources or Mediterranean Sunshine. We have low tax. That’s our thing.

The CCCTB and the Seamus Coffey report aren’t things we should worry about. They are things we should tackle. The Coffey report tells us to make our scheme more widely available, do it.

And the CCCTB has an angle for us as well.

There’s a reason the word innovation is in bold above. The CCCTB has an out for Ireland if we can get in on Innovation. One of the key proposals of the new Tax Reforms is based on Innovation.

What the EU are saying is that start-ups AND Large Corporations who “support innovation” will be rewarded “through tax incentives for Research and Development (R&D) activities which are linked to real economic activity.”

These Large Established Corporations are defined as companies who earn more than €750m per year. Not the type of young dynamic company that needs a break. But the type that frequent the Irish economy.

While these tax breaks are misdirected; the established high-tech innovation sector is not a big employer in the EU. In fact, it’s a small player.

As Eurostat reported:

“in 2014, about 34m people were employed in the manufacturing sector across the EU, representing 15.4 % of total employment. Among these workers, 2.3m were employed in high-tech manufacturing, corresponding to 1.1 % of total employment.”

That’s employers of only 1.1% of total EU jobs are to receive tax incentives the 98.9% won’t. But Ireland needs this loophole.

Ireland doesn’t fare much better, job wise. While we lead the EU with 3% of our workforce in the high-tech sector, it’s estimated nearly 50% are not in high-tech jobs, but in administration roles.

At most 2% of our workforce are employed in these Innovation, Research and Development roles. 2%, it’s hardly worth giving such huge tax breaks to, or is it?

 

The Big MNCs aren’t really innovating anymore. They don’t need to. They are sitting on huge pots of money.

What they do is wait to see which start up (genuine innovator) is doing well, or has promise and they buy them out. Bang, the market shrinks, they consolidate their position and the Innovation becomes theirs, along with the tax break.

Between 2011 and 2015 the Big Players spent nine times more money in acquiring (buying up) innovation than on innovation itself. Yet the CCCTB gives tax break to the Big Guys, already earning over €750m per year.

These Behemoths are not really innovators. Some of them are not even big employers. In 2015 Facebook’s global workforce was less than 13,000. Poke that on your wall beside your Insta Snap.

But we need the Corporation Tax. So Ireland needs to Innovate the Hell out of the CCCTB.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly aTrickstersworld

From top: Darren Scully: George Hook and Tony Groves

Something is very broken in our society. It’s not waiting in the long grass to catch us, it is happening on the margins.

A large constituency of people are comfortable with and supportive of beliefs and behaviours that should be confined to the past.

The fact that the misogyny, racism, xenophobia and socioeconomic class warfare is on the margins should not comfort us in the slightest.

The margin, when you think about it, is a conceptualised border; a set of constraints that we in the ‘centre’ are forced to operate within.

But margins can fluctuate; they can relax or tighten. We can break down borders with events like the end of Apartheid, or voting for marriage equality. But the most recent topical events point to margins that are tightening.

Whether it’s Trump’s latest racist plan to deport people, or an Islamophobic Fine Gael Councillor tweeting up a storm, or George Hook victim blaming women who have been subjected to the brutality of sexual assault, one thing is abundantly clear; such views are widely held and growing.

The other thing that’s clear is that progressive values just aren’t progressing like we’d have hoped in 2017.

Comment Sections light up with toxicity. Links of Alt Right ‘news’ sites get shared and angry (mostly white men) internet trolls vent their spleen at those they feel are less than. If only it were only the internet trolls but it’s not.

When Fine Gael Cllr Brian Murphy was rightly denounced by the Fine Gael Party this week an interesting thing happened to me.

Josephea Madigan – TD, Dublin Rathdown tweeted that she joined the “party of opportunity for all”, I (foolishly?) replied with a screenshot of Darren Scully, Fine Gael’s former Mayor of Naas, who said “he would not take on representations from Africans”. Josephea, as is her right, promptly blocked me.

If Darren Scully hadn’t left Fine Gael, rejoined Fine Gael and then went on to blame the parents of Aylan Kurdi for his death, you could almost put his racist views down to a one off. But it wasn’t and it isn’t.

