Loans in Ireland It is a given fact that life is a struggle. Still, a variety of situations may present a different name to it. During the earlier stage of life, struggles are different, and…
Monthly Archives For April 2014
Reading Magnum: A Visual Archive of the Modern World by Geoff Dyer and Steven Hoelscher (University of Texas Press)
City Stages by Matthew Pillsbury (Aperture)
Some of the finest poetry of Wallace Stevens expresses the constant struggle between representing things as they are, capturing moments that accord with something independent of the mind – moments, one might say, of cast-iron existence where no metaphors or tropes attach themselves to this level of material being — and, on the other hand, the alluring inclination to mediate experience with subjective positions of contestable value. In ‘The Auroras of Autumn’ he writes of ‘form gulping after formlessness’, the need to impose some order and pattern on restless, multiplex reality.
Photography is like the late poetry of Wallace Stevens in that it too battles with the conflicting drives of representing what is there, in all its necessary incongruity, and depicting a mediated slice of life that tells us more about the photographer than the photographed. When Magnum first established itself, co-founder Henri Cartier-Bresson spoke of ‘ a respect for what is going on [in the world] and a desire to transcribe it visually’. What was going on was war, first in Spain and then across Europe and the globe, and war begat Magnum with the idea amongst a small group of Left-leaning photographers in 1947 for a cooperative that would allow them to take and disseminate pictures free of control from commercial and military organizations. The experience of conflict had brought home to the Magnum founders the importance of pictures in conveying to non-combatants what happened when war was unleashed and two of them (Robert Capa in the First Indochina War and David Seymour in the Suez War) would die in the course of their chosen careers. Another one of the co-founders, George Rodger, gave up war photography after taking pictures at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, appalled that he treated ‘this pitiful human flotsam as it were a gigantic still-life’. What shocked Rodger was that ‘I could look at the horror of Belsen … and think only of a nice photographic composition, I knew something had happened to me and I had to stop. I said this is where I quit.’
The concentration camp, its dead and its survivors were there before Rodger’s eyes but so was his camera and when he put one up against the other something else came into play. What Wallace Stevens said, in the same year that saw the formation of Magnum Photos, is as true of the photograph as it is of a poem: ‘What our eyes behold may well be the text of life but one’s meditations on the text and the disclosures of these meditations are no less a part of the structure of reality.’ The tension between the photographer as a reporter and as an artist lies at the core of the best work residing in the Magnum archives for as Philip Jones Griffiths put it, ‘There is no point in pressing the shutter unless you are making some caustic comment on the incongruities of life’.
Do you really believe that 2015 is the last year of austerity? If you believe that fiscal pigs will fly, then, yes, 2015 will be the last year of austerity. However, if you are even just a tad sceptical then read on. For 2015 is not the end – it is just the end of the beginning. After 2015 we will be into a new phase of real austerity.
The Government has produced a budgetary scenario up to 2019. They emphasise that this is just a scenario. They even underline it.
‘Again it must be stressed that this is purely an illustrative scenario.’
So this is one possible future that the Government is considering. However, given that they have published it twice means that this scenario is being serious considered – especially as they have not produced any other scenario.
The key to understanding why real austerity will continue up to the end of the decade is the premise of this scenario:
‘Expenditure is assumed to increase by 1 per cent per annum.’
Ok. And how much do they expect inflation (GDP deflator) to increase by? 1.4 percent per annum. So each year the increase government expenditure will not match the increase in inflation. Therefore, each year it will be cut in real terms – that is, after inflation.
Let’s run through some basic numbers – focusing on primary expenditure, which excludes interest payments. This means we’re looking at expenditure on public services, social protection and investment.
1,230,000. This number should be burned into the debate. This the approximate number of people included in the CSO’s enforced deprivation rate. This is the number of people who suffered two or more deprivation experiences in 2012. This is more than one-in-four – 26.9 percent – of all people in the state. This is a number that should drive the debate from here on.
