‘Inequality in America: A National Town Hall’ is required viewing all over the world

Apologies once more for the gap in posts – financial realities mean we have had to prioritise our monetised site in recent weeks as it has been a busy time for content over there.

However, even if we managed to post every day since we kicked off FPP in August 2016 we wouldn’t have been able to express our core beliefs more than this one and a half hour long video of the recent town hall hosted by Bernie Sanders.  Please check it out if you haven’t already.  It’s a shame it was only covered online.

#IANWAE

 

#Right2Water campaign’s victory over charges should at least earn them a right to reply on further water issues

THE ISSUE

The Irish establishment / government took quite a heavy beating on Water Charges, and the way this week’s shortages are being spun, it certainly looks like they haven’t let it go.

THE MEDIA

Article by Killian Woods [with reporting by Cormac Fitzgerald] in Fora.ie on March 5, 2018

Ireland’s ‘fragile’ water supply could make firms think twice about investing here

“Dublin Chamber chief executive Mary Rose Burke has said the restriction of water supply in the capital could make some companies looking to invest in Ireland reconsider their options.”

THE COMMENT

For full disclosure, I took part in #RightToWater marches and did not pay my charges so it’s pretty clear where I stand on the issue.  But this particular post is more about media coverage than it is the water issue.

Check out the linked article on Fora.ie, a business site which is part of the Journal.ie network.

While I understand that the focus of this site is what is going on in the business community, does that mean it should only ever offer their point of view on particular issues?

This is an article in which the Dublin Chamber of Commerce is effectively being given free reign to offer it’s own take on the restrictions recently put in place by Irish Water.  Forgive us for assuming a like-minded approach among the Chamber, the Government which took such a bad beating over water, and the jobs-for-the-boys private company which it created.

While they don’t actually state that water charges need to be reinstated, it’s not exactly well hidden between the lines.  If there’s not enough money to fix the water infrastructure, they claim, then there won’t be investment which in turn means no more jobs.  The implication is very clear.

All I want to do in this article is present a viewpoint from the other side, which I believe Killian Woods could have done.  And he wouldn’t even need to ask for a quote either…he could have copy/pasted from the Facebook page of any anti-austerity TD such as Paul Murphy :

The water shortages we’re experiencing are a consequence of long-term under-investment in infrastructure. The predictable attempts to use them as a new argument for charges have to deal with fact that London, which has meters and charges, has the exact same problem. The solution is investment, which should be funded by progressive taxation of profits, high income and wealth.

No prizes for guessing which side I’m on, but at least I have presented you with more than one viewpoint in my article.  JLP

#IANWAE

Economic ‘experts’ from the mainstream media act as though crony capitalism is the only game in town

THE ISSUE

We always need to be sceptical of the mainstream media, but arguably the area where we need to be more so than any other is that of economics.

THE MEDIA

Article by Dean Baker in Center for Econopic Policy and Research on February 21, 2018

It Wasn’t the Market that Made Elites Incredibly Rich, It was Elites Rigging the Market to Make Themselves Incredibly Rich

None of the rules we have in place that redistribute upward were given to us by the market. They were the result of deliberate economic policy.

THE COMMENT

When legislation is passed that cuts corporate taxes it is chiselled into concrete, yet when it redistributes wealth among the lower classes it is written on tissue paper.

The reason that quote is rather clunky is that it’s mine, and I’m far from a qualified economist, but FWIW I reckon the #AppleTax issue and way the Irish government protects its corporate tax rate are at the forefront of a status quo that is generally accepted as ‘untouchable’ and similar thinking exists in other western countries.

For that reason Baker’s quote from his article is what inspired me to write this post, but the wider point is that when it comes to economics we have to look beyond what the ‘experts’ put forward by the mainstream media say, and that is where the internet comes in.

I’m not saying we have to agree with the thoughts of people like Richard Wolf, but if we are to have a full discussion on any topic it seems a no-brainer to at least discuss the alternatives and even a massive crash like that we experienced ten years ago wasn’t enough to have us wondering if  allowing the top corporate players to run the economy wasn’t the best idea. Since then elected representatives who dare to oppose austerity are virtual outcasts both in the Dáil and in media coverage of same.

So that’s my point…but if you’re on for getting more specific, check out this Op-ed in the NYT and then read Baker’s reply.

While Economics is an academic field in its own right, there’s no reason why we the voters can’t educate ourselves to a decent standard on it once we know where to look, and more importantly, where to be sceptical.  JLP

#IANWAE

CNN’s Chris Cuomo uses facts to challenge Trump’s claims of economic success, including the President’s own words

THE ISSUE

President Trump wants us to stop focusing on anything negative to do with his administration and instead heap praise on him for the success of the US economy since he took office.

THE MEDIA

YouTube clip by CNN on 29 Jan 2018

Trump [in clip from campaign speech]: “When you hear 4.9 and 5% unemployment the number is probably 28 and 29, as high as 35…”

Cuomo [in CNN studio]: “You know what?  I agree with the President!

THE COMMENT

“You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” ― Daniel Patrick Moynihan

For me, the health of an economy is far from the only yardstick by which we should be judging our government.  But even if we accept that it is, CNN’s Chris Cuomo has done a great job putting the figures Trump has been crowing about into context.

At best, the economic reports under Trump are basically continuing the success that Obama had after inheriting a disastrous crash of the market.  But as Cuomo points out, in some areas the figures aren’t even that great in themselves.

But the best evidence he has comes from ‘candidate Trump’ who’s words are often found to be in direct opposition to those of ‘President Trump’.

And don’t just take CNN’s word for it…back in August the New York Times pointed out that : ‘Trump Praises the Stock Market at 22,000 That He Said Was a Bubble at 18,000

Let’s be clear…all politicians play fast and loose with economic figures to big themselves up, it’s just that in Trump’s case he has taken it to a whole new level by selectively ignoring his own words from the not-to-distant past.  JLP

#IANWAE

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

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.