There’s a racist cohort attracted to power and right wing ideology. In Irish politics, no matter how they don’t like to admit it, Fine Gael are that party.

There’s a social psychology concept called Moral Licensing, it’s defined: past good deeds can liberate individuals to engage in behaviours that are immoral, unethical, or otherwise problematic. Basically it’s moral math, you do something good in order to give yourself the licence to do something bad.

Here in Ireland, we can observe Moral Licensing by observing the people who voted for marriage equality, but still express homophobic views, as if they’re vote gives them a lifelong pass to be homophobic. Some of these people are our friends, colleagues and family members.

We can address the issue with them, or we can block it out and allow these “marginal views” to fence us in. Sometimes blocking it out is just easier. But nothing worthwhile comes easy, especially not equality.

George Hook has apologised and that’s to be welcomed. I’m not going to question the sincerity of his apology. I would question his understanding of why people were so upset at his views.

The earlier misstep of having a section on his radio show called “Here Come the Girls” is not a good deed that licenses him to be so hurtful, unintentionally or not. George can continue to broadcast as long as Newstalk will have him. We can all just move the dial.

Daniel Effron, Associate Professor at the London Business School, used Moral Licensing to observe people who voted for Barack Obama. He discovered that “when white participants could point to racist alternatives to their past actions, they felt they had obtained more evidence of their own virtue”.

In moral sums it meant that a significant chunk of people who voted for America’s first Black President used this “good deed” to return to their racist views. He’d unknowingly identified many of the voters who would go on to elect Donald Trump.

I did my own little observation experiment, a google cross referenced word search, hardly definitive.

By linking the names of my three Local TDs, Roisin Shortall, Dessie Ellis and Noel Rock to the term Direct Provision, I discovered that only Deputies Shortall and Ellis have worked towards ending this human rights abuse in our midst. Again, hardly scientific, but not unsurprising either.

Deputy Noel Rock, to give him is due, went on the air with George Hook to assure the public that Councillor Murphy’s views were not representative of Fine Gael. I’m not sure whether that’s moral licensing, defending the shield, or just pushing back against marginal elements?

When Leo Varadkar became Taoiseach he declared that “prejudice has no hold in this Republic”.

At this point it seems important to point out that both Councillor Brian Murphy and Councillor Darren Scully supported Leo Varadkar for the Fine Gael leadership.

Moral Licensing? You do the maths.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly aTrickstersworld

From top: Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Damien English TD at today’s the Housing Summit in the Custom House, Dublin; Tony Groves

There was an interesting development in how the Government has decided to handle (spin) the housing crisis this week.

Following a raw and at times brutal Morning Ireland interview with a homeless Secondary School student named ‘Amanda’, the Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy, rather than feel ashamed decided he’d side with the poor girl.

Mr Murphy said:

“The piece that was broadcast this morning on Morning Ireland is probably one of the most important contributions to this debate that we’ve heard in the past number of months.

The bravery that they had this morning to come out and tell the country about their particular circumstance was very brave but very important for people to understand what these families are facing.”

The family tragedy compounded by a Minister who is calling this crisis a debate. The time for debating is long gone. It is time for action, real decisive action.

Campaigns like #MyNameIs have raised the consciousness of the general public and the sense that more must be done is palpable.

In reality we have the means to take much more ambitious steps than the planned 23,000 social housing homes by 2021.

More importantly, even with this limited plan, who will be held accountable should this target not be met? Given that only 22 of the 1,500 promised by next year have been completed to date, can we believe in any new plan? Where is the accountability?

The lack of accountability in Ireland undermines many facets of our society. But to just focus on housing we can identify the problem quite quickly.

Unlike many other European countries, including Belgium, France and the UK, housing is not a right in Ireland.

In Ireland, under the 1988 Housing Act, our citizens run into a verbal wall.

10.—(1) A housing authority may, subject to such regulations as may be made by the Minister under this section –
make arrangements, including financial arrangements, with a body approved of by the Minister for the purposes of section 5 for the provision by that body of accommodation for a homeless person,
provide a homeless person with such assistance, including financial assistance, as the authority consider appropriate, or
rent accommodation, arrange lodgings or contribute to the cost of such accommodation or lodgings for a homeless person.