The CSO sets out eleven enforced deprivation experiences:
Without heating at some stage in the last year * Unable to afford a morning, afternoon or evening out in the last fortnight * Unable to afford two pairs of strong shoes * Unable to afford a roast once a week * Unable to afford a meal with meat, chicken or fish every second day * Unable to afford new (not second-hand) clothes * Unable to afford a warm waterproof coat * Unable to afford to keep the home adequately warm * Unable to afford to replace any worn out furniture * Unable to afford to have family or friends for a drink or meal once a month * Unable to afford to buy presents for family or friends at least once a year
Those who suffer two or more of these experiences are officially categorised as deprived.
Deprivation has been rising since the beginning of the recession. In 2007, 11.3 percent were categorised as deprived. In 2012, it rose to nearly 27 percent – more than doubling. In absolute numbers, it has increased by nearly three-quarters of a million.
In this overall number there are approximately 375,000 children, aged 17 and under. Since 2007, this number has increased by 180,000.
There are sections of society that are under severe pressure. The following is the deprivation rate for particularly vulnerable sectors:
- Social housing tenants: 50.7 percent
- Lone parents: 49.5 percent
- Unemployed: 49.4 percent
- Not at work due to illness or disability: 48.5 percent
In these groups, one-in-two people live in deprivation.
We urge all trade unions, community and campaigning organisations to march with their banners on May Day to drive home to government that there is another way.
March and Rally
6.30 p.m. Thursday 1st May 2014
Garden of Remembrance
Parnell Square, Dublin
Unmasking Austerity: Opposition and Alternatives in Europe and North America, by Dexter Whitfield, Spokesman Books (eBook)
Unmasking Austerity: Opposition and Alternatives in Europe and North America exposes how austerity policies have fuelled the fire of recession rather than stimulated growth. It identifies key lessons from organising and action against such policies, and urges a rethink of trade union, community and social movement strategies to overcome austerity. Unmasking Austerity examines the deeper causes of the financial crisis, and exposes the manufactured crises, which are being used to dismantle hard-earned labour rights and the welfare state.
A radical alternative strategy includes economic stimulus, reconstruction of public services, faster fundamental reform of banks and financial markets, the elimination of corporate welfare that enriches big business, and strategies to increase labour’s share of national income.
Published April 2014 – ISBN: 978 0 85124 832 5
Now available in the following eBook formats:
ePub (134 pages): £9.99
Amazon Kindle (165 pages): £10.29
The Government’s paper on Ireland’s effective corporate tax rate confirms what the dogs in the street have known for a long-time: Ireland has a low,extremely low, corporate tax rate.
There is that vexed question of what corporate income counts for the purposes of determining the actual rate of tax companies pay here. Professor Jim Stewart produced data which showed that the effective tax rate of US multinationals operating here was 2.2 percent in 2011. This was disputed because Stewart – using the US’s Bureau of Economic Analysis – included the $140 billion that US multinationals move through Ireland on their way to other places, including tax havens. Some claim you can’t count this because it is not taxable in Ireland.
But, of course, that is the point. The issue is not the Irish corporate tax rate per se but the role that Ireland plays in the global tax avoidance chain – the ability of multinationals to use Ireland to avoid paying taxes that would be due elsewhere. That is the character of a ‘tax-haven conduit’.
In this respect, it is worth remembering:
‘Tax havens attract foreign investment not only because income earned locally is taxed at favorable rates, but also because tax haven activities facilitate the avoidance of taxes that might otherwise have to be paid to other countries.’
The Irish corporate tax rate is the sign on the door. It’s an inviting sign – a low-tax rate of 12.5 percent. But the real goodies are what’s behind the door – the prospect of using Ireland as a transit point in the global avoidance chain.
The April edition of the Socialist Voice is out now. Follow the links below or online here.
At the same time, capitalist shock-troops are using different negotiating tactics: force and intimidation. On the one hand, employers’ organisations have been leaking stories about pay increases; however, they want the “pay increases” to come from a reduction in tax. In other words, everyone finances pay increases for employers, so they increase their profits, and there is a further reduction in public services.
