Corporate Dems vow to do things ‘better’ – let’s hope that includes listening

Whatever you might think about Donald Trump and his administration, their tenure in the White House, a shade over six months old now, has been a rollercoaster ride with something new to report each and every passing day.

The biggest drawback to this obsession with the latest Washington shenanigans is, of course, the fact that although Trump & co might provide us with easy one-liners and online memes, there is also a very serious side to the story in that we are talking about the government of the most powerful nation in the world.

It’s all very well to ridicule the man in power right now – but it’s pointless unless you can suggest a reasonable alternative.

That alternative is the broad tent that is the Democratic Party, and the 2016 campaign in particular has divided it into two distinct factions….the “corporate wing”, essentially those in the most senior positions in Washington right now, and the “progressive wing”, ie those who follow the social equity platform of the likes of Bernie Sanders.

Here is a recent quote from the Washington Post to ponder…see if you can guess which side of the Democratic tent it came from…

“When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things — Comey, Russia — you blame yourself. So what did we do wrong? People didn’t know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that.”

Obviously I want you to think that’s a Progressive, when in actual fact it’s one of the most senior corporate Democrats, Minority leader of the Senate Chuck Schumer.

Ever since the election, Schumer and his counterpart in the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi have been as much under attack  from their left as from their right, probably more so.  And most of it was deserved.

But there has to be a point at which even progressives realise that the Schumers and Pelosis still represent the front line of the resistance to the current terrifying incarnation of the Republican Party, and once and a while they need to be given a bit of slack, especially when they are making noises that sound like they come straight out of the Bernie Sanders playbook.

I’m not one to give the Democrat leadership too much praise – the best thing that be said about the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is that at least their corporate policies aren’t as bad as their opposition.  What I would rather do is change the narrative – it’s not about how much or little we appease the wishes of the “one percent”, rather it’s about formulating policies that are fair to everyone whether it benefits the rich or not.

To promote this mindset I fully understand the need to hold big-donor politicians to account no matter what their stripes.  But what do we do when they start using slogans that reflect our agenda?

“A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future”

Of course it’s natural to be sceptical when they start to look as though they’re drinking the Bernie KoolAid.  But care must be taken to ensure healthy scepticism doesn’t morph into petulant rejection.

For now anyway, I am willing to give the likes of Schumer a chance.  After all, it can’t have been easy to keep 48 Democratic senators united against Trumpcare – you can be sure one or two of the “Blue Dogs” (more right-leaning Democrats) were courted by the GOP and none have budged.

If the Democrats really want to adopt progressive values to their platform – remember they did at their convention last year only many feared it was empty promises on paper – they need to be supported, voted for, and put under pressure when there are any signs of them failing to deliver.

After all, that’sq what being a ‘Democrat’, with a large or small d, is meant to entail.  JLP

#IANWAE

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If Sean Fitzpatrick did not commit a crime then we need new laws. Now.

Oh, how this makes my blood boil.

Here are some viewpoints on the role former Anglo-Irish Bank chairman Sean FItzpatrick played in the Irish banking crisis.

According to the judicial system…

But Judge John Aylmer ruled this morning on day 126 of the trial that the investigation carried out by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement fell short of the impartial, unbiased investigation that an accused is entitled to.

According to Solidarity TD Richard Boyd Barrett…

Mr Boyd Barrett claimed Mr FitzPatrick walked free because of a set-up and not a blunder. “This stinks to high heaven,’’ he added.

Leas Cheann Comhairle Pat “The Cope’’ Gallagher intervened to say he was referring to a trial and should “refrain lest there might be consequences’’.

Mr Boyd Barrett said: “There is a direct link between Seánie FitzPatrick’s rotten, corrupt activities and Anglo Irish Bank and the families this week being sent to Garda stations or are sleeping in parks because there are no homes.’’

…and then we have the viewpoint of the Irish Times Legal Affairs correspondent Colm Keena

“Sean Fitzpatrick did not commit a crime.” (paraphrase)

It won’t surprise you to learn that my own views would tend to lean towards those of Deputy Barrett.  And while the Irish mainstream media takes such great pains to point out that he was speaking under “privilege” as if it is some kind of cowardly act, I would put forward the proposal that the opposite is the case.

Maybe it’s true that technically Fitzpatrick did not break any laws.  And I would go further in pointing out that watching him “sent down” will not make me feel any better about what the Irish banking sector did to this country.

But if the way he comported himself in both managing Anglo Irish loans and his own personal ones was “legal”, then surely it must be a priority of our parliament to bring proper laws into existence.  And if we can’t bring down a sentence on him in a court of law, how about one from the court of public opinion, making sure the new laws get known as (at least commonly assuming the Dáil would never approve it) The Sean Fitzpatrick Laws.