2. A request for accommodation may be made to a housing authority by or on behalf of a homeless person.

The blocker in the system is a small word that covers all manner of excuses. The word is ‘may’; as in the housing authority may or it may not do a,b,c or d.

It is not compulsory, and if it is not compulsory then there is no accountability. If there’s no accountability then there’s no repercussions for missing targets. Until may becomes must and the power to act become a duty to act then nothing will change.

This crisis didn’t sneak up on us either. It is the result of decades of bad planning and even worse policy making. We have gone, progressively since the 1970’s, from State provision to a combination of NGO and Market provision.

Both are failing – for different reasons. The NGO solution is common – the UK for example has a similar situation, with the important distinction that the State in UK decanted housing stock progressively to the NGOs, thereby providing a balance sheet base from which the NGO’s could leverage collateral to fund future housing stock.

The NGO model is endemic in Irish Social policy – the same approach applies in Health, Disability Services and in the past in areas such as industrial schools.

Whatever about its origins – a pauper State seeking access to property and services from institutions such as the Church, it now represents either an abdication of responsibility or, worse, an adherence to Victorian attitudes to relative poverty and provision, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

Without diverting from the current crisis, this needs to be reassessed in all areas of Social policy.

Given the intolerable crisis we have today – 8,160 people homeless and nearly 3,000 children – anything less than “The State Will Provide” response from the Government will not suffice. Even if we are to only do so on a temporary basis until the crisis has abated.

There’s nothing in EU Law that forbids a country from acting to protect its citizens. Therefore it follows that there is nothing in EU Law (including the Debt to GDP rules) that can prevent the government from raising money to build social housing.

The “off balance sheet” argument is a red herring. They raised over €5bn to pay off the IMF. To not do the same for our citizens is an indictment of Right Wing slaves to the “free” market ideology. It is an indictment of us as a society and a country.

It is within our powers, as the 14th wealthiest country in the world, to build 10,000 social houses in the next 12-18 months. Any legislative roadblocks can and must be given the NAMA treatment.

Exceptional times call for exceptional measures.

If we can create NAMA overnight, ignoring legislative processes, to stop a Bank crisis and we refuse to do the same for our citizens then any plans from the Third Emergency Housing Summit are only window dressing.

The pressure is on, Fine Gael are rattled by claims that their ideological blindness to the less well off in our country have exacerbated this crisis.

Campaigns like #MyNameIs have embarrassed them and stung a Taoiseach obsessed with his image into action. This action must happen now and it must be on a scale that dwarfs the current 2021 plan.

Time is of the essence here. While things are bad they are about to get much worse. There’s 14,367 Buy To Let Mortgages at repossession stage.

There is no incentive or reason for the Vulture Funds that own these properties to rent them to the social housing/homeless part of the market. This will be like throwing petrol on a bonfire unless our government turns “may” into Must.

We have the means, the finance is available and the solutions are simple:

Make the provision of housing a right, at least until the crisis has abated.

Use the NAMA exceptionalist model to protect the citizens.

Commit to building 10,000 social houses in the next 12-18 months.

Make the Departments accountable and have repercussions for failure.

Incentivise/Legislate that the Vultures make their properties available to the Social Housing schemes.

Deliver.

Fine Gael are 84 years old today. The Taoiseach used this occasion to remind people that he wants “to build a Republic of Opportunity”.

Well Leo, it’s no good waiting for opportunity to knock when you don’t have a front door.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly aTrickstersworld

Belong

Just like the air max on the teenagers feet,
And like the broken glass on the city street,
And like the backpack on the empty bus seat, belong

Just like the joyful air in the kids football,
And like the communion picture on the living room wall,
And like the contact lens on the bloodshot eyeball, belong

Everything should belong somewhere,
Just like commuter stuck in traffic, and the kid in full time childcare,
Everyone MUST belong somewhere,
So why are we okay leaving them there?