Recent media reports suggest that, with a supposed “recovery” on the horizon, employers and unions are increasingly making noises about a return to some sort of partnership structure. The leadership of the unions, most notably Jack O’Connor and Shay Cody, have raised the idea of reconstituting some type of formal Employer-Labour Conference.
The offices of the Law Society in Chancery Lane, London, were the venue for the International Commission of Inquiry into the Case of the Cuban Five; but the British government sought to scupper the event before it even began.
On the 19th and 20th of December last the European Council met; and to anyone who thinks that the EU is a benign body of people seeking to ease travel for all its citizens, and various other media-friendly soundbites, you are wrong—very wrong.
There was a major increase in the annual surpluses of the surplus countries between 2000 and 2009 and between 2010 and 2015, as can be seen in table 1. The mean for the countries was up from 4.2 to 6.8 per cent.
Did anyone read about the study partly funded by NASA that says “industrial civilisation is headed for irreversible collapse”? It was reported in the Guardian (London) in March.*
Following the threatened national dispute in the electrical contracting industry that prevented, once again, an attempt to cut the wages of electricians, the Technical, Engineering and Electrical Union has employed significant resources to sustain the terms of the National Collective Agreement, formally registered with the Labour Court.
Enda Kenny has lost control of his government, and of his party, and now even his own position may be in question. The wretched man is thrashing around in despair as his government lurches aimlessly from one mishap to another.
At its recent meeting the National Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Ireland discussed the political and economic situation throughout the country.
- Psalm 5 (a paraphrase) [Ernesto Cardenal]
Give ear to my words, O Lord
Hearken unto my moaning
Pay heed to my protest
“What is needed then is a new kind of imperialism, one acceptable to a world of human rights and cosmopolitan values. We can already discern its outline: an imperialism which, like all imperialism, aims to bring order and organisation but which rests today on the voluntary principle.”
This month we celebrate the 450th anniversary of the birth of Shakespeare. When Shakespeare wrote his great tragedies—yes, the ones studied at school, year in, year out—he had a very great and grave concern at heart.
Missing from many left-wing critiques of transnational corporations is the part played by cinema. We read daily about the depredations of the oil, financial and media giants. In Towards a Third Cinema by Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino the cinema is described as “the most valuable tool of communication of our times.”
The Sheehy Skeffington School is on this Saturday April 12.
Ireland Institute, 27 Pearse St., Dublin 2
The keynote speaker this year is Gareth Peirce.
10:00 Introduction by chair, Carol Coulter (former Irish Times journalist, now Director Child Care Law Reporting Project)
10:15 Michael Farrell (Sen. Solicitor, FLAC, former ICCL & IHRC) ‘Brief update on human rights infrastructure’.
10:30 Gareth Peirce (leading human rights lawyer) ‘No World for Whistleblowers’
11:30 Seanie Lambe (Inner City Activist, Chairperson ICON) ‘Communities, regeneration and rights’.
11:50 Clare Daly (TD) ‘The Legacy of Austerity’.
12:15 Panel Discussion
14:00 Leeann Lane (Head of Irish Studies, MDI) ‘The Irish Suffrage Campaign on the eve of World War 1 : Tensions and debates’.
14:40 Richard Sheehy (Glasnevin Parish and relative of Sheehy Skeffingtons) ‘Thoughts on Francis Sheehy Skeffington’
followed by Donal O’Kelly (playwright and actor) & colleagues Readings from ‘A Prodigal Daughter’ (a play written by Francis Sheehy Skeffington, first performed in 1914).
Dr. Carol Coulter is Director of the Child Care Law Reporting Project and a former Legal Affairs Editor with the Irish Times which she joined in 1986. She has been deputy News Editor, acting London editor and acting Belfast editor. She has won a number of journalism awards, including a National Media Award and the overall Justice Media Award in 2012 for her coverage of legal and justice issues. Carol’s chairing of previous Sheehy Skeffington Schools contributed substantively to the level of discussion on the subjects under consideration.
Clare Daly is a TD for the United Left Alliance in the constituency of Dublin North. Formerly a Students’ Union President in NIHE and later DCU as well as a long standing SIPTU shop steward in Dublin Airport when she worked for Aer Lingus, Clare has a long track record as a campaigner for workers rights and the interests of the community.