On the subject of what actually has been done to improve legislation since the crash, here is but one recommendation of the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis published in 2016…

A personal remuneration clawback provision linked to medium term performance should be part of the employment contract for senior executive management and board members.

Just to break that down…basically it seems to suggest that if a bank is losing money, the “bigwigs” at the bank should not make money in terms of bonuses.

BUT ISN’T THAT BLOODY WELL OBVIOUS???????  Did it really have to take a group of elected representatives the guts of three years to come up with stuff like that???

Like I said, blood boiling.  At least we have people like Deputy Barrett who are free to speculate as to what is really going on amongst the ranks of the establishment without fear of prosecution under libel laws by our nation’s real cowards.

#IANWAE

Just two things to say about the Irish budget 2016

  1. The mainstream media in general seems more concerned with who gets an extra fiver than they do with the fact that this is essentially a coalition budget between Fianna Gael and Fine Fáil.  (Not a typo)

  2. Whatever about the Lansdowne Road Agreement I cannot wrap my head around the fact that nobody is talking about a protest march surrounding the fact that the politicians are getting a pay rise.  Here at FPP, not only do we think they are morally obliged to waive it, no TD who supports it should receive any political capital for doing so.  It’s like showing up to work on time…you shouldn’t get credit for something that everyone expects of you.

We haven’t been posting as often of late.  We hope to get back to our post-a-day schedule soon.

Bank CEO calls it “building relationships” – Senator Warren calls it what it is…a scam

If the above video doesn’t load for you, please follow this link and set aside under ten minutes to watch…it will be well worth it.

Senate committee hearings are meant to be an opportunity for high-profile people to be held accountable for their actions when they affect the wider public but as we all know, more often than not they are reduced to mere “love-ins” due to the fact that the bulk of politicians are “bought” thus making their levels of scrutiny extremely low.

When it comes to Wall Street and the American banking industry, you certainly could not accuse Senator Elizabeth Warren of going easy when she performed her duties on the Senate’s Banking Committee.

Should you be based in Ireland you may not know too much about Wells Fargo Bank but they have been in the US news quite a bit recently on account (pun intended) of their recently publicised practice of “cross-selling”.

The senator from Massachusetts in her extremely direct and properly forceful questioning of CEO Bill Stumpf (who couldn’t look more like a classic bank head honcho if he tried)  not only ignores all the media spin churned out by the company of late but it also leaves you in no doubt as to exactly what has been going on.

“Here’s what really gets me about this, Mr. Stumpf. If one of your tellers took a handful of $20 bills out of the crash drawer, they’d probably be looking at criminal charges for theft. They could end up in prison.

“But you squeezed your employees to the breaking point so they would cheat customers and you could drive up the value of your stock and put hundreds of millions of dollars in your own pocket.

Now I know these committees don’t have a whole lot of legal “teeth”.  I know that Mr Stumpf will continue to draw his massive salaries and bonuses.  And I know the establishment will redouble their efforts to silence Elizabeth Warren by fair means or foul, probably the latter (by finding ways to discredit her name most likely).

But there is a lot to be said for public representatives asking such people the real, sensible questions – that’s supposedly what we elect them to do.

Do you think it may be possible an Irish bank or two deserves a similar public grilling?

 

A must-read perspective on #AppleTax

An article by an Irish Economics expert that fully lays out the #AppleTax situation without towing the government line or simply spelling out what public services can be bought with a sum like €13billion is our kind of article.

Terrence McDonough is a retired professor of economics at the National University of Ireland, Galway and co-editor of Contemporary Capitalism and Its Crises: Social Structure of Accumulation Theory for the Twenty-First Century.

His article appears in the American left-wing quarterly Jacobin and is titled “Ireland’s Bad Apples” and puts a very interesting spin on the reaction of our government to the European Commission’s ruling, particularly that of the “Churchillian” Michael Noonan.

It often seemed like Irish politicians believed they should represent Europe to the Irish people rather than represent the Irish people in Europe. But it turns out their cozy relationship with Europe was weaker than their romance with a major American multinational corporation.

Well worth a read.  Many thanks to Joan Collins TD for sharing.

How RTÉ reported #AppleTax on Nine O’Clock News

Here at FPP we’re not just concerned with what happens, but also how it is reported by mainstream media.  So here is the first of our “report on reports”.

Overall, our analysis of their coverage of the story seems to be one leaning more heavily toward #TeamAppeal.  While there was a fair amount in favour of the #TeamKeep argument it was presented as more of an afterthought.