Just like the floral print on the tablecloth,
And like the cappuccino with the extra froth,
And like the boiled ribs in your nanny’s broth, belong

Just like the dark thoughts in my troubled head,
And like the nightshift worker in her daytime bed,
And like quoted tweet that just says thread, belong

Just like the shit stir words on the Op-Ed page,
And like the evicted tenant filled with rage,
And like an empty promise on a political stage, belong

Everything wants to belong somewhere,
Just like the kid stuck in a hotel, and the patient stuck on a chair,
Everyone must belong SOMEWHERE,
So why are we okay leaving them there?
I’m not okay just letting them rot there.

Tony Groves

Tony Groves

Language can be a lot like the Leaving Cert Geography lifecycle of a river. Words start out vibrant and energising; soon they’re meandering along corporate corridors and through bankers’ boardrooms only to slow to a crawl in the mouths of politicians.

Around 2006 the word granularity came into the military lexicon. General David Petraeus, while discussing the situation then in Iraq, told the Armed Services Committee that “it is hard at this distance…to get the real granularity of what’s going on”.

Two years later, as Irish Banks were preparing to close their doors, I was listening to a Chief Strategist explaining the “granularity of the crisis”.

Sometime around 2013, I saw a tweet from a Fine Gael TD in response to the (even back then) housing crisis saying those calling for immediate action “needed to familiarise themselves with the granularity of the situation”.

Granularity, like so many once militarily sexy words, had passed from the mouth of a 4 Star General to the tweet of a free market apologist.

Granularity used to mean the finer details, in political speak it was used as smug way of trying to sound clever. The granularity of the word had been ground away.

It is waffle like this that results in the Taoiseach appointing his own Strategic Communications Unit.

This “good news” department, as it has been dubbed, is to help the Taoiseach effectively communicate (dare I say propagandise) the workings and achievements of his government.

It is telling that the rank and file members of Fine Gael aren’t uncomfortable with this new development. No one is questioning the value of the unit, nor the cost to the state.

When members of Sinn Féin similarly stay on message they are routinely called a cult. When Fine Gael do it, crickets…

Nor does the language devolution stop with the politicians.

In his weekly address the Taoiseach, first patting himself on the back for “taking more people out of homelessness this year than any year in the past”, then said the problem was that “more people BECOME homeless every week”. It’s as if these people simply decided to get up, leave their homes and start camping in the Phoenix Park.

People don’t become homeless; they are MADE homeless.

Imagine my disappointment then when the media then went on to parrot the “people become homeless” line. Across the airwaves our inability to address this national shame was sanitised away with the lie of the ‘accidental’ inference of a simple word like BECOME.

There are 14,367 Buy to Let Mortgages in arrears of over 720 days, these homes contain rent paying tenants who risk losing their homes through no fault of their own. The vulture funds are closing in for the kill on these loans and these families will be MADE homeless.

I’m not sure how the “good news” unit will spin this, but one thing is for certain, another housing summit is not the answer.We’ll have had three emergency housing summits since 2014,  one more and we get the 5th one for free.

The Taoiseach has said that he “believes communication is a virtue”. It is not. It is simply an exchange of information. Virtues are things like honesty, integrity and trustworthiness. There’s no virtue if the information you are exchanging is dishonest, unbelievable and untrustworthy.

The “good news” unit isn’t about virtues. It’s about putting a verbiage plaster on an open wound.

When you really get down to the finer details (the granularity), the purpose of the “good new” unit is to give the appearance of substance to plans made on foundations of sand and worn out words.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly aTrickstersworld

Tony Groves

 

There’s a myth that needs busting.

It’s a seemingly innocent, widely held belief that is instrumental to the structure of not just Ireland, but most of what we call the Western World. The big lie is that a large portion of our economic and social stability stems from what we are always told is called the Centre.

This comfort blanket lie is only centrist in so far as it is central to a collective and willful ignorance.

It forms the basis of economic policy and the shrinking of social mobility.It is the foundation stone of neoliberalism, corporate pirateering and some of the worst aspects of human behaviour.

The narrative is that the Centre has ensured relative peace and stability since the end of World War II. It is that Centrist economic policies, centrist work ethic and centrist governance has made the West rich.

In order for this to be true the the corollary is that the poor countries of the world have hard left economic policies, poor work ethics and corrupt governance.