Michael Farrell is the senior solicitor with FLAC. He formerly worked as a solicitor in private practice and has taken cases to the European Court of Human Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee and the European Committee of Social Rights. He is a former Co-Chairperson of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and was a member of the Irish Human Rights Commission from 2001 to 2011 and of the working group on the proposed merger of the IHRC and the Equality Authority. He is the Irish member of the Council of Europe Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) and a member of the Council of State.
Seanie Lambe is the Chairperson of the Inner City Organisations Network (ICON). He has been involved in the development of the area for many years and sits on a number of boards. He is currently the Director of the Inner City Renewal Group (ICRG).
Dr. Leeann Lane is Head of Irish Studies and Head of the School of Humanities at the Mater Dei Institute of Education, Dublin City University. She is the author of Rosamond Jacob: Third Person Singular (2010). She is a member of the “Expert Advisory Group on the Decade of Commemorations” appointed by the Government in 2012.
Donal O’Kelly is one of Ireland’s foremost socially engaged playwrights. His recent production, ‘Hairy Jaysus’ is a bifocal perspective of Francis Sheehy Skeffington’s final hours – through historical and contemporary viewpoints. His other plays include Catalpa, Jimmy Joyced! and Bat the Father Rabbit the Son. Donal’s creations include The Cambria, The Adventures Of The Wet Señor, Vive La, Operation Easter, Asylum! Asylum!, The Dogs, Farawayan and The Hand. As an actor, he has appeared in Translations, Juno and the Paycock and The Tempest in the Abbey, played Lucky in the Gate Theatre’s Waiting For Godot, and on screen played leading roles in Kings, The Van, and Spin The Bottle, as well as RTE’s Paths to Freedom and Fair City.
Gareth Peirce is a solicitor, educated at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, University of Oxford and the London School of Economics. She is best known for her tireless, groundbreaking work and advocacy in high-profile cases involving miscarriages of justice, and those of people (particularly Irish and Islamist) accused or convicted under anti-terrorist legislation. Gareth’s calm and reflective demeanour belies a passionate and longstanding commitment to the use of law to promote human rights and justice for the most vulnerable.
New LookLeft out now!
€2 for 48 pages of progressive, news, views and solutions
In Easons and selected newsagents countrywide.
This issue includes:
- Who Watches the Watchmen: The Gardai, drugs and the working class
- Look Back in Anger: Brian Hanley on remembering the reality of WW1
- Conor McCabe on Ireland, the frontline of the class war
- Sean Garland pays tribute to RMT leader Bob Crow
- LookLeft talks to Andy Irvine
- Kevin Brannigan on the struggle to save the home of Irish football
- Interview with Belfast’s Red Devil: Des O’Hagan
- Jennifer Silva on Economic Uncertainty and Mental Health
- Mark Walshe on Making a market out of education
- Chris Hudson asks Where is progressive unionism?
And much, much more….
Take a very quick look at the green line on the chart below. Very quick – the green line represents Irish labour costs.
On a quick look, it appears that Irish labour costs started growing in 2010; and that by last year labour costs growth in the EU and Ireland converged. Now take a closer look. In reality, Irish labour costs actually fell in 2010. In fact, the gap between the EU and Ireland are widening. The chart was ‘structured’ to not only elide over these inconvenient facts but to actually give the opposite impression. Welcome to the world of massaging stats to fit a political purpose.
For make no mistake – the National Competitiveness Council’s Costs of Doing Business in Ireland completely fails to present the reality of wages, labour costs and taxation in the Irish economy. Instead, they construct ‘evidence and arguments that neatly into line with the Government’s desire to depress wages and cut taxes. Funny that.
Are wages a danger to ‘competitiveness’? First, let’s remind ourselves of the current situation, something the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) fails to do (again, funny that). Using the last year for available date we find, using the mean average:
Whether using the labour cost survey (which surveys firms) or the macro-economic data contained in the national accounts (where you divide employee compensation by hours worked) the results are pretty much the same. We are well below averages – in particular, when compared to EU-15 countries not in bail-out (excluding really low-waged Greece and Portugal) or other small open economies.
