Author Archives: Tony Groves

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

From top: The EU’s White Paper on the Future of Europe; Tony Groves

Prediction is a mugs game. Many people much smarter than I have erred badly in the game of throwing predictions about. Some, while not quite masters, are certainly more adept in the art of reading the economic tarot cards.

I remember being at a banker “breakfast briefing” a few years before the Global Financial Crisis where a hipster economist named David McWilliams laid out his prediction of the economic crash to come in our not too distant future. I was convinced by his reasoning until a colleague put up his hand to ask a question.

“David,” he said, “I’ve been to a series of these briefings for a number of years, and you always give the same warning”.

“Is there a question in there?” replied David.

“Ah, it’s kind of like saying in the middle of a heatwave that it’s gonna rain tomorrow. When it does eventually rain you can say I told you so,” came the response.

Everyone laughed and the bankers (myself included) skipped out into the world of darkening clouds, imagining that we’d never need the use of an umbrella.

I’d like to think I’ve learned something from the hubristic Celtic Tiger implosion. I’d like to think we all have. But I’ve read the European Commission’s White Paper on the Future of Europe and I don’t think we’ve learned much of anything at all.

The paper outlines 5 Scenarios for how the EU 27 countries will operate by 2025.

These are:

SCENARIO 1: Carrying on

This is the ‘sure isn’t everything grand, nothing to see here, please move along option’. In this scenario the polarisation of the EU isn’t addressed. The first priority of Scenario 1 is “to focus on…strengthening the single market”.

SCENARIO 2: Notheing but the single market

This is exactly what is sounds like, “the functioning of the single market becomes the main raison d’etre of the EU”. Everything else becomes irrelevant. It’s like a more honest Scenario 1

SCENARIO 3: Those who want more do more

This is termed “the coalition of the willing” option. The member states who want to address challenges within the EU can form groupings and work together to improve cooperation and deepen ties. Sounds reasonable, until you read that the areas that are to be given priority. You’ve probably guessed it, yep, it’s focus will be on “budgetary arrangements and greater harmonisation of tax rules”.

SCENARIO 4: Doing Less more efficiently

This option is a funny one. It starts on the false premise that the EU will “focus its…limited resources on a reduced number of areas”. 15 of the 30 wealthiest countries in the world are in Europe, so if the EU has limited resources it is because of a focus on socialising debt and privatising capital.

Nonetheless, there is in Scenario 4 the first mention of consumer rights and protections. Sadly, they also state this will “help close the gap between promise and delivery” and that “common standards will be set to a minimum”. It’s like telling someone that their pizza will be with them within 6-8 hours and expecting them to be happy when you deliver it in only 4hrs, cold. In sales this is called the ‘Under Promise and Over Deliver Option.

SCENARIO 5: Doing much more together

The sharing is caring option. This is the option I pegged my hopes on. Yes, it starts on about deepening the single market again. Yes it goes on about “much greater coordination on fiscal and taxation matter”. Yes, it even states that a “European Defence Union is created”.

But, it also states that citizens rights will be put above those of the Corporations and Banks that created the crisis. It promises to create and foster a European Identity, where all citizens are afforded the protections and rights of a European Constitution. Scenario 5 puts the people of Europe at the centre of Europe…

only it doesn’t. None of these Scenarios even hint at anything as revolutionary as creating and fostering a European Identity.

Everyone of these Scenarios are market driven and the rights of citizens are an afterthought; something to be “set to a minimum”.

Five Scenarios that all carry, in the European Commission’s own words, “the risk of alienating…a society which feels that the EU lacks legitimacy”. Yes folks, they are aware of the problem, but they think doing more of the trickle down economics that caused the crisis will avert the next crisis.

A few months back I was at another financial get together. Once more, David McWilliams was the guest speaker. He gave an optimistic outlook for Ireland and our economy.

His predictions weren’t based on the global economic environment, they were more (to my mind) based on austerity fatigue and the behavioural economic phenomena of people saying “Feck it” and buying a new car.

David had identified the one thing that the European Commission failed to notice. That is that the people are the economy. The recovery, if there is to be one, will be driven from the bottom up and not the Single Market down.

European citizens are fed up of stagnation and having to put things like having a family on pause. The pent up societal demand of a life in economic limbo can be the driver of growth in the real economy.

The EU needs to recognise this and make it the centre of the 2025 plan, or, at the time of the next crash, the EU will collapse in on itself.

In Ireland we currently have no appetite for leaving the EU, but Brexit is everywhere. The election of Macron hasn’t stopped the disillusionment. The European Commission needs to wake up, people don’t live in an economy, they live in a society.

We need a Scenario 6. The McWilliams option.

ony 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: Dervla Brennan  (left) Eleanor Coleman at Loreto College, Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2 this morning; Minister for Education Richard Bruton visiting the National Parents Council Exam Helpline in the Omni Center in Dublin this afternoon. Tony Groves

In 1914, Walter Lippmann wrote a book called Drift and Mastery. The book, which argued for a progressive, scientific and rational society, also contained the first reference of the American Dream.

He argued against the “understanding that the common, undisciplined man” would save society. To Lippmann this was a dangerous fantasy of unbridled capitalism “that leads only to… anarchism”.

Lippmann wanted the American Dream to be seen “as a way to differentiate a high national ideal, from mere economic opportunity”. He saw it as an vision for a forward-thinking America; a system not driven by top down business and industry, but by bottom up labour initiatives and creativity.

When, in 1931, James Truslow Adams popularised the phrase “the American Dream” he defined it as “a land where life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”

He argued that the Great Depression was brought on by America worshipping business above its people.

(Reread that. Doesn’t it remind you of the Marxist slogan – From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs-, no? Maybe my red-tinted glasses are colouring my understanding.)