The proof for all of this, according to the centrist, is that the West has been generously pumping billions of dollars into these poor countries and still they lag behind in the United Nations Human Inequality Index.

The West, via the World Bank, boasts that, due to their assistance, the global poverty rate has decreased dramatically in the past three decades, from half the citizens in the developing world in 1981 to 21 percent in 2010, despite a 59 percent increase in the developing world population.

The centrists argue that it is western generosity in the shape of aid totalling $130 billion per year that has seen these developments. $130 billion, that’s a huge sum of money. To put it into context, it is almost as much as the entire profits of all the combined banks in North America for 2016.

Even within Ireland, the centrist generosity is on full display. Ireland tops the OECD Income Inequality table, with a score of 0.58. But, the centrist will yell, that’s before transfers. And in fairness, once transfers are taken into account Ireland has a much more middling inequality ranking of 0.31.

All of these stats ($130bn in Foreign Aid, 0.31 Inequality Ranking and slashing poverty by nearly 30%) are the reason every 2nd Op-Ed pukes up the line “the centre must hold”.

But it bloody well must not. The centre is a statistical mirage. The numbers aren’t real. They are paid for and used by (dare I say alt-centre) centrist ideology that is all about maintaining a parasitic existence.

The trickle down economic policy of the centre is an economic disaster. If you look at all the new income generated by global GDP growth over the past few decades only 5% has gone to the poorest 60% of humanity.

During the same period, the richest 8 people in the world have accumulated more wealth than the bottom 50% of the world’s population.

That’s eight people with more money than nearly 4,000,000,000. Based on the current rate of “trickle down” growth we will eradicate global poverty sometime in late 2217.

The foreign aid of $130 billion is also never put into the context of net flows by the (alt)centrist. Why would they? To do so would only expose that, according to Global Financial Integrity and the Norwegian School of Economics, for every $1 in aid given to a poor country, we in the west remove $24 in cash outflows.

That’s over $24 for the wealthy west and $1 for the poor box. A sweet deal for the grasping centrist.

Next we come to the centrist (World Bank supported) claim of slashing poverty. The figures themselves are undeniable; hundreds of millions of people have indeed been lifted above the poverty threshold.

And that got me thinking of something an old sales manager of mine used to say,“What gets measured, gets done.” The ‘What’ is what matters and in the case of the World Bank the ‘What’ is a benchmark based on the number of people living on less than $1.25 per day.

That’s $1.25 per day to cover everything, light, heat, food etc. The ethical poverty line, based on figures from those poor countries, and not the World Bank, is $5 per day. Leaving aside the centrist $1.25 and going with the $5 required to actually move out of poverty, crushes the centrist claim of slashing global poverty.

In fact, it shows we are growing it. The $5 dollar benchmark leaves 60% of the world’s population in poverty. That’s an increase of 10%. The ‘What’ matters.

Finally, to bring it back to our dinner tables, let’s look at Ireland and what our (alt)centre stats can tell us about inequality. Well, the obvious statistic is that by using transfers to reduce inequality from the highest down to average levels is very much the same as paying $130bn in foreign aid to strip out $1trn.

A country that in 2008 had 16,000 millionaires and 1,600 people homeless, now has 91,000 millionaires and nearly 8,000 people homeless. These transfers are simply taking a few dollars from Peter to placate Paul’s hordes..

Ireland’s GDP growth is an EU leading 4.5%. Ireland has an at-risk-of-poverty rate of 16%. But, without these transfers (Department of Social Protection payments) the number shoots up to 51%.

That’s 51% of Irish people depend on some form of DSP payment to keep the lights on. A staggering figure that makes no sense in a country that is nearing full employment and heading the EU GDP growth rates. I don’t have the latest data for Ireland’s trickle down rate, but the homeless and vulnerable stats aren’t encouraging.

To be centrist is to be pro status quo. To be pro status quo is to support a right wing economic structure that is failing the majority of people. Tolstoy once told Chekov that his writing would improve if he’d pick a point of view.

