Odious debt, the two simple onomatopoeic words that accompany us everywhere we go. The Joan Burton redundant matter of Bank Debt that is the Elephant in every room we enter. I shouldn’t call it “Bank Debt” anymore. It’s our debt, yours and mine. We need never feel alone again, our shared experience of societal debt inclusiveness can comfort us in the low moments. You are one of the debt slaves. You are amongst friends. We are citizens of Retrospective Recapitalisation la-la land.
For Sale: Irish Bonds, fire damaged, sold as seen, caveat emptor. It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. For every time we are told about the seismic shift, game changing deal done on the promissory note, there’s a thousand subordinated bondholders to be paid in full, this despite them having paid less than sixty cent in the euro to acquire the bonds. Simply put, someone bought Irish junk bonds in a Recession Fire Sale and is now not only getting what they “invested” but are to get the full return due to the original holder. The Retrospective Recapitalisation Enda announced was not for us, it was the Vulture Funds who bought the Junk Bonds. It wasn’t Enda’s fault, ‘twas a turn of phrase.
Piggy walks to the Roulette table, puts his full stack of chips on Black. The wheel spins, stops and it’s Red. Piggy turns to the group of Draft Horses at the table and asks for a “bailout”. The Horses don’t want to see him in penury and have a whip round. Piggy once more pushes the entire stack forward. “Black” he says again. The wheel spins, stops, it’s Black. Piggy smiles, collects his winnings and heads to cash out. Not a penny will be shared with the Horses, they whinny and snort, they cry foul and eventually the Piggy Banker is hauled in front of an Oireachtas Inquiry to express his deep regret. The Horses are told to move on, that their “Hard Work is Working”*, that any disruption will put the “Recovery at risk”. Any attempt to renegotiate “does not make sense” to Far Right Ring Master Simon Harris. Yes, Fine Gael are a majority Far Right Party.
“The problem with Socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money” – Margaret Thatcher
Maggie was a great one for the one-liners. The above quote is a favourite of the Beggar Thy Neighbour Neoliberal Capitalists who throw it at anyone who advocates for alternative models. The problem is, one-liners are accepted as wisdom. But even a basic parsing of this quip exposes the incompetence of same. Ireland has never had a Socialist model; we’ve had alternating Right Wing Governments who have alternated us through cyclical Booms and Busts.
In fact, the only time our Right Wing Leaders have called for a Socialist model, has been in the Socialising of Odious Debt. There’s some for everyone in the audience.
“If you’re not a socialist at 20 you are heartless, if you are one at 40 you are brainless” Attributed to Churchill, Clemenceau and Lloyd George
This witticism, variously attributed, is actually an admission of avarice and conservativism. It speaks to those who accumulate some wealth and prosperity, becoming greedier and less open minded. It is, in fact, a proclamation of self-interest above the greater good. And it does it in such a way that the proclaimer thinks it’s acceptable. An Orwellian “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” decree for the modern era.
Meanwhile the debt grows, somewhere north of €200 billion, it endures and thrives. It will grow by thousands while you read these few lines. Perhaps I’m wrong to make an issue of it. I should probably stick to witticisms and quips. Maybe I’ll join the Ministerial led Parade that wants to Glory in the misery, debt and death of the Greek people. Celebrating our ticking time bomb of unsustainable debt has only increased Male suicide in Ireland by 57% during the “necessary adjustments”. After all, I’m coming up on 40 and have done quite well for myself. It’s time to stop throwing lifelines to others and to start throwing them under buses on soon to be discontinued routes.
But no, I can’t help feel that Beggar Thy Neighbour is abhorrent. I believe the decision to put Unsecured Subordinated Bonds ahead of children with special needs is despicable. Maybe I’m not maturing quickly enough. Time to grow up Mr Groves, or is it? I’m not asking you, I’m asking my pal Odious Debt, my constant travelling companion.
Tony Groves Jan 2016
*the unfortunate Nazi undertone (Work Sets You Free) is hideously revealing.