The lead report was filed by Tony Connelly.  Basically he laid out the facts surrounding made by the European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager.

Next it was on to the reactions from the Irish Government and Apple itself, as if you could tell the two opinions apart.  Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said the ruling was on “tenuous grounds” and that the Irish govt had done “nothing illegal”.  They read a statement from Apple saying the Commission was “rewriting history” and that they had “complied with tax laws”.

The text of the RTE report went on to speak of the “fundamental differences” between the Irish govt and the EU and using words like “sovereignty” and “taxpayers”.

Next up we had “Economic correspondent” Sean Whelan who laid out the amount of tax paid by Apple and how they diverted it into a “Head Office” that didn’t actually exist.  This is precisely what Vestager did in her announcement by the way, only Whelan had some fancy graphics on display behind him as aids.

Now it was time to go to “outside experts”.  First, speaking for #TeamAppeal was Brian Keegan from Chartered Accountants Ireland, who basically said there was no way we should keep  the money.  Then arguing for #TeamKeep was Dr Jim Stewart – the graphic just had “Trinity College” by his name but it wouldn’t have hurt to add that he is Associate Professor in Finance (Business & Administrative Studies) there.

Eventually we get to the reaction of the other Irish parties.  Fianna Fail (who had a soundbite from spokeperson Michael McGrath TD) and Labour (no soundbite) came out on #TeamAppeal.  The other “left-wing” parties are firmly on #TeamKeep and there were soundbites from Pearse Doherty of SF, Richard Boyd Barrett of PBP and Catherine Murphy of the Social Democrats.

The most important reaction will be that of the so-called “Independent Alliance” that is currently propping up the Minority Government along with the “silent partners” Fianna Fáil.  We had a brief soundbite from John Halligan but apparently their opinion would be made known to a Cabinet meeting the following day.

Finally the report went to two more RTE correspondents – David Murphy, who laid out the “morality issue” of the notion of the Irish government denying its own Exchequer and award of such size, and Martina Fitzgerald, who repeated the importance of the Cabinet meeting today.  Not sure if that reportage was a two-person job, but there you go.

Like I said earlier, I got the sense that this report was presented with a leaning more toward the #TeamAppeal side of things, much like Joe Duffy had done on his Liveline show earlier that afternoon on RTE radio.

To provide a bit more balance, perhaps they could have actually spoken to the Commissioner herself, as did American public broadcaster PBS NewsHour :

Any member state can have their own legislation we would never question that – but the thing is you cannot give a specific company a benefit or advantage.which is not open to other companies.

Sounds to me like a reasonable statement from someone with the job title European Commissioner for Competition?

Now to wait and see what happens next.  Paschal Donohoe was on today’s Morning Ireland and said the Dáil would not be brought back early from its recess so we’ll see how this morning’s Cabinet meeting pans out.

A strong case for #TeamKeep made by Fintan O’Toole #AppleTax

So just a few hours after that stunning EU ruling, which has effectively done a “Wikileaks” on Irish foreign investment policy over the past few decades, public opinion seems to have quickly evolved into a debate between #TeamKeep and #TeamAppeal.

No doubting what side the national public broadcaster is on.  Joe Duffy had a few dissenting voices in his half-hour’s coverage today but miraculously his supposedly “reliable” text poll produced an impressive 56% support of appealing the ruling by “over 3000” of his listeners.

In general the thrust of the #TeamAppeal argument is that by keeping the money we’d be “penny wise, pound foolish”.  All of a sudden American multinationals will be fleeing the country like there’s no tomorrow and this in turn would doom our futures with all of the jobs and tax revenues that would go with them.

But what I say to that is…I’m sure if there was a national debate on the first of these “sweetheart deals” with Apple when they were made 25 years ago in 1991 (when the Minister of Finance job was held by Albert Reynolds up to November, Charlie Haughey for a week and Bertie Ahern from then on – it was Brian Cowen in 2007) we’d have been told about the importance of the investment in Ireland’s future.

Yet now, when there’s €13billion on offer, we want it to help our schools, we want it to help our hospitals, we want it to help our housing crisis.  Just how sweet a deal for us was that which they made back in 1991?  Where was the real benefit?

But look…I’m not the one to make the case for #TeamKeep.  I’d rather leave that to someone like FIntan O’Toole in the Irish Times :

At the very least, we should not be railroaded into lodging an appeal against the ruling that will define us, for the rest of the world, as the tax-avoider’s crazy little sidekick. We have some big thinking to do – and the cabinet’s job on Wednesday morning is to open up that process of deliberation, not to insist that any democratic decision that Apple does not like is unthinkable.