The people who say they are centrist, by going with the right wing flow, have picked a point of view.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a true centrist, but I’ve met plenty who think they are. Most are just cogs in the right wing wheel, happy to believe that they’ll leave the world in a better place than they found it. Heck, they even have the stats to prove it.

As Mark Twain might have said; lies, damned lies and I’m a centrist statistic.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly aTrickstersworld

 

To mark National Day Against Child Homelessness Day today.

My name is Orla,

Today was a great day. I went on a play date with my friend Lisa. Her house is like a mansion. She has her own bedroom and even has a TV in it!

She has a puppy called Ben. He’s a Cockapoo. She said that her dad told her that means he’s half dog and half poo. We played with him in the garden and I gave him some of my popcorn. He puked it up.

Lisa has an older brother. He’s the same age as mine. But he doesn’t have a wheelchair like Jack. He has his own room as well. Lisa says it’s like an evil lair, and that her brother spends all his time on Youtube looking at videos about ninjas and swords and fighting. But when I looked in it looked clean and he has one of them beds that are like bunkbeds but have a hang-out den on the ground part. I’d love one of those.

Lisa’s mom is brilliant. She even let us make our own pizzas. Mine was with ham and pineapple. The ham was lovely, but the pineapple was gross. Lisa had hers plain and then we had ice cream and apple crumble.

We played Pie-Face and I won lots of times. Lisa wiped the cream up with her brothers Dublin jersey. I’d say he’ll go mad when he finds out. We had so much fun.

I wanted to show my mammy around when she came to collect me, but she said she was busy. I know she had time but she sometimes gets in a mood, even when there’s no reason to. Lisa’s mum wrapped up some apple crumble for me and my brother.

When we got home Piotr had to help carry my brother upstairs cause the lift was broken again. Piotr is cool, he’s from Poland and always puts on this deep voice pretending to give out to me, but I can tell he doesn’t mean it.

Some of the other people in the hotel were there, but they didn’t help and Mam had to carry Jacks wheelchair up the stairs. I took the schoolbags and the milk. Because our room is small we have to keep Jacks wheelchair outside in a tiny room with the hotel cleaning stuff.

Mam was very tired but she still made us both her famous hot chocolate. Jack has cerebral palsy but he’s very clever and really strong. I’m always worried that he will grip his cup so strongly that it will smash.

Because we only have two beds, I did my homework on mums and she helped Jack do his exercises on ours. Jack is so funny doing them. He always makes fart noises just to annoy Mam.

I hate homework, especially the Irish reading. But Mam is very good, she always tells me these little tricks that she used to do when she was a girl. She even helps me with projects. One time we went over to Aldi and Mam got a cardboard box and we made an aquarium for my project about the sea. I remember spilling blue paint on my bed and uniform. I had blue tracksuit bottoms for a month. Mam just said they were all the fashion!

There was one bad thing and that was when I asked if Lisa could come to the hotel for a play date. Mam went quiet and in that same mood that I said about earlier in Lisa’s house. But I really wanted to show Lisa the hotel so I kept asking. Mam kind of shouted at me a little and I began to cry and it upset Jack. He rolled off the bed a dragged himself into the bathroom. Jack hates it when anybody fights.

I really hate when this happens, but sometimes I can’t help it. I don’t mean to be bad. I just want to bring my friends over and we wouldn’t even play in the room. We’d play chasing in the corridors or in the lobby, if Piotr is on. But not if the other cranky fella is.

Mam was talking to Jack, so I got the apple crumble from her bag and Jack came out and we all had some. I could tell mam was still sad about what happened, so I told her that I wouldn’t ask anymore and said I was sorry. She said it was fine and that everything was okay. But I know it’s not. Not really.

After we go to bed I always hear her crying in the bathroom when she thinks I am asleep. It always gives me this pain in my stomach and I get cross at myself for making her sad.

I don’t know what to do. But I just tell myself that tomorrow I will be better and that it will be okay then.

My Name Is Orla…

My Name Is (Tricksterworld)

My Name Is

UPDATE:

This morning.

At the media launch of the My Name Is campaign at the Academy Plaza Hotel, Dublin 1.