Sadly, in my opinion, both Lippmann and Adams lost the battle for the American Dream. The phrase, rather than becoming a societal utopian vision, became synonymous with big business and rampant capitalism.

President Calvin Coolidge summed up the mentality when he said “the man who builds a factory builds a temple; the man who works there, worships there”. Praise to the Almighty Dollar, indeed.

The defeat of Lippmann and Adams wasn’t accidental. It was a strategic bastardising of their American Dream by big business. Post World War II the business elites poured resources into a campaign that positioned themselves as the saviours and protectors of the American Dream.

They developed curricula for public schools and helped word sermons for Ministers to give to their congregations. They crushed, remoulded and then sold the American Dream as one of Consumerism and Keeping up with the Joneses.

This boom and bust, consumerist driven American Dream has failed. In 1970 over 90% of 30 year olds who were earning more than their parents had at age 30. Today that figure is hovering just over 50%. The American Dream, if not dead, has certainly become a nightmare.

Back home, the Leaving Cert results are out and the points race is in full flow. The future is wide open in front of our best and brightest. There are more options for school leavers than ever before. But who’s dreams are they pursuing?

I’d like to think that it is down to the individual and that each of our school leavers will avail of an opportunity to advance themselves and follow their dream.

But I can’t help thinking of the Big American Industrialists shaping school curricula to suit their own dreams, and I remember our Minister for Education, Richard Bruton recently saying: “employers are to be given a greater say in shaping the type of education and training that is delivered.” Scary, isn’t it?

You’d have to question a government that defended Apple against the EU much more robustly than it did its own citizens in the face of a decade of austerity.

Nonetheless, our young people are more savvy than our politicians. They have a more global outlook than many of the businesses they will go on to work for. Survey after survey shows them to be more progressive, liberal and optimistic than the cranks of my generation.

They can carve out a world where life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone. After All, you’ve got to have a dream.

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: Leo Varadkar;Tony Groves

A mathematician, an accountant and an public relations manager apply for the same job…

The interviewer calls in the mathematician and asks “What do two plus two equal?” The mathematician replies “Four.” The interviewer asks “Four, exactly?” The mathematician looks at the interviewer incredulously and says “Yes, four, exactly.”

Then the interviewer calls in the accountant and asks the same question “What do two plus two equal?” The accountant says “On average, four – give or take ten percent, but on average, four.”

Finally, the interviewer calls in the PR manager and poses the same question “What do two plus two equal?”

The PR manager gets up, locks the door, closes the shade, sits down next to the interviewer and says, “What do you want it to equal”?

When Leo Varadkar was Minister for Social Protection he said that there should not be refunds for those who paid water charges. He also added that those who did not pay should be pursued. Now, as Taoiseach, he wants us all to engage in collective memory loss as he rebrands himself into Santa Leo.

Santa Leo is promising Christmas bonuses to all the little good boys and girls. Refunds, that he said he wouldn’t do, are going to cost €170,000,000 and an estimated €10,000,000 to process it.

So that’s a €180,000,000 humiliation for Fine Gael that is to be spun as a Ho Ho Ho Christmas Holiday present of “three hundred odd euro back” per household.

Great news for those “two thirds of people” who obeyed the law and paid their Irish Water bills. Three hundred euro is not to be sniffed at.

Well played Leo, everyone will forget your previous guff about pursuing non-payers and you get to turn your democratic defeat into a political win. At least you would do, if you’re figures weren’t as unreliable as your proclamations. Just a cursory exploration of the facts exposes the flaws.

Firstly, Irish Water only took in €165,120,680 and not €170,000,000. Irish Water was responsible for 1,700,000 households, when applicable they billed 1,522,000 of these.

At their peak, Irish Water say 989,000 people were paying; that’s 58% of households and not the 66% claimed by government.

Even using this 989,000 figure is problematic; to refund this many households “three hundred odd euro” back would cost the exchequer €296,700,000.

There’s either a €126,700,000 hole in their sums, or they still aren’t telling the truth about how many people were paying and how much had been paid.

Taking the €300 refund amount to be true, then we can estimate that only 566,666 households paid up. That’s one third of the 1,700,000 households. A figure only slightly above the 30% figure claimed by that “lefty looney” Paul Murphy.

I know, in the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t really matter. After destroying the Labour Party and bringing Fine Gael to its knees Water Charges are dead. Not to mention the real crises of housing and hospital waiting lists; true emergencies that require immediate responses.

But that’s sort of the point.

A Taoiseach who quotes bogus stats on a dead issue like Water Charges is not credible when he quotes stats on new housing builds or hospital waiting lists.

A Taoiseach that has hired a separate office to manage his own Public Relations is a Taoiseach who needs more scrutiny than any to have ever held the office before.

Remember, this is a government that when they failed to meet their goal of patients not waiting over 24 hours in an A&E Department decided that, rather than redouble their efforts, they’d simply change the goal to say that patients over 75 would not be waiting over 24 hours.

This is the government that claimed there had been 15,000 new homes built in 2016, when the real figure was closer to 3,500. In Cork alone the government’s figure of 287 was a shameful 21.

This is why it Santa Leo and the €300 matters. A government that holds to data that is disproven cannot be expected to solve real crises. Flat earther economics is not going to build houses. PR soundbites won’t stop winter flu.

We know, looking around our dinner tables, that hospital waiting lists are rocketing towards 750,000. The people who get up early in the morning in homeless hubs know that 2 + 2 = 4. No amount of PR media spin is going to make it otherwise. Santa Claus is not real.

(BTW There’s a Inner City Helping Homeless, No Place to Sleep, Public Meeting on Wednesday the 16th of August, at 7:30. 72 Amien Street, Dublin 1.)

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