So we start out pretty low.
The slump in the Irish economy continues to be driven by the collapse in investment. The fall in investment more than accounts for the entire contraction in the economy during the recession.
The chart below shows the annual totals for both GDP and investment (Gross Fixed Capital Formation, GFCF) versus the peak in 2008. The worst GDP outcome was in 2010 when it was €12.7 billion below the 2008 peak. But by 2013 it was still €9.5 billion lower. Not much sign of genuine recovery.
Investment has fared even worse. It carried on falling even after GDP had stabilised. The low-point was in 2012, when investment was €16.6 billion below the previous high-point. But in 2013 it was still €15.9 billion lower.
Over the 6 years of the slump GDP has fallen by 9.6%. Investment has fallen by 47%. As a result, investment as a proportion of GDP has fallen from 20.8% to 12.1%. Since the level of investment is decisive for the long-term productivity of any economy, a falling rate of investment will hurt growth over a prolonged period.
The relative weakness of investment by firms in Ireland is shown in the OECD chart below. Over a prolonged period leading up to the crisis private firms (Private Non-Financial Corporations, or PNFCs) operating in Ireland invested much less than firms in the other industrialised countries.
This weakness has been further exacerbated by the crisis. Since 2008 firms’ profits have actually risen in cash terms, by €6.7 billion. But on the same basis, investment in transport equipment and other equipment have both fallen by €1 billion, road building and other construction apart from homes have slumped by €5.4 billion.
Private Non-Financial Corporations Investment: Decade Averages
One of the key factors which has worsened the crisis is that successive governments have cut the state’s own level of investment. On the same cash basis, government has cut its investment by €7.6 billion. This was not always the case. Previously, when the economy was growing rapidly government had a higher level of investment than in the other industrialised economies, as shown in the chart below.
This is the see-saw of the Irish economy: very low levels of private firms’ investment and relatively high levels of government investment. The policy of austerity is pushing down on both ends of the see-saw at once. As a result the economy is cracking.
The Universal Social Charge (USC) is a great tax. Many progressives were critical of its introduction and rightfully so. In replacing the Income and Health Contribution levies, the USC ended up increasing tax on low income earners – at a time when the economy was still melting down, people were losing their jobs and income was falling. That was inequitable and economically irrational.
However that is a criticism over rates and thresholds – elements which can be easily changed. The reason the USC is great tax is because it is simple, transparent and, most of all, no matter how many tax accountants you hire, you can’t escape it. The tax has almost no exemptions, reliefs, or allowances – unlike the income tax system.
Dr. Tom Healy of the Nevin Economic Research Institute made an interesting observation:
‘Perhaps there is a case for abolishing income tax as we know it, replace it with USC, make the rates more progressive (e.g. by introducing three or even four bands) and then re-term it as ‘income tax’! . . You see – the beauty of USC is that, it applies to many different kinds of income, it is not riddled, to the same extent as ‘income tax’ with all sorts of reliefs and exemptions, it is reasonably simple to understand and operate.’
Now that’s blue-sky thinking. Check out this little stat: income tax– with tax rates of 20 percent and 41 percent – raises €11.4 billion in revenue. The USC, with a tax rate of 7 percent raises €3.9 billion. At a much lower rate, it raises over a third of the entire income tax system.
To raise the same amount as income tax, the USC would need to be raised to 20 percent (with the lower rates rising proportionally). A tax rate of only 20 percent would raise as much as income tax. That’s pretty effective and efficient.
This is not an argument for a flat-rate tax. Dr. Healy points to the potential of introducing three or four different tax bands. In fact, in the EU-15 only Ireland and Germany have two tax rates. Other countries have three or more:
- Austria and the UK have three rates while Sweden has two central tax rates and one local
- The Netherlands has four tax rates
- Belgium, Finland, France and Italy have five tax rates
- Spain has seven central tax rates and four regional rates
- Luxembourg has 18 tax rates (yes, 18)
So a number of tax rates can be used, rather than an essentially flat-rate.