From top: Carly Bailey, who lost her family home to a vulture fund in 2013; and (left to right) Rory Hearne, of NUI Maynooth; David Hall, CEO Irish Mortgage Holders; Anthony Flynn CEO of Inner City Helping Homeless; and Michael Caul.

Meanwhile…

Free tonight?

Leah Farrell/Rollingnews

 

Tony Groves

Identity Politics is only as limited as our ability to look at things through the eyes of others. The modern inability to engage with each other, without prejudice, is the hallmark of this age of echo chambers and pseudo intellectualism (myself included).

Mick Fealty, of the excellent Slugger O’Toole, introduced me to a terrific word; askholes. The askhole is an individual who seeks you out, asks your opinion and then promptly ignores it. Brilliant.

When Sally Kohn said “I’m a gay talking head on Fox News” on the Ted Talk Stage she wasn’t saying it as a victory for the Liberals. She wasn’t defending Fox News and the Right Wing media. She wasn’t excusing away the hate mail and tweets that she got.

Sally was railing against political correctness and asking liberals to park their moral superiority; she was talking about what she terms “emotional correctness”.

It is the, all too common, Lefty Liberal habit of being dismissive of anyone who disagrees with them. A situation loosely defined as being “politically right, but emotionally wrong”.

This, she concludes, is why the Conservative Right don’t like Lefty Liberals. It’s why we today have cognitive dissonance on Trump’s “many sides”.

We have people who feel social democracy and progressive values are exclusively the domain of the Left. The fact that an Taoiseach is a Right Wing gay conservative conflicts with the worldview that everyone who marches with a rainbow flag must be a Lefty Liberal.

But that’s not emotional correctness.

The blind spots aren’t the sole domain of the “left. There are hard right economic cliches that stop debate about the best way to tackle social inequality.

Get a Left Wing pre election manifesto, have it fully costed, third party reviewed, and even include a commitment to maintaining the 12.5% Corporation Tax Rate, and watch those on the Right (who haven’t even read it) dismiss it as Lefty Looney Economic Spoofing.

This week the OECD placed Ireland in the top bracket of Tax Transparency and Global Compliance.

Many on the Right, including Brian Hayes MEP, took to twitter to gloat and use this to bash the left. But as a ‘Lefty’, I wasn’t surprised.

Ireland is transparent and becoming positively crystal clear in its tax dealings. Our status as a low tax base for corporations is one of our main selling points globally.

We may as well run an ad.

Small Country, open to trying new things, seeks Corporation for No Strings Attached fun, maybe more. Phone Leo on 1890-LOW-LOW-TAX.

But that’s not emotional correctness.

When elements of the Right express racially abhorrent views about immigration just punching them won’t work. Nor will ignoring them.

Their views must be dragged out into the light, their fears addressed, their hate challenged positively and (where possible) their minds changed. That’s a lot easier to type than to do.

There is so much pushback masquerading as Centrism. We have pro-government Think-Pieces expressing outrage about the outrage of those let down by the government.

We have a Taoiseach who, when asked about the homelessness crisis, went on an ad hominem attack rather than answering the question.

We have powerful influential people who call themselves Centrists, and the only Centre they know is Dundrum Town. We could call them the Alt-Centrist, but that’s not emotionally correct.

There are mobs on “many sides”; high moral ground lefty loonies, far right tiki torch waving nuts and every hue in between. I’m not making false equivalences between any of them. There’s no need for finger pointing and chest thumping. Ad hominem attacks aren’t just a song on the Muppets.

We have countercultures bumping up against countercultures, that are fighting with their own subcultures. Honestly, if we each agreed to host a homeless person in our own little bubble then the crisis would evaporate overnight.

But that’s not emotional correctness.

So when we engage with, or raise our noses in displeasure against, the ‘other side’, try keeping it emotionally correct and leave your sense of political correctness in your pocket. If an idea is contrary to your group-think, ask yourself are you more groupie than thinky.

Try to find that common ground. Look for the areas where your Values Venn Diagrams overlap, and be optimistic. Always bear in mind that we risk becoming that thing we set out to defeat if we don’t engage at all.

Finally, if you can’t spot the Askhole in the room, it’s probably you.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly aTrickstersworld

Previously: Tony Groves on Broadsheet