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 at Trickstersworld